Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 22, 2015

Time for me to reach into my mail bag. The season is three weeks old. And, Ohio State already is nagged by a big problem. I address that ? and much more.

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Ohio State is not playing like the No. 1 team in the country. I believe that OSU is not even the best team right now in the B1G. In your opinion, what is the cause or OSU's O problems? – Kurt

The Buckeyes had 572 total yards against the Hokies in the opener but have just 661 yards combined over the last two games. The 298 total yards against Northern Illinois were the third-fewest the Buckeyes have had in 44 games under Urban Meyer. It?s the quarterbacks that are the issue. This looked like the ultimate luxury problem in the offseason: Which of these mega-studs was going to be the QB: Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett? Well, neither has impressed. And it could be because of how they are being used. There is no rhyme or reason other than the hottest hand plays. I think the staff needs to pick a QB ? and stick with him. I think that day is coming closer after these last two weeks. Jones has completed 16-of-27 passes for 147 yards with two interceptions over the last two games and was replaced twice. Barrett finished the game this past Saturday, completing 11-of-19 passes for 97 yards with a touchdown and an interception. I think Barrett should be the guy going forward.


Do you think having Leonte Carroo and Kyle Flood would have made that big of a difference for Rutgers at Penn State? – Mike

It couldn't have hurt the Scarlet Knights, although it wouldn't have changed the outcome. Carroo is one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten and a top playmaker who would have created more room for the ground game. And the absence of the team?s leader in Flood had to feel strange for the squad. His leadership and smarts were missed. But this was a game Penn State simply dominated.


With the Stanford?s impressive victory over USC, how high should NU be ranked? – Phil Nagle

Well, Northwestern is No. 17 in the latest AP poll. And NU is No. 19 in the coaches poll. I think that probably is about right, don?t you? The season-opening 16-6 victory vs. Stanford has been one of the most impressive by any Big Ten squad so far this season-especially when you consider the Cardinal thumped No. 6 USC on the road 41-31 last week. The Wildcats also whipped FCS Eastern Illinois and took out Duke, 19-10, in Durham on Saturday. Can you find any Big Ten squad with two more impressive wins? Nope.


The natives are restless in West Lafayette after that loss to Virginia Tech. If the Boilers lose to Bowling Green on Saturday, apathy will set in. – Dustin Blythe

Yes, that was an ugly 51-24 loss for Purdue to Virginia Tech. The Boilers got clobbered in every facet of the game and were out gained 471-265. Purdue led, 14-10 early in the second quarter and was outscored 41-10 the rest of the way. The October schedule goes thusly: at Michigan State; Minnesota; at Wisconsin; Nebraska. So, a 1-7 start is a distinct possibility. Is Darrell Hazell, who is in this third season on the job with a 5-22 mark, ever gonna turn the corner? This was supposed to be a season where tangible progress was shown. So far, the results-which include a season-opening 41-31 loss at Marshall–have been disappointing. Hazell is 2-22 vs FBS opponents and 1-19 vs power conference teams. And 17 of those 22 losses have been by double digits.


Where is Wisconsin in the Big Ten pecking order? In the thick of things or on the back burner? – JM

The Badgers are right there in the Big Ten West and still a favorite. Yes, Iowa and Northwestern are grabbing all of the headlines with their 3-0 starts. But Wisconsin, playing without star running back Corey Clement has won two in a row – 58-0 vs. Miami (Ohio) and 28-3 vs. Troy – after opening with a loss to Alabama (no shame in losing to the Tide.) Hawaii comes to Madison next. Then, Wisconsin opens Big Ten play at home vs. Iowa on Oct. 3. That should tell us a lot about both teams.


Does Wisconsin have the stability and talent on offense to contend with Michigan State or Ohio State? – Christian Babcock

I think the Badgers have the skill on offense to contend. QB Joel Stave has been one of the Big Ten?s pleasant surprises, ranking No. 3 in pass efficiency. He is hitting 67 percent of his passes and has 666 yards passing with six TDs and two picks. RB Corey Clement has been banged up but should be healthy when league play starts. And the Badgers have a go-to wideout in Alex Erickson, who has 14 receptions for 233 yards in 2015. But the offensive line worries me a bit, especially against the premier defensive fronts Michigan State and Ohio State boast. The unit lacks depth and is working in three new starters. As long as the starters remain healthy, the line should be OK. But if injuries set in, the front could be in trouble.


I was wondering if this is the year that IU finally breaks the streak and competes in a bowl game? – Noel Brooks

Yes! The Hoosiers will go bowling this season for the first time since 2007 and just the second time since 1993. That win last week vs. Western Kentucky pushed IU to 3-0 for the first time ever under Kevin Wilson. When I look at the remaining schedule, I see five games the Hoosiers figure to have a good shot to win-at Wake Forest; at Penn State; Rutgers; at Maryland; at Purdue. And IU may have a shot in home games vs. Iowa and Michigan.


Why is Iowa DC Phil Parker afraid to blitz? Will Iowa's 'bend-but-don't-break' defense make it in B1G play? – Aaron

Iowa has rarely blitzed under Kirk Ferentz. Long-time DC Norm Parker always used a bend-but-don?t-break defense that wanted to limit big plays and make offenses execute multiple-play drives to score. And, it usually was very effective.


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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