Big Ten Mailbag: MSU's o-line, Penn State's record and 'The Game'

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Big Ten Mailbag: MSU's o-line, Penn State's record and 'The Game'

Time to go through my mail. I look at Michigan State’s offensive line, project Penn State’s record and look at “The Game,” among other things.

So, let’s get started!

Last year, the Spartans were good, and made it to the playoffs with just one loss. But they struggled against Western Michigan, Purdue, Rutgers and Maryland. Yet, they beat teams like Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. I know a win is a win, but do you see this year’s team being able to dominate some of the lower-level teams as well as winning the big ones? – Ben

Look, football isn’t figure skating. Style points don’t matter. Just get the win. Lou Holtz used to always say he never knew what his team’s mind-set would be from week to week. It’s the nature of dealing with 18-22-year olds. Just get the win, which is what Michigan State almost always found a way to do in 2015–and probably will this fall, too.

What do you think will be Penn State’s record this year? – Shaun Reynolds

This is a key season for James Franklin, as he is looking to improve after consecutive 7-6 seasons. The team is in transition with two new coordinators. The areas to watch: The trenches. Here is how I see PSU doing week by week.

Kent State W
At Pitt L
Temple W
At Michigan W
Minnesota W
Maryland W
Ohio State L
At Purdue W
Iowa L
At Indiana W
Rutgers W
Michigan State L

That comes out to 8-4. Sound good? Fans would like to see Franklin beat either Michigan, Ohio State or Michigan State; he has gone 0-6 vs. the Big Three from the East. Penn State’s best chance to beat one of the Big Three? Maybe the Nittany Lions can topple the Spartans in the finale and finish 9-3.

If kickoffs are eliminated from football, how do you replace the on-side kick possibility? In my opinion, this is the biggest issue to be overcome. Fans will live without kickoff returns, but how do you give a team trying to make a comeback the chance to get the ball back immediately without an on-side kick? – David

That is a good point. I would hate to see no more on-side kicks. It is an exciting play and can help a team rally. Taking that away would hurt the game. I am not sure if there is any compromise if kickoffs are eliminated.

You have several times called Iowa a 10-win team. I don’t really disagree, but, as a Hawk fan, would prefer an undefeated mark, of course. My question is: What games do you see Iowa most likely to lose? – Ken H.

There is a lot to like about Iowa, from personnel and schedule standpoints. The biggest on-field issues: finding pass rushers on defense and big-play makers on offense. The most dangerous game? I think there are a few potential potholes. Sept. 17 vs. North Dakota State; Oct. 8 at Minnesota; Oct. 22 vs. Wisconsin; Nov. 5 at Penn State; Nov. 12 vs. Michigan; Nov. 25 vs. Nebraska. The most deadly? The game at PSU and vs. Michigan.

How concerned are you about Michigan State’s offensive line? Kodi Kieler being moved to center seemed to catch some people off guard. – John

The unit took some big hits with the likes of Jack Conklin, Donavon Clark and Jack Allen gone. But Mark Staten is a good line coach and has talent to work with. It was a surprise to see Kieler tabbed as the center over Brian Allen, who will be the left guard. Look for David Beedle at left tackle. On the right side, Brandon Clemons and Benny McGowan will compete at guard while Dennis Finley and Miguel Machado are in the hunt at tackle.

If you had to guess, who do you think will win “The Game?” – Mac

Michigan plays at Ohio State on Nov. 26. And, it should be epic. While the Buckeyes have more personnel issues than the Wolverines, by the time this game rolls around, Ohio State should be rolling. And, the Buckeyes will be playing at home. And recent history has favored Ohio State in this iconic rivalry. But the Wolverines are on the rise under Jim “Mr. Satellite Camp” Harbaugh. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, going 12-2 since 2001 and winning the last four meetings with a 42-13 triumph last season. The last time Michigan won in Columbus? In 2000, when the Wolverines took a 38-26 decision. Bottom line: I like the Buckeyes to win … again.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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