BTN.com staff, October 29, 2011
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart held is inaugural Big Ten football chat with fans this morning. Did you miss it? We took questions for an hour and Dienhart answered as we all got ready for football to kick off on Week 9 of the Big Ten season. Look back at the conversation we had and come back next Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET for the next football chat with Dienhart. Just come to BTN.com's homepage and find the link every Saturday.
Oct. 29, 10:30 a.m.
Tom Dienhart: Get ready to chat live at 9:30 a.m. CT! See you all soon!
Big Ten Network: That's right, Tom. In about 30 minutes we will dive in to some questions about Week 9 in the Big Ten football schedule. This is our first of what we hope to be a series of chat availability for Tom, who loves his college football.
Saturday's games look like this: BTN TV and BTN2Go airs Northwestern (2-5) at Indiana (1-7) at noon ET and Iowa (5-2) at Minnesota (1-6) 3:30 p.m.. Other games: Purdue (4-3) at Michigan (6-1) at noon (ESPN2/ESPN3), Michigan State (6-1) at Nebraska (6-1) at noon ET (ESPN/ESPN3), Illinois (6-2) at Penn State (7-1) at 3:30 PM ET (ABC/ESPN2), Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3) at 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN3). Get more info on our Big Ten scoreboard.
Use the box below to submit questions. Or if you're on Twitter, you can use #AskBTN and the tweet will be flagged for us to use right here,. Tom will be around probably right up until kickoff of the noon ET games.
Big Ten Network: Getting some good questions, so keep them coming. Once the chat starts at 9:30 a.m. CT
Big Ten Network: While we wait, you can read a great Q&A with Tom here. All of Tom's work for BTN & BTN.com will be posted on his BTN.com page: www.btn.com/tomdienhart.
Big Ten Network: OK, welcome Tom! It's our first chat with you on BTN.com. We're excited to be working with you and know you've had a busy week.
Tom Dienhart: Ready to roll!
Big Ten Network: Which player will have the biggest stat line of the day today?
Tom Dienhart: I think James Vandenbeg and Marcus Coker of Iowa could have huge numbers vs. a struggling Minnesota team.
Comment From Jamie: With a month left in the season what's surprised you the most about the Big Ten, for better or for worse?
Tom Dienhart: I have been surprised by how good Michigan State is. No one in August thought this team was gonna be a serious contender in the Legends Division. But here are the Spartans, the highest ranked Big Ten team as he head down the home stretch.
Big Ten Network: Looking at the weather in Penn State it looks like .. snow? Weather updates here. That leads us to our next question from a reader …
Comment From Fan: How many points will be scored in the Penn State Illinois game in the SNOW?
Tom Dienhart: Snow or no snow, I think Illinois is gonna have issues scoring vs. this strong Penn State defense that ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten overall. As for Penn State, I think the Nits still will get their points in bad weather. Why? Because this is a ground-oriented offense behind RB Silas Redd. And good ground games can still thrive in bad weather.
Big Ten Network: Tom, don't you love football in the snow?
Comment From Chris : What will be the keys for Nebraska to win today?
Tom Dienhart: I do! Football is meant to be played in the elements!!! Some of our best memories as fans are of games that were played in rain, cold, snow or fog!!!
Tom Dienhart: On offense, the Huskers need to win first down to avoid getting into obvious passing situations. This is a team that struggles to pass well, ranking 10th in pass offense. If the Huskers can pass on their terms, they will have success moving the ball.
On defense, Nebraska needs to mute the Spartans' three-headed running back tandem … and then come after Kirk Cousins. It also will be vital for Nebraska to limit big plays, which has been an issues for Pelini's defense all season.
Big Ten Network: Reminder to our readers: Our live scoreboards are here. Stay with the BTN all day on TV as they cover the games you care about the most. I like the next question…
Comment From JM: If you had to pick an MVP right now, who is it?
Tom Dienhart: Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson. I know he got beat last Saturday night, but he still has been the most impressive Big Ten player in 2011. Others in the mix are Penn State RB Silas Redd; Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins; Wisconsin RB Montee Ball; Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins.
Big Ten Network: That's a great answer, Tom. Want to know when your Big Ten school will be featured on any number of our Big Ten Network TV shows? Get free school or sport-specific text message alerts. Check out btn.com/alerts.Our next question is from Kevin, who sounds a little worried…
Comment From Kevin: What happened to the 2010 version of Dan Persa and why isn't the 2011 version of Dan Persa more like the 2010 version? Is it the injury still?
Tom Dienhart: Without a doubt, injury has been why Persa has been unable to recapture his first-team All-Big Ten form of 2010. The Achilles' injury has been slow to heal, and he incurred turf toe last week. He's a tough kid who still is gutting it out and posting nice numbers, but injuries are limiting him. It's too bad, as Northwestern is in serious peril of missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Comment From Frank: If you were Buckeye D-Coordinator Jim Heacock, would you employ an aggressive, attacking defense against the multi-faceted Badger offense? Or would you prefer a read-and-react defense to prevent/limit any big plays? The Badger O ran all over Ohio State last year.
Tom Dienhart: First, let me say: I'm glad I'm not Jim Heacock!!! This is a Badger offense that ranks among the best in the nation.I think Heacock has to take some chances. You can't sit back and read, react and be passive vs. the Badgers. Yes, by blitzing/attacking, you take chances of being exposed and yielding big plays. But risk-taking also could produce some big plays for Ohio State's defense–big plays it will need to set up its pedestrian offense with short fields.
Big Ten Network: Tom made his predictions on Friday so I think I know the answer. But we'll ask this next question any way…
Comment From Big Ten Fan: How does Michigan state beat nebraska? Prediction?
Tom Dienhart: Sparty can prevail in Lincoln by running well–then hitting Nebraska's defense with play-action. This is a Husker defense that is thin in the interior of the line, making matters more difficult for Nebraska. Defensively, MSU needs to contain the Husker ground game and make Taylor Martinez pass.
Having said all that: I wonder if MSU can get up for ANOTHER big game. Sparty already has beaten Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Now comes a trip to Nebraska. I think the emotional toll of this gauntlet will catch up to MSU.
Nebraska wins a close game.
Comment From Dave: Tom, read your stuff at Yahoo all the time. Glad to see you here. Will you be covering games too?
Tom Dienhart: Yes, I will be at games beginning next Saturday. Where do you think I should go?
Big Ten Network: Ha! If Tom had his way, he'd go to all of them. Next question….
Comment From Pat: I love that my Huskers are in the Big Ten and left that "other conference" behind. How have they stacked up? I think they're doing alright for themselves.
Tom Dienhart: Yes, Nebraska is acquitting itself during its debut season. But, honestly, I have been a bit disappointed. The defense hasn't played as well as I thought it would, ranking 8th overall in the Big Ten. And offensively, it lacks balance.
I thought Nebraska would win the Legends entering the year. And it still can. But the passing game needs to develop–and defense needs to tighten, especially a run defense that ranks 9th in the league.
Big Ten Network: Just a reminder: We'll stay here with Tom up until 11 a.m. CT kickoff or until we run our of questions. Keep them coming. Tom loves talking football.
Comment From Jesse Y.: What happened to the Illinois offense? Is this similar to Michigan where they beat up on non-cons and then sputter against the Big Ten?
Tom Dienhart: The big reason for Illinois' struggles the last two weeks has been Nathan Scheelhaase was contained. He wasn't able to run well.
The Illini quarterback needs to regain the form he displayed in pushing Illinois to a 6-0 start. Since then, Scheelhaase has hit 42-of-69 passes for 386 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while running 29 times for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Comment From Steve: Tom, are you a Legend or a Leader? Just kidding. Keep up the good work.
Comment From Frank: Where to go? Illinois/Michigan will be the best Big Ten game next week.
Tom Dienhart: I'm a wannabe Legendary Leader! Ha! Thanks, Steve!
Comment From Steve W.: Fans get all caught up in the Big Ten-SEC-Big 12 thing, which I understand. But in your experience how much do Big Ten coaches follow the competition between conferences?
Tom Dienhart: Yes, Illinois-Michigan could be huge if both teams win today! And it could happen. Illinois won at PSU last year, while Michigan has had a week off to prep for Purdue.
Tom Dienhart: The SEC-Big Ten rivalry is huge. But it is bigger for fans than coaches. The coaches are so wrapped up in their league and their team, they don't have time to worry about other leagues.
But the SEC has had the edge of late, dominating the Big Ten in bowl games. Maybe the Big Ten can turn the tables this bowl season.
Comment From Stu: Tom, will you be covering men's basketball after football for BTN too? Congrats on the new gig!
Tom Dienhart: Thanks, I am excited to be with BTN.com!!! Yes, Stu. I will be covering hoops! And I am excited about it! I love basketball, having grown up in Indiana. And Big Ten hoops always is among the nation's best. I was at Big Ten media days this last week in Chicago getting ready!!!
Big Ten Network: We go from hoops to a question about a schoo where hoops reigns supreme…
Comment From Theo: Can Kevin Wilson turn it around at IU? I know what challenges he faces but what does he have to do to get them to a place where they can compete week in and week out?
Tom Dienhart: I like Kevin Wilson a lot and know many of his staffers. Good, smart, hard-working coaches. I thin these guys can turn it around. Don't worry about the offense. Wilson and Co., will put together a good attack. The real key to Wilson's long-term success will be his ability to put together a good DEFENSE. Time and again, defense has been IU's undoing.
Goal No. 1: Wilson needs to recruit better athletes on defense.
If Bill Mallory won at IU, I think Wilson can, too.
Comment From Frank: Interesting bowl predictions…Andrew Luck vs. Spartan defense would be a great matchup. Texas Tech vs. Michigan = fireworks. And Ohio State vs. Texas would be a dream match-up for the Meineke Car Care Bowl organizers.
Big Ten Network: Tom will post his bowl predictions on BTN.com each week. Here's last Monday's.
Comment From Lucas: I think the B1G will turn the table this season. The SEC isn't nearly as deep as it has been the past few years, and it seems possible the B1G will send only one team to the BCS. The SEC reminds me of the B1G in 2006, when everyone was so excited about UM and OSU being #1 and #2 they forgot to step back and see that the league as a whole was way down.
Tom Dienhart: Yes, I would love to see those matchup! Stanford-MSU would be a great game, as you said.
On a side note: I wonder if the Big Ten will get two teams in BCS bowls. The last time the Big Ten didn't get two BCS teams was 2004. I think it could happen again this season, unfortunately.
Big Ten Network: Tom, let's stay on that for a moment. Can you talk a little about how conferences go up and down. Dominance is cyclical to some degree, no?
Tom Dienhart: Agreed on the SEC. No doubt, Bama and LSU are super elite teams. And Arkansas is good. But after that, the SEC doesn't look that powerful. The entire SEC East has questions and has been unimpressive with no true elite team.
So, the Big Ten may have the edge in bowl matchups this January. As a reminder, the Big Ten-SEC meet in the Capital One, Outback and Gator Bowls.
Comment From Frank: If the NCAA continues to work on curtailing the SEC's oversigning abuse, the gap between the conferences will shrink even further.
Tom Dienhart: Yes, everything in life is cyclical. I never thought I'd see the Cleveland Indians in the World Series or Northwestern in the Rose Bowl. But, it happens. And Texas had a losing season in 2011. How? The SEC is on a roll now; the Big Ten's day will come. Be patient. Talent comes and goes.
Comment From Pete: Can Iowa get to the title game? I think people are sleeping on them.
Tom Dienhart: Yes, Iowa is still very much in the hunt. The Hawkeyes are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in league play. Many big games remain–Michigan, Michigan State; at Purdue; at Nebraska–after today. The offense has been great. But the key for Iowa will be tightening a defense that ranks 9th in the Big Ten. In the end, the Legends Division title could come down to Iowa's season-ending trip to Nebraska.
Big Ten Network: Here's a question that isn't so much about this weekend's games, but it's one we hear a lot around the office. Big Ten fans are always keeping track of their alums, it seems. We'll let Tom give his answer but if you're reading and have some candidates, let us know, too. We'll publish your comments.
Comment From PL: I know the Big Ten produces NFL players every year but can you think of a player that went on to have pro success that you never saw coming? Tom Brady is always a popular answer but what do you think?
Tom Dienhart: We all love to keep track of NFL alums from our school! We have pride in that. I know the BTN.com site tracks all the alums from Big Ten schools. And there are many great ones in the NFL now, headed by–of course–New England's Tom Brady.
Big Ten Network: Tom, talk a little bit about Brady Hoke and the job he's done so far.
Tom Dienhart: A player I never saw coming who became a star. Let me think about that more.
Tom Dienhart: Hoke has done a great job changing attitudes and embracing the Michigan traditions. He was a former Michigan assistant who understands the school and how things are done. Plus, he's a proven good coach at Ball State and SDSU. Hoke also has built a great staff with Al Borges as OC and Greg Mattison as DC.
Big Ten Network: I know everyone says this but he just looks like a football coach. Not important, of course, but it's true. And it seems like his demeanor and approach are exactly what Michigan needed, yes?
Tom Dienhart: Some recent Big Ten alums who have surprised me by how well they have done in the NFL: Trent Green
- Gary Russell
- Nick Hardwick
- Dallas Clark
- Brandon Lloyd
- Drew Brees
- Chad Greenway
- Neil Rackers
Big Ten Network: OK, we'll take a few more questions and then let Tom focus on getting ready for the games…
Comment From Cam: Championship game for the Big Ten. Love it or not?
Tom Dienhart: Yes, Hoke has a great demeanor. He is very affable and a players coach who demands a lot from his players. His schemes are more Michigan-oriented, too. As he has a more pro-style offense and conventional 4-3 defense.
Tom Dienhart: I love the championship game. It creates excitement and energy around the Big Ten on a national level. Too often, the Big Ten was out of sight and out of mind early December. Now, the Big Ten has a marquee game like the other top leagues–and the nation will sit up and pay attention.
Big Ten Network: Tom will be at the Big Ten Football Championship contributing to BTN.com and BTN's TV coverage too. BTN and Fox have some incredible coverage plans. Just wait….
Comment From Billy U.: So watching old games I realize how small college players were. Or maybe how big the current crop is. Aren't you amazed at how massive some of these players have become at the college level? Like UW's offensive line….
Tom Dienhart: Yes, I often mention this. When I was in college in the mid-1980s, most offensive linemen were 250-80. Now, many QBs weigh that much! And offensive linemen are typically all 300-pound plus. And speed hasn't been compromised! It has been an amazing transformation in the last 20-25 years in the size and speed of these guys.
Big Ten Network: Tom, we had a good run here for about an hour and I think we'll wrap it up. Do you have any closing thoughts before we end the live chat and let everyone get to their TVs for the games?
Tom Dienhart: Don't forget about Wisconsin at Ohio State today. That will be a big game in the Leaders Division. How will Bucky respond to its first loss as it goes on the road in a tough environment? Will be a fun game to track tonight in prime time.
Big Ten Network: Awesome. Thanks everyone.
Don't forget: Tom's work will be posted on BTN.com all day today as he gives his take on every game. And he covers football all week for us, too, including his ten things to watch for across the Big Ten. Back on Monday Dienhart gave his Big Ten bowl projections and his college football trophy tracker. On Tuesday we rolled out Dienhart's player rankings and best suggestions for the upcoming games. Every week we post a Big Ten mailbag where Dienhart answers the best of your questions. Bookmark it and send your notes all week. And as we race into the weekend check out Dienhart's game previews and weekly picks, too.
Tom Dienhart: I appreciate everyone coming by. Great questions. See you all next Saturday morning. Enjoy the games!!!
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed. You can send him your football questions to his Big Ten mailbag, too.