Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 5, 2013

November is here, meaning all the games have more importance. Your cards and letters? They always are important . It seems there?s a healthy debate on who is the second-best team in the Big Ten: Michigan State or Wisconsin? Interesting. So, it?s time for to reach into my mail bag and answer some of your queries.  Thanks for all of the interest! Keep the cards and letters coming!

Can Michigan State's defense stop Ohio State's offense? And it seems to me that Ohio State allows other teams to score points in the double digits regularly! And how does MSU offense stack up against the Buckeyes defense? – Mark

Lots of fun, intriguing matchups, huh? I have wondered the same things. No doubt, Michigan State vs. Ohio State would be the best matchup we could hope for in the Big Ten title game. I am really fascinated by the Spartan defense vs. the Buckeye offense clash. As for the Buckeye defense, I don?t think it gets enough credit. OSU hasn?t allowed a 100-yard rusher and has yet to yield a run of over 20 yards. Look at some of the Big Ten rankings for both schools:

Scoring offense

OSU No. 1 (48.2)

MSU No. 7 (29.8)

Scoring defense

MSU No. 1 (11.6)

OSU No. 3 (17.0)

Total offense

OSU No. 1 (530.9)

MSU No. 10 (379.2)

Total defense

MSU No. 1 (210.2)

OSU No. 3 (311.7)

Add it all up, and I think OSU would be a favorite on a neutral field. It?s just a more balanced team.

Do you think Wisconsin has a chance to make the BCS if it wins its remaining games? – John Stoll

I think the odds may be long. First, know this: To qualify for selection, Wisconsin needs to finish in the Top 14 of the final BCS standings. The Badgers are No. 24 right now. That?s a lot of ground to make up in the last month of the season. Complicating matters is the fact Wisconsin won?t get much boost from its schedule, but it should be favored in its last four games: vs. BYU, Indiana, at Minnesota and vs. Penn State. Even so, the Badgers will need a lot of attrition ahead of it. Maybe too much.

I am a Spartan fan, but I see little respect for the Big Ten and nationally for MSU. I have seen the Spartan offense grow incredibly since early in the season.  State just held Michigan to 168 yds. Ohio State barely beats teams early in the year but has developed lately. Why not more accolades for State? – Duane Geiger

I think you?re starting to see some accolades. MSU is now No. 18 in the AP poll, and No. 17 in the BCS. That?s not bad. I think national pundits were waiting to see a dominating win over a good team-and the Spartans delivered that vs. Michigan. Before that, MSU had been uneven on offense and lacked a marquee win. If the Spartans keep winning, the accolades and attention will continue to grow. Be patient.

When are you going to address the national media's lack of respect for the B1G? – Tom Miller

What is there to address? Are you saying the Big Ten deserves MORE national respect? Because, it has done nothing to merit adulation. The league had no marquee non-conference wins. And, aside from Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, there is a lack of top-end teams. The Big Ten can earn some plaudits by posting a winning bowl record. But, the future looks good with OSU and Michigan continuing to build and add talent, and with Wisconsin and Michigan State holding strong with strong future prospects. Plus, Penn State won?t be down much longer.

Why are the Spartans No. 3 in your power rankings?  They should be 2! – Paul

You certainly could make a case for the Spartans being No. 2 over Wisconsin. But I think the Badgers have a better all-around team. Neither has played a brutal schedule, but the Badgers? have had a tougher slate than MSU so far. And, if Michigan State and Wisconsin met on a neutral field, I think the Badgers would be favored-slightly. The Spartans have the edge on defense, but Wisconsin?s unit is pretty salty, ranking No. 2 in the league. And I think the Badgers have a marked edge on offense, ranking No. 3 in the league to MSU?s No. 10. I just wish these schools played this season.

I disagree with your power rankings. Iowa is better than Nebraska and Michigan, and I can't stand Iowa. I'd put money on Iowa winning out to go 8-4. – Matt Anderson

All three of those teams have flaws. Iowa?s offense is pedestrian; Nebraska?s defense is average and its offense isn?t as effective without Taylor Martinez. Michigan still lacks an offensive identity. So, honestly, you can put these teams in a bag, shake them up, pull one out ? they all basically are the same. Solid teams ? not great. As for Iowa winning out? I think not. The Hawkeyes will win at Purdue. But that may be their final victory of 2013, as games remain vs. Michigan and at Nebraska after the trip to West Lafayette.

I've followed Indiana football for 30 years, and I cannot remember a worse moment than the "passeral" from Nate Sudfeld to Tevin Coleman at the end of the Minnesota game. I?d love to see Indiana get to even a minor bowl, but that looks like a long shot now. Believe me, we're the most patient football fan base in the Big Ten, but what's it going to take to prevent games such as Saturday's? – Jeffrey Jackson

I know Indiana fans are disappointed, but Kevin Wilson has made steady progress in Bloomington. This is just his third season; and it?s not like he inherited a stacked deck. Building a program that has been down for a while takes time. Indiana will have a tough time getting to its first bowl since 2007 after that heart-breaking loss to the Golden Gophers. There are winnable home games vs. Illinois and Purdue. That would get IU to five wins. But to get win No. 6, the Hoosiers would have to win at Wisconsin and at Ohio State-a big, big task. But the Hoosiers program is pointed in the right direction. As the roster grows and matures, disastrous plays like the one Saturday will become fewer and farther between.

Watch the "passeral"

What are your thoughts on Michigan?  I was going to be OK with another 8-4 season if I saw improvement throughout the year and the Wolverines were competitive. But right now, 8-4 might be the best-case scenario. And this team seems to regressing as the season goes on. The lines on both sides of the ball are atrocious and everything else is mediocre. Why is Derrick Green (or any other running backs, for that matter) not getting snaps? Are they that bad? I think Brady Hoke needs to seriously evaluate the staff at the end of the year. – Aaron Salzman

I?m sure many Michigan fans share you concerns. The Wolverines are 6-2 but easily could be 4-4. Fans need to remember this is a young team whose best days are ahead of it. Recruiting is going like gangbusters. I think winning the Sugar Bowl in his debut season wasn?t a great thing from an expectations standpoint for Hoke. That 2011 team overachieved and masked some issues within the program. As for the running backs, I don?t think it would matter much who runs the ball with the way the offensive line is playing.

How high will Minnesota defensive tackle Ra?Shede Hageman go in draft? – Clayton Houff

Very high. Perhaps even in the first round. I know ESPN?s Todd McShay recently said on a conference call that he thought Hageman was a late-first rounder. The Big Board at has Hageman at No. 31 overall.

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.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.