Tom Dienhart: Ready to talk some B1G grid? Two big games this Saturday: Big Red at Penn State, and Sparty at Herky!
Tom Dienhart: I was surprised by how well Iowa’s defense played last week vs. Michigan. Great effort by DC Norm Parker’s crew. Iowa still controls its destiny in the Legends, along with Michigan State.
Big Ten Network: Welcome Tom. Yes, we’re sending our guy to Iowa again this week for another big game.
On that, we’ll fire up our first question….
Comment From PW: How can Northwestern lose to Army but beat Nebraska on the road?
Tom Dienhart: Penn State has a two-game edge on Wisconsin and Ohio State in the Leaders. Bucky and Brutus need help. PSU has some heavy lifting left with Nebraska this week followed by trips to OSU and Wisconsin.
Tom Dienhart: Yes, I was shocked by that Northwestern outcome. That was a NU team that had lost 5 in a row at one time!!! With that loss to Army! I didn’t think NU’s defense could stop Nebraska’s ground game, but kudos to Mike Hanwitz, the Wildcat DC. NU remains alive for a bowl with 3 home games left beginning with Rice–yes, RICE!–this Saturday.
Tom Dienhart: Again, the NU offense–even with backup QB Kain Colter–can play with about anyone. It was the D that really won that game in Lincoln.
Comment From Cameron: Dear Tom: I’m still torn up by the Badgers’ two close losses, especially given the way the rest of the season is unfolding across the Big Ten. What can I cling to to give me hope for the future? Sincerely, Bothered & Badgered
Tom Dienhart: Hang in there. Yes, Bucky needs help to reach Indy because of those Hail Mary losses to MSU and OSU.
1. Wisco must win out, which means beating PSU in the season finale.
2. Wisco needs PSU to lose another game (this Saturday vs. Nebraska or at Ohio State).
3. Wisco needs OSU to lose a game (this Saturday at Purdue; vs. PSU; at Michigan).
It seems like a lot, but it all is VERY possible. I still think the Badgers may be the top team in the B1G.
Big Ten Network: Tom, it seems like anyone’s assessment of the “best team in he Big Ten” changes every single week. Wild season.
Brent Yarina: You should try doing power rankings every week!
Brent Yarina: It’s a struggle to come up with the No. 1 team and pretty much everything after it. But I think Wisconsin has deserved the title as the Big Ten’s best team.
Big Ten Network: Tom, given the news of the weekend at Penn State, we’ve received a number of questions about the Nittany Lions. I’ll bundle the sentiments of each here with this one reader question…..
Comment From TJ: So what do you think happens at Penn State now given the events of this past weekend?
TomDienhart: Yes, it has been one of those years. Nebraska looked like the hottest team last week, then gets dumped at home. Ohio State is rolling now. Still, I would take Wisconsin over any other Big Ten team on a neutral field.
Tom Dienhart: It’s a tragic situation in just about every possible way. I don’t know what further I could add because of our distance from the investigation.
Tom Dienhart: Should JoePa be fired? We don’t know exactly what Joe was told so it’s hard for me to comment on what’s appropriate. Truly, that’s not for me to say.
Big Ten Network: It’s pretty tragic stuff. Let’s take another football question….
Comment From Ted: How shocked are you that Penn State is 8-1 and unbeaten in the Big Ten?
Tom Dienhart: I am stunned. Yes, Penn State has been playing championship caliber D all season, ranking third in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation in total defense. But the offense? It has been a struggling. PSU ranks 11th in the Big Ten in scoring, ahead of only Minnesota.
How much longer can PSU continue to win with a spotty offense? I love RB Silas Redd, but the passing has been inconsistent. We will TRULY see how good the Nits are the next three weeks.
at Ohio State
Win those three, and the PSU doubters will disappear.
Comment From Michael: Braxton Miller doesn’t seem to be allowed to pass, not that he can’t. When he is allowed, there’s a good amount of long routes and not a lot of confidence-building passes. Is his growth actually being stunted by the play calling on offense? Does it hurt (Braxton) that these offensive coaches are under a lot of pressure?
Tom Dienhart: I haven’t watched every Miller snap, so I can’t say how different type of passes he has been asked to throw. But, yes, shorter throws are easier to complete and tend to build a young QB’s confidence. Also remember: OSU doesn’t have a lot of veteran WRs to help out Miller.
The OSU staff is smart enough to NOT ask Miller to do too much or too many things outside his current development level. They seem to be handling him fine, as the Buckeyes are in the thick of the Leaders race.
Brent Yarina: When all is said and done, Tom, is Braxton Miller a better college QB than Pryor?
Brent Yarina: He’s winning, just like Pryor did. And he’s putting up stats – the passing numbers will come.
Comment From Curt: John Simon seems very active on defense, very productive for Ohio State. But his size (height) may be concerning for the NFL. Is he too small to play DT in the NFL (his listed position at OSU), because he’s really the core of the OSU defense.
TomDienhart: Time will tell, Brent. As a freshman in 2008, Pryor hits 60 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards with 12 TDs and 4 picks. He also ran for 631 yards and 6 TDs.
Miller has thrown for 547 yards with 6 TDs and 3 picks along with 447 yards rushing with 4 TDs.
Pryor may have a slight edge at this point as a freshman, but I think he had better talent around him than Miller.
Brent Yarina: Pryor definitely had more talent. It’ll be interested to watch over the next three-plus years. Miller looks like the real deal, and once he is trusted, I can see him just taking off.
Tom Dienhart: Simon is listed at 6-2, 270 by OSU. He is tall enough, but he may need to add girth to play inside. I don’ t know if he’s quick enough to play DE or OLB in the NFL.
But there is NO denying the guy’s monster strength and all-out effort/hustle. Don’t count him out of playing on Sundays.
Comment From HuskerFaninLouisiana: Tom, game time question/comment. How do you feel about the B1G having so many early games? November 19, we will see 5 B1G conference games at noon and one at 3:30. I just feel it’s bad to have so many early games. The B1G seems to become irrelevant in November every year. Is this ever going to change. There needs to be night games in November. Your thoughts?
Tom Dienhart: I agree with you on Miller, Brent. Give him time. I think in time he may be a better passer than Pryor-and I think Miller may be a more explosive runner than Pryor.
Tom Dienhart: The B1G has a rule that doesn’t allow for night games in November. It may change in time. Personally, I LOVE day games. College grid is meant to be played in the sunshine and ON campuses. I love noon-1 p.m. kicks.
As for late-season relevance, I think the B1G took a HUGE step to staying in the spotlight by pushing some games to Thanksgiving weekend and also by adding an early-December title game.
Comment From Will: I know all of this conference moving hurts traditions and could be considered capitalism. However, is there any way the NCAA could step in and actually govern this movement? Seems like there needs to be some oversight, but there isn’t. Can there be (either by NCAA or government)?
Tom Dienhart: The NCAA has NO jurisdiction on conference alignment matters. But the NCAA could take a lead in trying to foster peaceful and amicable negotiations between leagues as a mediator of sorts. And I think that idea has been mentioned.
Comment From Mike: I know we’re in the heat of the season here but since my team won’t be playing for a title, can you look ahead to the 2021 season? Even generally, who stands out to you?
Tom Dienhart: Not sure who your team is… but the B1G, in general, has lots of good young skill players. QBs Braxton Miller, James Vandenberg, Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, MarQueis Gray, Kain Colter, Tre Roberson will be back. RBs Marcus Coker, Montee Ball, Silas Redd, Rex Burkhead, Le’Veon Bell also will rerturn.
I have to think in Leaders, Wisconsin will contend in 2012, if it finds a QB. PSU will be OK, and OSU only will improve as Miller improves.
In the Legends, I like Iowa and Nebraska–REALLY early. Michigan also stands to ONLY improve.
Big Ten Network: Tom, we’re guessing it was Illinois. Another reader question from Justin…
Comment From Justin: Every season, I am amazed at the job Pat Fitzgerald does at Northwestern. I know other schools are trying to at least talk to him, but in the end, do you see Fitzgerald as a lifer at Northwestern? Seems like he won’t even entertain other jobs.
Brent Yarina: I agree with Tom that Wisconsin will be OK next year. A lot of people seem to think they will be terrible when Russell Wilson leaves. This is a team that always has a strong offense line, and it will return Ball and White.
Brent Yarina: So instead of putting up 45-50 points a game, maybe they score 30-35. Still very good.
Tom Dienhart: Fitz remains a hot commodity, as he has NU in the midst of one of its greatest runs in school history. But I think Fitz realizes the situation he is in at his alma mater, where he already is building a legendary coaching career to go with his legendary playing career. It would take a BIG-TIME job to lure him from Evanston–perhaps maybe an NFL job. But Fitz knows the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, and quality of life matters for his young family.
Comment From Robert: I have always appreciated the Big Ten’s rule or concept on scholarships and signing classes. Why won’t more conferences follow the Big Ten’s rule regarding oversigning, because it seems like an epidemic that doesn’t get talked about. Is it up to the conferences or the NCAA to enforce oversigning (because it creates a decided advantage)?
Tom Dienhart: As for Illinois, I like what Zook as done this year with a relatively young team. Scheelhaase will be back, and Young is a nice young back. Jenkins and Ford will be missed, but Zook has talent in the wings. And most of the D is back, too. The Illini may be a dark horse in the Leaders in 2012.
Tom Dienhart: Over signing rules are a conference by conference decision. I do think there should be some uniformity from league to league to create a more level playing field. Maybe one day that will happen. Because, as you said, massive over signing is a big advantage to leagues that allow it.
Big Ten Network: Tom, you’ve been generous with your time on this inaugural Monday BTN.com chat. We’ll do this again next week – and we have plans for a fun live chat on Dec. 3 from the first Big Ten Football Championship in Indy too.
Tom, any final thoughts for this week?
Tom Dienhart: I am amazed and excited by the division races, which are making for a great stretch run. I will be at the MSU at Iowa game on Saturday, a HUGE Legends Division tilt. And I also will be watching Nebraska at PSU.
Tom Dienhart: I appreciate everyone’s questions and times. Thanks so much for coming by. See you all next Monday at noon ET!!!
Big Ten Network: Thanks, Tom. Thanks everyone.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed. You can send him your football questions to his Big Ten mailbag, too.