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Big Ten Blogger’s roundtable, Hosted by Black Shoe Diaries

This week's Big Ten blogger's roundtable questions are submitted by the Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries. Mike runs one of the many Penn state blog who will undoubtedly be flooding us with questions next week after they take care of the big, bad Buckeyes in Happy Valley. In the meantime though I will go through Mike's questions before welcoming Lake the Posts to the stage for tomorrow's blog trade about Northwestern. On to the questions!

Pretend for a moment you're the little Japanese guy on Heroes. You can close your eyes, clench your fists, crap your pants and go back in time. If you could go back and change one play for your team this season, what would it be?

Well, we're already 6-2 and in the two losses one play probably would not have made a difference in all the bloodletting, but I would probably go back and either duct tape the ball to Kory Sheets' arm before he fumbled at Michigan or screamed for everyone to run off the field while the first Wolverine punt was in the air of the same game. Both plays were huge turnovers early in the game that could have turned things around if they had not happened. Instead they gave Michigan two touchdowns off of short fields and a 17-7 lead after one quarter that only got uglier as the day went on. Again, they may not have made a difference, but they might have. I honestly don't know what we could have done different against Ohio State to make a difference.

We're now two-thirds of the way through the season. Everyone likes to debate who will be the Big Ten Coach of the Year. I want to know which Big Ten coach is a complete moron that should be demoted back to fullbacks coach on a team that runs the spread offense.

There have been a few boneheaded plays this year, but Kirk Ferentz' game prep this past weekend for Purdue was pretty bad. You have two good running backs that have gashed us each of the past two years. You have a dominant defense against the run. You also have a young quarterback with very green receivers and a shaky offensive line. You're also playing a team that has been epically bad against the run for the past three years. Naturally, Jake Christensen threw the ball all over the field Saturday; Iowa only had the ball for 25 minutes, and managed just six points off of two short fields.

Second place goes to Joe Tiller for punting from the 31 yard line in the same game with a kicker that has made multiple 47 yard field goals in his career. That call just REALLY irked me.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. But the Bible doesn't say anything about your rival. Which current Big Ten player do you most wish played for your team?

Can I just have the entire Ohio State defense please? Last season I watched a ton of Miami and Purdue football because of my wife and I coveted her team's defense to pair with my team's offense. The Hurricane offense is dismal, but they have had quite a defense the past years while Purdue has been the opposite. This year Ohio State's defense is shutting down everyone they face no matter if they pass the ball a ton (like Purdue), run the ball a lot (like Michigan State), or do a little of both well (like Minnesota). Our own defense is improving and played its best game in years this past Saturday, but I would love to have a defense that simply shuts other teams down and lets our own offense work at its leisure.

Bonus Question

It's probably too early to start thinking about next year. Well, unless you're Minnesota in which case you've been thinking about next year for a month or so already. Assess your team's future. Was this year your chance to make a run or is this just a rebuilding year with greater expectations in 2008? Or do you plan to suck in 2008 just as much as you suck now?

I have mixed expectations about 2008 because we do get quite a bit back, but the schedule is much harder, especially out of conference. We were blasted this year for a non-conference slate of Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan (which won the MAC and 10 games, but can't win outside the MAC this year), and a the worst Notre Dame team ever. Next year we lose key players in Dorien Bryant, Dustin Keller, and three offensive linemen in Sean Sester, Jordan Grimes, and Robbie Powell. We also must replace all three starting linebackers and Cliff Avril on defense. We have quite a bit coming back though on both sides of the ball so if some newcomers can play early the pieces will be there, but this year was really the year to do it.

Next season the schedule starts easily with 1-AA Northern Colorado, but then it gets nasty in a hurry. Next we get Central Michigan, who is still the best team in the MAC and will be better next year. We follow that up with a home game against Oregon, who quite possibly could be the defending national champs at that point. We then go to Notre Dame where we've only won once in 30 some odd years, but until they show drastic improvement I'll consider that one winnable. In the conference we open with Penn State at home, and then go to Ohio State and Northwestern. We come back for home games against Minnesota and Michigan before going to Michigan State and Iowa. Indiana closes the season by coming to West Lafayette.

The Oregon-Notre Dame-Penn State-Ohio State is a brutal slate that could very well leave us at 2-4 overall and 0-2 to start the conference. To make any kind of noise next year we have to at the very least split those four games if not win three of them. Iowa is another place we have struggled to play at on the road of late, meaning there won't be any late season help. At least if we're 5-0 to start next year no one will say it is because of a weak schedule.

I honestly expect to take a step back record-wise next year, but that is based on finishing at my goal of 9-3 this year. Oregon may not be as bad as it looks because they lose Dennis Dixon after this season and they do have to come to Ross-Ade. Notre Dame has a long way to go yet, but they obviously have some very talented athletes. With a senior quarterback and some key cogs returning offensively I'd like another 9-3 or so record, but I could easily see us sliding to 7-5 or 6-6 against a tougher schedule. I'll say Northern Colorado, Central Michigan, and Minnesota are almost guaranteed wins, Northwestern, Iowa, and Indiana should be wins, and the rest are toss-ups at best.