Big Ten mailblog

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Bring on the emails ...

Michael from St. Louis writes: In a recent post about the Wisconsin-Nebraska game, you said, "the loser falls out of the national title mix". Why? Quite a few teams have run the table in the past couple years, but if you look at the last decade, it's far from a certainty. 50% of the time, a one-loss team made the national championship. 30% of the time, there were no undefeated teams. And in 2007, a two-loss team made it. I'll concede that a one-loss Big Ten team won't get in over the SEC, but they might stand a chance against teams from the Big 12 or Pac 12. I'll also concede that the increased prominence of non-AQ teams means an undefeated Boise State would get in over a one-loss Big Ten team, which wouldn't have happened several years ago. But here's what the loser would have going for them as a one-loss team: they lost early to a good team, and they avenged their loss in the last game of the year. Surely the loser faces a long, up-hill battle to the National Championship, but it's not impossible.

Adam Rittenberg: Michael, nothing is impossible, but it's highly unlikely a 1-loss Big Ten team makes the national title game. You pretty much make my argument for me. The SEC champion is going to New Orleans, whether it has one loss or no losses. You also have teams like Oklahoma and Stanford that, if they run the table, would go ahead of a 1-loss Big Ten team (or maybe an undefeated Big Ten team). Boise State is in position to run the table. The Big Ten also doesn't have an overly favorable national perception, and I doubt a 1-loss Big Ten champ would be ranked higher than No. 5 in the final polls. Yes, it's always better to lose early than lose late, and it's better to lose to a really good team. The landscape can change, but there are too many forces working against a 1-loss Big Ten champ.

Bo Pelini from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Stop calling these guys Blackshirts. They haven't earned it yet. I'll be sure to let you know when they do. For now, 'Shirts will suffice.

Adam Rittenberg: Whatever you say, Bo.

Your friend in Philadelphia writes: OK Adam, What say you regarding PSU after Temple's win at Maryland? Don't ya think you are being a bit too harsh on them considering their only loss came against Alabama and they struggled against a very solid Temple offense during Temple's biggest game in decades, yes decades? I'm just asking why we (Again) have Michigan so high on the list, overlook the clear weaknesses in Nebraska, but yet pick on PSU's passing game? The loss of Mauti will hurt, yes, but it is an area where they are stocked so I do expect them to continue to get better, which is my point. You have them slated for the Car Care bowl? Really, this team is going to finish much better than that, after they beat Iowa will you start to believe?

Adam Rittenberg: Beating Iowa would be a nice start, friend (I feel like Jim Nantz now). Penn State hasn't beaten the Hawkeyes since 2007. The Temple win looks better now, but until Penn State's offense performs well against a decent opponent, like Iowa, questions will still remain. I get a ton of emails every week from Penn State fans complaining about the offense, McGloin vs. Bolden, etc. Clearly, all is not well in Happy Valley. Michigan will drop in the power rankings if it starts losing. Same with Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, etc. But the Iowa game gives Penn State a chance to prove something.

Mark from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Caleb TerBush hasn't made many big mistakes this season, but he also hasn't made many good plays. He has also thrown many passes that would have been intercepted against Big Ten opponents. If Purdue were 3-0 right now I would stay start TerBush play until a loss, but I think with the way things are (assuming Marve is close to 100%) I would start Marve. What is your take?

Adam Rittenberg: So if Carson Wiggs' short field-goal attempt at Rice isn't blocked and goes through the uprights, you would start TerBush over Marve? Don't really understand the logic. You have to evaluate TerBush independently of the team's record, and I agree his performance has been mixed. But I understand Danny Hope's desire to create some continuity at quarterback after dealing with so many injuries there. Having Marve healthy is huge and Marve will play, but TerBush has earned the right to remain on the field. If he struggles early on against Notre Dame, go to Marve.

Joe from Chicago writes: Adam, Is it tough covering the Big Ten considering you work for ESPN who is basically a competitor of the Big Ten? I would imagine it is difficult to stay unbiased considering who is signing your paychecks.

Adam Rittenberg: It's not difficult at all, Joe. One thing folks have to understand is that Brian and I aren't paid to shill for the Big Ten. Nor are we paid to take unfair shots at the league or its teams. Our goal is to remain as balanced as possible with our coverage. Without getting into specifics, a ton of Big Ten fans watch ESPN and read the Big Ten blog, so we're here to provide comprehensive coverage of the conference.

Joe from Washington writes: Adam,Please answer my question here. The Wolverines have been pretty good on defense (not great). Now, in your "What we learned" for this past week, you said Michigan will struggle against a much polished passer. Who would these much more "polished passers" be. Dan Persa is certainly capable of shredding any defense with his arm. I understand this. Other than that, I don't see the polished passing this year in a weak passing QB class this year. Cousins from MSU will get some passes off but if Michigan gets the same pressure on him as they did against Ryan Lindley, he will make just as many or more mistakes, as I am not sold on Cousins as a passer (see ND game). The kid from Iowa has some potential too. Just a thought of mine stating the clean passing is not there like it usually is for the B1G. Thanks for your time, and hopefully this gets answered some how.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Joe. Not sure if I agree with you about the Big Ten being a weak passing conference. Although Michigan doesn't face Wisconsin, Russell Wilson is lighting it up. Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa all have quarterbacks and receivers who could test Michigan. Sure, if Michigan consistently pressures the pocket, it will have success against most quarterbacks, but Ryan Lindley didn't impress me at all last week. Michigan had something to do with it, but facing Persa, Cousins and James Vandenberg on the road will be tougher.

Drew from Swansea, Ill., writes: I know that Illinois' win over Western Michigan was ugly, but shouldn't I feel some comfort that perhaps in years past that would've been a game the Illini would lose? It seems that in Zook's tenure we've had trouble winning close games and now we've done it back to back weeks.

Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely, Drew. And winning these close games builds confidence and consistency for a program trying to go to consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1991-92. The Illini defense has stepped up repeatedly the past two weeks. The concern going forward is that this formula might not last in the Big Ten. Illinois' offense can't keep turning the ball over and expect to get bailed out by the defense. Nathan Scheelhaase and Co. need to be more efficient in the red zone, convert touchdowns and limit mistakes that will come back to haunt them.

Ben from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam,After watching Iowa surge in the last 5 and a half quarters on both offense and defense against Pitt, and follow it up again yesterday (I know it was only Louisiana Monroe), how do you have them finishing in the B1G ten? They don't play Wisconsin or Ohio State, and they have Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State all at home. And with Kirk being one of the best at prepairing for a team, I don't see why they don't have a shot at winning the Legends side. What are your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, there's still a long way to go, but we'll find out a lot about Iowa after the bye week when it heads to State College. Yes, Iowa has had Penn State's number for quite some time, but it's still tough to win on the road. Also, the Hawkeyes will face a very formidable defense, the best they've faced all season. If Vandenberg can guide Iowa to a big road win, the team's confidence will continue to build. Iowa doesn't have a lock-down defense this year, and the run game has been a bit spotty, but a hot quarterback can carry a team for stretches. Right now, Vandenberg is on fire. And, as you point out, the division schedule favors Iowa with three division home games.