Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, October 15, 2013
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:
- At Michigan State
- 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.
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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