Big Ten mailblog

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Big weekend, burning questions.

Beckham from Phoenix writes: Is it fair that the entire reputation of the Big Ten is placed on the shoulders of one team in Ohio State?Should the other 10 teams step up as well and do fans realize the current rep is the entire Big Ten's fault and not just Ohio States?

Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree that more Big Ten teams need to help Ohio State carry the banner, and it appears as though Penn State is on its way toward doing so. But when a team dominates a league as thoroughly as Ohio State has and then flops on the national stage multiple times, that team will take an excessive amount of blame. It's just the way it is. The Big Ten certainly needs to catch up to Ohio State, but the Buckeyes would be well served by winning one of these big games.

Aaron from Holland, Mich., writes: Do you think that Oklahoma might be wishing that they still had Keith Nichol right about now?

Adam Rittenberg: Great call, Aaron. I forgot about the Nichol-OU connection until you brought it up. The answer is absolutely. Oklahoma would be much better off right now with Nichol at the helm, but you can't fault Nichol for transferring to Michigan State, where he'll likely get more playing time in the long term. But the Sooners certainly could use him right about now.

Ossim from Chicago writes: Hey Adam,What gives? Ralph Bolden leads the entire country in rushing after week one and he isn't even worth mentioning in most sports media outlet's heisman lists? I realize that the way the overall team performs tends to heavily weigh in on who wins the trophy, but if they're looking players on a week to week basis, he should at least be acknowledged.

Adam Rittenberg: Whoa, slow down there, Ossim. Bolden had a great game and should be a stud this fall for Purdue, but he's got to do a bit more than run wild against Toledo to be considered for the Heisman. Let's not forget the Rockets ranked 96th nationally in rush defense last season. The Heisman is such a screwy award, and preseason hype really means more than anything, but if Bolden puts up more big numbers against Oregon, people will notice him.

Jonathan from Westerville, Ohio, writes: In my life, I have never seen so little confidence in Ohio State heading into a game (this weekend's USC game) from people in Ohio. It may be justified, but isn't it a bad thing that there's so little confidence in Columbus right now (almost 50 percent in a Columbus Dispatch readers' poll believe a USC blowout)?

Adam Rittenberg: There does seem to be less faith than normal among Ohio State fans, at least those I've heard from. I'd attribute it mainly to the team's performance against Navy. After waiting through an endless offseason, fans want to see their team come out and make a statement right away, and Ohio State failed to do so. There's still a good chunk of Buckeyes fans who believe in the team, but it's not the blind loyalty you usually see in games like this.

Chip from New Ulm, N.M., writes: Big Ten' best recruiters and you omit Tom Bradley from Penn State? LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Brandon Short, A.Q. Shipley, etc., etc. ETC.Tom Bradley not only continues to land defensive stars, his directive is to go into Western PA and do it against OSU and Pitt.

Adam Rittenberg: Guilty as charged, Chip. I should have included Bradley. He has really boosted Penn State's recruiting in the western part of the state, especially near Pittsburgh. Penn State has really improved its recruiting efforts since 2008. But Larry Johnson still remains the team's top recruiter, if not the best non-head coach recruiter in the Big Ten. Without Johnson, Penn State would have had significant drop-offs on defense.

Michael from Minneapolis writes: I had the best question of the week and you ignored it! I'll ask again.You posted a recent lunchtime link which put forth the theory that Northwestern, Minnesota, and Wisconsin had the most to gain or lose in the Big Ten pecking order based on how well each team does this year. My question is which of those teams will do the best, which is most likely to disappoint, and who do you see winning the head to head matchups among them?Do your readers a favor and answer this question. You take far too many questions that start by telling you how good you are at your job and end by asking some inane simplistic question that requires no thought or effort on your part to answer. Try harder!

Adam Rittenberg: Of course I'm going to answer questions telling me how great I am, Michael. Don't you see? It's all about ME! Moving onto your question, I like Northwestern, followed by Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Badgers seem most likely to disappoint, given their questions on defense and still some uncertainty at quarterback (despite Scott Tolzien's solid play last week). The schedule could help them in the long run, but the depth in the secondary and linebacker worry me. Can't remember seeing so many young players on the depth chart. On the flip side, the schedule could make Minnesota a disappointing team as well. The Gophers will have to play a lot better than they did against Syracuse to beat Air Force, Cal and others. I see Northwestern falling to Minnesota but beating Wisconsin, Minnesota falling to Wisconsin but beating Northwestern and Wisconsin beating Minnesota but falling to Northwestern.