Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Today's Take Two topic is this: Who is the Big Ten's coach of the year so far?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
The award should remain in the state of Michigan. Question is, should Michigan State's Mark Dantonio win again, or should it go to first-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke? I'd have no problem with either choice, but my pick would be Hoke. He has taken a group of players he didn't recruit and made them into an improved team. After three miserable seasons on defense, Michigan has made significant strides behind Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. The defense is, in many ways, carrying the team right now as Michigan's offense has been hot and cold, particularly at the quarterback position. Michigan lacks signature wins but has handled its business and has put itself in position for a strong finish with home games remaining against both Nebraska and Ohio State. If the Wolverines win out to finish 10-2 and beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003, Hoke has to be the pick. Dantonio also has done a great job helping Michigan State navigate a much more difficult schedule and record back-to-back great seasons for the first time in recent memory. Difference is he did it with a team he recruited, unlike Hoke.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
You're in the right state, Adam, and Hoke has done some really nice things in Year 1. However, there's no guarantee that Michigan doesn't lose its last two games and finish 8-4, which wouldn't represent a whole lot of progress over last year. And the Wolverines' best win was a miracle comeback against Notre Dame; they haven't beaten anybody in the current Top 25 of the BCS standings. Remember, too, that Michigan State beat Michigan by two touchdowns. Dantonio had to deal with arguably the toughest road schedule in the Big Ten, and he has already engineered road wins over Ohio State and Iowa, plus the big victory at home over previously undefeated Wisconsin. The Spartans' only loss in conference play was on the road at Nebraska after three straight emotional, high-stakes games in October. All Michigan State has to do is beat Indiana at home and Northwestern in Evanston, and it will finish 10-2 with a 7-1 conference record and a spot in the first Big Ten title game. Most people were predicting a fall-off for the Spartans this year because of that schedule. Dantonio, who was the Big Ten's coach of the year last season, has done an even better job so far in 2011.