Mailbag: Has Devin Gardner's slump ended?

Mailbag: Has Devin Gardner's slump ended?

You have questions. And, as usual, I have answers. Yes, it’s that time of the week, time for me to reach into my mailbag. Lots of good questions, with many fans already curious about bowl destinations. Keep those cards and letters coming. I appreciate it.

Do you think Devin Gardner’s “slump” has ended and he will look more like the player of the first two weeks of the season, or the last few weeks? – David Campbell

It’s difficult to tell, as the Michigan coaches didn’t ask Gardner to do much in the win over Minnesota, as he hit 13-of-17 passes for 235 yards last Saturday. The biggest number for Gardner vs. the Gophers: 0, as in turnovers. The game last Saturday was about restoring Gardner’s confidence. Mission accomplished. But we won’t really know until Michigan plays a tougher foe. The trip to Penn State this week could be tough, but the Nittany Lions defense is struggling. Then comes a visit from Indiana, followed by a bye week. So, we probably won’t get a true read on Gardner until a trip to Michigan State on Nov. 2.

I was curious to see what your thought was on Michigan State making the Rose bowl? – Matt Sneary

Holy Moly! One win over Iowa, and some people have Rose Bowl questions about Michigan State?! I love it! I will say, I was very impressed with the Spartans in their win in Iowa City. The MSU defense showed why it’s the best in the Big Ten. But it was the play of the Spartan offense that has people like you—and me, frankly—thinking big for Michigan State. This team has as good a shot as any to win the Legends. Then, win the Big Ten title game and—voila!–MSU is in Pasadena.

When I watch the national college TV programs, they give very little coverage to Michigan. And when they do, they concentrate on “how badly they played when they won.” Why does it seem people love to hate my Wolverines? – Kenneth Gay

Analysts don’t “love to hate” Michigan. Look, facts are facts: The Wolverines haven’t looked great in some victories this season vs. foes that are inferior. Akron? UConn? Michigan should have buried those teams. Remember, the Wolverines were picked by most to win the Legends Division. So, the standard and expectation are high. As a fan, you should welcome the scrutiny. It beats being ignored.

The Ohio State defense doesn’t really resemble Urban Meyer’s Florida defenses or even some of the better defenses OSU had under Jim Tressel. Is this due to inexperience, scheme or just lack of playmakers? Or a combination of a lot of things? – Jonathan

No doubt, the Ohio State defense has had some issues—especially when it comes to stopping the pass. And that’s a bit of a surprise, because the secondary was supposed to be the strength of the Buckeye defense with players like Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett leading the way. (Christian Bryant, too, before he got hurt.) OSU is just No. 6 in the Big Ten in total defense (326.2 ypg) and No. 7 vs. the pass (240.0 ypg). In fact, the 10 touchdown passes allowed by Ohio State are the most in the Big Ten—though few other teams have played as many games yet. The line is still developing and will be good. The linebackers? They remain the ultimate work-in-progress. The scheme is fine.

Will Ohio State lose a game? – Shirley Allen

So far, so good for Ohio State, which is 6-0. And, you have to think the Buckeyes will be favored to win the next five games: Iowa, Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois and Indiana. Then comes a season-ending trip to Michigan that looks like the most dangerous game of all. And, could the teams meet again the next week in the Big Ten title game? So, will Ohio State lose? I don’t think so. But it it does, it figures to be in the finale at Ann Arbor or in the league title game.

As a Northwestern fan, I am not sure I would want to play Alabama or Oregon in a bowl. Stanford in the Rose Bowl? Let’s do that one. As for Georgia, Florida, Texas and Missouri … bring them on. This is not overconfidence. I feel a lot better about competing with and winning a game vs. those teams than Bama or Oregon. And that’s a great thing for Northwestern. – Steve

I agree with your sentiments. I don’t think Northwestern would match up well with Oregon or Alabama. But, honestly, how many teams would match up well with Oregon and Bama! A Stanford-NU Rose Bowl would make for a great story and provide Northwestern with a good measuring stick vs. a program it strives to be more like. I guess I’m not as confident as you about potential clashes with Georgia, Florida, Texas and Missouri. I think all of those teams have more talent than the Wildcats. That doesn’t mean they’d win—it just means they would have an edge.

Does Nebraska have a team to legitimately contend for the Legends Division champion? – Carl Jacobson

Yes, without a doubt. In fact, the Cornhuskers were my pick to win the Legends Division before the season started. There was a lot to like about Nebraska, beginning with a dynamic offense that looked to be one of the best in the Big Ten. So far, so good. The schedule also sets up well for the Huskers, who don’t have to play Ohio State or Wisconsin. If the defense can build off its strong effort in a win over Illinois last Saturday, Nebraska will be primed to make a strong run at repeating as Legends champs.

Speaking of Nebraska, we can watch this catch over, and over.

Why do you not have Michigan in a BCS game? They play only two tough games: at Northwestern and at home vs. Ohio State. There are way better than Northwestern. – Marcus Franzine

It’s still early. No doubt, Michigan could end up in a BCS bowl. But I think they have two tough games left in addition to the two you mentioned: at Michigan State on Nov. 2 and vs. Nebraska on Nov. 9. Bottom line: The Wolverines still have a lot of work to do.

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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