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, it's great to be back on Thursdays. I'll be in Iowa City for Michigan-Iowa this weekend. Where you at? Let's get started.
Christian (Richmond, VA)
Iowa has the #10 offense in the Big Ten. Is it outrageous to think that if Michigan can get 28 points they will win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
I would think 28 points gives Michigan a decent shot in that game, but it won't be easy. Iowa's defense has been awfully if stingy. If Ricky Stanzi can avoid throwing a pick-six, I like the Hawkeyes' chances.
Adam, You have to admit, you underestimated the Badger's this year, not saying I was completely sold on them either, but just want to hear you say it, and how do you see them this weekend against tOSU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
Tyler, you're absolutely right. I'll admit it. I didn't think much of Wisconsin, especially when Scott Tolzien was named the starting QB. Tolzien has been a great surprise for the Badgers, and their balance on offense has really been the biggest reason for the 5-0 start. It's good to see. But obviously, things get much tougher these next two weeks with Ohio State and Iowa.
Would you anticipate flu to have a heavy impact on the rest of the season or will it eventually go away? I know Ohio State has a problem this week.
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
I would hope with the vaccine become more available, the flu problem will go away eventually. But you're right about Ohio State. Andrew Miller is out again this week, and Justin Boren and Jake Ballard missed Wednesday's practice with the flu. Fortunately, Mike Adams doesn't appear to have it, as feared earlier this week.
Brandon (Iowa City)
Is it true that Michigan's top running back is out for this game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Depends on who you consider Michigan's top running back :-) Brandon Minor, the starter entering the season, will play and should finally be near 100 percent. But Carlos Brown, who has been the team's best rusher in the first five games, likely will be out with what I'm hearing is a head injury.
It's brutal in Gopherville Adam. The Gophers thoroughly outplayed the Badgers in the first half, but due to some missed opportunities and horrible officiating (phantom chop block on 1st and goal at the 1 comes to mind), instead of being up 7 or 10 at half the score was 13-10 at the break. In the 3rd Quarter the Gopher front 7 (and Kevin Cosgrove's lack of adjustments) allowed Wisconsin to run wild before losing by 3. What adjustments can the Gophers make? Do you think 7 regular season wins is still likely?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
This is a critical week for the Gophers, Michael. They need to beat Purdue and avoid dropping to 1-3 at home, which is not what Minnesota envisioned with the new, on-campus stadium. I wouldn't put too much blame on the D-line, but the offensive line has been a shaky group for most of the year. They have a great coach in Tim Davis, but the inconsistency in running the ball combined with the penalties last week is certainly troubling.
Adam, after the first 5 games, who do you think the top 3 quarterbacks are in the BigTen?
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Mike, I just actually wrote about the quarterbacks in the league, evaluating their progress through the first five games. As far as performance this season, I'd go with Scott Tolzien, Tate Forcier and Daryll Clark. Terrelle Pryor seems to be getting a bit more comfortable as well.
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
Also, Kirk Cousins, Mike Kafka and Joey Elliott have had their moments.
I gotta think Iowas LB's will have trouble covering Michigan's slot receivers. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
It will be interesting to see how Iowa contends with Michigan's overall team speed on offense, which is among the league's best. But keep in mind that Iowa's Pat Angerer might be one of the best linebackers in pass coverage that you'll find. Angerer tied for the Big Ten lead with five interceptions last fall and had a pick INT at Penn State.
John (South Bend)
if notre dame and bama played right now, who would win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Is that a serious question? Bama would crush the Irish by three touchdowns. And that's not a huge dig on ND. I just think Bama is that good.
Lane Kiffin (Rocky Top)
Adam, this chat isn't very good. Are you going to blame the flu?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Absolutely (cough cough). Thanks, Lane. Maybe you can recycle it when you lose to UGA.
Kyle (East Lansing)
Do you think the MSU secondary, which apparently just learned to tackle the guy with the ball last week, has turned a corner for the season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
Kyle, I'd like to think we'll find out this week, but whether Illinois actually tries to attack down the field remains to be seen. Illinois' scheme to this point has been extremely puzzling, given the Illini talent at wide receiver. I would think Illinois will attack Michigan State's DBs with Arrelious Benn and others. It would be a good litmus test for the Spartans.
Jake (Honolulu, HI)
Adam, most intriguing game in the Big10 this week?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Not saying this just because I'll be there, but it's Michigan-Iowa. Michigan is still, in my opinion, the most interesting story in the league because of all the young players, Rodriguez's second year, the different things they do on offense. And Iowa has been so dominant on defense. ... Wisconsin-Ohio State also interests me quite a bit.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Adam, is Wisconsin the worst/luckiest 5-0 team in the country? In not, are they legit in your opinion?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
I wouldn't use that label to describe the Badgers. Certainly they have more to prove, but they're always tough at home and seem to have found the balance on offense that they need. Let's not forget that this was a top 15 team entering the 2008 season. They've made upgrades at running back, wide receiver and certainly quarterback. If they could have finished off games better, it would be a more impressive 5-0.
Drew (East Lansing)
Love the Blog. I know that UM is the better story, but it seems like I've been hearing more about how Michigan loss the game more than MSU won the game? Why is it us Spartans can't get any credit for our own victory? Also, with two wins in his belt, do you think Mark D. has made this game a rivalry once more?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Michigan State deserves credit for the win, but it's hard to get too excited about a 2-3 team. Beat Illinois and Northwestern, and you'll get hyped entering the Iowa game. ... As for Dantonio's two wins, I would definitely say he's made the Michigan game a rivalry. Also, I love the way he always talks up the game. He recognizes what it means to the fans and the players.
Mac (Huntington, WV)
Bigger "must win" this week - Purdue or Minnesota?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Good question, Mac. If Purdue loses, you can forget about any bowl run. Just not happening this year. But I don't see the Boilers going bowling anyway. Too many mistakes on the field and from the coaches. It's got to be a bigger game for Minnesota. The Gophers could easily be 4-1 right now.
Vince (Salt Lake City)
Is Ron Zook in a must-win situation at this point or was that last weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
I wouldn't call it a total must-win, but it's definitely a must-compete. Illinois has been non-competitive for the majority of its three games against BCS-conference opponents, and that's totally unacceptable. The Illini need to show they can at least keep pace with Michigan State on their home field and show some signs of progress.
Will Juice Williams see any playing time this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
I have a feeling he will, but Ron Zook will allow Eddie McGee the opportunity to sink or swim. You don't make a change like that and pull the new guy after a bad series or two. McGee will get his chances, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Williams on a play or two.
Will you marry me?
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
Wow, that's a first. Sorry, Michelle. Already taken.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
This is the weekend we finally get a good look at Kevin Newsome, isn't it Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
J.B., some of the reporters were asking Daryll Clark about this very subject yesterday. Clark said Newsome has looked very good at practice and is taking all the second-team reps. Penn State should get a chance to showcase him a bit against EIU. If not, something has gone very wrong.
Which is the REAL Northwestern... win over Purdue last week or loss to Minn. 2 weeks ago? The 'cats seemed like two different teams
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
The defense badly needed some confidence, and it got some last week against Purdue. That unit isn't nearly as bad as it performed in the first four games, so I see improvement there. But from an offensive standpoint, several things still concern me, namely the inability to consistently run the ball and absolutely no big-play threats on the field. After seeing that offense for years, it's too cute of a system. You need to attack a defense from time to time, and this week provides a good opportunity to do so.
Any chance the weather will get nasty in Iowa City Saturday night?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Just checked weather.com and the forecast calls for afternoon showers and then clearing. So the weather should pass by kickoff.
Some Badger Fan (Wisconsin)
Adam, suppose Wisconsin is able to beat OSU in a close game, and Iowa. Purdue, @Ind, Michigan, @Northwestern, @Hawaii are all that remains. Could Wisconsin run the table if they win the next two ?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
That's asking an awful lot, but I guess anything is possible. Ohio State is certainly Wisconsin's toughest road test, and the Badgers can beat anyone on their home field.
Tyler (Iowa City)
Forcier has looked pretty banged up the last couple games. Have you heard any updates on whether he'll be 100% coming into Kinnick?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
I think he'll be OK, Tyler. He's obviously not a huge guy, so injuries are going to come with the position. But Forcier is awfully tough, and he'll be ready come Saturday night.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Adam: Is what we've seen in the Big Ten thus far more parity or mediocrity?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Good question, J.B. Judging by the nonconference performance, it seems like more mediocrity. Then again, Iowa and Michigan swept their nonconference skeds and Penn State and Wisconsin didn't play anyone, so there's still time to improve. I will say this: it's harder to pick games in the Big Ten this year, and my record reflects the difficulty. Does that indicate more parity?
Stephanie (Denver, CO)
Is Terrelle Pryor kind of fighting the decision to run the ball because he wants to show people he can throw? When he runs, it doesn't seem like he's into it.
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
Terrelle does have an effortless running style, but it doesn't mean he's not into the game. I do think he wants to be more of a drop-back passer, which they want in the NFL, but he seems more comfortable taking off and running the last few weeks. Wisconsin will have a tough time defending him on the move, so it'll be interesting to see how willing he is to run on Saturday.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Adam, where would you rank Evan Royster among the top RBs? WHo can you compare him to in today's college game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
I would rank him near the top of Big Ten backs with NFL potential, Craig. Now it's been hard to truly evaluate Royster this season because of Penn State's troubles on the offensive line, but he should put him some better numbers in the second half. I'd put Wisconsin's Clay and Royster right up at the top of the league.
Who will throw more touchdown passes for the Gophers this year: Eric Decker (already has 1) or highly touted MarQueis Gray?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
Ha, like the question, Cal. It will be interesting to see if Gray becomes a bigger part of the passing game as the season goes along. Adam Weber has been decent but not great, and Gray clearly is the future for the Gophers. I like how Jedd Fisch occasionally has both Gray and Weber on the field together, which creates some matchup issues. Watch for that as Minnesota gets in the red zone.
Does Penn State have any shot at playing in Pasadena if they win out because that Iowa loss isn't looking so bad right now, that is with the idea that Iowa losses a couple of games though.
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Well, yeah, it's pretty simple for Penn State. Win the rest of your games, hope Iowa loses twice and hope Wisconsin (doesn't play Penn State) also stumbles. It won't be easy, but it's possible.
Oliver (Columbus, Ohio)
The loss of Dexter Larimore, is it a big loss especially with John Clay coming in?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
My inclination is no, because Ohio State boasts so much depth on the defensive line and Todd Denlinger can fill in well for Larimore. But John Clay is the type of back that can wear down a defensive line throughout a game, and without Larimore, it's one fewer man in the rotation. I will say that I was very impressed with Rob Rose last week. Rose looked like a lost cause before the season, but now he could be very valuable in a game like this one.
If Wisconsin and Iowa both win this week, how much hype will be put on next weeks matchup?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
There will be a lot, Darnel, for a number of reasons. First, SEC Showcase Saturday will be over (thankfully, for those of us in Big Ten country), and it will match up two undefeated teams. Plus, you have the whole Bielema factor.
Can you give us some early picks for this week (mich-Iowa, OSU-Wisc)
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
Jeremy, pay attention to the blog, man! What's wrong with you? Just kidding. I already picked Iowa to win 26-21 and Ohio State to win 24-17.
I saw in your blog today that Michigan is considering moving Troy Woolfolk from saefty back to corner. Do you have any more details?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
All I know is that the second cornerback spot opposite Donovan Warren remains very much up for grabs. Boubacar Cissoko had a very rough day against Indiana, and J.T. Floyd is still a young player. If Woolfolk, one of the team's better DBs, can make the transition, I think it could work for him there.
Bill (East Lansing, MI)
How has the matchup between MSU and Illinois changed with the QB situation down there? I keep hearing that McGee is a 'pure passer' and with our newly revitalized secondary this helps us. Any truth or is it just the usual bravado and swagger before a game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
Though Mark Dantonio said he expects to see Juice Williams this weekend, the new QB does alter Michigan State's preparation for the game. Fortunately for the Spartans, Eddie McGee has made like 20 career appearances, so he's not a total unknown. Regardless of the Illinois quarterback, the Illini have to succeed through the air, so I'd be surprised if they don't try to challenge Michigan State's secondary, a group I'm not totally sold on yet.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Adam, Ivan contended yesterday that Daryll Clark's been a disappointment. I countered that other than trying a bit too hard vs. Iowa, he's been a pretty effective game manager, as per PSU QB MO. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
It's a tough call with Clark, Lou. Overall, he's played pretty well, but in the one game against a decent team, he really struggled. Now it wasn't all his fault, but he certainly looked out of sync, thanks in large part to Iowa's defense. I would give Daryll a grade of incomplete for the season, and we won't really know much until the schedule starts getting tougher later this month.
Can u speak some on the potential u think Clay may have at rb for the badgers not just this season but over the following two.
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
JD, I spoke with Wisconsin's running backs coach John Settle this week, and Settle likened Clay to both Eddie George and Christian Okoye. He said the sky's the limit for his ability. I feel the same way. If he can control his weight and stay relatively healthy, Clay will play in the NFL. He might be the best running back in the Big Ten for as long as he stays in school.
Grant (Schaumburg, IL)
I loved Jewel Hampton last year spelling Shonn Greene and had high hopes he'd excel this year before he went down, but have been pleasantly surprised by Robinson and Wegher. Looking to next year, if Hampton is 100%, who is the best RB in Iowa City in your opinion?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Great question, Grant. Who knows? If neither Robinson nor Wegher really distinguishes himself as a featured back, I wouldn't count out Hampton reclaiming the starting job. Hampton really impressed me last year, though I also like what I've seen from Robinson and Wegher.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Is Purdue an example of how little difference there is between a team that finishes 4-8 and one that finishes 8-4?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
Definitely, and there are examples everywhere around the country. Purdue has got a lot of talent, both young and old, but for some reason things just haven't come together for 60 minutes.
What do you think of our brand new outdoor football stadium here in Minnesota? FINALLY I get to be outside for a football game here in Minnesota that isn't high school football!! You should come up here for winter, they are really plesent.
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
Big fan of TCF Bank Stadium. It's a great place to see a game, really no bad seats, tremendous location. It's nice to see a school not overextend itself to build a stadium. Minnesota would be foolish to build an 80,000-seat facility right now. ... As for those winters, I'll let you enjoy them. We get it pretty bad here in Chicago, too.
Ross (Ann Arbor)
With the acquisition of the Gator Bowl, what are your thoughts on this pseudo SEC-Big Ten challenge (3 bowls between them I believe)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
Actually, the Gator Bowl pairs an ACC opponent against the Big Ten.
On a neutral field, who would you say would win between Ohio State and Virignia Tech?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Wow, Bryan, that's a game I'd absolutely love to see. No two coaches in the country value special teams more than Jim Tressel and Frank Beamer. It wouldn't be a high-scoring affair. I'd take Ohio State, but it could go either way. We might see that matchup in January at the Orange Bowl.
Stanzi or Forcier. who would you rather have?
Adam Rittenberg (4:51 PM)
Right now, Forcier. Makes more plays at the end of games, though Stanzi did a bit of that last year. But I'd rather have Iowa's defense, no contest there.
Who is MN's starting running back next year, Bennett, Eskridge, or Whaley? And who will be taking snaps, Weber or Gray? Weber has performed below expectations this year...
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
I'd be interested to see a bit more of Whaley before making that determination. Bennett and Eskridge both have had their moments, but neither has produced consistently. Without Eric Decker, Minnesota might need to evaluate the offense and give Gray a shot, but we'll see.
Hey Adam, if we celebrate this chat session for going so well will you receive a 15 min. deduction in chat time next week?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Is that a compliment? I'm not sure.
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
I'm taking a seven-minute deduction right now. Got to get back to the blog. Good chat, today. Enjoy the games. Ready ... break