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 1 p.m. ET on Thursday!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Welcome to the Rivalry Week edition of the chat. Big week in the Big Ten and elsewhere. All questions are welcome. Let's begin.
Adam, I know you picked Penn State over MSU this weekend, and for good reason. There skilled players maybe are better than MSU's. I think some trickery is in order on the offensive side of the ball for MSU to make this very interesting. How can MSU pull out what would be a monster upset, considering all the attention PSU is getting for this game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan State ran a few gimmick plays, especially early. Penn State hasn't started off well and Michigan State is 8-0 when scoring first, so getting ahead is critical for a less-talented Spartans team.
Rob (New Orleans)
Adam, I'm an Ohio State fan, and while I should be happy we have a shot at the Big Ten Title, and a possible BCS Bowl, it seems like the offensive play calling is a waste of talent. Would you agree, that this type of play calling might win games in the Big Ten, but probably wouldn't cut it if they played an SEC team in....let's say the Sugar? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
I would agree with you until the last few weeks. I think the offense is finally coming together and the coaches are better recognizing strengths and weaknesses. I would be patient there a little longer. As for Ohio State, I'd say Sugar or Fiesta are the likely destinations as an at-large team.
Jose Calexico ,Ca
Adan if usc does not play the rose bowl, are they going to the holiday bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (1:03 PM)
Not if the Trojans win out, which is a strong possibility. USC will either go to the Rose Bowl or get a BCS at-large berth, which likely would take away the Big Ten's shot for a second team.
Bill (Atlanta GA)
Yo Adam: Who wins the SEC Champ game here in Atlanta? Who wins the NGC? Are they related?
Adam Rittenberg (1:03 PM)
Florida. And yes, they're related. Gators win it all.
Matt (SLC, Utah)
Who is going to BYU or Utah? Some of the BYU fans around here believe if they win and Boise loses, they could go BCS. Are they dreaming?
Adam Rittenberg (1:04 PM)
Hmmm, interesting. A non-BCS team will get into the BCS, and if Boise loses, I'd really think the winner of the BYU-Utah game, even if it's BYU, would bust the BCS. But I don't think Boise loses again.
Adam, Do you think Blair White will get any Big 10 honors due to his strong performance in the 2nd half of the season?
Adam Rittenberg (1:05 PM)
It's not a strong group of receivers this year, so maybe. White really has come on strong in the second half, though I don't think he'll make the top four. Decker, Benn, Derrick Williams and someone else will be all Big Ten first and second teams.
Big Badger fan was at the Minnesota game last weekend, and I was amazed at how undisciplined our team seemed to be. During Jefferson's long injury, the Gophers were on the sidelines doing drills to stay warm, Badgers sitting around tightening up. During Jump Around, sidelines start yelling at each other and taunting the other team. And after they took the axe, they walked right behind the Gopher team to the locker room holding the axe up high. I understand rivalries, but shouldn't Bielema be in more control?
Adam Rittenberg (1:06 PM)
I wasn't there, Eric, but those are some interesting observations. I know Bielema has taken a ton of heat this year, and next season will be important for him. But Wisconsin has played pretty well down the stretch, thanks to the power run game of Hill and Clay. The Badgers really should be on a four-game win streak right now.
Will J (Portland, OR)
Adam, if Boise St. and Utah win out, would you like to see both of them get invited to BCS games? Common sense says only one will actually get invited.
Adam Rittenberg (1:07 PM)
This is a tough call. I've always been a big advocate of non-BCS teams, but I'm not sold on either of these squads. One certainly deserves to get in, but I'm more interested to see USC or (gasp) Ohio State in a BCS bowl.
Adam, is Penn State's offense just in a slump that they can get out of (say, by a New Year's bowl), or have they been exposed in some way?
Adam Rittenberg (1:08 PM)
It's totally mental for Penn State. Daryll Clark needs to relax and the players need to stop second-guessing the play-calling. If Penn State just trusts its talent and plays, they should be fine.
Hey Adam, With the way Miami has played this year what is a realistic idea of what they will do nxt year? Should Shannon get a look at COY honors?
Adam Rittenberg (1:09 PM)
Miami will enter 2009 as the favorite in the ACC, in my opinion, especially with a strong finish this year. There's tons of young talent on that roster. I don't see Shannon winning COY honors this year, though.
Blair - Chicago
Adam...Michigan alum/season ticker holder. I am of the belief that this season did not need to become the disaster that it has become. I find it absurd that the defense has performed as poorly as it had. Shafer appears to be getting a ton of heat. Any change Rodriguez makes a change at DC? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:10 PM)
I'm not sure. Shafer had a really good track record until this season, but like you, I'm surprised at how poorly the defense performed in games like Illinois and Purdue. The offense didn't help much, but a veteran D-line and some solid LBs should do better. Shafer is a bit of an outsider as far as the coaching staff goes, but I think he'll be back in '09.
Clint Fort Mill SC
what are Tebows chances of repeating the heisman??? I know his numbers are down, but he has only played what, one full game all year and that was the lose to Ole Miss!!!!!!!
Adam Rittenberg (1:11 PM)
Very slim. I'm a big Tebow guy, but his numbers just don't stack up to the guys in the Big 12.
Bradford (Boise, ID)
Adam, the consensus seems to be that Nevada is going to give Boise State a run for their money? What are your thoughts? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:12 PM)
I really liked Nevada before the season, and the QB (Kaepernick) is terrific. Nevada will need a much more disciplined effort than it showed against Texas Tech to beat Boise, but it's possible.
Lou (Bethesda, MD)
Adam, I realize crowning champions is not part of the Big Ten's MO, but do you think the Big Ten will ever give up the silly rule that teams can be co-champs and use tiebreakers (like head-to-head)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:13 PM)
I wish they would, Lou. Everyone knows if Penn State wins out, the Lions will be the true champions of the Big Ten. Just like Penn State was in 2005. But the Big Ten doesn't like to change much.
Aaron (Lufkin, Tx)
What is going on with Minnesota? They were looking at least a 8-9 win season, before they went on their slide and lost to a Michigan team that is having a down year.
Adam Rittenberg (1:14 PM)
Aaron, Minnesota was able to get away with a very iffy offensive line for most of the season. Once teams started to expose that group and stuff the run game, Minnesota got into some trouble. There's too much placed on QB Adam Weber, who's an excellent player but can't do it all by himself.
David (Antioch, IL)
Is Shonn Greene the MVP of the Big Ten? Has any other player made a bigger impact? Your thoughts, please.
Adam Rittenberg (1:16 PM)
He gets my vote. Javon Ringer also is extremely valuable to his team, but Michigan State had a more experienced quarterback (Hoyer) and some better wide receivers (Blair White, etc.). It's close between those two, but what Greene has done is simply remarkable. I haven't seen a guy not play football the year before and come back and perform like this.
Patrick (Mobile, AL)
Adam, please tell me you were joking when you said that Ohio State might end up in the Sugar bowl. That would be 3 straight years against SEC and probably a 3rd straight whooping. I am hoping that Oregon State takes the Pac-10 and we get USC in the Sugar. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:17 PM)
Just saying it was possible, Patrick. It's more likely the Buckeyes head to Fiesta.
Adam, some of the Georgia Tech fans are resisting tonight's white-out. On one hand, UGA (who Tech fans never want to copy), FSU, Clemson, and Marshall all lost during their color-out. On the other hand, if the ESPN announcers announce the game as a white-out and the fans don't participate, it's pretty embarassing. What's your take on the "color-out"?
Adam Rittenberg (1:18 PM)
That's an interesting note, Richard. From a Big Ten perspective, Iowa's blackout/Greene-out worked against Penn State, and Penn State's white-out is one of the coolest things in college football, and pretty successful, too. But I can understand the superstition as well. It would be a little embarrassing, though.
Aaron (Lufkin, Tx)
I don't get a chance to watch Big Ten games because I live in Big 12 country, but who do you think is a program on the rise in the Big Ten, like Baylor is in the Big 12?
Adam Rittenberg (1:19 PM)
Michigan State, certainly, and I would put both Northwestern and Minnesota in that category as well. The Wildcats have survived a lot of adversity to go 8-3, and Tim Brewster's recruiting has Minnesota on the right path.
Brett (Rockville MD)
Adam, how much attention do you think Chris Baker would be getting right now if he were still at Penn State? That kid was/is super talented and I hear he's having a great year at Hampton.
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
He might be getting some, but I think Penn State is thrilled with the play of Jared Odrick, who might have had a lesser role had Baker stayed.
John (Grand Rapids, Mi)
Assuming MSU loses, but isn't destroyed, and Iowa wins over Minnesota what are the odds Iowa jumps MSU in bowl pecking order? Please say zero point zero. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:21 PM)
Iowa travels extremely well, John, perhaps better than any fan base in the Big Ten. But Michigan State hasn't been to a New Year's Day Bowl since 2000, and enthusiasm is extremely high right now in East Lansing. I think the Spartans will stay above the Hawkeyes.
Rotten (Expired, CA)
I know that the season is not over yet, but who is your Spoiler of the Year?TCU, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Iowa, or the Big 12 South? Can you imagine the bethlem if we had 4 undefeated teams from the 4 major BCS conferences? It also would have been intriguing to have 2 winless teams go at it in their last game.
Adam Rittenberg (1:22 PM)
I would say Oregon State if the Beavers win the final two games. This is a team that lost to Stanford, got absolutely destroyed at Penn State and then bounced back to beat USC. Now they can reach the Rose Bowl. Pretty impressive for Mike Riley's guys.
Brent (Dallas, TX)
Why is it so hard for 50% of america and 98% of SEC homers to admit that the Big 12 is better? Heck 25% of america still seems to think that the Big 12 is not that great. In my opinion we have never seen a division as strong as the Big 12 south.
Adam Rittenberg (1:24 PM)
I'll agree with the last part of your statement, but the fact is the SEC has won the last two national titles. As strong as the Big 12 offenses have been, there are some legit questions about the defensive play in that league. The best thing about it is the two conferences can settle the debate on the field in January.
Kenny: (East Lansing, MI)
Hey Adam, I love your blog and look forward to the chat every Thursday. Looking forward to Saturdays MSU-PSU game, there is definitely BCS implications. I know MSU has a decent shot at a BCS bowl if they pull out the win in Happy Valley. So I just wanna make sure I got the scenario straightened out. I know we need Ohio State to lose to make it to Pasadena. However, if the Buckeyes beat Michigan and Oregon State is able to win the Pac-10, we have no shot because USC would take the final at-large spot along with a 2nd Big 12 team, 2nd SEC team, and an undefeated Utah/Boise St. But what do you think the chances are that MSU gets the last at large bid if USC ends up winning the Pac-10? I think Sparty would be a better selection than a 2nd Non-BCS team.
Adam Rittenberg (1:25 PM)
Mark Dantonio mentioned this to me and so have some others around Michigan State. It would be an interesting decision between the 10-2 Spartans and a potentially undefeated Boise State team that has won a BCS game. I think with the economy, the BCS bowl would pick MSU, but it's a very tough call.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Do you think this season has helped or hurt the reputation of the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (1:26 PM)
It has hurt it so far. The nonconfernce season wasn't good for the Big Ten, especially with Ohio State's loss to USC. Michigan's misery isn't helping, either. It's imperative for the Big Ten to perform well in bowls, especially the big ones.
Do you think Zook will get this team to play better next year Im a little worried because a D that has already struggled this year will lose two of there best players in V. Davis and W. Britt
Adam Rittenberg (1:28 PM)
Illinois should be stronger next year, and the D will be OK. Though Miller and likely Davis are major losses, some of the young guys at key positions (safety, outside LB, defensive tackle) gained valuable experienced that should pay off in the future. I would expect guys like Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget to have big years in '09.
Randy (St. Paul)
How fun would a Texas Tech vs Florida National Championship game be? This is what everyone is hoping for right?
Adam Rittenberg (1:29 PM)
It would be fun, but so would many of the possibilities. Alabama-Texas Tech would be interesting with two totally different coaches. Florida-Oklahoma would be a good one, too. A lot of exciting possibilities.
Evan Royster (Happy Valley)
Given a few more carries next year (hopefully a lot more), do I have a chance at the Heisman in the years to come? I'm only a sophmore!
Adam Rittenberg (1:31 PM)
They need to feed you the rock a lot more, Evan. And with Stephfon Green and a mobile quarterback in Daryll Clark, I'm not sure if it will happen. But I'll say this. You're one of the smartest and most patient running backs I've seen in some time. Guys should watch the way you play to learn to wait for their blocks to develop.
Brady (Bowling Green, OH)
Hey Adam. This is the first OSU/Mich week that i can remember where people are actually going to work on Saturday instead of watching the game. I am a huge Buckeye fan and realize we have the better team. However, in years past this has been the formula for upsets. Is there any reason I have to worry about the game this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (1:32 PM)
I don't think so, and it's because of your defense. I just can't see Michigan piling up many points in this game aside from special teams or converting Ohio State turnovers into points. Like you say, you never know in a rivalry game, and Michigan should play well, but Ohio State is simply too talented.
Quizz Rogers (Corvallis)
Evan, I'll give you all you can handle for the Doak and Heisman awards, and I'm just a freshman.
Adam Rittenberg (1:33 PM)
Nice. I'm starting to get excited about this potential Rose Bowl rematch after all.
Seriously, Maryland would drill Northwestern, right?
Adam Rittenberg (1:34 PM)
In basketball, sure. It's tough to know which Maryland team shows up every week, but the Terps have been fun to watch. Then again, the Wildcats are clutch in close games. Could be an interesting matchup in the Champs Sports Bowl.
If the Hawks salvage the season with a strong finish will all the off-the-field problems be forgotten in Iowa City or will they come up again as soon as the season is over?
Adam Rittenberg (1:35 PM)
Well, I can't see the future, Jerrod, but I do know the bar scene gets a little rowdy in Iowa City, so the potential for trouble is there. But wins do wash away some of the bad things that happened to the Hawkeyes, and the mood around the program seems much more positive.
No Muschamp for the Tigers. Have any new names surfaced in Clemson's quest for a new head coach, or should I start getting use to Dabo?
Adam Rittenberg (1:36 PM)
You might want to, especially if Dabo and the Tigers win out. I'm sure there are some other names in the mix, but Phillips might want to stick with Dabo.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Adam: Would you mind giving us a prediction on what Big Ten teams you see going to bowl games and the games where you see them playing?
Adam Rittenberg (1:37 PM)
Sure, although a lot depends on the weekend. I think the Big Ten gets two in the BCS, so Penn State to Rose, Ohio State to Fiesta. Michigan State goes to Capital One, Iowa to Outback, Northwestern to Alamo, Wisconsin to Champs Sports or Insight (not totally sure there) and Minnesota to whichever bowl Wisconsin doesn't go to.
John (Grand Rapids, Mi)
Shonn Green is pretty much gone after this year isn't he? He's gotta be a 2nd rounder at worst. And yes I know you aren't Mel Kiper.
Adam Rittenberg (1:38 PM)
No, I'm definitely not, John, though I'd love to have hair like that. I think Greene is gone. He's a first-round pick in my view, a big back with speed who punishes defenders with his running style. Plus, he's 23 years old and we all know how small the window is for RBs in the pros.
Steve (Columbus, OH)
Do you think that the BCS formula will be changed after the season to account for the below average Big East and ACC this year? I mean I can't imagine seeing Miami and Cincinnati in a BCS bowl over Ohio State or even a third Big 12 team.
Adam Rittenberg (1:39 PM)
The Orange Bowl could be one of the worst BCS matchups in history this year, but don't expect much to change with the system.
Big win for Ball State last night going to Central Michigan and beating the two-time defending MAC Champs. When I was a student we lost 23 straight games and almost lost our D1 status. I know the schedule is soft and they aren?t deserving of a BCS bowl bid, but still something to be excited about! Do you think QB Nate Davis sticks around next year? What about Coach Hoke?
Adam Rittenberg (1:40 PM)
You have some nice perspective on Ball State, which is a great team but not deserving of a BCS berth. Nate Davis could probably go to the NFL if he wants, but my sense is both he and Brady Hoke will stick around for 2009. Hoke's name will be on other teams' radar soon, though.
Hey Adam, I read your blog everyday and I love it! As a huge Penn State fan, will this be the last regular season game for Joe Paterno?
Adam Rittenberg (1:41 PM)
Thanks, Josh. I don't believe so for JoePa. He has given every intention of wanting to return. As long as the surgery goes OK and he recovers quickly (which he should), he'll be back for 2009.
Brett (Rockville MD)
Favorite moment from the Big Ten season so far? (Please don't say Iowa kick with :01 remaining)
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
Wow, that's a tough one. Murray's kick is definitely up there, sorry. Also Terrelle Pryor's winning touchdown against Wisconsin, Michigan's rally against Wisconsin and Brendan Smith's interception return with 12 second left that lifted Northwestern past Minnesota.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Not a Big Ten team here but from Big Ten country. Do you think ND's win-nearly-turned-into a loss Saturday saved Charlie Weis' job or will they need to win their bowl game (Gator or Sun probably) for him to stay employed? Doesn't really matter to me either way as I hate the Irish but there are some fans who might like your insights.
Adam Rittenberg (1:44 PM)
Well,, they should beat Syracuse on Saturday to finish no worse than 7-5 for the regular season. It's usually too late to fire a coach after the bowl game. Weis will be fine for 2009 provided they win Saturday, though it would help if Notre Dame wasn't completely destroyed at USC.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Let's not forget Pryor's other game-winning play where Mark Rubin stripped him of the ball ending PSU's futility at the Horseshoe.
Adam Rittenberg (1:45 PM)
Yes, good call, Mark. Rubin's forced fumble might have been the most important play of the Big Ten season.
Okay Adam who is your pick Texas Tech or Oklahoma? I think it is going to be one heck of a game...
Adam Rittenberg (1:46 PM)
It will definitely be a good one. I have a rough time going against the Sooners at home, so I'll say Oklahoma wins a shootout. But I'm not sold on Oklahoma's D, and Harrell is playing better than anyone right now.
Blair - Chicago
And the likelihood of ND not being completely destroyed by USC is?!?!?
Adam Rittenberg (1:47 PM)
Very, very slim.
A lot of people are pretty unhappy about our Senior Day matchup. But Cal Poly has put up some scary numbers. Think they could give us a game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:47 PM)
I do, Chris. Wisconsin's defense will really be tested by this run game. I don't think Cal-Poly can handle P.J. Hill and John Clay, though. Those guys have big games and the Badgers prevail.
Jimmy (Champaign, IL)
Other than Notre Dame, which team would the Big Ten most likely want to turn their conference into a 12-team conference?
Adam Rittenberg (1:48 PM)
Jimmy, it needs to be a good fit, both athletically and academically. There aren't that many schools out there that fit what the Big Ten is looking for. Missouri always seems like a possibility. Some of the Big East schools (Rutgers, Pitt) have been thrown out there. But there are no imminent plans to expand.
Besides beating Northwestern this week, what else has to happen for Illinois to sneek into the Insight or Motor City bowl? I know the chances are slim, but give me some hope.
Adam Rittenberg (1:49 PM)
It's critical for the Big Ten to get two teams into BCS bowls. So in addition to rooting for the Illini, root hard for Oregon State to lose to Arizona this week or Oregon next week.
Bob (Yardley, Pa)
Why is it that everyone completely overlooks Alabama? It's happened twice this year (Clemson and Georgia) and all they do is prove all of you "experts" wrong. Don't get me wrong i think the SEC Championship game is going to be great but in the end i think the front lines Alabama has will win this game in the end. Any thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:50 PM)
I agree Alabama gets overlooked. The Tide line play is phenomenal, and they're one of the more physical teams in the country. It's just hard not to get carried away with what Florida has done lately. But in terms of coaching, I'd give Saban the edge over almost anyone (including Meyer).
John (Grand Rapids, Mi)
Iowa State just makes too much sense.
Adam Rittenberg (1:51 PM)
I don't know, John. I've brought that up to some people in the know and they don't really seem too hot on Iowa State.
Damn, cant get a question in here. Whats on the horizon for Tennessee coaching and where could Fulmer end upnext year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:52 PM)
It will be an interesting search, maybe the most interesting one in the country. They really want a younger, energetic recruiter type, much like Bruce Pearl, but for football. Tennessee needs to break back into the recruiting areas it used to own. As for Fulmer, I see him taking a year off and then getting back into it, maybe in the Big 12.
Crew (Ann Arbor)
Pick One: Michigan over OSU or Notre Dame over USC
Adam Rittenberg (1:53 PM)
Can I plead temporary insanity first?
Dustin (Columbus, OH)
Adam, what do you think of Beanie Wells and the chances that he enters this year's NFL draft? Has his injury hurt his draft status or made him appear tougher because he's played through injury?
Adam Rittenberg (1:54 PM)
I think he's gone after this year. As long as he stays healthy and shows scouts that when 100 percent, he's arguably the nation's most dominant back, he'll remain very high on the draft boards. I don't really see a reason for Wells and Shonn Greene to stick around in 2009.
As a lifelong Hawkeye I can tell you the off-field issues have little to do with IC nightlife and much more to do with institutional control. Here's my question; which Big 10 rivalry trophy is your favorite?!?
Adam Rittenberg (1:55 PM)
I would agree to a certain extent, although I saw three or four fights while out in Iowa City the night before the Penn State game. ... I love the Floyd of Rosedale and Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Adam Rittenberg (1:56 PM)
OK guys, got to jet a few minutes early today. Excellent chat today. Enjoy the games this weekend!