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)
Forget all this SEC stuff. Let's talk Big Ten now.
Adam, I truly believe for Michigan State to be successful next year and live up to its standards the defense has to really step up. Specifically, the secondary was pretty poor last year in coverage, statistically one of the worst in the big ten. Their positioning was awful on so many deep balls. Given Coach Dantonio's experience as a secondary coach, do you find it surprising that unit has struggled so much recently, like so many of us alumni do? Shouldn't he be the one fixing it? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
That surprised me, too, Corey, but I think it had something to do with older players not elevating their play and taking the next step. It's hard to be a good unit when your veterans don't get better. Michigan State should be better in the secondary, plain and simple, and I'd imagine Mark Dantonio will take a more active role there. The Spartans have enough talent, but they need to get it done and simply make more plays on the ball. Every team gives up yards, but Michigan State doesn't make nearly enough big plays to offset it.
Adam, thanks for helping me get my Big Ten fix through the slow months! Today you suggested that last January's Citrus Bowl did not look good on TV. I can't agree with you there. While I recognize a desperate need to change the surface in Orlando, however, for TV viewing purposes, I think the last Capital One Bowl was near perfect. Mud is what I hope for and expect when watching a football game, why would people think it looks bad on TV?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Jay, it's nice to look at a muddy field during a late November Big Ten game, although most teams play on synthetic surfaces now. But few people want to see mud in a bowl game. The whole point is to reward teams by sending them to warm-weather sites and play on manicured field. You're supposed to watch and think, 'Man, I wish I were there.' That field was horrendous, and a change had to be made.
Adam, love the blog . . . But seriously, no Ohio State articles today? I'm shocked!! OK, here's my issue: Why go through the grind of splitting into divisions? Why not add an extra game, have the same type of scheduling now (rivalries protected and skipping two years for some teams), and send TWO STRONG teams to a BCS game?? I know everyone talks about wanting a championship game, but unless you are the SEC (compare with the Big East and ACC), you are not going to get a second team into the BCS coming off a loss (See Missouri a few years ago) . . . Why have a championship game when the BCS offers what I believe is a MUCH BIGGER PAYDAY, MORE NATIONAL EXPOSURE, AND A SUNNIER CLIMATE TO TRAVEL TO than a Big Ten Championship Game would? (P.S. I watched the OSU/Purdue "Holy Buckeye" game last night on BTN . . . Still gives me chills almost 8 years later . . .)
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Jonathan, I can't link Ohio State stories if there aren't any good one. Blame the media outlets that cover Ohio State regularly, not me. ... You make a great point about the BCS situation, and I guarantee the Big Ten will consider this very thing in deciding whether or not to have a championship game. Coaches hate the chance for a late-season loss, and an extra game brings more injury risk. The Big Ten could opt for two bye weeks, maybe a nine-game conference slate and rivalry games played on the first weekend of December. You're absolutely right that the championship game loser has a rough time getting a BCS at-large berth.
Tim (Columbus, OH)
Do you believe the "Agent" probe will creep into the Big Ten in the next few weeks or is it mainly just an SEC/ACC thing?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
Good question, Tim. I haven't heard anything about Big Ten players being involved in this case, but it certainly doesn't mean there won't be some connections. I'd hope the Big Ten players have a better understanding of compliance and that they simply cannot interact with agents or runners. We'll see ...
I think if Tolzien stays healthy and plays like he did down the stretch last year and the defense fills the void left by schofield and marargos that the Badgers have the talent to either make a rose bowl run or even a national title run. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Tolzien's health is huge, Tyler, especially without much depth behind him. But you hit on it: filling the holes on defense likely will determine whether Wisconsin can make the jump from good to great. Schofield and Maragos both are big losses, and Wisconsin has several players (Borland, Taylor) coming off of offseason surgeries. I think there's enough depth there to do some special things, but as always, Wisconsin has to stay healthy and have some things go its way.
Jason (Council Bluffs, IA)
Do you see Nebraska being able to contend for the Big 10 title immediately when they join in 2011. They seem to be getting their program back to national relevance after a couple down years. Even from my perspective as a Hawks fan i think they'll be able to do some damage, as much as i hate to say it.
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
I do, Jason. Nebraska certainly seems to be back on track after the Bill Callahan era. They play a style that fits well with the Big Ten, and Bo Pelini certainly understands what it takes to win in this league. I'm excited for those first Nebraska-Ohio State and Nebraska-Iowa games.
Andrew (Work, East Lansing)
First and foremost, the Detroit Tigers will win the division. Second, a lot of pre-season posts i've seen have michigan ranked ahead of Michigan State. Is this because they are "michigan" and people just assume rod can't have a third awful season in a row or are they incompetent and actually believe this? There is no way after the last two seasons and even going into this one after michigan lost their defensive studs that they can without reason jump MSU or even other big ten teams for that matter.
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
White Sox > Tigers. ... I don't understand Michigan being ranked ahead of MSU at all, especially right now. Could Michigan turn things around in Year 3? Certainly. But preseason rankings should be based in large part on what we know, and Michigan State has more known commodities on both sides of the ball, especially the defense. I think some of the predictions have to do with Rodriguez's track record of success, but I don't know how you can look at Michigan's defense right now and think the Wolverines are a better overall team than Michigan State, which returns arguably the best defender in the league in LB Greg Jones.
Jake (Honolulu, Hi)
Adam, Who's your favorite in the Iowa @ AZ game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
Too early to make a prediction, as I'd like to see how Arizona performs in its first few games. Iowa likely will be the favorite, but this game won't be easy by any means. Too many factors make this a tough trip for the Hawkeyes.
You really think U of M is going to lose to Iowa. We barely lost last year and that was when Forcier was a freshman and out with a concussion. You need to do more research.
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Charles, it could go either way, but remember Michigan received a gift-wrapped pick-six to begin that game and had some incredible defensive breakdowns. I actually watched this game earlier this week on the Big Ten Network. I doubt Iowa TE Tony Moeaki has ever had so much room to run in his life. It'll be a good game, don't get me wrong, but Michigan has to tighten up its defense against a good Iowa passing attack.
Christian (Richmond, VA)
Adam, you are part of my daily reading, keep it up. Which do you think will be the easiest and hardest for their teams to overcome:OSU offensive line?Michigan secondary?PSU QB situation?Iowa Stanzi decision making?Michigan State unproven wr's?
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
Christian, I don't see Ohio State's offensive line or Michigan State's wide receivers as major obstacles. In fact, both those groups look like strengths to me, as Ohio State boasts loads of experience up front and Michigan State is extremely deep at WR, despite the loss of Blair White. I'll go with Penn State's QBs. The road schedule is asking a lot out of an unproven player.
I don't recall Robert Marve being too impressive at Miami. Will moving to Purdue re-energize his play and will Purdue perhaps take the next step this season? There doesn't seem to be too many weapons around him.
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
Marve was a redshirt freshman at Miami, so let's see how he fares as an older and more mature QB. I totally disagree about the weapons around him. He's got a first-team All-Big Ten receiver in Keith Smith as well as Keith Carlos and Justin Siller, a former QB who did some dynamic things as in 2008. Purdue has a veteran tight end in Kyle Adams, and if Ralph Bolden returns from an ACL injury, which Purdue seems to think he will, the Boilers have the league's No. 3 rusher in the fold. Marve should have more than enough weapons to make plays.
Dan (South Bend, IN)
Hey Adam, love your blog! Can you believe all the sportswriters who want to put Penn State into a west division? Doesn't that mean not just screwing them over in terms of geography but in terms of traditional rivals OSU, UofM, and MSU as well? I don't see that happening given the Big10's reputation for fairness and consideration for their members. Given that every divisional scheme has its downside, what do you think are the odds that the BIg Ten just stays with a traditional round robin and an extra conference game to take them into December rather than a playoff?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
Dan, I think there's a chance the Big Ten doesn't go to divisions, adds a ninth conference game and scraps the championship game idea. Wouldn't be popular with the fans, but it's an option. As for Penn State, the league might put Penn State and Nebraska in the same division to create fairness, rather than have three traditional powers (PSU, Mich, OSU) in the same division. I wouldn't call Michigan State much of a rival for Penn State. The Ohio State series can be preserved through a crossover. I have mixed feelings about the Penn State-Michigan series. It certainly moves the needle nationally, but it has been one-sided until recently.
What makes you think the Big 10 is any less susceptible to agents/runners/corruption? See Ohio State and Maurice Clarrett.
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Never said it couldn't happen, Marc, just that to my knowledge, no Big Ten players are involved in this particular case. I wouldn't be surprised if there are links to the Big Ten, but nothing has surfaced as of yet.
Mac (Huntington, WV)
Hey Adam, you included Bill Lynch on your (kind of) hot seat list in the mailbag. With the kids he has there now and the ones he's bringing in, where does that program need to be by, say, the start of the 2013 season for him to keep his job? And do you think he'll Indiana will get there?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
Good question, Mac, as always. Lynch will need at least one if not two bowl appearances by 2013 to still be in place as IU's coach. We're not talking Rose Bowls, but just get to six wins or more and play in the postseason. Indiana AD Fred Glass seems like a guy willing to be patient, but if Indiana goes, say, 5-7 this year, you have to wonder if Lynch can get his team over the hump or not.
Mike Adams is ranked pretty high on a lot of draft analysts for junior offensive tackles? Is this just based on size or pedigree, because the light hasn't seem to come on in his first two seasons at OSU? Has he improved that much from January?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
I haven't seen those reports, Keelin, but they're definitely based on Adams' physical gifts and the hype he generated as a high school player. He seems to be making strides on the practice field, but until he gets it done in games consistently, the jury is out. His ultimate draft status will rise or fall based on what he does this fall for the Buckeyes, as long as he retains the starting left tackle spot in camp.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Adam, are there any teams that are def. going to be separated when div are set up for Big Ten? Are there any teams that are a must to join together? Will geography play a major role or is that just smoke and mirrors?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
They're looking at all options and combinations, so no teams are attached at the hip, although some are closer than others. Even Michigan and Ohio State could be split up, as long as there's a protected crossover to guarantee the annual game. I've talked to enough folks who believe geography won't be the NO. 1 factor in this process. They're going to look more at competitive balance and preserving rivalries. Travel is a concern in college sports, but more for the non-revenue teams than football.
Over Under: 2 new coaches for the Big 10 in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
Hmmm, I think we'll see two changes, maybe three. I'd be stunned if it was only one or none. Two seems to be right on the number, but if I had to pick one, I'd actually go with the over.
Adam this is a challenge to all Big 10 fans living down here. Vandy doesn't sell alot of tickets especially for the NW game. So I'm challenging all Big 10 fans to invade this SEC territory and show up wearing their team colors in support of NW at that game. Let's show the SEC what it means to be a Big 10 fan.
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Anthony, while I admire your plan, I just can't see Big Ten fans eschewing chances to watch their favorite teams at home in favor for a trip to Nashville to see Vandy-Northwestern. I'm sure Big Ten fans will be pulling for the Wildcats against the dreaded SEC, but they'll be doing it from Ann Arbor, Madison, Iowa City and other Big Ten cities.
As much as I hate to say it preseason rankings make a huge difference throughout the season. If you are not ranked it is very hard to get to the BCS. Many people think Ohio State will be in the top 5, and Iowa and Wisconsin will at least be in the top 15. I think Wisconsin should be in the top 10 as well as Iowa. Where do you think these three teams should land?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
Craig, I agree with you about preseason rankings and I hate it, too. There shouldn't be polls until at least Oct. 1, in my view. Ohio State will definitely be in the top 5. I've seen Wisconsin and Iowa anywhere from No. 8-No. 15. I think we'll see two top 10 teams from the Big Ten and three top 15 squads. I would put Iowa in the top 10 and Wisconsin at around No. 11 or No. 12.
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
My apologies to Anthony, who was referring to Big Ten fans in Nashville. By all means, head out to Vanderbilt for the game. But if it means not watching their favorite Big Ten team on TV, it might be a tough sell.
Jeff (New Jersey)
Adam, I am a Penn State fan. Please tell me something to cheer me up because I have not read one bit of good news since the Capital One Bowl.
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Evan Royster is back, which is very good news for Penn State. Plus, I once again love the potential of the D-line. Watch out for Devon Still and Jack Crawford. Both guys should have big years if healthy.
Adam, In your Hope/Concern video posts recently, theres nothing behind you on the wall! (no Monaco poster) It's blank space. Why not liven it up with some Big Ten Team posters to match the topic you're covering that day? (start with SPARY!) At least it would give us all something to look at other than your pretty face. Besides you could go crazy sitting in a white room all by yourself. We don't need you losing your head and therefore us losing the blog everyday! Keep up the good work!
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Alden, it's left blank on purpose (usually a picture there). Gives you guys less ammo for your e-mails. I am working on getting a Big Ten banner up there for the season, though. If not, maybe I'll go the team-by-team route. Stay tuned!
Which is more important this year for Brewster if he wants to keep his job: a winning record in B10 play or beating USC?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
GREAT question, John. A winning record in Big Ten play, for sure, namely because it would show progress being made throughout the season, rather than just the first month. It has been a while since Minnesota was a better team in November than it was in September, and Brewster could show this by notching a winning record in Big Ten play. Don't get me wrong, beating USC is always huge, especially for Big Ten teams that typically get crushed by the Trojans. But a winning mark in Big Ten play is more important.
Thom (Lancaster. PA)
T Pryor eventually took over the OSU offense as a freshman. He did okay. Yet you are consistent in dooming Penn State because of inexperience at QB. Newsome was highly ranked as a recruit.Why the gloom and doom, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
Are you really comparing Newsome and Pryor from a recruiting standpoint? Newsome certainly is a talented guy, but Pryor was all-world coming out of high school. Plus, Ohio State had a veteran QB on the roster in Todd Boeckman. Although Pryor became the guy, he didn't enter the season as the starter, and Boeckman was always there if things went downhill. I'd feel a lot better about Penn State if there was one proven option, rather than a lot of young, talented players. Can they get it done? Absolutely. But from an objective standpoint, you have to believe it'll be challenging.
which ohio state running back will be the biggest contributor:Saine, Herron, Berry, Hyde, etc.?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Jon, I'm really excited about Brandon Saine's potential. Loved the way he finished the 2009 season. Really like how he catches the ball out of the backfield, and his around-the-edge speed. If he can prove himself as a guy who can make plays between the tackles, I think he could have a very nice senior season.
Tate Forcier (Ann Arbor, MI)
Sure, I lost a few balls against Ohio State last year. But I showed I could be clutch against Notre Dame too. Will I get to finish out the season and play Ohio State again? Or will that new, quick guy get the job?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
Hey Tate! I'd be concerned about that "quick guy," especially after the spring. You need to prove that you're the more consistent passer and the guy who has a better grasp of the offense. Denard Robinson seems to have a lot of support in that locker room, so you need to make sure the guys believe in you. What you did early last season was great, but you can't only freelance. You've got to make plays in the pocket and within the structure of the system.
In your key stretch series you predicted Wisconsin will go at least 3-1. Which games do you see the badgers winning?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
I like the way the Badgers match up against Michigan State and Minnesota, so there's 2-0 right there. It's too early to predict the outcomes of the Ohio State or Iowa games. I just can't see Wisconsin losing both again, so I went with a split.
Arman (Washington, DC)
Looking at the last 2 meetings between Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Badgers could have easily won those games. In 2008, the Buckeyes won on a final drive and semi-dramatic touchdown run by Pryor. It was a very close game. Last year, the Badgers outgained the buckeyes by over 200 yards I think, but lost because of int's being returned for TDs and a kick-off return for a TD. Assuming that the Badgers can erase those types of costly mistakes, what odds do you give them of beating the Buckeyes this year in Madtown? Keep in mind that it will be a night game, giving the always rabid Badger fans all the more time to "get ready" for the game during the day.
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Good points here, Arman. But erasing those mistakes against the Buckeyes is never easy. Ohio State has built a Big Ten dynasty on forcing its opponents to mess up. This is a huge game for Scott Tolzien, who did a good job of limiting mistakes last year except against the Buckeyes. I can't see Wisconsin winning this game without a big performance from Tolzien. It should be an electric night in Madison, and I hope the ESPN.com powers that be send me there that week.
Alex (Los Angeles)
Will Minnesota's offensive line be any better this season? The Gophers have some talent with Green and Bennett, but without a hole or time for Webber, I can't see Minnesota scoring points just like last season.
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
I can't see the group getting worse, Alex. Year 2 under proven line coach Tim Davis should be beneficial, and I think Minnesota is at a point now where it can replace under-performing linemen with promising young players. There's better depth overall at the line position. But you're right: if the line doesn't help Weber, Bennett and co., we'll see a repeat of 2009, when Minnesota's offense was often painful to watch.
Adam, Old Man Beano yesterday guaranteed that Michigan would lose to Notre Dame. I find that hard to believe given that ND is starting with a brand new QB and a completely new system. I feel like Michigan's experience on offense will be too much for ND, not to mention ND's losses of Clausen/Tate. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
Beano knows his stuff, Tom, but it's hard to guarantee anything in that matchup without seeing those defenses in Week 1. Both teams have been pretty awful on defense the last two seasons, and both have some question marks (Michigan more so than Notre Dame). Offensively, I like Michigan's unit more than Notre Dame's, although I have a man crush on Michael Floyd. Michigan likely will need to win a shootout in South Bend, but it's certainly possible.
Sean (Royal Oak, MI)
Do you think Michigan State's running attack will be improved this season. I would think that with more experienced running backs and some new blood on the O-line the yard per carry average would improve.
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
Sean, I'm not sold on Michigan State's O-line, but the experience at running back certainly should pay off this fall. Both Caper and Baker showed some good things at time last season as freshmen, and they'll only get better after a full offseason. Mark Dantonio is a Jim Tressel disciple who wants to run the ball and throw less than Michigan State did in 2009. He'll give the running game a chance to get going, but it all starts with that line.
andrew (waterloo, wi)
I guess I'm a little confused with the rule changes for the rose bowl... So does a non-bigten/pacten member only get in if the bigten/pacten has somebody selected to a different bcs bowl? And that can only happen once in the three-year stint??
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
No, no. Here's the deal. If the Big Ten or Pac-10 has its champion go to the national title game, the Rose Bowl must select a non-BCS team if that team qualifies for BCS selection. This can happen only once during the next four-year BCS cycle (2010-2013 seasons). So if Ohio State goes to the title game this season and Boise State is eligible for BCS selection, the Rose Bowl would take Boise. If the same situation repeated in 2011, the Rose Bowl wouldn't have to take Boise.
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Chris (New Haven, CT)
A conference championship only seems to help the smaller market teams. I know for example, if Michigan wins, they get the rankings & don't typically miss out on good bowl games. So, as a UM fan, a championship game seems lose/lose. It's only an opportunity to lose a game, it won't help us. I don't see it helping OSU either. How do you see it play out and are you a fan of a potential championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (5:01 PM)
Chris, you could be right because of the appeal teams like Michigan and Ohio State have. But a title game could also help those teams. Let's say there are three strong contenders for the national championship game, but Ohio State or Michigan has played a weaker schedule than the other two. Let's say they didn't face a Nebraska team ranked No. 6 in the BCS during the regular season. So a win against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game could push Ohio State or Michigan into the top 2 of the final BCS standings, pushing them into the championship game. From a BCS at-large perspective, playing in a title game has historically been a bad thing, because the loser rarely makes it. But I'd also say that an Ohio State or Michigan team that loses the Big Ten title game should have a better chance for an at-large berth than a Big Ten team with less history/fans.
Adam Rittenberg (5:01 PM)
OK, out of breath. That's it. Talk to you soon.