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 (3:01 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Hope you're enjoying the Big Ten preview. Let's get started.
Adam (Austin, TX)
As an avid Penn State fan, I don't even know where to start. I just think this year is going to be terrible... like 5 or 6 losses. When an offensive line is as bad as the one we have, there isn't much hope.
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Adam, first of all, great name. Second of all, I don't think the line will be that bad. More concerned about the inexperience at quarterback. Penn State clearly struggled up front against elite defensive lines last year, but there's some good experience in that group. It'll be interesting to see if all the spring shuffling pays off.
Tom (northern VA)
RichRod on wednesday that, at this point, he thinks all 3 qb's can start and perform well. so why is everybody so worried about it? and all 3 qb's WILL play so who cares who is the technical "starter" is on Sept. 4th?
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
Tom, while everyone loves a QB competition, I agree with you about Michigan. I'm far less concerned with the QB than the defense, especially after the loss of Troy Woolfolk. Michigan will move the ball and score points this year, but if the Wolverines can't stop anyone and continue to have major breakdowns, it won't matter one bit.
Chris (5th Hole (New Jersey))
Hi Adam,Question from the golf course. Based on all the hype around Bolden, doesnt he have to start at this point for Penn State.
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Chris, seriously? Get back to playing golf, my man. As someone who didn't play at all this summer thanks to Big Ten expansion, I'm very jealous. Bolden is the real deal, from what I hear. I'd be surprised if he started in the opener, but I'd also be surprised if he doesn't play a decent amount this fall.
How has the Purdue team looked this year in practice? Offensively they should be real good, but the defense could be a question especially with the secondary still a question, can the front seven put enough pressure on the opposing teams that it can mask the secondary's inexperience?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
Kyle, I have little doubt Purdue will score points, although I'm a little concerned about the O-line. But you hit it on the head about the front seven. They need to not only apply pressure but prevent the big run plays that killed them last season. You don't want to leave it up to an unproven secondary. I'd take fewer sacks from Kerrigan if it meant a better overall run defense. Very interested to see how those linebackers perform. There's experience there with Werner, Holland and Carlino.
Josh (OSU Law School)
Let's suppose the Buckeyes pull off a 12-0 record, with a narrow overtime win against a Wisconsin team that winds up going 11-1. Does Tressel finally get Big Ten Coach of the Year, or will Bret Bielema be the latest coach to pull it away from him?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Great question, Josh. Unless another team really, really overachieves, I'd give it to Tressel in this scenario. Wisconsin is the preseason No. 12 team, so going 11-1 isn't totally out of the question by any means. To go 12-0, though, with wins at both Wisconsin and Iowa, should give Tressel the award. But he probably won't get it, knowing how this thing works.
Will the Nebraska entry in 2011 help the conference in the long run, and possibly give us a championship game that doesn't have the real schools fighting for the automatic birth?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Nebraska definitely helps the Big Ten, especially if the program continues to rise under Bo Pelini. People care about the Huskers nationally, and their arrival enhances the potential for the Big Ten title game.
Looking at the talent level in each state i am puzzled at why Illinois is not at least at the level of Iowa and Wisconsin. Is there something that I am missing, or just way off in my thinking?
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
John, talent isn't the program at Illinois. Ron Zook has recruited extremely well, especially in the Chicago area. But they have been lacking in the intangibles to be a good football team. I know everyone loves recruiting, folks, but coaching and development matters in college football. Just look at programs like Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern, which never rank high for their recruiting.
Sean (S. Florida)
Adam, this is the first time I've been on the internet in a month...Could you save me some research and tell me what the new Big 10 divisions are?
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
No worries, Sean, they haven't announced them yet! And no Internet for a month? Where have you been? I wish I knew the divisions for sure, but it's looking like several rivals, including Ohio State and Michigan, could be split up.
If 99% of the populace, including alumni, is against splitting up Michigan and Ohio St and moving the game away from the last weekend, they'll come to their senses and leave that game alone... right?
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
I'd hope so, ES. But these guys look at the financial implications of a Michigan-Ohio State Big Ten title game, and it's hard to say no. This move would be all about money and making that game as attractive as possible. Keep in mind the Big Ten now will be competing with the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac-10 on that day.
If healthy Martez Wilson or Devon Still will be defensive player of the year. Remember this comment in November.
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Will do, Matt. And you'll get credit for it. But there are a ton of great defenders they'll need to leapfrog for that award, my friend.
Daniel (Waco, TX)
Hey Adam. Love the blog. Kept me in touch will all things Big10 when I was in China for the year. - Being a big UW fan, its so frustrating to hear the arguments for divisional alignment so focused on getting OSU and UMich in the championship game. Doesn't it seem a bit unfair to tailor the divisions for only 2 teams? It just doesn't seem right.
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
Hope you had a great time there, Daniel. Always wanted to visit. ... the only reason Ohio State and Michigan have the spotlight is because their ADs are talking, and lots of people want to know. It comes down to which programs generate more interest than others, that's all. I don't think the ADs and league officials are basing everything around two teams.
Tim (Iowa City)
Any idea what's up with Iowa CB Sean Prater? Didn't see him on the 2-deeps released today.
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
Yeah, I think Prater is still dealing with a leg injury. I asked Iowa about it, and they referred me to Kirk Ferentz's comment Thursday that no one has been ruled out for the opener. So I guess Prater still could play.
Mr. Ned (Grand Rapids)
Man, I can't wait to see Donovan Warren, Cissoko, Justin Turner, and Demar Dorsey in the Michigan secondary this season. That is a ton of talent!
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Sorry, Michigan fans, but I had to post this. Pretty funny, Mr. Ned.
Adam, could you please tell Minnesota fans why there might be reason for optimism? I can't believe the Gophers will be so bad they only win 2 or 3 games this season. I think they've got their most athletic team in a while but most don't realize it.
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
Grant, I'm surprised by some of the predictions for Minnesota. This is a team that has gone bowling in each of the last two seasons. Reasons for optimism ... 1. The offensive line can't get worse and should be more comfortable in this system ... 2. Adam Weber still has a ton of experience at QB ... 3. There's a lot of young talent on defense. The main concerns are the schedule and having to replace so many starters on D.
Hey Adam. Great job on the blog.Lets say that somewhat of a miracle happens, and the QB issue at PSU resolves itself early in the season and is no longer an issue. In this hypothetical situation, does PSU have enough strengths to challenge Iowa/Ohio St/Wisconsin for a spot in the Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
Ha, I guess, Rob. It's hard to look at the QB situation like this, but Penn State certainly has strengths elsewhere. The secondary should be better, and Penn State is always solid in the defensive front seven. But that road schedule is still brutal (Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State)
What are your predictions for MSU? I have seen too many different ones this off season...
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
I like the Spartans, although I'm hesitant to fully buy in after last year. The pieces are all there, though: tons of depth at the skill spots, a veteran QB, a defensive leader and a very favorable schedule. Anything less than 8-4 should be a disappointment for Dantonio.
Steve (Wash, DC)
With Nebraska signing, has the Big Ten solidified itself as a Midwestern league? Ie, no UConn, Pitt, Rutgers, or other eastward expansion.
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Steve, the Big Ten will continue to look at expanding eastward, but not until after Jan. 1. Too much on the plate right now with divisions, scheduling, ninth conference game, etc. I also sense the momentum for more expansion has died down quite a bit among the presidents.
You are a Michigan Hater!!!!!!!! We have the most wins in College football history so shut up and show us some respect. We recover and go 8-4 this year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Easy, Charles, don't be so sensitive. And Michigan could go 8-4 if it improves on defense and doesn't let the special teams slip. The schedule is hard, but as Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and other coaches have told me, Rodriguez has the players to get it done.
Hey Adam. Pryor's gaining a surprising amount of Heisman buzz in the pre-season. Is it warranted? How do you see his season playing out?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
It's probably not warranted, but totally expected as well. People see the talent and they also remember his last performance, a very good one at the Rose Bowl. When Terrelle and I talked this week, he mentioned how he really doesn't like the hype and attention, and how the defense deserves more for bailing him out. I think he'll have a better season for sure. Will he be the difference maker for Ohio State? Hard to say at this point
Jake (State College)
Hi Adam. Can we expect any improvement from last year's Penn State special teams?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Absolutely. It was totally uncharacteristic to see Penn State struggle so much in the kicking game last year. The punter situation will be interesting after the loss of standout Jeremy Boone, but Collin Wagner should be fine at kicker. The players are there, and there's no excuse if Penn State doesn't get better.
How can you have a rivalry weekend without the rivalry the Big Ten is known for, Adam? How can more/less everyone get their rival on the same weekend, but Ohio State does not? Poor planning, IMO.
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
Meg, you still don't know if everyone else will get their rival or not on that final Saturday, but I agree with your point about Michigan-Ohio State. There's too much tradition to move that game, and how often will those teams meet in the championship game anyway? Hasn't exactly worked out for Miami and FSU in the ACC, has it?
As a rif on a previous question...Can you confirm that Indiana will continue to disappoint us? We have heard about 'leadership' and 'heart' during the offseason, but come on...we don't stand a chance.
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
I'm not so sure, Greg. There's a lot of talent at wide receiver, and Ben Chappell has been a very solid QB for the Hoosiers. As usual, it comes down to defense and whether they have the personnel to make a jump on that side. Watch out for the three juco transfers, especially CB Andre Kates. Kirk Ferentz from Iowa thinks IU will be pretty good, and he should know after the Hawkeyes struggled so much early in the game last year.
Name 1 GREAT college rivalry game that is played in October.
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
Seriously, Justin? I hear Texas and Oklahoma play each other every so often in October. Apparently a lot of people care, too.
how much of a testament is it to Tom Bradley and Ron Vanderlinden that PSU has to replace all 3 linebackers and that is not an area of concern? do you think psu can compete in tuscaloosa ?
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
Absolutely agree on your first point, JD. Bradley and Vanderlinden have been outstanding at Penn State, and they should once again be solid at LB. ... Penn State can compete with Alabama, but it's very tough to see the Lions winning that game with an unproven QB. Just doesn't happen very often.
Adam, how can the B10 pass on the opportunity to have a rivalry saturday where the following games are played: OSU vs. UM, Iowa vs. Wisconsin and PSU vs. Nebraska.
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
You're preaching to the choir here, Nathan, but the Big Ten also cares about its championship game, making it attractive for TV partners and viewers. When there's a chance for Michigan and Ohio State to play in that game, it's pretty darn attractive.
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
One point I'll raise, more in a Devil's advocate way. Most of you wanted a Big Ten championship game for years. Now that you see what it could do to rivalry Saturday, do you still want one?
Jason (Saginaw, Mi)
Hey Adam, great chat as usual. Anyways, what are your thoughts on former FB Marc Moundros possibly starting in the middle of the Michigan defense this year and what you think that says about multi year starter obi ezeh??
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
It's very interesting, Jason. Ezeh had a bad year in 2009, but he wasn't the only one on that defense. They had a ton of breakdowns, especially in the middle of the field. They've clearly identified Moundros as a potential solution. We'll see what happens against UConn.
Jenna (Miami, FL)
Mr. Rittenberg, would you like some Thanksgiving turkey sent to you? I've decided to follow the Big Ten's model and celebrate Turkey Day in August. We still do it once a year. Don't worry, Easter is next week. July 4 is in October. But do you want Turkey?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Mmmmm, turkey. Mmmmm, sleepy.
Hey Adam. Check the blog everyday and have been noticing something very interesting. When you do the ranks out of the Big Ten teams for RB, QB, etc, i have noticed that Wisconsin is ranked in the top five in everyone and no other team can say that, even Ohio State. Does this make Wisconisn more talented then Iowa and almost or equally as talented as Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
Wisconsin's very solid overall, and few teams have as many players on national awards lists as the Badgers entering the fall. I would say both Ohio State and Iowa have more overall talent on defense, but Wisconsin has a better offense, hands down. Most balanced and explosive offense in the Big Ten.
Michigan-Michigan State is a nice rivalry and great game played in October, too. But there is a reason this, and Texas-Oklahoma are played in October, and Michigan-OSU, Texas-Texas A&M, Notre Dame-USC, Auburn-Alabama, and every other "GREAT" rivalry is played in November.
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Sorry, Justin, but to call Texas-Oklahoma anything but a great rivalry is just silly. Florida-Tennessee also is a great rivalry, and they're playing in September this year. Listen, I'm in favor of keeping Ohio State-Michigan where it is, but let's not diminish those other games.
Hey Jared, great to see you chatting today. What do you most recommend at Subway for the full-figured man who is trying to slim down?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
Ha, you're like the 400th person who has made that joke. Get some new material. For the record, I like the footlong turkey.
Adam -- I'll take your bait: I don't want a championship game if it means PSU gets sent to the "West". If that's the case just give us 9 conference games, a second bye week and then the schedule is extended and the Big Ten is still on TV when everyone else plays their championship game. I'm getting tired of all the OSU and UofM chatter on "the game" -- there are other teams in this conference with equally large or larger fan bases.
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
Dave, there are a lot of folks around the league who wouldn't mind this model one bit. An extra bye week certainly could come in handy, and you would just push all the rivalry games back one more week. I could live with it, but the championship game is here, and probably here to stay.
Justin, USC-ND rotates its time based on the game's location. When in South Bend its played in October, and in LA the game is in Late November or early December.
Austin (common sense-ville)
since when has TX-OK, FL-Tenn been considered one of the top rivalry in all of sports? We are talking Michigan vs Ohio State dont try to diminish The Game
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
Yep, USC-Notre Dame is another great rivalry played in October. No one is saying The Game isn't great, but it's not the only great rivalry in college sports. Let's not be that narrow minded.
why do people think the big 10 is a slow and unathletic conference?
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Because Ohio State lost big to two SEC teams in the BCS title game. And because USC outclassed the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl several years.
Joe (Evanston, IL)
Is Northwestern a dark horse for the title this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Not for the Big Ten title, Joe, although the Wildcats definitely could contend in 2011. That's already being talked up as The Year in Evanston. Northwestern should be pretty solid, 6-8 wins. The secondary and RB situation worry me, though.
Adam, great job on the blog. Keep up the good work. How has Jewel Hampton looked in practice? Also do I need to continue losing sleep worrying about the Iowa o-line?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
I didn't see Hampton in practice yesterday in Iowa City, but Kirk Ferentz says he's 100 percent ready to go. Hampton will miss the opener b/c of suspension, but he'll be out there against Iowa State. As far as the offensive line, I understand the concern, but Iowa typically reloads well up front. The O-line definitely has benefited from going up against Clayborn, Klug and that D-line every day in practice.
Devon (Portland, OR)
Boise St. has two difficult teams to play this year, Virginia Tech and Oregon St. Other than that, they play the worst teams in the country. This gives them two opportunities to prove themselves for the National Title. If they lose one of these games, but finish out, what's their post-conference game going to be? National Title?
Adam Rittenberg (3:52 PM)
No, no, no. Boise State has to run the table and hope for the best. The Broncos need both Virginia Tech and Oregon State to have great seasons after they beat those teams. A loss might put Boise out of a BCS bowl. That's just the way it is.
Mac (Huntington, WV)
Adam, bigger concern for Illinois this season - defense or qb play?
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
I'm becoming a big Nathan Scheelhaase fan, so I'll go with defense, which was just awful at times last year. The secondary worries me, but if Martez Wilson stays healthy at LB, the front seven could surprise some people.
Jason (Grand Rapids)
Adam, Michigan State has exceeded expectations in 2007 and 2008, and had an average season last year after being overrated in the preseason. If MSU wins 8 or 9 games as expected this year can we finally stop hearing about the "same old spartans" or will it take more to shake that title?
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
I can't call last season "average," Jason. The Spartans disappointed people on and off the field. I do agree with your points about 2007 and 2008. This is a year where Michigan State really can regain momentum and possibly challenge for a Big Ten title, if things fall right. That Wisconsin game on Oct. 2 is absolutely huge for Mark Dantonio's team.
Brett (King of Prussia, PA)
More likely to happen:Miami over OSU orPSU over Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
Miami over Ohio State. The Canes return a strong QB in Jacory Harris and boast tons of talent. A Penn State win in Week 2 would be a pretty significant upset.
UW plays OSU and Iowa right after eachother, how do you think those games and the rest of the season will turn out?
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Steve, I just have a feeling Wisconsin splits those two games, but the Badgers could go 2-0 or 0-2 as well. The closing stretch is fairly favorable for Bret Bielema's team, though. Wisconsin should do well in November.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
last one for the day ...
Carlos (Ann Arbor)
My weekends would be better if you Blogged on Saturdays too. Michigan Defense: Do you see them underachieving or over achieving?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Oh, Carlos, just wait for it, my man. Starting next Saturday, we'll be blocking the heck out of every league in the country, so check it out. As for Michigan's defense, I can't see them underachieving too much after the struggles the last two years. They certainly could overachieve, but guys like Craig Roh, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and J.T. Floyd need to step up in a big way.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed it. Talk to you next week.