Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 29, 2013

As we head full steam into the second half of the season, my mail box is getting stuffed with comments and questions. You know what that means: I have to reach into my mail bag and answer the best of your queries. Thanks for all of the interest! Keep the cards and letters coming! And don't forget to watch this week's top ten plays in this post, too.

And now, your letters …

Who do you pick to win the Michigan State-Michigan game? – Andrew Bates

Well, the Spartans enter the game playing well, winners of four in a row after that loss at Notre Dame. In fact, the only Big Ten teams playing better are Ohio State and Wisconsin. Conversely, Michigan was off last week after that wild win over Indiana. Add in the fact Michigan State is playing at home, Connor Cook is coming off a great game and the Spartan defense is playing out of its mind, and I?m leaning toward MSU.

I'm not really sure a bye matters much for a team like Michigan State. The Spartans probably wanted to play last week after a spotty 14-0 win over Purdue. Penn State probably does not think the bye helped much in getting ready for Ohio State. And Nebraska probably is wondering about its bye in preparing for the Gophers, too.  In fact, you could say the two most disappointing teams on Saturday were coming off byes. – Jmac

I agree. Byes can be overrated. But, it depends on how you wanna spin them. If you are a hot team, you don?t want a bye. You wanna keep playing. If you are struggling, you supposedly want a bye to recoup, etc. I think there are too many byes now. Teams don?t need two byes in a 12-game schedule. That?s more than NFL teams get in a 16-game schedule. It?s ridiculous. And, it wasn?t too long ago when byes were rare in college football. Yes, teams actually played 11 or 12 games IN A ROW! Shocking, huh?

BCS Rank
Rank School Rec
1 Alabama (8-0)
2 Oregon (8-0)
3 Florida State (7-0)
4 Ohio State (8-0)
5 Stanford (7-1)
6 Baylor (7-0)
7 Miami (FL) (7-0)
8 Clemson (7-1)
9 Missouri (7-1)
10 Oklahoma (7-1)
View Complete Poll

You were in Buckeye camp in the preseason. Is there a sense that Ohio State is holding some of Dontre Wilson's touches/plays for later in the season? He seems like the most-dynamic player on the OSU offense. – Jonathan

I was very impressed watching Wilson back in August at camp. He?s an explosive playmaker unlike any other on the Buckeye roster. So, like you, I am a bit surprised he hasn?t been utilized a bit more. Wilson has just 19 carries for 170 yards with a touchdown. He also has 14 catches for 149 yards and a score. Perhaps a lack of knowledge of the system is holding back the true freshman. Maybe blocking assignments? Or, as you suggest, maybe they are saving him. He isn?t very big (5-10/180), so durability may be an issue. Kid should be special in time.

What is the chance Nebraska will win even one more game this year? It appears Taylor Martinez is not 100 percent. This sounds like his freshman year, when he was injured midway through the season and did not really recover until the end of his sophomore year. – Stephen Johnson

Martinez said on Sunday that he isn?t 100 percent. So, let?s attribute some of his struggles vs. Minnesota to his lingering turf toe. He also reportedly has a hip pointer now, too, in addition to continuing to deal with shoulder pain. But, if he?s not fully healthy, why play him last Saturday? Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg had been playing well when Martinez was out three games. Regardless, Martinez never is gonna be fully functional in 2013. He has said as much. What?s that mean? Some continued struggles.

I think the Huskers will win again this season, but it?s going to be interesting during the final five games, what with Martinez?s issues and the defense struggling. Big contests remain vs. Northwestern, at Michigan, vs. Michigan State, at Penn State, vs. Iowa. Can the Huskers win the Legends? It?s gonna be difficult.

Is Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg still your All-B1G quarterback? At the risk of being obvious, the best quarterback in the B1G is Braxton Miller, and it isn?t close. The best running back in the B1G is Carlos Hyde. While that is a closer contest, it is obvious to even those with an agenda. And how many Buckeye o-linemen deserve All-B1G recognition? At least three: Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, and Corey Linsley. We look forward to your spin in the name of conference parity. – Scott

I have no agenda. Believe me. No doubt, Miller is the Big Ten?s top quarterback. But it was hard to make him the choice on midseason teams because he had missed about three games. Now, he looks to be rolling and back to being Braxton. No doubt, he?ll be the All-Big Ten quarterback by the end of the season if he keeps this up. As for Hyde, he is special. But Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin is pretty good, too, and remains the league?s top back-at least for now. But, we still have a month to play.

We love Jerry Kill and it?s great to see all of his work and the team's work finally paying off.  This was an amazing win for our program. Go Gophers! – Brian

It was the signature victory the program needed under the Kill regime. I have been saying for some time that Kill and his staff are among the best at what they do. We are starting to see some that now. The game planning on both sides of the ball vs. Nebraska last week was brilliant.

Rose Bowl Ohio State vs. Stanford
Orange Bowl Wisconsin vs. Florida State
Capital One Bowl Michigan State vs. South Carolina
Outback Bowl Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Nebraska vs. Texas Tech
Gator Bowl Iowa vs. Georgia
Texas Bowl Minnesota vs. Kansas State
Heart of Dallas Bowl Indiana vs. North Texas
Little Caesars Pizza Northwestern vs. Ball State

Do you think Northwestern will recover? It seems as though the loss to Ohio State totally derailed them. – Jeffrey White

No doubt, the defeat in prime time to Ohio State set NU off its tracks. There is still time to rebound, but it will be difficult with games left at Nebraska, vs. Michigan, vs. Michigan State and at Illinois.

The Wildcats are 4-4 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. Can they even win two more games to get bowl eligible? The offensive line must play better, the receivers need to catch better, Kain Colter needs to stay healthy and the penalties need to be reduced. Got all of that?

Iowa has a huge hurdle this weekend vs. Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have had a tough slate and it isn?t getting easier. But Iowa should win get two or three down the stretch. – Schawki

Yes, Iowa will be challenged by Wisconsin, which I feel is the second-best team in the Big Ten and is playing very well right now. The Hawkeyes? chances to finish strong may be improving. You have to like Iowa?s chances at Purdue on Nov. 9. And a visit from Michigan may not be so daunting. Ditto a season-ending trip to Nebraska. Bottom line: This could turn out to be a pretty good season in Iowa City.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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