Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg in The Show at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
My flight from Indy amazingly got in on time, and I'm ready to chat for the next 45 minutes or so. Let's talk Big Ten or whatever else is on your mind. Fire away!
Brett ( State College, PA)
Adam, PSU returns a pretty talented offense this season and Daryl Clark will be a much better option that Anthony Morelli with his ability to run..How do you see PSU finishing in the Big10 this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
I really like Penn State the more I look at their personnel. I'm tempted to move them up to No. 2 in my power rankings, behind Wisconsin. Clark will be fine at QB, and the defensive line is stacked. The Lions should be second or third in the league.
Chris Patton (Monticello, IL)
Adam, What are your thoughts on Illinois opening up in St. Louis against Missouri? Do you like being tested right out of the chute? I think I'd feel a little more comfortable if they played Eastern Illinois first and then tried to tangle with Mizzou.
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
I got the sense from Ron Zook that he'd rather have an easier game like the ones you mentioned. But this rivalry is locked in for a while, and it's great for us. It'll be a big test for an improved Illinois defensive front, which didn't do much against Chase Daniel last year. It also provides Juice Williams with a shot to redeem himself against Mizzou
Nick, West Hartford, Ct.
Forget the Big Ten...what about the Terps?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
They play football in the ACC? And at Maryland? Get ready for a tough year.
john (westerville, OH)
Ohio State has been very sneaky in its open practice not utilizing its new formations in public. We can only believe this is in preparation for USC. What can we expect out of the Buckeyes in there first two games before the big showdown?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
John, there will be some wrinkles in the offense, especially with Pryor. One Big Ten D coordinator grouped Ohio State with all the other spread teams because of some of the things they'll do differently this year. It will be interesting to see how much they show against Youngstown and Ohio. You want to hold some stuff for SC, but with a guy like Pryor, you need to see how he does in a game situation.
What can Michigan realistically expect this season? 7-5? 8-4?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
That's about where I have them. The start is key. A 2-1 or even 3-0 start would certainly raise the ceiling for RichRod's guys, but I could definitely see 1-2 as well with losses to Utah and ND.
Randy (St. Paul)
The Gophers brought in a lot of talent, and lost a lot of close games last year. I'm not being overly optimistic that they should at least make a run at a bowl game, am I?
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Randy, the schedule helps them out. If they can win at Bowling Green, a 4-0 start isn't out of the question. I'm still concerned about the offensive line, which was a strength last year but loses three starters. The defense also has a ton of new guys, so you don't know how chemistry will be. But I love Adam Weber and Eric Decker.
Do you expect the new offensive and defensive coordinators at Northwestern will help Pat Fitzgerald be a better gameday coach?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
They will to an extent. Fitz left the play-calling up to his coordinators last season, so it's not like they have any more responsibility. But having a veteran like Mike Hankwitz can only help a 33-year-old coach. Fitz has got to avoid things like taking the FG off the board against Duke, which you could argue cost Northwestern a bowl spot last year. A very young move.
Mark, Columbus, Ohio:
Hey Adam. As an Ohio State fan, I've been somewhat frustrated at the performance of our defense in the past couple of seasons. Keeping rankings, statistics, and padded games aside, we have not looked like a Top 10 defense when we have needed to the most. Watching the Capital One Bowl last year, I noticed the way that defensive coordinator Ron English (formerly at UM, now at UL) used a scheme where he trusted his secondary to play aggressive man-to-man and relied on his front personell to put on pressure. Granted, Florida still put up a large amount of yardage on them, but by no means did they 'run all over' anyone. When am I going to see results like that against spread type teams / elite teams / the SEC? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Mark, that's an interesting take. The one area Ohio State must improve is takeaways. They're always up there in total defense, but to be truly dynamic, you need to cause fumbles and interceptions. Even a guy like Laurinaitis needs to be a bigger factor in that respect. The secondary is definitely strong enough to run a scheme like you suggest, with Jenkins and Russell leading the way.
Do you think this could be a breakout sason for Derrick Williams of Penn State since they are going to the spread offense which is what they used in 2005 when they won the oreange bowl and he was having a great season until he broke his arm vs. michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
It's got to happen eventually, you'd think. After Williams' freshman year, I thought he'd be an All-American, but it just hasn't worked out that well. A return to the spread certainly will help, especially if they use him in multiple roles, like Illinois does with Rejus Benn.
Hey Adam, great coverage the past few weeks. The Spartans have been getting alot of hype recently, but how good do you think they could be? Are we talking top 5 in conference...top 3?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Thanks, Brian. I don't see them in the top three, but top five is certainly doable. I want to see how Hoyer performs at Cal. If he can make big plays in the fourth quarter and get over that hump, they could start very strong. But I'm not sold on the secondary and they're still doing some shuffling at linebacker. They'll be a solid team this year, but OSU, PSU, Wisconsin and Illinois look a little better at this point.
Alex, Collinsville, IL
Adam, I know all of us Illini fans are drinking the Orange Kool-Aid, but what do you think our chances are at Mizzou to open the season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
It's kind of a standard answer, but a lot depends on Williams. Remember it was backup Eddie McGee who led Illinois back last year against Mizzou. Juice needs to make plays and he has the weapons (Benn, Duvalt) to do it. There will be a ton of pressure on Illinois' two new safeties as well.
Bernard (Princeton, NJ)
Who are some breakout players to look for in the Big Ten this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
I really like Matt Mayberry at Indiana, who's a favorite of the blog readers. Trevor Anderson could have a big year at Michigan State. Some of Penn State's linebackers (Hull, Colasanti) should step up. For Ohio State, wideout Brian Hartline sort of played second fiddle to Robiskie, but he's been awesome in camp. And someone at Michigan will be exciting, whether it's a receiver like Stonum or Odoms or a running back like Shaw or McGuffie.
Dave, New York, New York
Looking at Wisconsin's schedule, where do you see the first loss coming from, will it be Fresno out of conference or someone in the Big Ten, and if so, who?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Dave, the more I look at it, I don't see the Badgers beating Fresno. They're on the road, new quarterback, some health issues on defense, facing a team with a veteran QB (Brandstater), a team that never faces big opponents at home. The Bulldogs win that one.
What are some of the big storylines for Northwestern this season? Can they put up any sort of fight in the Big Ten this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
They have to get better on defense. There's tons of experience up front and in the secondary, but older doesn't always mean better. It will also be interesting to see how 2005 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tyrell Sutton wraps up his career. He's playing behind a young O-line, but when healthy, he's one of the best backs in the league.
Adam an NFL question, Does Usain Bolt get a call from an NFL team?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
He should, Blake, although if memory serves me, sprinters usually struggle in the NFL. You need size to play in that league, I've heard.
Horatio (Nantucket, MA)
Hey Adam, how are the Hoosiers going to get Jerimy Finch on the field the same time with Austin Thomas and Nick Polk? They are both too good to keep off the field for Indiana.
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
I agree, and Thomas and Polk will remain the starters. But Finch certainly will play, probably in nickel and dime packages. He also could rotate in for Polk at times.
Joe (Clemson, Sc)
Clemson has an easy schedule can they get tp the National Title?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Joe, I'd worry about winning an ACC title first. It's amazing how long it's been since that happened at Clemson. I can't imagine they'll underachieve again this season, but there's certainly some troubling history there.
Will J (Portland, OR)
Who are three players who could win conference Player of the Year in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
Beanie Wells is the frontrunner. I'd also put Javon Ringer and Juice Williams in the discussion.
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
For offensive player of the year, of course.
Cody (Ann Arbor, MI)
If memory serves me right, Bo took down Woody's #1 team his first year. Any chance of a repeat with RichRod?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Cody, there's a long history of first-year coaches winning their debuts in the Michigan-OSU rivalry. I don't think a Michigan first-year coach has lost since the 1930s or something. I really can't see it happening with RichRod, not in Columbus, but ya never know.
Giordano's or Lou Malnati's?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Oh, you're killing me! I'll go with Gio's, based on some good memories from college.
What can I expect of my hawkeyes? Some say losing season and Kirk gets fired. Some say a surprise New Year's Day bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
I would say somewhere in between. Like Indiana, the schedule favors the Hawkeyes. They have a tough early game at Pitt that they'll lose, but there's no Michigan or Ohio State on the slate. Iowa might need to win 3-0 with that offense, but I like what they have coming back on defense, particularly the DTs and the young LBs. The only way Kirk gets fired is if the second investigation finds more wrongdoing.
Truman: (Kansas City, MO)
Adam, I didn't catch the answer to the previous UI - Mizzou question. Who wins, and no cop-outs!
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
Sorry, Truman. This is tough, but I'll go with Mizzou. Fewer questions on that side. But it'll be a good one.
Adam, we know MSU as a very strong back field with Ringer and Hoyer as well as a pretty solid group of offensive line-men...if their young recievers such as Dell, Cunningham and one of the freshman step up how explosive could this offense be?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
The wideouts will be key, but I would keep an eye on the two freshmen, Fred Smith and Keshawn Martin. Both of those guys could play their way ahead of the returnees.
Is there any chance what so ever that PSU can win in Columbus?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
You know, that has been a very competitive game for the most part. I just can't see Ohio State losing at home for the second straight year. It's possible Penn State beats Wisconsin in Madison and goes in undefeated, but the Lions will fall.
Which Michigan QB do you see being the starter at the end of this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
That's a tough one. Threet has good size, Feagin has the speed and Sheridan is a very intelligent player. I'll go with Threet, but it will be a rotation for the first few weeks at least.
Ken (New York)
Who is your pick for the National Title game besides ohio state and georgia lol?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
Ken, I could see Oklahoma getting there. I was really high on them early on last season. They've got some issues once they get to bowl games, but Bradford and Murray are really fun to watch.
Who is the worse
Who is the worse big ten, pac ten, or acc?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
The Big Ten and Pac-10 are close for third-best conference behind the SEC and the Big 12. The ACC is definitely fifth. Feel free to win a BCS game.
Jeff (Erie, Pa):
Adam, Who do you think is Ohio State best chance for losing this year? USC or another Big ten team?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Everyone's talking about USC, but look where Ohio State has to go in the league. They haven't been to Wisconsin since 2003 and lost that game. Michigan State could be a lot better and give them trouble up there. And Illinois has given Ohio State problems the last two years, winning in 2007. The road schedule is brutal.
Will MSU's sigular focus on Michigan cost them when OSU comes to town, or after the Michigan game (regardless of outcome)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
That's an interesting take, but I can't see anyone in the Big Ten looking past Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be no lower than 4th or 5th in the country at that point, so it would be a huge national statement for MSU to beat them. I think it's great that Michigan State is so fired up for Michigan. They'll be the same for the Buckeyes.
matt (LA, CA)
how does MSU stop cal's speed at rb and lb?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
The defensive line loses two good ends (Saint-Dic and Baldwin), and though I like Trevor Anderson, I think Best could give them problems. Javon Ringer is fast enough to match up well with the Cal LBs.
Who wins Clemson or The Crimson Tide
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
I'll go with Clemson, but I might regret it.
Can wisconsin develop a passing game in time for their matchup vs fresno st?? I'm sure pat hill will have his boys ready to stop the run and make them beat him by throwing the ball!
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Pat definitely will key on the run, Sylvain. I wasn't overly impressed with Wisconsin's receivers other than David Gilreath. They need Kyle Jefferson, Maurice Moore or someone else to emerge. Travis Beckum will be a huge factor in that game.
Corey (East Lansing, Mi)
The Big Ten Network said that Dantonio and his staff runs the best practice in the big ten, maybe the nation? What has impressed you about this program since he took over?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
I like that he's no-nonsense. I like that he talks about Big Ten championships and he means it. I like that he's not afraid to discuss the Michigan rivalry in August. I like that he acknowledges that Michigan State is usually a huge tease every year. The guy is exactly what MSU needs after the last coach.
Jeff (Erie, Pa):
PSU or Wisconsin?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
You don't know how much I've struggled with that question the last week. I sort of want to go with Penn State because I'm not sure about several positions at Wisconsin. Then again, Penn State has a new QB, lost its best defensive player and several defensive tackles. I'll keep Wisconsin at No. 2, but I'm not overly confident about it.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Can Maurice Evans unseat The Animal Jr. for Big 10 DPOY?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
You know, it could happen. Laurinaitis gets so much hype, and deservedly so, but Evans might produce more highlights, more game-changing plays. That could help turn things in his favor as far as DPOY.
Derek (Columbus, OH)
Hey Adam, with all the top recruiting classes notre dame is having and with a 7 or 8 win year they should be in the preseason top 10 next year....right?
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
They probably would be, but they wouldn't deserve it unless they win a bowl. The best scenario for ND would be 7-8 wins, a minor bowl and a WIN, which hasn't happened since 1993.
Is Dantonio tied to MSU long term do you think, or would he leave for a bigger job? Maybe even in conference, like PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
He's got a good gig there. They just build a great new facility. So I see him staying a while. He's got to do something first: win a bowl game, win 10 games, etc. And I'd see Ohio State as a likelier destination than Penn State, and Tressel ain't going anywhere.
Lucas (Ann Arbor)
What's your take on the Michigan OL? It seems that most people can agree it is the biggest weakness heading into the season (yes, I do know about the QB situation). With an already thin line, plus the Zirbel injury- where do they stand? Ferarra was a good D-Lineman, does that translate well for the O-Line?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
Lucas, I spoke with Steven Schilling, the only returning starter, earlier today. He mentioned how all the guys are in a lot better shape, but that won't matter if they don't know the system. You can count on the linemen playing faster, which could mask some of their deficiencies in system knowledge. But the Zirbel injury hurts, and it's never good to be shuffling with so much uncertainty already.
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
Hey guys, I've got to run. Had a blast chatting with you, and we'll do it again soon.