Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
We here in Chicago are feeling very non-Olympic today. Hey, at least there's Big Ten football to discuss. Have at it.
Chris (Lima, Ohio)
Michigan has shown flashes of greatness and moments of utter mediocrity. Their fate will begin to be determined next week against Iowa. Which face of the Michigan team do you think will reign and how do you think they match up against a pretty physical Iowa team that may be slower?
Adam Rittenberg (2:59 PM)
Well, Chris, they have to get by Michigan State first, and the Spartans will be a very desperate team Saturday. As far as the Iowa game, Michigan must use its speed to move the ball in every way possible. The Hawkeyes haven't allowed a rushing touchdown in forever, and the game will really test Rich Rodriguez's creativeness on offense.
Adam,Forecast tomorrow in EL calls for cold & rainy... Michigan had trouble with the center/QB exchange last week and uses a lot of read options. MSU's main strength in this game is it's passing attack vs the UM secondary.so: who does the bad weather give an advantage to??
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Bad weather always helps the running team, especially when there's wind involved. Michigan obviously needs to improve the center-QB exchange, but David Moosman has had another week of practice to work on it. I still would give Michigan the edge if the weather is lousy because of the Wolverines' strength at running back.
So adam, two weeks ago you picked Minnesota to lose to Northwestern, and then subsequently beat Wisconsin. Minnesota proved you wrong and beat Northwestern. Now you've flopped and picked the Badgers to win. What gives? Are you suddenly down on the Golden Gophers? Or are you impressed with Wisconsin beating every poor team they've played?
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
Not a knock on the Gophers, Michael. More impressed with what Wisconsin has done. That one could easily go either way, but I'm not quite sold on Minnesota's offense. If Duane Bennett and the run game get going again, I'll definitely be a believer. But Northwestern's D-line has been garbage, and Minnesota took advantage last week. I'll say this: the Gophers are a more complete team than they were down the stretch last year.
Jonathan (Westerville, OH)
Is the Big Ten trying to set an example for the other conferences by suspending players for on-field incidents every week or so (it's been three-straight weeks)? What if the other conferences do not follow the lead?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
It will be interesting to see if other leagues have any reaction, Jonathan. The Big Ten has really taken the lead in cracking down on player conduct. I was a bit surprised to see Kurt Coleman get suspended, given that a penalty was called on the play. But it definitely sends a message to Big Ten coaches and players that anything borderline will not be tolerated.
Daniel (Birmingham, AL)
Iowa is currently ranked first in two of the four released BCS components. If Iowa wins the Big Ten do they have a legitimate shot at the National Championship?
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Absolutely, Daniel, but the Hawks have to go undefeated. Iowa is the one team in the Big Ten that won't have to apologize for its schedule if it runs the table. The Hawks will have beaten PSU on the road, OSU on the road and Wisconsin on the road. That should get you in the national title game no matter how poorly the league is perceived nationally.
Brian (Springfield, Ohio)
Hey Adam, Where is the Big10 sitting right now in national perception?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
It's still not great, Brian. Not many signature wins in non-league play, so the Big Ten needs to pick things up during the bowl season.
Jake (Honolulu, HI)
Adam, after a 3-0 start followed by a nail bitter against Michigan, can Indiana (dare I say it) pull off an upset against OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
It's going to be tough, Jake, especially the way Ohio State's defense is playing right now. Indiana needs to hit on a few big plays to have a chance, whether it's Darius Willis pulling off another big run or Ben Chappell hitting Belcher or Doss down the field. Can't see Indiana putting too many long, sustained drives against the Buckeyes, who simply don't allow many points.
Where you headed this weekend Adam
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
I'm actually on the bench this weekend, Dave, after traveling the first four weeks. But I'll be watching all the Big Ten games and weighing in frequently on my blog, so check it out. Next week will be a big one in the league, and I'll definitely be back out there again.
I will be attending the OSU game at IU tomorrow, should OSU fans expect friendly crowds, possibly even a slight home field advantage with the number of Buckeyes who travel to this game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
Allen, I don't think you'll be alone in terms of Buckeyes fans, but Indiana will have more support than usual because of an impressive start and with the new stadium renovations. It should be a fun atmosphere in Bloomington. I wouldn't expect things to be too hostile for you. Enjoy it.
Craig (Braintree MA)
Did you do a blog on your experience at TCF last weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Not specifically, but I did have a piece on hanging out with Minnesota the day before the game. TCF is a spectacular facility, and it really suits Minnesota in many ways. Big Ten fans who visit will really enjoy the setup there.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Interesting that Juice and Daryll pepped each other up the week of the game against each other. Odd, but somehwat refreshing to see two competitors do that, don't you think?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
It was definitely unusual, but quite refreshing, Lou. All of us take college football very seriously, but few of us truly understand the type of pressure these quarterbacks feel every week. It was nice to see Juice and Daryll being to help each other out.
You see Bielema say Monte Ball was going to get carries this week? I'm ok with displacing Brown, and to a degree ESmith, but not Clay. Why would Brett do this and use up a RS 1/3 of the way through the season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
It's an interesting move, Justin, but Bielema has been high on Ball for a while now, so I'm not totally surprised. If Clay has a strong start Saturday and appears capable of carrying the load, maybe we don't see Ball. But if he can help an already solid rushing attack, why not play him?
Brandon saine has been putting up superior #'s so far. With Herron's injury, and saine therefore majority of the carries...does he claim the starting RB role for good from Herron?
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Saine will start against Indiana, but he's got to perform well to keep the top job. Herron hasn't had the best year so far, and it's hard to be a between-the-tackles runner when you don't really have the body for it. Then again, Saine hasn't quite met expectations either in his career. Here's his chance to really establish himself as a star for the Buckeyes.
Ethan (Richmond, VA)
If Illinois gets blown out this weekend does that put Zook on the hot seat?
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
I've always maintained that Zook will get at least one more year, but not if his team continues to look non-competitive. Another lackluster performance at home will really turn up the heat, especially since Illinois might only have 3-4 wins left on the schedule.
aaron (Champaign, IL)
Adam, Could you atleast talk about what it might take to get Purdue a win Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
The Boilers need to get Ralph Bolden going against a Northwestern defensive line that has performed well below expectations. Northwestern got totally pushed around by Minnesota's O-line last week, so I'd expect Purdue to go right at them with Bolden, and it'll be interesting to see how the Boilers use versatile wideout Keith Smith. On defense, Purdue must try to get Northwestern out of a rhythm. Mike Kafka has been excellent at times, but he struggles when pressured.
Have you figured out why Danny hope called the timeout yet? Was it a coaching mistake?
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
He wanted to save some time in case Notre Dame scored (which it did). Doesn't show a lot of faith for his offense, but it's not the first time a coach has done something like that.
Adam, putting you on the spot here. Who do you see as the '09 version of the '08 Hawkeyes? By that I mean a team starting slow but finishing strong. Iowa started 3-3 last year, but went 6-1 over their final 7 games. Any Big Ten teams repeating something similar to that this season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Excellent question, Joe. I could see Michigan State, Northwestern or Purdue filling that role this fall. If Michigan State can get over the hump and gain some confidence on defense, the Spartans could be pretty decent down the stretch. And if Northwestern and Purdue improve on defense, both teams have enough offensive firepower to do some damage.
Adam, before i die...what 5 stadiums do i need to see a game at?
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
Big Ten-wise, I'd say Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium, Camp Randall Stadium, Kinnick Stadium and Michigan State. On a national scale, I'd hit Autzen Stadium in Oregon, Husky Stadium in Seattle, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and Notre Dame Stadium. There are so many great facilities out there.
Adam (Austin, TX)
Adam, realistically, do you see a Big Ten team in the National Championship this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
I don't, Adam. I've said from the beginning that the Big Ten will have only one BCS bowl entry, the Rose, and get more favorable bowl matchups down the line. The league won't 'play up' as much in the postseason, translating to a better overall record.
Kyle (Louisville, KY)
What kind of circumstances would it take for Zook to finally give up on Juice Williams? He's shown no improvement since his sophomore year, and teams really seem to have his number now.
Adam Rittenberg (3:25 PM)
Kyle, it'll be very interesting to see what Zook does if Juice starts slow against Penn State. He hasn't been afraid to play Eddie McGee in the past, and with the pressure rising on him, he might go with McGee fairly early against Penn State. ... Though I wouldn't attribute all of Illinois' troubles to Juice, he hasn't shown the consistency you need from veteran players.
Who is the best CB in the Big Ten and Why?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Tough question, Ted. Iowa's Amari Spievey probably would be my first choice, though I didn't like the way he got torched by Chaz Powell last week. Minnesota's Traye Simmons is another solid cornerback, and Purdue's David Pender is having a very good year so far.
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
And Donovan Warren from Michigan is in the mix.
Scott (New Jersey)
Is it still a little early to be getting all over Terrelle Pryor? He has a whole new O Line, new running backs and new recievers. I feel they are getting more explosive each week and it is there league to lose. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
I agree, Scott. We need to be patient with Pryor. There are a lot of things working against him. But he also needs to show some signs of obvious growth, whether it's running harder or making better decisions in the pass game. He's still a young player, but he has had a lot of opportunities to make plays.
No Michigan Stadium on your list? You'd think the biggest stadium in the country would get some love, especially since ND Stadium is basically just a mini-Big House
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
I meant to say Michigan Stadium. Wrote Michigan State instead. My bad. Though I like Spartan Stadium, too.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Coming into this season I saw Daryll Clark and Evan Royster as potentially high round draft choices. Do you think the O-Line woes will significantly hurt their draft stock (assuming Royster doesn't come back for his senior year)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
I do, J.B., especially Royster. Evan talked to me this spring about possibly wanting to go pro after this season, and right now it doesn't look like a strong possibility. He's a patient running back by nature, but he has had to be even more patient with this offensive line. Same with Daryll Clark. It just goes to show you that having star skill players doesn't help when the line is a weakness.
Tim Tebow (Titletown)
Is there any defense in the Big 10 that could stop our offense?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
How's your head, Tim? I bet Iowa and Ohio State would like to give it a shot.
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
And by shot, I mean stopping the Florida offense. Not trying to get anyone hurt.
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
Hold on a minute, guys. Got to do a quick radio interview. Be back in 4-5 minutes.
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
OK, I'm back. Check me out Saturday morning on ESPN Radio previewing the day in the Big Ten. Sorry, shameless plug.
Fielding Yost (Ann Arbor)
"Big Ten-wise, I'd say Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium, Camp Randall Stadium, Kinnick Stadium and Michigan State. On a national scale, I'd hit Autzen Stadium in Oregon, Husky Stadium in Seattle, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and Notre Dame Stadium. There are so many great facilities out there."How could you not include the Big House. Its once of college football's sacred grounds. Michigan State over the Big House??? And Notre Dame was modeled after the Big House (only its smaller). Please defend that answer. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
Fielding, go back and read the transcript. I meant to write Michigan Stadium. Relax.
Adam, what are your thoughts on the Big East/Big 12 bowl game announced for Yankee Stadium? Is this an isolated event or could we see a trend northward for new bowls?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
I like the move, though it'll be interesting to see how the turnout will be in the Bronx with the cold weather. I know a lot of Big Ten fans would like to see more northern bowls, but the weather is the deciding factor with most of those locations.
Vincent (Lewis Center, OH)
So far, is Brian Rolle comparable to James Laurinaitis in terms of production?
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Glad you brought him up, Vincent. Rolle has turned in a very strong season so far, and Ohio State's linebackers really haven't missed a beat without Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman. You look at Ohio State's defensive stats, and not a lot of guys stand out, which is a testament to the unit's overall strength. But Rolle definitely has distinguished himself.
Wouldn't it make more sense to have a Big 10 team in the Yankee bowl and not a Big 12 team?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Well, the Big Ten already has one northern bowl (Detroit) and really wants to maintain a game in Texas after losing the Alamo Bowl. I'd expect an agreement with the Texas Bowl to be finalized soon.
What's Nick Toon's ceiling as a WR? He's made quite a leap from last year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
I really, really like Nick Toon. Was extremely impressed with him in spring ball, and he's backing it up so far this fall. Wisconsin's wideouts were awful last year, but both Toon and Isaac Anderson are stepping things up for new starting QB Scott Tolzien.
Jason (Orlando, FL)
I have hear from many people that Michigan Stadium (Big House) is much louder this year. Can you attest?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
I wasn't there for the Notre Dame game, but people who were told me it was as loud as they'd heard it for a non-Ohio State game. So I would definitely say yes. It got pretty loud at the end of the Western Michigan game.
Ryan (Bloomington, IL)
Will Kirlew and Middleton be able to have some success against the Ohio St. offensive tackles? Will they be able to get to Pryor a couple of times before he gets a chance to scarmble or is his speed too much?
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Very interesting matchup there, Ryan. Both J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams generated a ton of hype coming into Ohio State. Here's a great chance for them to prove it against two of the Big Ten's best pass rushers. From Indiana's standpoint, Kirlew and Middleton have to rattle Pryor and force a turnover or two to have a real chance.
Mike (Richmond, VA)
So now your smacking down Spartan Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
God, you guys are awfully touchy. I like Spartan Stadium. I like almost all the Big Ten stadiums. But he asked me to name five I'd visit, and Spartan Stadium doesn't make the cut. Sorry.
Adam,If Chimdi Chekwa keeps Decker in check when OSU plays Minnesota, will he be your 1st team all-big ten corner? I haven't heard anybody talk about him, but Williams from USC and Benn from Illinois (both considered 1st round WR's) did nothing against OSU with Checkwa in coverage. He also had two of the nicer PBU's you'll see against Toledo.
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
Good call, Nick. Eric Decker will be the ultimate test for Chekwa. Same for Amari Speivey. If Chekwa can hold the Big Ten's best wideout in check, he'll be in good shape for All-Big Ten consideration. Chimdi has done a nice job trying to fill the void after Malcolm Jenkins' departure.
What was it Adam: An interception or a catch in the Indiana-Michigan game and do you think that rule will change in the offseason (where they can rule simultaneous catch on a replay)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Stephanie, the more evidence I've seen suggests the officials got the call right. It was an interception. But I was surprised they didn't rule simultaneous possession on the field. It certainly looked that way in full speed, and there might not have been video evidence to overturn it. But I think they got this one right.
Which front seven is better, Iowa's or Ohio State's? And how do those units stack up in the national picture? Are they two of the 10 best defensive fronts in the country?
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Really can't say who is better at this point. Both front sevens have been absolutely dominant through the first four games. Iowa's defensive line might get a slight edge, but Ohio State is right there with the overall front seven. I would definitely put both groups in the Top 10 nationally.
who does penn st play for their out of conference games next year? did playing such week competition before iowa affect the outcome of that game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Penn State plays Alabama, and that's all that matters after this year's debacle of a schedule.
nick (Iowa City)
Can Stanzi have a breakout game against AkSt, or is this a lost cause on offense?
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
It's a very important week for Ricky Stanzi, Nick. I don't need to see 350 pass yards and 4 TDs, but I want to see steady production, no first-half interceptions and a nice rhythm with DJK and the other wide receivers. Every team needs its quarterback to win games, and as good as Iowa has been on defense, it will lean on Stanzi at some point this season.
Ryan (Ferndale, Michigan)
Any word if we will hear anything from the investgation into Michigan's practices? It's amazing how much winning shuts the media up (No offense Adam!)
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
No offense taken, Ryan. I was actually saying the same thing when all the news broke a month ago ... I'd expect we'll hear something in the next few weeks.
jeremy (tecumseh, mi)
Will this be the game that dantonio finally sticks with one qb????
Adam Rittenberg (3:52 PM)
Jeez, I hope so, Jeremy. It's one thing to see what you have at QB and RB, but Michigan State's depth chart reeks of indecision. You've got to have an identity at some point. It's time to pick someone and go.
What's your prediction for Wis/Minn Saturday adam?
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
I have the Badgers winning 28-26. Could go either way, but I like Wisconsin's balance on offense and its opportunistic defense. Minnesota QB Adam Weber has thrown five interceptions this season.
Brad (East Lansing)
Hey Adam, love following your blog, especially catching up on the Big Ten during my Thursday Stats class. What changes can the Spartan secondary players/coaches possible make to help stop giving up 300 yards in the air weekly???
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
Hey Brad, I don't envy you, man. I HATED stats. Never been more scared for a final exam ... Michigan State's DBs need to start communicating better and helping each other. They look slow trying to run down opposing receivers, so they need to have better awareness and know when to double-team a guy.
Your game to watch this weekend? big10 and national
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
Big Ten would be Michigan-Michigan State, followed by Wisconsin-Minnesota. ... Nationally, it's kind of an eh week. Since I'm from Berkeley, I'm interested in USC-Cal, but Oklahoma-Miami probably gets top billing.
How big is the UW/UM game for Brewster? Do you think he quiets some of his critics with a win?
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
It's always a big game for both coaches, Ryan, but I don't really understand all the criticism for Minnesota. At least he tries to make the program relevant by recruiting well and playing tough non-league opponents. I know his style doesn't sit well with everyone up there, but Minnesota fans should aim higher than 7-5 (3-5 Big Ten) and weak bowls.
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Criticism for Brewster, I meant.
What's the worst case outcomes for this weekend as far as the conference perception is concerned? Specifically, would Michigan going from 3-9 to top of the conference just be more fuel for the fire as far as the Big Ten being weak? Would Michigan taking a few lumps this year show the rest of the country that it's not that easy to get to the top?
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Allen, the Big Ten always needs Michigan to do well, so a Michigan loss would hurt the league overall. Even if the Wolverines beat MSU, I don't see them challenging Iowa and Ohio State for the Big Ten title. But the Big Ten can't have Michigan be in the middle or the bottom of the league.
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Axe, jug or pig; which is Minnesota's best rivalry trophy?
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Axe, hands down. Greatest rivalry trophy in college football (Cal-Stanford, too). That thing is awesome.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Alright guys, I'm all out of time. Enjoyed it. Next week, the chats return to the normal time of Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Enjoy the games!