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)
My clock says 4 p.m., so let's begin. Fire away.
C (Anytown USA)
Iowa remind you of 2002 Buckeyes?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
C, you're giving me a good idea for a blog post, so thanks. Both teams certainly were defense-oriented. The Buckeyes were more dominant up front than Iowa, but the Hawkeyes for a ton of mistakes, especially INTs. Both teams had quarterbacks who took some criticism but knew how to win games. It's probably a bit premature to make the comparison, but if Iowa wins on Saturday ...
Adam can you pick out the big ten's best quarterback? Juice has gone Vince Young, Daryll had a horrible game against Iowa, Terrell has his high school coach defending him, Ricky enjoys scoring points for both teams, Tate can't feel his hands in cold weather.
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
It's a tough question, and that's one of the Big Ten's biggest problems this season, quarterback play. I really thought it would improve with the top six or seven passers back, but a lot of the veterans have struggled. I'd still say Daryll Clark, but he needs to get it done in a big game.
still think terrelle wouldn't be better off in michigans offense like i suggusted last week; and what impact will the mentoring of LBJ have on TP as we move forward, i still think they go to rose bowl and beat oregon
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
I think it's safe to say Pryor would be better off in a full-blown spread offense, but we must remember it's still relatively early in his career. Advice from LeBron can't hurt, especially since not many guys know what it's like to get that much attention at an early age. As for going onto the Rose Bowl, I don't see it, but maybe.
Rob (Columbia, IL)
How does Iowa field competitive teams every year when they don't typically get four and five star recruits like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
It's called player development, and it's a lost art in a lot of programs that rely too much on recruiting and the number of stars next to a player's name. Kirk Ferentz and his staff develop players better than most.
After watching MSU squander more red zone opportunities last week I'm convinced they must be the worst red zone team in the nation. Am I right? What can they do to improve this?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
Are you asking about red-zone offense or red-zone defense? Defense is where Michigan State really struggles, which is surprising given a decent line and two outstanding linebackers in Jones and Gordon. On the offensive side, I'm surprised MSU's tight ends aren't more involved. That position was supposed to be a strength entering the year.
Matt (Madison, WI)
Do you think player development is a skill thats being lost at Wisconsin, a school that like Iowa typcially doesn't recruit "great". Could that begin to explain the declining wins total recently?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
It's fair to say that player development at UW isn't what it was in the late 1990s. You have seen good players come through the program and not get better as they go. But I think it's starting to change for the better. Look at a guy like O'Brien Schofield. He was totally anonymous last year, and now he's one of the nation's best pass rushers as a senior. So there's an example of a player who developed. Wisconsin now needs to have more of them.
Will (Picatinny Arsenal, NJ)
Adam, I'm a Penn State fan, and even I wouldn't put a dollar down on a choice for PSU vs. Michigan on Saturday. What is the game changer going to be for both teams?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
I wouldn't either, Will. If I had to bet on my picks this year, I'd be broke ... Penn State needs to prevent the big play and force Michigan into sustained drives if it wants to score. Michigan must use its speed on offense and find ways to get into that Lions secondary, which I still think is a weak point.
Will (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Adam, as a Big 10 writer, do you see a one loss Texas or USC team playing for the NC over undefeated Iowa? Also, how do you see the BCS picture shaping out? Good writing by the way, keep it up.
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Thanks, Will. I don't think a 1-loss Texas team will go to the title game over undefeated Iowa, which will have played a much tougher schedule than the Longhorns. Say what you want about the Big Ten, but not many teams in America could win at Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State in the same season. As for USC, it gets tricky because the Trojans have a few good road wins as well. It could come down to the computers, which like Iowa right now.
Jonathan (Westerville, Ohio)
Is Terrelle Pryor getting enough or the right coaching at Ohio State, because he doesn't seem to be developing and is regressing?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
I guarantee you Ohio State is giving Pryor enough attention right now. So that's not the problem. But there seems to be an ongoing struggle or perhaps a reluctance on the coaches' part to put Pryor in the right system and stick to it. Can you pin down Ohio State's offensive identity right now? I sure can't.
Joe (Fairfield, CT)
Adam, who do you think is on track for Div I coach of the year...Kirk Ferentz
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
He's certainly the clear favorite for Big Ten Coach of the Year. But I'd probably give national coach of the year to the guy at Idaho. It's amazing what he's doing with a totally forgotten program. Kudos to Robb Akey. Cincinnati's Brian Kelly also is on my short list.
Steve (Dayton, OH)
I see Michigan's Center Molk really making a difference in the PSU-Michigan game. Penn State's defense has not seen an offense of this caliber yet and they are only that much better with him back at center. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Molk will definitely help the Wolverines if he's fully healthy. Penn State defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu are both playing at a high level, and the Wolverines' interior linemen really need a strong performance Saturday. Rich Rodriguez clearly has a man-crush on Molk, so his return should be a major boost.
Stephanie (San Diego, CA)
Hindsight is 20/20, but why are people criticizing the college choice of a student-athlete almost two years after his decision is made (i.e. Ray Reitz)? He's at OSU, now move on?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
I see what you're saying, Stephanie, but Reitz was also defending himself in those comments. A lot of people say Pryor wasn't prepared at all to play quarterback at the college level, and that falls on Reitz to a certain degree. He also can see what most of us see, which is Pryor seems best suited to a true spread offense. I didn't think the criticism was as bad as it could have been.
Adam, if you had to pick anybody, who from Iowa would need to step up on Saturday for Iowa to win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
I'd go with Adam Robinson. If Iowa can run the ball, control the clock and take advantage in the red zone, it will win this game. I really don't see Michigan State scoring a ton of points on Iowa's defense. If Robinson continues to secure the ball -- he's done a great job so far -- and moves the football against MSU, Iowa will win.
Ryan (Ferndale, Mi)
What's going on in Champaign? How could the Illini be playing this bad?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
It's really stunning, Ryan. As disappointing as Illinois turned out to be in 2008, at least the Illini showed their potential from time to time (win vs. Iowa, blowout of Indiana). This team hasn't shown up from the get-go, and the results have been pretty embarrassing.
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
By the way, Northwestern safety Brad Phillips questionable for the Indiana game with a shoulder injury, per the school's injury report.
Why does everyone have such a problem with the Big Ten? Oregon is the 1st or 2nd best team in the PAC 10 and they only beat Purdue by 2 points at home after a failed PAT. Purdue also had over 450 yards of offense. Purdue is the 10th best team in the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
That's a good point, Justin. Purdue has outplayed Oregon in back-to-back seasons but still come up short. It goes back to the recent bowl performances. The Pac-10 won its bowl games, the Big Ten didn't. We could debate the quality of bowls, quality of opponents and location, but what's the point? Big Ten just needs to start winning them.
Ryan (Ferndale, Mi)
Will Indiana go to a bowl this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
A ton depends on Saturday's game at Northwestern. It's a game the Hoosiers can win, and it's a game they must win. I don't see two more wins left on the schedule after Saturday, but six wins probably gets a team to the postseason this year.
Rich (Charleston, SC)
With all the criticsim surround Ohio State, Pryor, Tressel, and the offense and arguably the hardest part of their schedule on the horizon (at Penn St, home against Iowa, and at Michigan), if OSU looses 1 to maybe all 3 of these games and then drops their bowl game could we see a coaching change in Columbus?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
You won't see a change at the top, as Tressel isn't going anywhere. But it'll be interesting to see if changes are made on Tressel's offensive staff. It might be time to try someone new there, and there's enough evidence of strong recruits (especially offensive linemen) who haven't exactly panned out.
Adam Weber....what is it going to take to get him back to being the high percentage passer we knew last year? Can the Gophers get him to run more like they did with the Spread last year to free up some choices in the passing game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
They tried to run him two weeks ago against Purdue and it worked out decently. I think Weber's mobility must be used, even in a more traditional offense. I really don't know what's going on with him, but he needs to find weapons other than Eric Decker, who opposing defenses are swarming right now. The big issue at Minnesota is the run game, which must get going soon.
For a first year starter, doesn't Cousins look really good? Most of his interceptions have come when he was hit as he released the ball, including both against UofM. Doesn't he have a chance to grow into a very good starting QB?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
I've been very impressed, Ben. Cousins looks very polished and makes few mistakes. I think he's tied for fewest interceptions among a Big Ten starter with Northwestern's Mike Kafka. Cousins absolutely can become an excellent starting QB in the Big Ten. It will be interesting to see if MSU continues to rotate two quarterbacks.
Do you think Iowa wins the big 10 even with 1 loss?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
I think there's a pretty good shot. It helps a lot that the Hawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker against Penn State. If Iowa loses to Ohio State but wins out, I like their chances because Ohio State still has three tough games left.
Felbalicious (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Why haven't you posted any of my questions?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
There ya go. Happy?
If Lloyd Carr is named athletic director at Michigan, should Rich Rodriguez get scared?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
Well, Rich has no need to worry as Carr said Wednesday that he's not interested in the job.
How impressed were you with AJ Wallace and the PSU Secondary shutting down Decker last Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
They did a really nice job on Decker, taking him totally out of the game. Now they've got to do a better job against an offense with more than one weapon.
RAY GORDON REID ( EAST LANSING MI 48824)
QUESTIONTO ADAM RITTENBURG AT 4.50PM HI WHO DOYOU HAVE SATURDAY WOLVERINES OR LIONS
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
I picked Penn State 23-21. Tough decision, though.
2:00 left on the clock you need a touchdown to win who do you want as your quarterback out of Big Ten Quaterbacks?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
This season, Tate Forcier, hands down. He's already led more clutch drives than most of the quarterbacks in a weak-armed league. I was really surprised not to see Forcier try to win the game at Iowa, especially since the coaches didn't know he had a concussion at the time.
PSU lost at Iowa partly due to Clark's turnovers, but do you think part of that had to do with the fact that he seemed stuck in the pocket where as last year he was a more mobile QB and all over the field. I noticed that since his concussion against Ohio St. last year the Coaches seemed to play him very conservatively until the last few games since the IOWA loss where the Coaches have started to use him more as a duel threat again. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
That's a good observation, Steve. But when you have a true freshman as the backup quarterback, you need to be careful. Penn State ideally wants to protect Clark as much as possible and get the run game going behind Evan Royster. Royster will definitely be a name to watch Saturday. I think he has a big game at Michigan.
Ramon (Detroit, Mich)
If MSU beats Iowa (big if), do you think they can get a share of the Big Ten title? They do get Penn State at home and dont have to play OSU.
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
They definitely have a shot, Ramon, because the schedule sets up well. Michigan State probably needs Ohio State to lose a game, but that's certainly possible given the Buckeyes' closing stretch. But let's see how the Spartans perform Saturday night.
Josh (Palm Springs)
If this turns out to be Zook's farewell tour (probably next year I think) How many teams from Automatic qualifying conferences do you think would want his services as a head coach? How about having him as a recruiting coordinator? Does he seem like the type of guy who would accept that position?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Can you say Ed Orgeron?
Here is a good question: Don't you think good quarterback play is on the horizon for the big ten? I mean, there's got to be a dad and his future all-star QB son sitting in front of a tv during a Big Ten game saying, "All that school needs is you, son."
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
You would think so, Dan. I frankly thought we'd see an improvement this year, and so did Rich Rodriguez and other coaches. But it seems like the QBs and the entire offenses have taken a step back. Perhaps that's why I like what's happening at Michigan. If things keep going in the right direction on offense, the Wolverines could really surprise a league that lacks difference makers in the near future.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Adam, any word on Stefphon Green's availability for Saturday? I thought I'd heard the ankle thing is actually a chronic thing with him.
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
I wouldn't expect to see Green on the field, J.B. Daryll Clark said Wednesday that Beachum and Carter were taking reps as the second-team RBs in practice.
Kellen (Dublin, Ohio)
Ohio State has an average of 68th in Total Offense under Tressel in nine years. Isn't this really bad for a perceived powerhouse?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
I think it is in a sport that is changing. Offense is in right now, and dynamic quarterbacks are the key to success. This isn't to discount defense and special teams, which championship teams must have, but to be truly great in college football these days, you need a great offense.
Iowa seems to get it's toughest test of the year against Northwestern weather at home or on the road. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
That's one of those odd matchups in the Big Ten. Every team seems to have one like it. I know that former Northwestern coach Gary Barnett really wanted to model his program after Iowa's. Northwestern players consider the Hawkeyes a top rival even if the feeling isn't entirely mutual. But it's always an interesting game. Iowa should be able to handle NU this year, but we'll see.
Adam, what will it take for NU to win for homecoming on Saturday? I would really hope this offense, especially the running game, hasn't reached its maximum potential yet.
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
The offense definitely hasn't reached its potential. If it did, there would really be some big problems for Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern needs to find ways to make a few more big plays and not rely on 14-play drives where too many things can go wrong. I can't imagine the running game will be this bad all year. Indiana doesn't have a stellar defense, so this would be a game to get things going.
Brando (East Lansing)
Who do you think will have to have the biggest impact Saturday in order for MSU to win, Kirk Cousins or Larry Caper?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
I think it's Caper, Brandon. Michigan and Wisconsin both showed that you can run on the Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes are great at making adjustments as the game goes along, but Caper has shown some impressive things so far. If he can get loose a few times, it'll take some of the pressure off of Cousins.
Jeff (Elyria, OH)
I think it is in a sport that is changing. Offense is in right now, and dynamic quarterbacks are the key to success. This isn't to discount defense and special teams, which championship teams must have, but to be truly great in college football these days, you need a great offense.Adam you are soooooooo wrong. Did Florida win against LSU with it's offense. DEFENSE wins championships. Give me a championship defense anyday over a big time offense.
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
Disagree with you, Jeff. Yes, you need a great defense to win a championship, but you also need a quarterback. Aside from LSU in 2007, the recent national title teams all have had game-changing quarterbacks or guys who played out of their minds (Chris Leak) at the right time. It's a quarterback's game. Sorry, just is.
I saw the info on Phillips up above, any other injury news out of NU, such as Brendan Smith?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Brendan Smith is out again with the hand injury. Had surgery last week, but is expected back at some point. Tough situation for Brendan, one of the nicest and most knowledgeable players you'll meet.
Adam,MSU has been gashed by TEs this year. What adjustments do you see them making this game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
The Spartans might have to be a bit more conservative with how they use Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. Jones is extremely aggressive and gets in the backfield a lot, but MSU can't leave the middle open for Moeaki and Allen Reisner. One of those two outstanding linebackers will have to be a bigger factor in pass coverage.
I am a Buckeye fan, but I see them losing their last 3 games - at PSU, Iowa and at Mich. If that happens, will Tress finally be forced give up playcalling and hire a real OC?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Possible, but I wouldn't be so pessimistic in your outlook, Chris. Check Ohio State's record in November under Tressel. It's pretty darn good. I could see the Bucks losing one of those games for sure, but not all three. The defense is too good.
Tyler (North Dakota)
Adam, how likely is it that the Big Ten has another terrible bowl season? It was flat out embarrassing, with the exception of Iowa's win in the Outback Bowl.
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Tyler, I can't imagine it will be as bad as last year, especially with teams like Ohio State and Penn State possibly sliding into non-BCS bowls, where they should be favored. But if the Big Ten gets two BCS entries again and everyone moves up, it could get ugly.
Do you think Minnesota should get players like Troy and Gray more involed by using the wildcat formation?
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
They should, Derek. You've got to jazz things up a bit right now and get more players involved. I remembered talking with Troy Stoudermire in August and hearing how excited he was to be running the Wildcat. But we've barely seen it.
looking at the big ten as a whole do you think we are as bad a conference as everyone says we are, or are we back on our way up?
Adam Rittenberg (4:57 PM)
I don't think the league is awful by any stretch, but the subpar QB play around the conference still concerns me. It was my No. 1 point of emphasis to fix the Big Ten heading into the season, and it still hasn't been fixed.
Do you think Robinson and Wegher are able to really establish a run game the way the line has been playing? It seems like our OLine has been more trained for pass protection rather than a running game this year and struggles a bit with exploding off the line. Are they actually decent backs or just average?
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
Well, they're young backs and they're doing a pretty decent job considering the situation. I agree that Iowa's O-line has lacked that same pop they had last year with Shonn Greene. Not having Bryan Bulaga for a few games hurt, but the line needs to make a statement against an improved Michigan State defensive front on Saturday night.
Adam Rittenberg (5:00 PM)
OK, guys, that's it for this chat. Talk to you next week and enjoy the games Saturday.