Mailbag: About those Michigan State freshmen...

My mailbag is getting full as the season hits the halfway mark. And, many of my letters are from antsy Michigan fans and happy Michigan State fans. By the way, only three more weeks until they play! So, let’s dig right in and answer some questions.

What are your thoughts on the true freshman contributors at Michigan State (RB Delton Williams, K Michael Geiger, and RB R.J. Shelton)? Looks like the class of 2013 is off to a solid start in East Lansing. Williams looks great through two games. He gets tough yards after first contact. – Jmac

The 6-1, 220-pound Williams has looked good in recent weeks and been a bit of a revelation. The redshirt was taken off him two weeks ago at Iowa. Since then, he has carried 21 times for 124 yards. He has augmented what was a listing ground game, and given the attack some much-needed punch in the red zone. No doubt, the youngsters are making an impact for MSU.

How many games do you think Michigan will lose in the second half of the season? – Jeffrey White

Well, let’s have a look. The 5-1 Wolverines’ remaining schedule shapes up thusly:

  • Indiana
  • At Michigan State
  • Nebraska
  • At Northwestern
  • At Iowa
  • Ohio State

Best-case scenario, I see 4-2; worst-case scenario, I see 1-5. So, Michigan may be looking at a 9-3 finish or a 6-6 finish. This team has issues on offense, beginning with a line that just isn’t coming together. And the defense looks to be good—but not great. It’s going to be a fascinating stretch run for a Michigan team that’s on the edge.

[ MORE: Is it too early to ask who's Legends Division favorite? ]

I’m hoping for an Ohio State-Michigan State face-off in the B1G championship game.  At midseason, I think Ohio State matches up well with Michigan State. What say you? – Dan Shoop

You have read my mind! That’s a matchup that intrigues me a lot. Yes, Nebraska was my pick to win the Legends before the season began. And, the Cornhuskers still could turn the trick. Still, you have to like the way the Spartans are playing. The defense is out-of-sight. And the offense appears to be coming to life behind quarterback Connor Cook. In case you are wondering, Michigan State plays at Nebraska on Nov. 16. As for matchups, I’d like to see the Spartan defense take on the Buckeye offense.

Do you think that Nebraska can beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship if they meet? And how far Nebraska can go this year? – Kyle Wacker

If the Cornhusker defense continues to play like it did the last two games vs. Illinois and at Purdue, Nebraska may indeed win the Legends. And, if it meets Ohio State in Indianapolis, I think the Huskers would have a good shot. Neither team has a great defense. So, the game could come down which offense can make the most big plays. And I think the Husker attack has more big-play ability.

With no Ohio State, no Penn State, and no Wisconsin on the schedule, do the Spartans have a shot at getting to the championship game? – Jeremy Mix

Yes, yes and yes. The schedule is a big asset for MSU—and Nebraska.

Thanks for saying what I’ve been trying to tell everyone about Devin Gardner–without him, there was no third quarter comeback for the Wolverines on Saturday. My question for you is about Michigan’s other Devin, Devin Funchess: Why have we suddenly seen him explode? – Max

The Wolverines are using Funchess as more of a flex tight end. By that, I mean Funchess has been splitting out wide like a receiver, a position that hasn’t been overly productive. That helps create some big-time mismatches that the Michigan offense can take advantage of.

Ohio State won’t run the table. The Buckeyes will stumble, probably at Michigan. – Fred

I think you may be correct. This is a very good Ohio State team. Is it great? Dunno. Just the mounting pressure each week finally may eat away at Ohio State, which gets every team’s best shot every week. The last team to go unbeaten in back-to-back seasons? Nebraska in 1994-95. Ya, it’s difficult to do. But, honestly, the schedule has few potential potholes for OSU. Its biggest foe may be itself.

So, Tom, you say “(Devin Gardner) is going commit turnovers. But he is also going to make a lot of big plays.” With six very challenging games approaching, that seems to be a recipe for disaster with a team that has little room for mistakes.  Are there any other quarterbacks on the roster that might be an improvement on Gardner? – John Lieb

Shane Morris is a hot-shot true freshman who is second string. That’s all I’m gonna type about that. Talk amongst yourselves. My take: I think the staff wants to do all it can to keep Gardner under center and avoid a change.

I noticed on several BTN shows, the experts seem to be surprised that Northwestern’s use of two quarterbacks is successful. Additionally, they seem to say they don’t know of other instances of a successful use of a two-quarterback system. How could they have they forgotten about the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1996 with Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine sharing the snaps, especially as Stanley Jackson is one of the analysts on BTN? – Mike Dennison

Good point. That was a very good team. I was at the Rose Bowl that season when the Buckeyes had a great rally past Jake Plummer and Arizona State. It was a great bowl game. Thanks for stirring the memories. Germaine and Jackson were a nice combination.

How the heck do you predict Iowa to get in a bowl game this year? They will be lucky to win one more game unless they their act together. I am a Hawk fan, and I’m just being realistic and honest. – Larry

The Hawkeyes are 4-2 overall right now, so they need two more victories to become bowl eligible. No doubt, Iowa could have some issues getting to six victories. You have to like the Hawkeyes’ chances at Purdue on Nov. 9. But getting a sixth win may be tough: at Ohio State; Northwestern; Wisconsin; Michigan; at Nebraska. Perhaps Iowa’s best chance may be when the Wildcats visit on Oct. 26. And maybe the Hawkeyes will have a shot when Michigan comes to Iowa City on Nov. 23.

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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10 Comments

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Scott on 10/15/2013 @ 1:47pm EDT Said:

Can you imagine how the Buckeyes will dominate the B1G even more when they get some good players?

reality check on 10/15/2013 @ 2:33pm EDT Said:

Devon Gardner 300 yards passing Nov 2 you heard it here first.

Joseph on 10/15/2013 @ 2:50pm EDT Said:

@Scott: Huh?

Scott on 10/15/2013 @ 6:23pm EDT Said:

Sorry. Thought I was commenting on Dienhart’s All -B1G team. It’s tough being old! :-(

Doug on 10/15/2013 @ 7:16pm EDT Said:

Mark, once again, MSU only allows a little over 200 yards total per game, yet Denard, I mean Devin, same thing, can’t pass to the right team, yet he’s going to pass for 300 yards? new management is coming Nov 3rd….

delmar1950 on 10/15/2013 @ 7:47pm EDT Said:

Scott they already have good players and if they had the right person playing the QB position they would have beat Wisconsin and Northwestern by 21 or more points and would have gotten back to the number two in the nation. When Kenny Guition was the QB he had offense rolling and we saw the offense that Meyer has been talking about Ohio State having. GO BUCKS

    Scott on 10/16/2013 @ 7:53am EDT Said:

    So let me get this straight! If OSU only had a better QB, they beat Wisconsin and NW by 21, yet only 3 Buckeyes merit All-Conference mention from you? Like I said, wonder what will happen when the Bucks get some good players?

    Your Hackenburg choice over the Indiana kid is clearly wishful thinking for future potential, not a reflection of what’s happening on the field.

reality check on 10/15/2013 @ 10:09pm EDT Said:

Doug new mgt may have 800 million dollars but he’s going down 3-1 tonight to the Cardinals ha ha

Doug on 10/16/2013 @ 12:32pm EDT Said:

that may be true, tigers sure are blowing it too

    delmar1950 on 10/16/2013 @ 3:03pm EDT Said:

    As for the Tigers they should have brought in the left handier to face Big Papi in stead of the right.handier. And as for last night why would you not bunt the guy over to second and stay out of the double play. It’s just 2 to 1 a lot of ball to go.