Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
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 Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm ready for your questions, comments, concerns, Haikus. Fire away
Sean (West Lafayette)
What are your thoughts on the Oregon-Purdue game Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Very intriguing game, Sean. Not sure how the Ducks will respond after the disaster in Boise. Purdue probably needs a slow start from Oregon to hang around, but Ralph Bolden is the real deal at running back and could keep the Boilers in this one.
Finzor (South Dakota)
How catastrophic would it be for the Big 10 to lose to USC, Iowa State, Oregon, and Notre Dame this week? All seem incredibly possible.
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
It would be a major blow for an already battered league. The Big Ten can certainly gain some credibility back in the bowls, especially with more favorable matchups this year, but losing all those games would really hurt.
Jimmy (New York, NY)
While I think the ND-Mich game is of huge import, and I'm so pumped for the game, I think many in the media are exaggerating the consequences for the loser. Whichever team loses will still be able to have a salvagable season, and will not necessarily 'fall into the abyss' as has been suggested. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
Michigan had its sky-is-falling game last week, Jimmmy, and I'd agree that a loss wouldn't be the end of the world for Rich Rodriguez. Notre Dame, on the other hand, really needs to win at least nine games this year, especially with a soft schedule. It'd be a bigger loss for ND than UM.
Ted (Central PA)
How much of the PSU playbook are we going to see this weekend? Will Clark be turned loose, or will it be all about establishing Royster and Green?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Penn State will win going away, and in my view protecting DC should be the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priority for Joe Paterno. Establishing the run game with Royster and Green will be key against the Orange. It also will help give the O-line some confidence before BIg Ten play.
Bernard (Princeton, NJ)
This has to be the biggest weekend for Big Ten football in a few years, right?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Given what has happened to the league the last few years, I would agree. No game means more to any league than Ohio State-USC does to the BIg Ten, and several of the other matchups also will help or hurt the league's national reputation.
Zach (Iowa City, IA)
I wouldn't be surprised if Iowa State beat Iowa, but what people have to understand is that UNI is a very talented team and thats the reason it was a close game.
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
Fair enough, but you can only rationalize so much, and Iowa fans have been doing it all week. A 1-1 record with a near loss to UNI doesn't look like a Big Ten title contender to me. Iowa has been and will be a better program than ISU. It needs to show it Saturday in Ames.
Adam, it seems that Boise State's defense was overshadowed by the postgame incident. It was an amazing performance. Do you agree? It seems if it is as good as advertised it could take them places? Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Great point, Dean. Unfortunately, when something like that happens, it tends to dominate the spotlight. But you're absolutely right. Boise tackled extremely well in space, and Masoli looked utterly confused against the Broncos defense. Boise will need the D to lead the way as Kellen Moore gets better and better.
Troy Miller (Peck, MI)
I think the Michigan front 7 can really create havoc for Clausen the entire game, Donovan Warren is a great Man-to-Man corner who can take on Floyd. What do you think the chances of our front 7 against ND oline? Not to mention how fast it is.
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Another good point, Troy. But I think it needs to be the front three or four going after Clausen. Michigan defensive linemen told me this week they basically applied all that pressure last week by only rushing the down linemen. A similar approach is necessary against ND because I don't think the Wolverines DBs can handle Floyd, Tate and Rudolph in single coverage.
Will (Montclair, NJ)
From all the analysis I've been hearing, Ohio State will really struggle with USC this weekend. Matt Barkley is a true freshman, starting his second game of his career, and all in the horseshoe. Will the OSU D be able to get enough pressure on him?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
It will be interesting to see what Ohio State does against such an athletic offensive line in USC. I really, really like Thad Gibson, the junior DE. If he can generate some speed off the edge, he could get in Barkley's face. Jim Heacock told me today it's hard to change up the scheme with such a young defense, but I bet he's got some tricks up his sleeve.
How come Ohio State has to carry the flag for the entire Big Ten? Penn State schedules Our Lady of Mercy every year and OSU gets criticized?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
That's a fair point, Jon, and Ohio State does deserve credit for dominating the Big Ten this decade. But Penn State seems to be gaining quickly on Ohio State, and Michigan will be back near the top soon. The Buckeyes have had their chances to carry the Big Ten banner to big non-league wins, and recently, they've failed. Saturday brings one more chance.
Zach (Iowa City, IA)
Iowa's offensive line and defensive line were out-performed vs UNI. Do you think they will get back on track by Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
I think the offensive line gets on track with Calloway and Vandervelde back in the fold. That's the group that needs continuity the most, and it was tough to go out there without two starters at UNI. Interested to see if the D-line can put pressure on Arnaud, who looked good last week.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Are you as upset as I am that due to the silly Big Ten rule we won't get to see PSU v OSU under the lights with the White Out in full force?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
I'm not a fan of the rule. It's really a bit antiquated, and the Big Ten misses an opportunity to be the showcase game on a Saturday night. That said, Penn State fans will make that game a pretty electric atmospshere, I'm sure.
Nick (Nashville, TN)
With all the talk about this weekend's big games for the Big Ten....and if the Big Ten doesn't fair well in these key games....it goes back to big time hype needed for the league....perhaps back to the adding a 12th team and having a championship game.....Do you agree?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
The early end to the regular season has likely hurt the Big Ten in bowls, but whether it's an 11- or 12-team league, the Big Ten should fare better in some of these nonconference games. I know most of you want to see a 12th team, but it isn't happening any time soon. Teams will get more creative with their schedules, like Illinois has this year, to extend the regular season. But the bottom line is the Big Ten must start winning again.
Adam, how concerned should I be about Northwestern's lack of a pass rush against Towson? Is this a sign of a weaker d-line or just early season rust?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
I wouldn't worry. Hankwitz is known for jazzing up his scheme, and that was about as vanilla as it gets for NU. Pat Fitzgerald really challenged the unit after the Towson game, and I'd expect a bit more pressure from Corey Wootton and co. on Saturday.
Adam, I don't know about you but I was convinced Illinois would be the sleeper in the Big-10. Will that loss demoralize the Illini or with will Benn coming back still give them a shot to contend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Benn certainly gives the offense more explosiveness and a sense of normalcy, but I don't know what the heck happened last week. Totally unacceptable for the Illini. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Benn's, but there seems to be a leadership issue again on that team. Illinois could start 1-4 if things don't turn around.
Mike (Richmond, VA)
It's amazing to me that MSU is not getting the hype that teams 15-25 seem to get. Given that Nichol/Cousins is look darn good, and that what we have going for RB output should surpass the 8th in the league Ringer effort, why aren't the Spartans getting the love?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Two reasons. 1. They're not playing anybody until Notre Dame2. They're just not a flashy team, which isn't a bad thing (!)I wouldn't worry about the hype factor. If MSU does what it usually does to Notre Dame, the Spartans will get some love.
Pete (Cupertino, CA)
How impressive was Denard Robinson's touchdown run this weekend? Have you ever heard of a true freshman quarterback scoring on his first play before?
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
It was pretty crazy, Pete, especially since that was a designed reverse. Talking with Todd McShay this week, he said it might have been the most exciting play of the first weekend. Robinson is something special, and he showed it on his first collegiate carry.
How long does Rich Rod realistically need before Michigan should be back to a top-10 program?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
It'll be interesting to see what happens the rest of this season, but Michigan could be back in the Top 10 as early as 2010. It's amazing to see how a team changes when a head coach gets his guys in the right places, and Rich is well on his way toward doing so.
Adam, Who do you think eventually wins the QB job in East Lansing? They won't rotate all season will they?
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
They might. Mark Dantonio certainly didn't seem in the mood to discuss his QBs on Tuesday. I still give Cousins a slight edge given his experience and leadership. Then again, I thought Nichol would be the guy in the preseason. Speaking of Nichol, don't you think Oklahoma wished he'd stayed right now?
What are you hearing about how hard the Badgers are being hit by the (whatever)flu? Is it bad enough that the game against Fresno becomes impossible to project?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
From what I've heard, Wednesday was a much better day than Tuesday. The players were once again available to the media, and all of the requested players appeared for interviews. That means most of the key guys are feeling OK. Wisconsin should be fine for Saturday.
Scott (Dayton, OH)
Is Minnesota going to be distracted with all the new stadium hubub? Even though they faced an FCS opponent, Air Force was pretty dominant last week.
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
There's certainly a concern. I sensed that from both Tim Brewster and Eric Decker when I talked to them this week. Brewster is trying to limit the distractions, but there obviously will be a lot of emotions on Saturday night. Air Force could be the wrong type of team to face in an opener like this.
Pete (Cupertino, CA)
Does Purdue's kicker win them a game they would otherwise lose this year? A 59 yard field goal with room to spare is unreal.
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Carson Wiggs' kick was pretty insane, especially since it could have been good from 65. Danny Hope has full confidence in Wiggs' range, and he'll send him out there if the situation merits it. Wiggs could be a factor in close games.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Adam: How likely is it that PSU puts some plays in the book that have both Clark and Newsome on the field at the same time? I only saw Newsome for a few plays on Saturday and he looks like he could be a quicker version of Michael Robinson.
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
That's one approach, but Penn State clearly needs to find ways to get Newsome some snaps, particularly in these early cupcake games. A Daryll Clark injury could derail the season for the Nits, but having Newsome prepared is critical.
Zach (Iowa City, IA)
What, in your opinion, is the most intriguing game in the Big Ten this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Michigan-Notre Dame. Could really see it going both ways, and the subplots with the head coaches and the two offenses are very intriguing.
Adam I posed this question to Ivan Maisel as well. Do you foresee one of Michigan's freshman QB's transferring next year? Especially with Devon Gardner coming into the mix for next season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
It's possible, Paul. Gardner certainly looks like the real deal, and he'll compete for time early in his career. But if Michigan gets big things from Forcier and Robinson this year, it could lead to them redshirting Gardner to create some separation.
Is the Big 10 better off winning a lesser BCS bowl or getting blown out in the NC again?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Better off winning a lesser BCS bowl. Some might look at this as a defeatist mentality, but building back the Big Ten won't happen overnight. A bowl season with more favorable matchups than usual could go a long way toward helping the league.
Doug (Lakeville, MN)
Adam you picked Wisconsin as your "Most likely to disappoint" team this year. Still feel that way after seeing them play 3 very strong quarters last week?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
That's the point, three strong quarters. Wisconsin struggled to finish, which was a major focal point during the offseason. That said, the Badgers did some good things in that game, particularly at QB. But I need to see a complete performance against Fresno State before raising my expectations.
Rob (New Orleans)
Adam, if Ohio State would have held on in the last seconds against Texas, a team everyone thought should have been in the NC game, would the nation still be screaming it's "do or die" time in Columbus this weekend? Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
No, they wouldn't Rob, and that's a good point. Some would have tried to spin that as a game Texas didn't care about, but Ohio State would be getting a lot more credit if it had finished off that game. It would have been a pretty major upset for the Buckeyes, and redemption for Todd Boeckman and the seniors.
Why doesn't the big ten just add one more big ten game to the schedule instead of playing a bad team at the beginning of the year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
Some of the Big Ten athletic directors would like to do so, Jeremy. The problem is mathematics: one team would only play eight conference games, while everyone else would play nine. But I think the Big Ten is more likely to play nine league games than add a 12th team.
Austin (Madison, WI)
The Badgers open the season with 4 consecutive home games, then two sets of back-to-back road games later on. Do you think having a somewhat lopsided schedule in terms of home and away games will have any adverse effects?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
Well, it accentuates the need for Wisconsin to start fast, or things could turn ugly in October and November. With a new starting QB, the schedule sets up well to build some confidence before Wisconsin faces some tougher tests. I think UW's overall schedule is very beneficial this season.
Does Jim Tressel ever give up offensive playcalling while in Columbus? The Ohio State players are as fast as anyone else in the NCAA, the playcalling doesn't let them run after the play.
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
If Ohio State's offense puts up similar numbers to last season, it will be interesting to see what changes for Tressel or his coaches. He could be forced to make changes, or give up the play-calling. Most head coaches who call plays haven't been successful recently, and I know a lot of Buckeyes fans have been unsatisfied with the direction of the offense.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
I know it isn't going to happen for a long time but think of the revenues a Big Ten title game would generate. The only issue I can see is where do you play the game in trying to keep weather out of the picture? Do you play it in Indianapolis? Travel in December might become tricky. Any ideas, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
It would have to be Indy, J.B. Can't see the Big Ten scheduling a game outdoors in early December (though Illinois will play one this year). Indy also makes sense travel-wise.
Is Indiana really going to be "that" bad again, based on their performance against Eastern Kentucky, or was is a matter of an improved team simply adjusting to a new offense?
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
The optimist would say Indiana's run game will be a lot better in Week 2, and it better be. The Hoosiers can't rely on their passing attack, especially since the pistol formation was brought in to spark the run game. I have my doubts about IU, but we'll see what happens.
Rich Rod (Ann Arbor)
People who complain about the weather when you are playing football need to get lives.
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Well put, Rich.
Dan (Atlanta, GA)
Much of the complaints coming from or about OSU is not the talent that is there but more about the coaching that holds the talent back. Do you find this to be true in your opinion?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Judging by Ohio State's recent recruiting classes, there's something to that argument, Dan. Jim Tressel has been extremely loyal to his staff over the year, but if things don't go well this season, he could be forced to make some changes.
devin (whitmore lake mi)
what the update on brandon minor can he play week 2
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
I think he'll be back, Devin. He actually looked decent in pre-game warmups last week, but Michigan didn't really need him and Carlos Brown played well. I would expect to see Brandon on the field Saturday.
Jason (Penn State - Sociology Class)
Penn State runs the table...do we have yet another undefeated season without a NC to boot? Say it aint so...
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
Your big concern is if Florida or another BCS team goes undefeated as well. If Penn State is the only undefeated team, it should be safe. But if there's another undefeated team and some good 1-loss teams, I think the Lions get snubbed yet again.
With the unexpected whooping Illinois received from Mizzou last week, many Illini fans are standing on the ledge, ready to jump. Any chance Zook can get the ship righted, or is this season done for the Illini?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
You and I both know they have the talent, Derek. Maybe Arrelious Benn's return sparks Illinois. The wide receivers as a whole certainly have to play a lot better. But the turnaround needs to happen soon. Crush Illinois State this weekend, and then use the bye week to get a lot better before a brutal start to league play.
Alex (Littleton, CO)
Fast forward to bowl season. If PSU and BYU are both undefeated, who gets the higher rank?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
Wow, that's a tough one. I'd have to say BYU because of strength of schedule. Penn State needs to root for teams like Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern to win as many games as possible before they face the Lions.
Matt (Menifee ca)
Do you truly think PSU goes undefeated this year?? I dont see it they lost a lot from last year. Yes the Big Ten is down I see a 3 loss team winning it this year
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
Wow, in terms of nightmare scenarios, that would certainly be one, Matt. I can't see Penn State dropping more than two games overall this season, but a key injury, like one to Daryll Clark, could really sidetrack things.
Liam (Pleasanton, California)
Do the Cal Bears put it down on Minnesota next week?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
If Minnesota doesn't play a lot better than it did against the 'Cuse, I think so, Liam. Jahvid Best is practically unstoppable when healthy, and Minnesota's offense needs to diversify a bit. You can't just expect Adam Weber and Eric Decker to carry the team every game.
Drew (Nairobi, Kenya)
Adam, can you see Iowa pulling off the upset for the second year in a row at Penn State? If so, what do the Hawks need to do to accomplish it?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
How goes it in Nairobi, Drew? I'm not quite ready to pick the Iowa-PSU game, but the Hawkeyes need to get their ground game going to have a chance in Happy Valley. Iowa's defense will need to overwhelm the Penn State offensive line and put pressure on Daryll Clark, like it did last year in Iowa City. Clark really struggled in that game, though he wasn't 100 percent (concussion).
Ford Field (Detroit)
Ummm, Adam, couldn't we host a B10 Championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
Yes, you could, Ford. My bad.
Joe Tuohey (East Lansing, MI)
How excited can everyone in the state of Michigan get for the in-state clash October 3? If the Spartans beat an improved U of M team will the in-state battle shift even more?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
It certainly will help, Joe. Michigan State is definitely trending up under Dantonio, and Michigan could be heading that way as well. It'll be interesting to see how a young Michigan team handles its first road game.
Adam (Charlotte, NC)
With all the hate regarding the big ten doesn't anyone remeber that Michigan beat Florida in the Capitol 1 Bowl in 08? I feel like that was never publicized at all
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
It was a nice win, Adam, but these days, if it's not in a BCS game, it really doesn't matter. The BCS separated those bowls and put them on a pedestal, so teams and leagues are judged by how they perform in those games. And for the Big Ten, it hasn't been pretty lately.
John (Terre Haute, IN)
All of this talk of a Big 10 Championship game but who is the 12th team that gives you the opportunity to do so?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
I wrote this in the spring and I'll mention it again. Missouri makes the most sense to me. The Tigers make sense geographically, they've elevated their profile in athletics and they fit academically. I know Joe Paterno wants another Eastern team, but this is a Midwest league.
Clay (Oakland, CA)
Hotter seat...Ron Zook, Dan Hawkins, or Al Groh?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Al Groh. can't see him surviving this season. Zook at least has some talent to work with.
Adam Rittenberg (4:51 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time I've got. Enjoyed the chat. Same time, same place next week.