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 started.
Jason (Antwerp, Belgium)
I've read in the early season that the PSU v Temple game was a trap game...I honestly can't remember if it was you that wrote that...care to shed some light on why people might make that call? Do you still see it as a trap game for Lions?As an alum...I think it's utterly ridiculous.Thanks for keeping me sane while abroad!
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Jason, thanks for writing in from so far away. It was my that called Temple a trap game, and it still might be. Several PSU people have said this is the best Temple team they've seen, and Temple already has three pretty solid wins this year. Penn State's defense probably will be too strong for the Owls, but the offense can't turn the ball over like it did last week. Could be a close game, seriously.
Chris (Downtown Madtown)
Adam, I noticed you didn't respond to my question in your mailblog, but it looks like you have acted on my observation...no more ridiculous faces to begin your video blogs???
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Haha, actually, you'll see more of the stupid faces from time to time. Those videos aren't edited, and there's no way of telling the first frame they grab, so I've tried to wait a little longer before talking. I know it looks ridiculous, so I'll try to limit them.
Adam, your thoughts on the play clock at the end of the MSU/ND game? I've read several things regarding lag time, ESPN clock not being exactly in sync with stadium clock, the official's watch being the only official clock...not sure what to think on this one.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Matt, I liken it to a bang-bang play in baseball. It's very close, and the Big East clearly backs up its officials for not throwing the flag. It certainly seemed like the clock hit zero before the snap, but according to the Big East's statement, the officials allow for some lag time in there, and MSU apparently was in that lag time when it snapped the ball. It's an odd situation for sure.
What is going on with Michigan defense this year? Marvin Robinson is expected to start saturday, so he will burn his redshirt. Do you think it will be another shootout in Ann Arbor this weekend against Bowling Green?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Daniel, you still have an issue with scholarship numbers on defense, which I've written about before. Plus, the injuries and player departures aren't helping, especially in the secondary. But it also comes down to coaching and execution, both of which weren't great against UMass. I've seen a lot of missed tackles and players out of position on defense the last few years. You'd think Michigan could keep the score down a bit against Bowling Green and its backup QB, but we'll see.
Will Indiana use last years game as motivation to pull the suprise win over Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Indiana is using all of its close losses from 2009 as motivation, not just the one against Michigan. Although I'm still not sure what to make of IU because the competition is so terrible, Ben Chappell and those receivers could put up huge numbers against the Wolverines. Expect a scoring shootout Oct. 2 in Bloomington.
Any chance of Ohio State running the table and an undefeated Boise State getting the nod over them to play for the title
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Not any more. Boise State would need to beat Oregon State and then have the Beavers run the table, because the Virginia Tech win looks worse and worse by the week. If Ohio State runs the table, winning at both Wisconsin and Iowa, it will head to Glendale to play for the title.
Andrew (Montgomery, AL)
Adam, you should hold a special teams clinic with the entire conference. You got to give these guys some help.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Although I might best resemble a kicker or punter, you're giving me way too much credit, Andrew. But the special teams have to get better ASAP around the league.
Jason (Santa Monica CA)
Hey Adam-really enjoy your blogs and chat!Witnessing the Bates to Gantt "Little Giant" play in person I finally have slighly stopped smiling but still have a huge gring wondering what other tricks my spartans will pull out in Big 10 play. If they get Time Of Possesion under control, and Cousins turns the offense into a huge dual threat, I'm seeing 12-0! Did you book your flight out for the Rose Bowl yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Jason, your excitement is great to see, but I'd hold off for a while. Still a lot of issues on defense for the Spartans, who haven't vastly improved their pass defense from a year ago. I also want to see Kirk Cousins step up his game in the clutch, because he seemed to struggle late against ND. So it's great to be excited, but don't get carried away from one play.
I see the running game as a weak link for Ohio State. What are the chances that Hall and JB see more carries? And what do you think about turning Saine into a WR?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Steve, why do Buckeyes fans hate Brandon Saine and Dan Herron so much? They've been pretty solid backs the last year or so. They might not be huge or flashy, but they run hard and get the job done most of the time. The love affair Buckeyes fans have with Jaamal Berry really amuses me. He might be a great back some day, but I wouldn't discount the guys on the top of the depth chart. I'll agree with you on this: Saine catches the ball very well out of the backfield.
Do you think Wisconsin was the better team against Arizona State last Saturday even despite the Non pass interference call on Wisonsin and missed call on the touchdown reception? Seems like a lot of things really went the Badgers way.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
You could make a case that Arizona State outplayed Wisconsin, but ASU showed an incredible lack of discipline with all those penalties as well. Both teams should have scored more points, but they didn't. Wisconsin certainly needs to pick up its play, especially without Chris Borland, but I still have faith the Badgers are a good team.
Bob (Madison, WI)
Hey Adam,In one of your last posts, you mentioned that Clay needs to have a breakout game (not exact quote) to be considered for the Heisman. Well just as one example, but DeMarco Murray from OU is getting Heisman love, when he has less total yards and a lower average than Clay. What gives? Is it quality of opponents? Because none of OU's opponents are all that great (FSU can kind of be an exception, but he only had 51 yards against them).
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Bob, like a lot of backs, Clay is victimized a bit by sharing the carries load. I also wanted to see him pick up those two third-and-short situations in the fourth quarter against Arizona State. His rushing performance seemed a bit quiet to me. Now if he goes out and has a big game in two weeks against Michigan State on ABC, he'll help his Heisman cause.
Pete (Chicago )
This Denard Robinson hype for Heisman is ridiculous. Let's see how he plays against Big Ten competition before we give out any awards
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Pete, I'd argue the Heisman hype for anyone is ridiculous at this point in the season. But we like to track these things from start to finish, and based on production in the first three games, Robinson has been very, very impressive. Can't deny that.
I don't hate them, that was a strong retort. I don't think Saine has the vision to see a hole develop and he would make a better #3 WR. Neither Boom or Zoom had a game against Ohio University and that is disturbing. If those two have another outing against EMich like they did against Ohio U. should Tress consider a change? No hate involved please. :)
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Steve, didn't mean to call you out, but I can't believe all the questions I get about Jaamal Berry, who has done very little as a college player. Sure, I'd get a bit concerned if Ohio State can't rush the ball against EMU, but I'd expect Tressel to enter the Big Ten season with two veteran backs in Saine and Herron and not Hall or Berry.
Jumping on Daniel's question, is Wisconsin still getting itself settled, or when does Brett start to hit the panic button? Could we be in for another 4-4 BT recrod?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Justin, the Michigan State game is huge for Wisconsin. We won't learn too much this week against Austin Peay, but the Badgers haven't fared well in the state of Michigan in recent years. Michigan State also should be 4-0, and the Spartans got a huge boost with how they beat Notre Dame. Wisconsin's defense just lost its best player, so we'll see how the Badgers respond to what should be some more adversity. That game shapes the rest of the season for UW.
Shane (Husker Nation)
Robinson and T Magic line up....who wins that race?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Ha, Shane is referring to Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, who made Washington look silly on Saturday. I'm taking Denard Robinson against just about anybody in a race, but Martinez can scoot, too.
Randy Brewer (St. Louis, MO)
Tackle of the year so far -- Ohio Bobcat on Brutus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
It was the best tackle anyone representing Ohio made on Saturday. I don't advocate violence, but that was just too funny. I wonder if Eastern Michigan's mascot has been bulking up this week.
David (The banks of the Red Cedar)
Adam, I love the duel threat backfield developing with Baker and Bell for the Spartans. Where do you think Larry Caper will fit in now that he's healthy. I was at the MSU-ND game and didn't see much of him.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
David, I thought we'd see more of Caper as well on Saturday. Caper is a similar back to Bell, but I don't know how you take Bell off the field. Michigan State wants to ride the hot hand at running back, and right now both Bell and Baker are hot. Can't see Caper taking a major chunk of carries from either guy when he does return.
Adam referring back to the first question of this chat. Temple has 3 solid wins. Villanova, C mich and UConn? one by a touchdown over an FCS team and an ot win against another MAC team and UConn. Solid? O.K. whatever you say.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Max, it's all relative this time of year. Few teams have played what you'd call outstanding schedules. Villanova won an FCS title last year, Central Michigan has won four consecutive league titles and UConn was pegged as a Big East title contender before the year. Sure, it's not murderer's row, but it's a better collection of wins than those held by several Big Ten teams right now.
Adam what in the word is it going to take to jump start the badgers this season? I thought having you in attendance this past week might help but that didnt seem to work either.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Ha! I can say this now because Wisconsin won, but I had been a major curse for the Badgers before Saturday. Wisconsin was 0-4 when I attended their games in 2008 and 2009. So I had NOTHING to do with it, trust me. ... I think a few big touchdowns from the offense would really help. John Clay was close a few times Saturday, but a 70-yard touchdown run would be really nice right now.
Robert Marve seems to be splitting an awful lot of snaps with Rob Henry (even when healthy). Do you think this is having an impact on Marve being able to get into a rhythm? He seem to be missing on quite a few deep passes for someone so highly touted for his accuracy.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Trent, I wouldn't be too worried about Marve just yet. A lot of teams like to get their backup QBs into these early games, to get a feel for competition in case they have to relieve the starter. Purdue needs to establish some type of a downfield passing attack, but Marve should be OK in the long run.
Jacob (Cottage Grove, MN)
Adam, right now the nation is down on the ability of my Iowa Hawkeyes. After the Ball State game this weekend, Iowa encounters a "gauntlet" of tough Big Ten teams (Penn St, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mich St) who are all currently ranked in the top 25. If Iowa were to win all 4, does that put them back in the top 10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Jacob, I'd be stunned if Iowa wasn't back in the top 10 if it starts Big Ten play 4-0. While I'm not certain all those teams will be ranked when Iowa faces them, those are all quality wins. Teams ranked above Iowa will start losing, so there's room for the Hawkeyes to climb the rankings.
Hey Adam, from a Buckeye fan, on the whole Brandon Saine thing, I feel it is because he appears to have a problem getting going out of the back field with the ball. He is very quick in th open field, but he just appears to not be going hard or fast when he gets the hand off, plus he is questionable going thru the line, I feel he is better going to the outside. With Herron, I feel he is quicker off the start in the back field, and hits holes harder than Saine, but lacks the second or third gear Saine has. What do you think about this assesment? Thank you and Great chat!
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Gregory, that's some really good analysis there. Thanks. Saine and Herron are a bit odd to me because you look at them and Saine should be the tough, between the tackles runner, while Herron should be the speed guy on the perimeter. Instead, the roles are sort of reversed. Saine is pretty special in the open field, but you might be right about his difficulties in getting going.
Stephon Green (State College, PA)
Hey Adam, what else do I have to do to earn the starting job? I have better yards her rush, I'm breaking tackles, hitting the hole faster and I still have to ride the pine.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Well, Stephfon, you got more carries than Evan Royster last week, and if Royster struggles again against Temple, you'll get more chances. Penn State isn't going to bail on Evan just yet, but if you continue to produce and stay healthy, which hasn't always been easy, you'll get more opportunities.
Dan (Brighton, MI)
Hey Adam, love your blog! Everyone seems focused on Michigan's porous defense, but I feel like their special teams is an even bigger problem. They've directly led to a loss of ~10 points per game (in field goals and turnovers). Is it just because everyone's special teams are bad? Which do you think deserves more attention and improvement, the defense or special teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Dan, it's a problem throughout the Big Ten. I'll address it more Thursday on the blog, but coaches have told me that the early breakdowns on special teams are due largely to young or unproven players losing the 1-on-1 battles or missing assignments. Those individual lapses carry a much greater cost on special teams than offense or defense. I think as some of these players mature, you'll see less breakdowns. But it's certainly an issue for Michigan and other league teams.
Wilson (The D, MI)
If you could be a blogger in another conference, which would it be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Ah, good question, Wilson. I grew up in California, so I wouldn't mind those Pac-10 road trips. The media access also is much better in the Pac-10 than the Big Ten. But Ted Miller does a great job on the Pac-10, and I'm happy where I'm at.
Adam, how do you feel about how the MSU-Wisconsin game will go and will you be there to cover it? Wisconsin may have a slightly better running game, but MSU's offensive balance looks to be better than Wisconsin's. I see another classic in East Lansing.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Corey, I agree it'll be a heck of a game. Both offenses actually have a good amount of balance. Wisconsin's passing attack should be helped by the return of receivers Nick Toon and David Gilreath. MSU got its pass game going with Martin and Cunningham last week. Won't know where I'm headed for a few more days, but I could end up in East Lansing that day.
Drew (Evanston, IL)
Hey Adam, with Dan Persa and Northwestern continuing to play well and other Big 10 teams struggling what do you think the Wildcats' chances are against the end of their schedule: Michigan State @Indiana Iowa, @PSU, Illinois, and @Wisco? Thanks, love the blog.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Drew, the NU schedule certainly is backloaded, but Pat Fitzgerald's record in November games has been excellent. Michigan State could be a swing game for Northwestern, which might still be undefeated. The Indiana trip has been tricky, while NOrthwestern will be the underdog against Iowa, PSU and Wisconsin, and most likely the favorite against Illinois. Wildcats have had a lot of success against Illinois and Iowa lately. What's key is keeping Persa healthy and trying to establish a run game.
Regarding the Dion Sims situation. How can coaches sniff out things like this when they are recruiting athletes? Dion wasn't hanging out with a bad crowd in high school or anything. In fact, it seems like his dad is main link between Dion and this theft ring. What can coaches do to try and avoid this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Mike, it's a very unfortunate situation regarding Sims and MSU. Coaches try to know as much as they can about a player's background, but I'm not sure the Spartans coaches could have known about this before bringing Sims to campus. I have to look into his background a little more, but I don't remember any incidents like this.
Matt (Atlanta Ga)
Adam..I think Michigan can outscore just about everyone on their schedule except possibly Ohio St..with MSU Iowa and Wisc at home I see them with a break here and there 11-0 or 10-1 going into the Ohio St game...am I completely crazy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Not completely, just mostly, Matt :-) Just kidding. But if you think Michigan will go 11-0 with this defense, I'd have your head checked. You can't expect to simply outscore teams, and Michigan's problems on defense and special teams will prove costly when Big Ten play begins. I don't see the Wolverines going 5-7 again, but 11-1 or 10-2 won't happen without some major strides on defense.
Joe Paterno (State College)
Adam, all of this talk about Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State having better teams than Penn State annoys me. I think some forget that my program is 53-14 since the start of 2005 and is a combined 6-0 since 2007 against Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State...outscoring them 258-73. Iowa is a thorn in my side, but I'll get them this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Ha, Joe, you haven't lost it. Impressive numbers right there. If you go out and beat Iowa next week, you'll get some national respect for sure.
Anthony (Houston, TX)
Adam, do you think anyone can contend with Ohio State in the Big Ten this year? They look pretty strong both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball thus far and pretty much dominated the hurricanes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Anthony, right now, Ohio State is clearly above every other team in the league. But there's a way to beat the Buckeyes by limiting your own mistakes, forcing some from Terrelle Pryor and attacking Ohio State's weaknesses on special teams. It's not easy, but not impossible, either, especially for a team like Iowa.
Adam, despite the fact that the Gophers are 1-2, I thought the return of Kyle Theret really solidified that Defense Saturday against USC. The Gophers look to me like a team that could win 4-6 Big Ten games. Your Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Michael, thanks for checking in from Central America. Theret certainly helped the defense, but Minnesota has to show it can finish off games against good teams. Simply hasn't happened much under Tim Brewster. I can't see 4-6 Big Ten wins until the defense shuts down a decent opponent. Saturday's game against NIU will be huge for the Gophers.
JK (NY, NY)
Hey Adam,Noting that Penn State's O-line has not yet allowed a sack, where do you think that puts them in terms of competing with Iowa, whose line seemed to struggle a bit with Arizona? Is the line jelling enough to keep PSU in that game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
JK, I was actually surprised to see that stat from an O-line that entered the season with a lot of question marks. Pretty impressive stuff, given that one of the opponents is Alabama. Stefen Wisniewski tells me the line is coming together better each week. The next step is to spark Evan Royster, whose play will loom large when the Big Ten season kicks off.
Dan (Sheboygan, WI)
Rumor has it that Adrian Clayborn has volunteered to play both sides of the ball to fill in for the injured Jewel Hamption. How do you think an agile defensive end like Clayborn could do at the running back position?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Ha! I'm a little leery of that "rumor" Dan, but I'd love to see 94 carrying the ball more often. He showed some pretty good speed at Penn State last year.
Bart (Columbus, OH)
At 3-0, how close do you think Rich Rodriguez is to securing his job for another year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Bart, still a long way to go for Rich and the Wolverines. He needs to show progress throughout the season and notch at least one signature win (Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State) with no bad losses. But Denard Robinson's emergence at QB really helps Rodriguez on a number of levels. Robinson's success is tied to RichRod and his offense, so if he keeps doing what he's doing, it strengthens Rodriguez's case to be the coach.
Trying to get in w/ the last question! I'm an Iowa fan who wished Coach D a speedy recovery and loved the call against Notre Dame. But am I the only one who thinks the fake wasn't a "gutsy" call. The odds of converting it had to be better than the odds of converting both the 46-yard field goal and then winning in the next OT, when they had the ball first. Smart call, but gutsy? I say no. He was playing the percentages.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
You made it, Calvin! I'm not sure, man, that was pretty gutsy to me. True, Notre Dame had the momentum and Dan Conroy is a first-year starter at kicker, but Conroy had converted three attempts of 40 yards or longer the previous week. It would have been a tough kick, but most coaches would have gone with the field goal. I can't say calling a fake field goal is ever "playing the percentages."
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one ...
Drew (Toledo, OH)
Is OSU throwing the ball too much?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I don't think so, especially early in the season. It was critical for Ohio State to get more players involved in both the rush game and the pass game. The emergence of TE Jake Stoneburner is very encouraging to me, and other guys also can be targets for Pryor. I like the approach so far.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. See you next week.