Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get going.
Adam, With so many big games this week (OSU, PSU, Mich), I almost think that the reputation of the Big Ten is again at stake. What will it take for the Big Ten to maintain the respect that was earned in Bowl Season and outside this weekend, are there any other big opportunities?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
You can't go 0-3, Tim, but the Big Ten ultimately has to gain respect in the bowl season once again. The league won't truly regain respect until it wins another national title, but wins in the Rose Bowl also help. Penn State has a real tough challenge on its hands, while Ohio State is expected to beat Miami. Michigan-ND is the toss-up game. And there are more on the way next week like Iowa-Arizona and Minnesota-USC. But ultimately, it comes down to bowl performance.
Eric (12 hours from Columbus...)
Can you please point out the fact that you are not writing in Boise for the National Championship, as many people seem to think you?re making that push already. They won a big game Monday and they deserve to be ranked high. They no doubt had the toughest game of any team in week 1. I?m actually leaning on putting them at #1?for now. (FOR NOW!) Once teams start putting up big wins, that?s when they can move ahead of Boise. And this is coming from an Ohio State fan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Right, there's a long way to go and a lot of football left to play. I just don't like the mind-set that Boise has to be discounted no matter what. People from the Big Ten talk about the schedule, but you know what? Most Big Ten teams won't play Boise. Unless they go independent, they have to play in their league, which is awful for sure. But what else are they supposed to do to convince people they're an elite program?
AdamYou have to think that Michigan can line up against pretty much anyone on their schedule if they play clean football - 1 penalty and 0 turnovers and stay healthy, right? I was happy with the win, but there's no way this team plays that cleanly and gets the breaks like the did vs. UConn ... Defense was improved (surprisingly so), but UConn missed some early opportunities that could have changed the dynamic of that game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Agree, Chris. There were issues in the secondary, and they're not going to go away with so many young players. Michigan needs to win the turnover battle, but it can't expect performances like that from Robinson every time out. More players need to get involved on offense, but I really liked what I saw from the O-line in the opener. If that group keeps it up, Michigan should do fine this fall.
Corey (East Lansing, Mi)
Adam, Michigan State went to a bowl game last year and brought back the majority of its offensive skill and standout defensive players. Yet, somehow, Michigan is a few votes away from getting into the AP top 25 and MSU is at the very bottom? I understand Michigan played well, but still. Tell me how this is possible because UM's 8-16 record the past few seasons proves otherwise.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
It's simple, Corey. More people pay attention to Michigan than Michigan State. Probably not what you want to hear in East Lansing, but it's thee truth. When Michigan goes out and plays well against a team people thought would be pretty good in UConn, it makes an impression nationally more than a rout of Western Michigan. I wouldn't worry about the rankings for MSU right now. Beat Florida Atlantic and Notre Dame, and there's a shot the Spartans enter the polls.
Adam,What are the keys to PSU pulling out an upset at Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Hold the ball. Penn State needs long, sustained drives with no turnovers and keep Alabama's offense off the field. I can't see the Lions winning without having an edge in turnover margin and time of possession.
Can OSU get enough pass rush against J12?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Should be a great matchup between Ohio State's D-line and Miami's O-line. I'm sure Buckeyes fans are interested to see former recruit Seantrel Henderson out there for the U. I expect a good pass rush from Heyward, Simon and co, and Nathan Williams' return provides a boost. He won't be 100 percent, but he looked really good at times last year.
Tim Brewster (Minneapolis)
My squad really ran the ball well last week, and while the passing game wasn't perfect, Weber was 10-12 down the stretch. The Defense is extremely athletic, and most of our defensive issues had to do with our Frosh safeties being out of position. So Adam, what does my squad have to do to make it into the top half of your big ten power rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Brew, you've got to beat USC. Simple as that. Or start Big Ten play with wins against Northwestern and Wisconsin. The game plan in Week 1 was solid, and you should keep trying to limit the defense's time on the field. A lot of youth and question marks, although some talent as well.
concerned wolverine (iowa)
michigan's secondary: waiting to be exposed or are the young guys stepping up more than expected?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Probably a bit of both, Concerned. It was a good sign that J.T. Floyd made a big play in the opener, and Cam Gordon really lays the wood when he hits people. But to expect that group to avoid some breakdowns is simply unrealistic. Notre Dame will attack Saturday and probably have some success with Floyd, Riddick and Rudolph.
Doug (Quad Cities)
Iowa's D line looked awful last year against IA state and won 35 - 3 (in ames). If/when they play better AND we get Hampton back, whats the score this year in Iowa City?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Doug, I expect Iowa's D-line to step up in a big way Saturday, but I also don't expect Iowa State to throw 72 interceptions again. The Cyclones are a much better team than you saw early last season, and they had a nice win against Northern Illinois in the opener. I expect an Iowa victory, but not 35-3 again.
Dan Persa looked great for Northwestern but the defense was spotty and the run game terrible. Can this offense line, which does have some experience over the last 2 seasons, pull it together to help the run game, or will Persa have to do it all like Kafka did last season? And if the running backs can't get going and Persa has to fill a Kafka-esque roll this year, how will the Wildcats fare in Big Ten season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Jamie, Persa certainly looks up to the task, but it's hard to envision Northwestern winning many games if everything is on his shoulders each time out. Northwestern's O-line simple has to be better, and I think it will be in the coming weeks. The big question is whether there's a Big Ten-caliber running back on the roster? It might be time to take a look at freshman Adonis Smith.
Erik (Iowa City, IA)
Adam, What are your thoughts on Jewel Hampton? Mainly coming in this year and competing against Robinson.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
If Hampton stays healthy, I expect him to become the starter and rush for 1,000 yards or more. Really liked him as a freshman, and all signs indicated he had an outstanding preseason. Very excited to see him out there again Saturday.
Anything positive the Illini can take out of the Mizzou loss other than that the rivalry goes on hiatus now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Matt, that's certainly a positive as the St. Louis thing didn't work out at all for the Orange and Blue. I was impressed by the defense against Mizzou. They certainly played well enough to win. Corey Liguet, Ian Thomas and Martez Wilson looked good especially, and the patchwork secondary showed some promise. I also like Mikel LeShoure at RB. He's one of the better ball-carriers in the league.
Oliver (Columbus, OH)
Special teams such as kick coverage seems to be a major problem for Ohio State these days. Is it scheme at this point, because Oregon had its way and Marshall also broke one?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Oliver, good point here. It's weird to talk about special teams as a weakness for Ohio State, but right now it seems to be the case. The Buckeyes couldn't stop Kenjon Barner in the Rose Bowl, and they looked a little shaky Thursday night. Miami probably needs to win the kicking game phase to win the game, so it'll be interesting to see if Ohio State can fix things.
As electric as Shoelace was this weekend, it seemed UConn's receivers had stubs for hands. Do the Wolverines have any chance at all against a team with receivers who, you know, catch the football.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
"Have any chance at all?" God, I love the way fans think. Who crowned Notre Dame as a national champ? Of course Michigan has a chance, and a pretty good one, too. I don't think Notre Dame has defenders who can consistently stop Robinson, so it comes down to how Michigan's offensive line looks. The Irish will make plays against this defense, but Michigan's offense will move the ball, too.
Ohio State ran into this problem in 2006 with Troy Smith, when Smith looked like he forgot how to scramble in the bowl game, but should coach Tressel and the coaching staff run Pryor every so often so he maintains his edge? You can't not run and then all of a sudden turn it on.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Pryor can't win, can he? When he runs too much, you guys say he can't pass. And then he has a game like Marshall, where he faces no pressure, actually shows some patience in the pocket and makes good throws. He'll run the ball more this week, Brynn, don't worry about that. I'd be more concerned about him stepping up in the pocket and making accurate throws against a much more talented Miami defense.
Andy (Madison, WI)
Did Wisconsin expose the blue print on how to beat Miami last winter? I believe Ohio St. can win big against Miami by getting after Harris and controlling the clock. Plus, Pryor can provide a spark the Badgers did not have.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Good call, Andy. I want to believe Miami is a better team than the one we saw in Orlando, but Wisconsin really dominated that game and Ohio State could do the same. Jacory Harris looked terrible against the Badgers, but I expect a better performance Saturday. I think the overall blueprint will be similar, though, as Ohio State, like Wisconsin, will look to use its size and power to run the ball, while mixing in passes with Pryor.
Jim (Ann Arbor)
Adam, how much trouble did the transfer of Vlad Emilien actually hurt the Wolverines secondary?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
It's just one less body for a secondary that looks thinner and thinner. Emilien had underachieved to this point in his career, but he still had some ability. Michigan really needs to think about moving more players to the secondary. Seemed to work out well for Cam Gordon.
Should it concern Gophers that they controlled the ball for over 45 minutes and only managed to win by one TD? With the ground game they displayed, high scoring games aren't expected, but with that disparity in time of possession, shouldn't there have been a more comfortable lead?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Yes and no, Jay. You'd expect more points, but 45 minutes of TOP tells me the team has some long, sustained drives, not many big plays but a lot of first downs. Minnesota could have converted more of those drives into points, but I wouldn't expect this offense to be scoring 30 or more consistently.
If Nebraska wwere in the big ten this year where would you rank them. Next year to you think there strength of schedule is in the top ten??
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
I'd have Nebraska at No. 2 or No. 3 in the Big Ten right now. It's very close between the Huskers and Iowa. Nebraska's strength of schedule in 2011 -- at Wisconsin, vs. Ohio State, vs. Iowa, at Penn State, at Michigan -- certainly should be in the top 10 nationally. Not a picnic for Nebraska in year 1 as a Big Ten member.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
What good can the Boilers take away from their loss last week against the Irish?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
The defense held its own for the most part, and end Ryan Kerrigan looked like an All-American out there. You also had to like Robert Marve's completion percentage (31-for-42) and WR Keith Smith's performance.
Any chance we get a undefeated matchup with the Spartans come to Ann Arbor in October? Beating Wisconsin would be tough for MSU, but the environment would be amazing if both programs were undefeated.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Anthony, great call. I see both teams entering that matchup undefeated. It could be an under-the-radar game nationally, but it has huge implications for the Big Ten. Wisconsin hasn't fared well in the state of Michigan lately, so the Badgers will need to maintain their poise in East Lansing. The game also features two of the Big Ten's best offenses.
Eric (Geneva, NE)
12 months from now, will we see you do a live chat fron the Sidetracks bar in Lincoln before the tOSU-NU game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Are you offering? If so, I'm there!
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
How do you feel about the Big 10 championship game being in a dome when 0% of regular season Big 10 games are played in a domed environment? (I know Minnesota used to have a dome and we all miss it)
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Chris, keep in mind that it is a different sort of game than the ones in the regular season. You have to consider injury risk to a degree, and the fact that both teams will be playing in warmer weather for their bowl games. I love the idea of playing it outdoors, but the first time a national championship contender loses a key player and the game in lousy weather, you can bet they'll strongly consider a change.
Henry (East Lansing)
What did you think of the play of MSU's freshmen? In particular I was really impressed with Bell and Gholston seems to have potential.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Henry, haven't had a chance to review the entire game, but Bell really impressed me from what I saw. He's not the fastest back, but he's big and physical. Gholston's raw talent is obvious on film, but it'll take some time for him to get everything down.
After a week of games, who would be your top 3 QB's in the Big-10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Wow, John, tough call since the QB play was really good all around. Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, Dan Persa, Ricky Stanzi, Rob Bolden and Ben Chappell all looked good, and Kirk Cousins did some nice things as well. Ask me again in a few weeks.
Andy (Madison, WI)
Was the 14 points Wisconsin gave up to UNLV early season rust or a sign of larger problems? Fumbles will happen and can be addressed but the pick 6 was a bad read that can't happen from a game manager like Tolzien.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
I wouldn't be too concerned, Andy, unless we see similar mistakes from Tolzien this week. Things happen in opening games, particularly on the road. For the most part, Wisconsin played well, especially on defense, but you'd like to clean up those things in Week 2. I'm not worried.
Adam, September 10, 2011.....where are you? State College for the game against Alabama or in Ann Arbor for the game against Notre Dame....the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Nathan, I don't know where I'll be for Week 3 of this year, much less a year from now. One thing is certain: both those games should be pretty electric. Penn State should be very strong next year, and night football at the Big House gets me excited.
Kind of weird to see Tate Forcier's dad's quotes end up in the media denying any transfer talk. I'm sure RR would prefer not having his No. 2 or 3 QB's dad quoted in the media. But what do you make of Tate's post-game comments to annarbor.com -- "all you need to know is I'm out."
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Mike, Tate was obviously frustrated Saturday. Anyone could see that. And he's a pretty media savvy kid, so he knows people will be watching him sitting alone on the bench. I'm sure he has considered the possibility of a transfer, but his dad seems set on making sure he stays at U-M. I bet they've had some interesting discussions in recent days.
Drew (Madison, WI)
Thoughts on John Clay's comeback...Ready to dominate the trenches or dominate the line at McDonalds?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Ha, good one, Drew. John definitely looked a little bigger to me against UNLV, but not any slower or less powerful. I wouldn't want to be in his way on some of those runs.
Duane Bennet (Minneapolis)
Adam, I looked nasty last week. You gonna come see me light up the Trojans on the 18th?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
I'd love to, Duane. You definitely looked like a different player against MTSU. Always enjoy a trip to Minneapolis and TCF Bank Stadium, but as I've told you folks many times, I don't decide where I go each week. So we'll see ...
Matt (Allentown, PA)
JoePa sounds more down on his team than he ever has when they were actually not that good. Do you think he might be bluffing and really think that Penn State has chance to be pretty good this year? I just do not believe when he says he does not have good leadership on the line. Wisniewski wasn't voted a captain, but he has to be leading those lineman.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Joe always sandbags a bit, especially before big games. He has done this for decades. I was pretty stunned that Stefen Wisniewski wasn't elected a captain, but I'm sure he's a good leader along that O-line. The group has to perform better, but leadership doesn't seem to be an issue.
Should borderline teams (NW, Purdue, maybe MN) schedule home and homes w/ Hawaii to give them an extra shot at a win and possible bowl qualification in years they make the trip to Hawaii when they can play a 13th game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Jay, I don't see this happening. You basically need only six wins to be guaranteed a postseason spot, especially with the Big Ten's new bowl lineup. And I can guarantee Northwestern will never play Hawaii again on the road after losing in a very controversial game in 2004 that actually took the Wildcats from being bowl eligible at 6-5 to home for the holidays at 6-6.
Adam, do you agree that Tressel does not get enough credit for coaching? he adapted to his strengths in '02 without a prototype QB. He adaptaed again in '05 and '06 by opening it up with Smith. He adapted again under Boekman in '07. He pulled reigns back on Pryor in '08-'09 until the Rose Bowl. All indications are he is adapting now to a spread passing team more than a running team to leverage strength of team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
He's a Hall of Fame coach in my book, Doug. Tressel has been victimized by the spread offense era and teams like Boise State and Texas Tech becoming media darlings because of their creative play-calling. Don't get me wrong, I love watching those teams just as much as the next guy, but Tressel's system still works extremely well. I'd like to see him continue to adapt to his talented offensive personnel this year.
Adam, I'm a huge Hawkeye fan and am extremely nervous about this season. I've watched my hawks flop in games they should have easily won and flopped in seasons they were supposed to be great. They have to play OSU, Wiscy, MSU, Michigan, Arizona and Penn State. All of these teams looked good opening weekend. Would you be worried about a let down season too?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Tyler, I wouldn't say letdown in the sense of a team getting too cocky, because trust me, that won't happen with these Hawkeyes. But it could be a letdown to the fans if Iowa doesn't go 11-2 again, when in fact they might not win all the close games they won last year. If things fall just a bit differently, Iowa could be 8-4 this year with a team just as strong or stronger than last year's squad. Not trying to depress Hawkeyes fans, but just being realistic when a team has little margin for error.
Nate (Denison, IA)
If Bosie State played the same schedule as Ohio State this year, what do you see their record being? I think they are a phenomal team, but don't see them running the table in a AQ conference year after year. When you look at it that way, it takes them out of National Championship contention. However, play tough games at the beginning of the season when all teams are shaky and learning and dominate your conference is much easier task than the AQ conferences. Then again like Pat Forde said.... They keep winning "one more time".. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Nate, they wouldn't run the table in an AQ league year after year, but no teams really do that anyway. Boise could run the table in a given season, like this one. As for when they play marquee opponents, I'm sure they'd love to play people later, but conference play is in full swing then. It's not an ideal situation by any means, which is why a playoff needs to happen in college football.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Same time, same place next week. Enjoy a great slate of games in Week 2!