Mailbag: Purdue's best player: Cody Webster?

We are two weeks into the season, but a lot already has happened. Ohio State and Michigan have had their moments, Northwestern looks legit and Illinois has been a surprise. It has given us all a lot to write and talk about.

And now, it’s that time of the week—time to reach into my mail bag. Thanks for all of the cards and letters! Keep them coming.

How is Michigan not No. 1 in your power rankings? Ohio State has beaten two cream puffs while Michigan has beaten a cream puff (Central Michigan) and then a top 15 team (Notre Dame). And the Wolverines looked a lot better in doing it. – Jason

No doubt, Michigan has accomplished more on the field this season, with its win over Notre Dame being the most impressive of any by a Big Ten squad thus far. But my power rankings also have a “potential” quotient in them. All a team can do is beat who is on its schedule, which is what Ohio State has done in taking down Buffalo and San Diego State. Still, I can see your argument. Just stay tuned. Michigan may end up on top of my poll when it matters the most: at the end of the year.

[ MORE: Debate It: Is Ohio State still the Big Ten's best? ]

Why would Wisconsin be below Nebraska in your power rankings? Nebraska waited until Week Two to show up. – Mary

Nebraska started higher than Wisconsin in my initial poll and has done nothing to fall below a Wisconsin club that has beaten even lesser foes (UMass and Tennessee Tech) than the Huskers (Wyoming and Southern Miss). Each team is 2-0. Why should I jump up and cheer because Wisconsin beat two lesser teams?

I’m having trouble with your bowl predictions. Illinois in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? I just now stopped laughing. They will be lucky to win four or five more games. – Scott

Hey, always happy to provide some comic relief. But, really, why shouldn’t I feel Illinois has a chance for a nice season that could end up in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? Yes, the defense has some issues and probably won’t be that good. But the offense could keep this team in most games—and get the Illini to the postseason.

Let’s wait until Bucky has actually played a game, before we pass judgment on them. – Budgerfan

Well, all I have to go on is what I have seen so far. And, it has been very impressive! Back-to-back shutouts to open the season are impressive. In fact, it hasn’t been done in Madison to start a season since 1958. But the opponents (UMass and FCS Tennessee Tech) weren’t exactly powers. We will find out a lot more about the Badgers this Saturday when they play at Arizona State.

You gave Nebraska an “A” this week, which I totally agree with. Why, then, did the AP writers drop Nebraska one more spot after the convincing win over Southern Miss? And they moved UCLA up two spots and the Bruins didn’t even play. What is up with this disrespect?? – Mary Brennan

I was as vexed as you when I saw that Nebraska dropped in the AP poll after it thumped Southern Miss. I guess voters were more impressed by other teams’ victories. As for UCLA moving up and not playing, that often happens. It’s a case of “success by idleness.” It happens often. Bottom line: Don’t fret. The polls at this time of the year are very volatile. Here is something I pretty much can guarantee: If Nebraska keeps winning, it will rise in the polls!

Don’t you agree that punter Cody Webster is Purdue’s MVP so far? I don’t know if he will make an NFL team, let alone be drafted. But I do see him as a welcome addition to most NFL camps in the spring. What are your thoughts? – Barry Marton

Yes, Webster is off to a good start. In fact, his 49.9-yard average leads the nation. But, the fact a punter is considered to be the Boilermakers’ best player through two weeks is a disconcerting notion. Oh, well. As for Webster’s future: He won’t get drafted (punters rarely are) but he may get invited to a camp. And then, you never know?

The only two teams in the Big Ten that could beat Michigan are Northwestern and Ohio State. Don’t you agree? – BMAN

Yes, I think Northwestern and Ohio State matchup with Michigan and could knock off the Wolverines. But I still think Nebraska could beat Michigan, as long as the Cornhuskers defense continues to improve. In case you are wondering, here is when Michigan plays these teams:

  • Nebraska, Nov. 9
  • At Northwestern, Nov. 16
  • Ohio State, Nov. 30

I think Nebraska could be the signature win that Gopher Nation is looking for. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 26. Nebraska’s defense is suspect and Minnesota is steadily improving. What do you think of the Gophers’ chances against Nebraska? – Ben

I like your enthusiasm. No doubt, if Minnesota can continue to be physical on offense in the run game while developing a play-action pass game, it could pose issues for a Cornhuskers defense that has something to prove. To beat Nebraska, the Gophers will need to keep the ball away from the potent Husker attack. And, again, a good run game can do that—while wearing down the Nebraska defense. But history is against Minnesota. Check it out: Nebraska has beaten the Golden Gophers 16 times in a row. The last Gophers’ win? A 26-14 decision in 1960.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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shookwriter27 on 9/10/2013 @ 12:58pm EDT Said:

If Illinois wins four or five more games, and they probably will, they’ll be in a bowl game.