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 senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (25 Comments)
JP on 10/8/2013 @ 1:22pm EDT Said:

Michigan fans are delusional. One guy thinks they get no love from the National Media. No one gets more unwarranted publicity from the National Media other than maybe Notre Dame. The other guy can’t understand why a team that has barely beaten Akron and Uconn isn’t being projected to a BCS game. Laughable.

Jonny Lickamer on 10/8/2013 @ 1:26pm EDT Said:

Yeah, I mean all MSU has to do to make the Rose Bowl is beat OSU in the B1G title game. Yup.

scott s on 10/8/2013 @ 1:50pm EDT Said:

iam a mich. fan and the only love there getting is how bad they have played period dude so what are you talking about??? its not good love from the media? if you are a true fan no know that mich. has problems like i said in my last statement they have a long way to go. this weekend will prove alot one way or another. bye the way whos your team JP

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 1:55pm EDT Said:

Tom , I don’t think there is any question that Gardner has turned the corner here. Like all great players he simply had to find his rhythym. When the nation see him shred the Spartan secondary like he did to Minnesota last week. The Heisman chatter will start again. I have a lot riding on Gardner putting 300 yards up on Sparty November 2

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 2:00pm EDT Said:

And one more thing, Michigan fans are not delusional, they simply demand excellence , that MSU defense feared and respected Denard Robinson., I heard him here on btn saying that Sparty was his third biggest rival.

JP on 10/8/2013 @ 2:45pm EDT Said:

Scott S- “Reality check” is making my point for me. Gardner has an above average game against a bad Minnesota defense = Gardner is going to shred the best defense in the conference in Michigan State. To answer your question, I am a Nebraska fan. Which has been painful as of late.

JP on 10/8/2013 @ 2:46pm EDT Said:

Also, does Michigan look like a team that should be in the top 10? National publications had them there pre-season.

Doug on 10/8/2013 @ 3:48pm EDT Said:

Denard was 1-3 and a miracle FG from being 0-4 vs MSU. Johnny, OSU is beatable. Mark, Denard, I mean Devin, oh hell neither can pass so same thing, played poorly again, it was just against a crappy minny team. that 50 grand is gonna look good on nov 2

Bruce Machamer on 10/8/2013 @ 4:53pm EDT Said:

I hope Devin Gardner is off one more game, since I am a PSU fan. After Saturday he can be as good as a Heisman trophy candidate.

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 5:02pm EDT Said:

Doug , your friend in Los Angeles and I went double or nothing
Its 100 grand now and winner stays on all sites loser is banned.

Ben on 10/8/2013 @ 5:20pm EDT Said:

Hey, reality check, you need to get a brain. All you michigan fans think you dont get love from the media? They get plenty. PLENTY. And for you to think that the MSU defense is scared of denard is ridiculous. He played absolutely horrible for 3 years against our D. And you can’t just say Devin is out of his slump after one decent game. And never will he “light up” one of the best defenses in the country.

Doug on 10/8/2013 @ 6:17pm EDT Said:

Bruce, I can gaurantee you Gardner will turn it over at least 2 probably more times, the PSU defense is worlds about minnesota’s

dick patten on 10/8/2013 @ 7:39pm EDT Said:

Tom, I agree with your thoughts about Michigan. I said the same thing. I was at the Akron game and I was thoroughly disgusted and I mean disgusted. I blame the Michigan coaches because they should have fired up those players more or at halftime, I would have read the riot act, like get out there and play or you are benched. It was terrible and then watch UConn the next week, it is like, what to hell is going on. I wrote a blistering blog on their site and a guy wrote to me and said i needed to be their pep talk guy. I mean, Michigan is supposed to be a powerful, where’s the power? There is way to much celebrating after one play. Come one fellas, you have a whole game to play, smarten up. I love this team. I have met Brian Cleary and talked with Shane Morris and there is no need of this. I could see Appalachian State all over again. I hope Devin has learned his lesson, because I think he got to cocky for himself. They had him on a high pedestal and he found out, he is needs to earn his spot on that pedestal. He is not Denard. take care, Tom, thanks for letting me let off some frustration.

Doug on 10/8/2013 @ 8:00pm EDT Said:

Mark, we both know you’re not going to keep up your end of the bargain, you’ll just pay your lackies like you do on green and white. MSU gives up less then 200 total yards a game, but somehow Gardner, who can’t seem to throw to the right team, is going to throw for 300 yards? I bet you miss Denard, at least he completed passes every once in a while. MSU’s offense is gonna be clicking by Nov 2nd and Michigan’s defense has been porous at best.

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 8:06pm EDT Said:

JP you were lucky there was no BCS game in 97 Woodson and company would have held You Cobs scoreless, if you talk to OSborn privately he will admit it would have been a savage beatdown

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 8:08pm EDT Said:

Nebraska is a nice regional program but Michigan has been the gold standard they aspire too, where was Nebraska in 1902 case closed

Spartan in Los Angeles on 10/8/2013 @ 8:40pm EDT Said:

Oh he will keep that bargain Doug, I will make sure of that? Great job by the Tigers tonight would love to see a Tigers-Dodgers World Series

Spartan in Los Angeles on 10/8/2013 @ 10:22pm EDT Said:

1902 is no longer relevant, stay strong Doug new management is coming Nov 3

reality check on 10/8/2013 @ 10:24pm EDT Said:

There is only new management if Devon Gardner is held to 299 yards or less and that’s not going to happen.

John on 10/9/2013 @ 5:53am EDT Said:

1902? Here we go. Michigan has the only fans that place more value on what happened in leather helmets than plastic.

Think about it, Civil War veterans attended games in 1902. Congratulations for having the best program when plagues were still a major issue, the most common mode of transportation was walking, and “off the grid” was the gold standard.

JP on 10/9/2013 @ 9:32am EDT Said:

Reality Check- Michigan half a National title in your lifetime. Nebraska has 5. Also, one team couldn’t cover the spread against a Ryan Leaf team and needed an INT in the endzone to win. One team beat Peyton Manning by over 30. Even a delusional fan can tell which one is better?

Doug on 10/9/2013 @ 10:41am EDT Said:

hey Mark, MSU holds teams to less then 200 yards TOTAL, yet Gardner, who can’t even throw to the right team, is gonna pass for 300 yards on the # 1 defense in the land? You should actually worry more about that Michigan defense, giving up all those yards to mediocre teams, MSU’s offense will be clicking by nov 2nd. Would also love to see tigers-dodgers in world series

Big Bill on 10/9/2013 @ 12:15pm EDT Said:

The Wolverines might not get much love from the national media but they’ll always have the Big 10 kissing their rear ends each and every day of the year.

Bill on 10/9/2013 @ 2:43pm EDT Said:

People do not like Michigan as most of their fans (N.B. I have lived in MI for 25 years and am “neutral” as to UM or MSU) as arrogant a____. Hence their A4 handle. They whine, complain and believe that their school is “perfect”. Note to UofM fans: it is not perfect nor are its fans.

JP on 10/10/2013 @ 7:58am EDT Said:

Reality Check- Michigan half a National title in your lifetime. Nebraska has 5. Also, one team couldn’t cover the spread against a Ryan Leaf team and needed an INT in the endzone to win. One team beat Peyton Manning by over 30. Even a delusional fan can tell which one is better?