Unless you were out trick-or-treating, you had no excuse to miss today's Big Ten chat. Either way, I have you covered with a full transcript.
To the highlights ...
Ryan from Indy: Do you think Sparty will keep single coverage on Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess? Even though the defensive backs are great, I see Gallon exploiting this very well if max protect is used.
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Ryan. Darqueze Dennard is the best cornerback in the Big Ten, and I think he's capable of stopping Gallon in single coverage. But if you were to bracket one of them, it has to be Gallon and then take your chances with Funchess. Michigan State is pretty strong at the safety spot. Both players are dangerous, but Gallon merits more attention than Funchess.
John from Oviedo, Fla.: To get a sense of how razor thin the line for conference perception is, how much better does the B1G look nationally if the Badgers had won at ASU and if MSU had gotten past ND?
Adam Rittenberg: The Wisconsin-Arizona State game is the one that stands out because Wisconsin, in my view, would be ranked 5-7 spots higher if it had won in Tempe (or had the chance to win). Michigan State also would be a top-15 team if it had rallied late at Notre Dame. The thing is, neither team has many signature wins to date, although both have some opportunities down the stretch (especially Michigan State).
Sean from East Lansing: What's wrong with Northwestern?
Adam Rittenberg: Sean, there are several factors going on, but I think you're seeing a program that is struggling to take that step from good to elite. Northwestern is still too vulnerable to key injuries, and the Venric Mark/Kain Colter situation this year reminds me of the Dan Persa situation in 2010/2011. That offense has only been together for one game (Ohio State). I'm also seeing less discipline from Pat Fitzgerald's crew, whether it's turning the ball over, not finishing drives or committing costly penalties. Northwestern isn't good enough to overcome those errors. The defense has played well enough this year, but the offense has taken a big step back the past three weeks.
Lane from NYC: Minnesota struggles against the pass, which is not a good recipe for success at Indiana this week. Is this a terrible matchup for the Gophers, who if they fall behind, won't being to rely on their rushing attack?
Adam Rittenberg: Great point, Lane. Minnesota has to start fast in this one, as the Gophers want to control the clock and keep Indiana's offense off of the field as much as possible. The thing is, Indiana scores so quickly that the Hoosiers can come back from a double-digit deficit. This game will strain Minnesota's secondary more than any other to date. Really interested to see how Brock Vereen and the crew perform on Saturday.
Rick from Boston: All around the country we hear about Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Jameis Winston of Florida State, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Bryce Petty of Baylor. Other than Braxton Miller ;) why aren't we producing elite QBs in the B1G? Is it the schemes?
Adam Rittenberg: There are more run-oriented schemes in the Big Ten, but there are also enough offenses that can help quarterbacks reach the next level. This year has been a bit disappointing at that position, in part because of injuries (Colter, Taylor Martinez, even Miller) and in part because of poor performances. The coaching in the Big Ten might not be as QB-friendly as it is in other conferences. Other than Bill O'Brien and Kevin Wilson, how many true QB gurus are there in this conference? That could be a factor in the overall play.
Let's chat again next Thursday as Week 11 will be upon us.