Brent Yarina, Senior Editor, November 1, 2011

There's a lot of talk going on about the Penn State football team. It seems, most of the nation thinks the Nittany Lions are overrated and that their 8-1 record, including a perfect 5-0 clip in the Big Ten, is the product of a soft schedule. At the same time, many Penn State backers think their team is being disrespected and is underrated. To settle the issue, web editor Brent Yarina and senior writer Tom Dienhart attacked the topic on e-mail. See the entire thread in this post.

Brent: Tom, let's talk about where Penn State stands right now. Yes, they are 8-1 and the only undefeated team in Big Ten play, but the grueling part of the schedule awaits and they haven?t won pretty. Where do you stand on the Nittany Lions?

Tom: I think you are correct. Penn State is off this week, but its toughest stretch of the season awaits: Nebraska at home; at Ohio State; at Wisconsin. I think the Nits could lose all three, which would open the door for Wisconsin to win the Leaders Division.

Brent: Sure, but what happened to beating the team in front of you? The Nittany Lions have done that, regardless of how they've looked in the process, and I think they?re coming together at the perfect time. You mentioned the bye week, but the Nittany Lions have a lot more going for them. They have a starting quarterback - FINALLY! - they have Silas Redd, the Big Ten hottest running back, they have Derek Moye, one of the conference?s best wide receivers, returning from injury, and they have linebacker Gerald Hodges playing out of his mind.

Tom: Yes, Penn State has a lot going for it, as you suggest. I love the defense and Redd. But I?m still not sold on the quarterback play. And I think you need good-to-great quarterback play to be a champion. Again, I?m not sure Penn State has that. And who have the Nits beat that has been impressive? They played one VERY good team (Alabama) and got whipped. Penn State finally will see the cream of the Big Ten in November. The opportunity is there for the Nits to shut up doubters. Can Penn State score on Nebraska and Ohio State? How will it play in the Horseshoe and in Camp Randall? Have the Nits seen an offense as balanced, explosive and dynamic as Wisconsin? I think you know the answer to all of those questions if you search deep down in your Penn State-loving heart.

Brent: Haha, my Penn State-loving heart (not the case). I agree with everything you said and don?t think the Nittany Lions have a prayer of finishing 11-1. In fact, I think 1-2 in the last three games would be good and 2-1 would be terrific. I just think they?re flying under the radar and are a better team than people think. That doesn?t mean they will continue to win ugly – just that they have the ingredients (stout defense and strong running game) of a team that can give opponents fits. But, as you mentioned, we?ll see what Penn State is made of when they open their grueling stretch run, starting Nov. 12 against Nebraska.

Tom: No doubt, Penn State has been a big surprise. Few envisioned the Nits being a serious contender in the Leaders. So, hat?s off to Penn State for getting this far. (JoePa, Big Ten Coach of the Year? Maybe?) If Penn State can hold off Wisconsin and Ohio State-don?t forget about the Bucks!-it would be one of Paterno?s top coaching jobs since the school entered the Big Ten for the 1993 season. Bottom line: Both division races will be filled with drama in November. This is gonna be fun!

Brent: For sure! By the way, have fun at the Michigan-Iowa game Saturday.

Tom: Thanks! Talk to you soon.

And during this email thread, there were a couple relevant tweets posted:!/rmusselmanppg/status/131388998450036736!/TLdlevarse/status/131397028159832065

Got a question for senior writer Tom Dienhart? Send an e-mail to Dienhart's mailbag and it could get answered in his weekly mailbag. You can also follow him @BTNTomDienhart.