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 it started.
Andrew (Baltimore, MD)
Adam, I feel like Penn State's performance was more impressive than 3 points shows. The young QB showed great potential against a strong Tide squad and led the Lions on a few impressive drives that ended in essentially 2 turnovers. Does Penn State have a shot at competing for the Big 10 title or are their hopes better saved for next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
True, Andrew. Penn State certainly left points on the field with all those turnovers in Bama territory. My concern with the Lions is the absence of a running game, particularly with Evan Royster. If PSU can't get Royster going soon, I can't see how this team competes for a Big Ten title. It's a good team, but not a great one this year.
Steve (Sioux City, IA)
Adam, I know everyone thinks it's going to be tough for Iowa to head out West but I have a hard time thinking that a team with this many seniors and this much leadership would be rattled by playing at Arizona. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Steve, I think Iowa's experience certainly should help in handling the elements, but history certainly doesn't favor the Hawkeyes in these matchups. Iowa isn't the type of team to lose its poise, and the Hawkeyes have won in some pretty tough places (State College, Madison, East Lansing, etc.) Still, you have to anticipate some adversity against Arizona. How will the 2010 Hawkeyes respond? We'll find out soon.
Austin Rabah (East Lansing)
hey I was just wondering if you thought that MSU was still an under the radar team that could have a chance to go to a January bowl game? everyone is talking about Michigan now, but I think MSU is one of the most under rated teams in the country... thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Austin, we don't know very much about Michigan State at this point. Should find out a lot more Saturday night against ND. I'm not sure if the secondary has improved yet. I do believe the run game will be a lot better with Baker, Bell and Caper (should return soon). But Michigan State needs to prove itself in close games. I still like the Spartans, but we all need to see more.
Adam - Can we just scrap the Heisman talk until mid-November at the earliest? It's bad enough that you have to be on a nat'l champ contender AND be on a name program (i.e. Mich, Ohio State, or Penn State from B10), but to talk about it from August on is just too much ... Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Sorry, Stan, this is the world we live in now. There's a demand for Heisman watches all season long because the interest in college football has never been this high. I agree that patience is a good policy regarding end-of-season awards, but that's just not the way it works anymore.
Love the blog Adam, read it every day. With Keith Smith out, and the defense struggling (especially on 3rd down as you noted), can Purdue fans still expect a bowl game this year? After losing to ND and seeming to struggle against an FCS school, my hopes are very low.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Brian, while Smith is an outstanding player, all is not lost. Purdue needs to find ways to stretch the field more in the passing game, and it needs to continue to develop Dierking and McBurse as running backs. I still like the way Purdue's schedule sets up two MAC teams, then a bye week, then a trip to Northwestern. Kerrigan looks great on defense, so there's hope for the Boilers despite several key injuries.
so obviously special teams has been the biggest issue for Ohio State, but how does a coach 'fix' special teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
You emphasize it a ton, which Ohio State always does, and you consider some lineup changes on some of the teams. If any coach can fix the kicking game, it's Jim Tressel.
Barring some epic improvement by Minnesota and Brewster gets removed at the end, Can Minnesota expect to get a lot of better known coaches to show interest and not the usual retreads? They won't have the only vacancy, ie CU with Hawkins, but they now have much better facilities and the talent is there. They just need better coaching.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
TCF Bank Stadium certainly is a major asset for Minnesota that hasn't been there in the past. But as reported in the Star Tribune today, Minnesota still isn't spending as much on football as most of its top competitors. Coaching candidates pay attention to budgets, and Minnesota never has been the easiest place to bring recruits. So it's a more attractive job now than before, but a job that still has its drawbacks.
Steve K (In my Cube in Norfolk)
Adam based on your preseason B10 D and O POY projections, who is living up and letting you down? Who are the new names you would add/remove after weeks one and two. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Steve, it's still so early, so I'm hesitant to pass too much judgment right now. It's why fans shouldn't take the POY races too seriously right now. I'd like to see a little more from Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn on Saturday against Arizona. Otherwise. Wisconsin RB John Clay and Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan are two players living up to expectations so far. But again, it's early.
Hi Adam, Just wondering about your thoughts for Michigan this season. They've surprised many with their first two wins, but I want to know which games you think will be the ones to watch, the games that will really test whether Michigan is back!! Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Cynthia, the Michigan State game on Oct. 9 jumps out to me. The Spartans have won back-to-back games, and a third straight victory could be very bad for Michigan's Rich Rodriguez. The game is at home and Michigan State has some vulnerability on defense. That's a big one for the Maize and Blue. Also, the home games against Iowa and Wisconsin will be big for Michigan to show progress. The Wolverines remain very much a work in progress, especially on defense. But it's a great start.
Ryan (Ames, IA)
Hey Adam, great blog - read it everyday (bosses at work might not like that). I wanted to talk about the Iowa/Zona game. They are having a 'Red out' game for the hawks. Penn State last year had their "White out" game. I want to know what you think about if student sections and crowds actually make a difference in the game?? There is an expected 12-15,000 Iowa fans in Arizona Stadium, will there be any effect?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Ryan, fans can affect games, especially at the start or the end. Michigan Stadium was rocking for the UConn game, and the team seemed to feed off of that emotion early on. But the influence doesn't last the whole game. Teams settle down and play the game, and usually it comes down to the standard stuff (blocking, tackling, assignments). Certainly Iowa players will notice a lot of their fans at Arizona, but they'll be focused on the game.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Are they ready to put Evan Royster's picture on milk cartons in Happy Valley yet? Just a slow start or is this something that should concern me and my fellow Nittany Lions fans?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
It's still early, but I'd be a bit concerned, J.B. Is it Royster or the offensive line? Silas Redd seems to be finding holes. This week is a big game for Royster, especially going against a good Kent State rush defense. I still think he's an outstanding back, but he's got to start showing it Saturday against the Flashes.
Adam, are you going to watch the entire Iowa/Arizona game? Will your wife let you stay up that late?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Ha, absolutely, Andy. It's my job. And I'd want to see that one till the end. My wife might be joining me on the road this week, but she knows the deal. I'll be watching all four quarters in Tucson.
Ryan (Fort Knox)
Hey Adam, the biggest concern I have with the Spartans is not their pass defense this weekend (although it does scare me), but their passing offense. I have confidence in Cousins, but the recievers and tight ends seemed to wash their hands with butter before their first two games. I don't think we will be as dominant with the run against ND, so the passing game has to be better for a MSU win. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Ryan, those are legitimate concerns, but after what Denard Robinson did to Notre Dame, there will be opportunities to run the ball. And Michigan State has some big-play backs, especially Baker. But the receivers also need a big game, especially after I talked them up a lot before the season. You can't make the Big Ten blogger look bad.
Jarred Fayson was supposed to be the go to receiver this year, and a leader for the Illini. He's been pretty much a non factor so far from what I've seen.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Kasey, it's still a little early, so we need to be patient. But Fayson hasn't been as big of an impact player as I thought he'd be coming in from Florida. Now injuries obviously have something to do with it. A.J. Jenkins is emerging as the team's No. 1 WR, but Fayson has good ability, too. Will be interesting to see if he steps up against Northern Illinois.
Peter Adams (Stevens Pointe, WI)
Hey Adam, love your work and blog. Do you get a chance to watch every game each week (DVR) or do you rely on articles from your peers and box scores to create your articles?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Thanks, Peter. I DVR several games every week, and try to catch as much as I can on Saturdays. Do I watch every second of every Big Ten game? Not now during the nonconference, but I'll see almost everything during league play. It's also good having so much coverage out there, both on game day and during the week.
Adam, the Big Ten has the 3 largest stadiums in the country (Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State), doesn't that prepare any Big Ten team for the fans on road games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
It helps, Chris, but stadium size doesn't automatically mean the environment is super hostile. I wouldn't put Michigan Stadium among the nation's most hostile environments, while Oregon's Autzen Stadium, which seats only 54,000, is one of the toughest places to play.
Come on Adam. Denard Robinson is another monster that MSU has nothing to replicate. The fact that he ran on the Irish shouldn't say anything about their run defense. They shut down the Michigan backs who actually should have been more effective thanks to D-Rob. Also the run/pass threat and the extra blocker with D-Rob basically being a wildcat QB provided a big difference. What are your thoughts on those facts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Zach, got to disagree on a few of these points. Notre Dame's defensive plan, as amazing as it sounds, was to try and force Robinson to make plays. Rich Rodriguez acknowledged this in saying he didn't mind Robinson carrying the ball 28 times because that's what the defense was offering. And Robinson still ran wild. Does MSU have a Robinson? No, but I like what I'm seeing from the Spartans running backs. They also have more weapons in the passing game than Michigan.
Dan (Cincinnati, OH)
Love the blog... I just got back from an SEC road trip (Knoxville on 9/4, Starkville on 9/9 and Tuscaloosa on 9/11). I have to say that my general perception is that the Big Ten is more about tradition and the SEC is more about the gameday party atmosphere. I think the average Big Ten fan is much more knowledgeable about college football in general. What's your perception of tradition vs. tailgating and the knowledge level of both fan bases?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Dan, thanks for sharing this. I really haven't spent much time in SEC country since I almost always cover games at Big Ten stadiums. I think the Big Ten's tradition and longevity is second to none. But there's more year-round passion -- or insanity, depending on how you view it -- for college football in SEC country. A lot of it has to do with fewer pro teams down there. I'd also say that there are a lot of knowledgeable SEC fans. They just get drowned out by the large number of, well, I won't say it ...
Eric (The Hawkeye State)
Adam,What's the deal with the lack of respect in the coaches poll for the Hawkeyes? They are returning a stocked team full of talent, one of the nations best defenses, a solid running game, won a BCS bowl last year, and are off to a 2-0 start this year. What gives? How about a little more coverage from your boys at ESPN?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Eric, while I understand your frustration, the whining from Iowa fans gets old. Go beat Arizona on the road, and you'll get some national respect. I disagreed with Iowa being dropped in the Coaches' Poll, but I disagree with a lot of things in the Coaches' Poll. If Iowa goes out and beats Arizona, especially in convincing fashion, it'll be rewarded for it. And we'll be providing extensive coverage for Iowa-Zona, not to worry.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Just wanted to let you know that my predictions are made Thursday and my Saturday whereabouts are top-secret info, so don't bother asking me here. All other questions are welcome!
Josh (Madison, WI)
Adam, what will it take for John Clay to get the recognition he deserves amongst the media? You are the only member of the media that mentions him when talking about the heisman
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Josh, it's surprising because Clay looks even better than he did in 2009. Part of the reason is Wisconsin's poor nonconference schedule. Clay can help himself this week against Arizona, but he'll need to put up big numbers at the start of Big Ten play. For him to have any shot at the Heisman, he'll need to gash Ohio State for big numbers. I think it's unfortunate that Clay doesn't get more national recognition, but I can only do so much.
Marc (Cedar Rapids)
Do you think this is the last year for Norm Parker?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Marc, I hope not because Norm is such an outstanding coach, but I think it will be. Hard to see him continue the grind of coaching with so many health-related issues.
Joe Rexrode (Lansing)
How many quarters of MSU football have you watched this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Is this really Joe? If so, what up? I watched most of the Western Michigan game, and caught snippets from Florida Atlantic. Listen, there are some concerns with the Spartans right now, but we just don't know how good this team will be until it faces better competition.
John (Bucyrus, Ohio)
Adam, How do you think the loss of C.J. Barnett will affect the OSU secondary?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
John, it's a blow because Barnett was playing really well as a surprise starter at SS. He was very noticeable early on against Miami. And Ohio State doesn't have as much depth at safety as some other spots after losing Coleman and Russell. But with Moeller, Hines and Johnson, the Buckeyes should be OK barring more injuries. LB Brian Rolle told me Hines and Johnson are the most physical safeties in the country.
Mike (Frederick, Md)
Adam, Do you believe that Denard Robinson can handle the hype better than Tate did last year. I'm not so sure Rich Rod could handle another let down without losing his job.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
I wouldn't rag on Tate too much last year. He did a lot of good things as a true freshman. He got absolutely no help at all from the defense. But Denard seems to be taking the right approach to all the attention.
Brandon (lansing, mi)
how many big ten players will be invited to new york for the heisman presentation?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Brandon, it's still very early, but I think we'll see at least one Big Ten player in New York. Would be the first time that has happened since 2006, when Ohio State's Troy Smith won it.
Do you foresee any undefeated big10 teams getting kept out of the national championship game in favor of a one-loss SEC team this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Nope. Not after what happened with Boise State and Virginia Tech this weekend. I guess we could have an undefeated team from the Big 12 like Oklahoma or Texas get the nod over Iowa or Wisconsin, but I just don't see it. If Ohio State wins out, it'll be playing in Glendale for the title.
Larry (Glendale, CA)
How about the NEC (Northeastern Conference) as the new title of the Big Ten Conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Larry, don't know how Nebraska or Iowa would feel about that. Plus, the Big Ten name isn't changing.
Is Indiana's defense good enough to keep them in big ten games during the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Not sure yet, John, and we might not know for a while. My problem with Indiana's preseason schedule is I don't believe it adequately prepares the Hoosiers for Big Ten play. You've got Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron before facing Denard Robinson and Michigan. Yikes. The defense needs to be better than it was in Week 1 on Saturday at WKU.
Adam, love the blog. Sent this question to the mailbag, but it didn't make the cut, so I thought I'd try here. By my count, there are 2 QBs in the country who have won their last 16 starts and finishes: Stanzi and Greg McElroy. Could this become a national watch, to see who keeps it going the longest?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Calvin, that's a good stat. Obviously, the fact that McElroy hasn't lost a start in eons attracts more national attention. But Stanzi certainly knows how to win games as well. Iowa hasn't lost a game he started and finished since Illinois in 2008.
Adam, re: your response to Lance (Bedford/PA), are you saying if OSU goes undefeated they are guaranteed to play for the natl champ, but if UW or Iowa goes undefeated they might not?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Sean, it might be harder for Iowa and Wisconsin because they're not rated as highly right now, and Big 12 teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska are ranked ahead of them. Don't get me started on preseason polls because I hate them, but they do shape this race. I would hope any undefeated Big Ten team gets into the title game, but Ohio State is the only one I can guarantee would make it right now.
Josh (Madison, WI)
Is Scott Tolzien finally feeling the pressure? He has already thrown 2 picks this season and has a problem putting the ball on the turf so far this season. They need Scott to correct these errors or it will be a long season for the Badgers
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Tolzien has to be a bit more polished going forward, but I don't think he's "feeling the pressure." He's a senior who performed well on some big stages last year. But Wisconsin isn't the type of team that can survive a lot of mistakes from its quarterback. I expect Scott to play well this week against ASU.
Adrian Clayborn (Iowa City, IA)
Adam, if you keep talking about how I am having a down year so far, I'm going to hunt you down like the stray dog that you are and eat you. I started a little slow last year, and the same is happening this year. But, don't you worry, I'll be punishing QBs in no time, starting with Nick Foles this weekend.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Easy, Adrian. Take your anger out on Foles. He's a lot bigger than me.
If the Spartans go unbeaten, will they play in the title game. Don't laugh, they have as much of a shot given the question you just answered specifically about Wisconsin.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Chavan, I guess anything is possible, but the odds would be against MSU. I believe colleague Brad Edwards recently wrote that teams ranked outside the top 10 entering the season never reach the title game. So to go from unranked to the BCS title game would be quite a leap.
Ryan Kerrigan (W. Lafayette)
Can I single handily keep Purdue in games on defense? And why don't I get as much pub as Adrian Clayborn?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Ryan, if you keep invading the backfield like you have been, Purdue's defense should be in good shape. And you don't get as much pub as Clayborn because Purdue has struggled the last two years. Clayborn has had more big-stage opportunities to perform, and he has stepped up in big ways.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Adam, Any chances that we'll get a back and forth between you and Ted Miller for IOWA-ARIZONA. I really like the different takes from the conference bloggers! Thanks for all your good work. Keep it up. Go Hawks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
You'll get one soon, Mark. Several Pac-10-Big Ten matchups on the slate this week. Should be good.
Drew (Evanston, IL)
Hey Adam, from the way it looks Northwestern is going to be favored in its first 7 games before a winnable homecoming game where Michigan State visits. How do you see NU ending up at the end of the season, and will it significantly hurt their bowl chances if they lose 3 of the last 4 weeks to Iowa, PSU and Wisco?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Drew, not sure the Wildcats will be favored in all those games, but they could win them. I just don't see the Wildcats avoiding a stumble or two along the way. As for the bowl chances, if you get to six wins, you're pretty much in with the Big Ten's new lineup. Northwestern's schedule certainly is backloaded, but Pat Fitzgerald has a very good record in November.
In your blog post yesterday you listed 3 reasons why you think this years Michigan team is different from 2009's. While I agree with the first 2, I completely disagree with you listing "Defense". You do realize UofM is 98th in total defense right? Also consider the fact that UCONN missed tons of opportunities with drops and overthrows. Notre Dame put up 535 total yards even though they were completely innefective when Crist was out for almost the whole first half.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Steve, the defense hasn't been great, but after last year, anything is improvement. We saw a breakdown Saturday against Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph. We saw five of those every game in 2009. I'm not proclaiming Michigan has a great defense, but you're seeing signs of improvement, especially in the front seven. Still a long, long way to go.
Larry (Glendale, CA)
Why isn't the Big Ten changing its name? It is misleading. Will the Big Ten change its name if it turn into a 16-team power conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
No, Larry, and you can stop sending in your question 90 times, too. It's a branding issue. The Big Ten brand matters. And they've been mathematically incorrect for 20 years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Brett (King of Prussia, PA)
Adam,Do you think Royster is regretting putting on the extra 17 pounds this offseason? I went to the game at Bama and to be honest, it appeared as if holes were there, he just didn't get through them quick enough.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Brett, that's an interesting question. I always considered Royster to be an incredibly patient runner, a guy who waited for his blocks to develop. Maybe he's too anxious right now? Maybe he has lost a step with the added weight? It's hard to tell. He told me before the season that he hadn't lost any speed with the weight gain. We need to see it now.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed the chat. Talk to you next week.