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)
I'm here, so let's get things started!
Who leads the B10 in tackles this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Good question, Gustave. A good pick would be Nebraska LB Lavonte David, who piled up 152 tackles in 2010.
Kyle (Stoughton, WI)
Do you believe that the addition of Russell Wilson puts the UW as a legit contender in the B1G? Does this make their offense one of the best in the nation (Both the OLine & RB units are stacked, but no depth at WR)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Wisconsin already was a contender in the Big Ten before Wilson arrived, and Wilson makes the Badgers better. How much better? Time will tell, but he seems to be a good fit for Wisconsin at this particular time. Wisconsin returns several pieces from its record-setting offense in 2010 -- RBs James White and Montee Ball, WR Nick Toon, OL Ricky Wagner, Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler -- so the potential is there to put up big numbers again.
Adam, earlier today you said "Wisconsin has the most complete team in the division." I think they clearly have the best offense, but how can you say they are the most complete when their defense will probably be average compared to Ohio State's? Also, are their special teams that outstanding? I'd take Ohio State's special teams and defense over the Badgers any day. Does Wisconsin have 3 defensive players that would start for Ohio State? And don't say Borland, because while he's a good player, he'd be second string in OSU's linebackers. Possibly Third.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
So you're saying Chris Borland, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009, would be a third-sting LB for Ohio State? A Buckeyes LB core that loses Homan and Rolle? Please. Ohio State would love to have Borland. ... While you should never doubt the Buckeyes' overall defensive excellence, they have quite a few holes to fill this season. Wisconsin also has some gaps, but I like what the Badgers bring back in the secondary. Wisconsin also has more proven players at LB than Ohio State. As for special teams, Wisconsin returns two multiyear starting specialists in Welch and Nortman. Losing Gilreath hurts the return game and I'd give Ohio State an edge there. But overall, Wisconsin is more complete entering the season than Ohio State.
Adam, with the rebuilding going on around Ann Arbor, people are kind of overlooking Michigan as being a national contender. The biggest concern is defense and I think people forgot that Michigan lost 2 seasoned cornerbacks very early last year in Floyd and Woolfolk. Their D-line should be stout and linebackers are semi-young but very athletic while the secondary should be MUCH improved with the returning of their injured players. Can this 2011 Michigan team fight their way into BCS contention if their defense stays healthy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Fans love to think teams with major problems can vault to BCS bowl contenders in one year. I don't see it. Yes, Michigan will be better on defense, and the Wolverines should have better luck on the injury front. But this was a really bad unit in 2010 and it will take more than a year to fix everything. I'm not saying Michigan can't win 7-9 games, but to expect the Wolverines to get back in the BCS bowl mix is far-fetched.
Why didn't Ohio State try and make a run at Russell Wilson? He'd be much better than Bauserman and would be a good mentor to Braxton Miller for a year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
John, I was thinking the same thing yesterday. Terrelle Pryor was still on the team until a few weeks ago, and Ohio State's tumultuous situation could have scared away a player like Wilson. But I wonder what would have happened if Pryor had turned pro after the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State might have been in a better position to pursue a player like Wilson, provided he was interested.
Jake (Madison, WI)
Whats the appeal of the Nebraska team. That is, when they come to Madison, what should I be worried about?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Jake, worry about their defense and worry if Taylor Martinez is healthy. Nebraska has the most complete defense in the Big Ten entering the fall, led by a star at all three levels (DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard). The Blackshirts have competed at a championship level the past two seasons, and their hopes remain extremely high for 2011. Martinez also has shown he can do special things when healthy. If he gets in the open field, Wisconsin's LBs and DBs will be tested to make plays. I'd also watch out for I-back Rex Burkhead. Think he has a very big year for the Huskers.
What will Penn State have to do in order to beat Alabama in week 2?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Penn State needs to play a low-scoring, low-possession game and limit mistakes, especially in Alabama territory. When the Lions cross the 50, they need to get points and not commit turnovers like they did last year at Bryant-Denny. If Penn State can win the turnover battle or break even, and force Alabama to mount long drives to score points, it will have a decent chance Sept. 10.
pfac51 (kansas city)
Longevity of Iowa/ Nebraska on Black Friday after the 2 year test period?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
I'd hope the game remains on Friday because it gives the Big Ten some variety on the final weekend of the regular season. It's a great way to kick off the slate of rivalry games, and I expect this rivalry to be a very good one. A lot depends on the games, the ratings and how the league wants to present itself on that weekend, but I could see Iowa-Nebraska remaining on Friday for years to come.
Ben (Milwaukee, WI)
I know all the talk is about Wilson and rightfully so. But my question in about the Badgers D. Is it ok to expect Borland to be 100% for the upcoming season? Have you heard any reports one way or another?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
This is a really good question, Ben, and we might not fully know the answer until September. I spoke to Borland this spring and his recovery is going smoothly. The concern is that he has has multiple shoulder problems, and he plays a position that carries a risk of reinjury. You don't want Borland to change his game, so Wisconsin just needs to hope his shoulders can hold up through a tough season.
Do you agree with Purdue's AD on how Coach Danny Hope's job is safe. If Purdue doesn't get back to a bowl game this year, shouldn't we be starting to look in a new direction for a head coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Ted, I agree with Morgan Burke that we need more time to evaluate Hope and whether he can get it done at this level. The injuries in 2010 made it really hard to get a true gauge on Hope, his coaching skills, etc. Few coaches could do much with such a depleted roster. Now Hope enters a season with a team at or near full strength and a roster including many of his own recruits. This season should provide a better look at whether Hope's formula is working or not. But I understand the frustration and the sense of urgency among Purdue fans. That program desperately needs a spark, and we don't know if Hope can provide one or not.
I hate to ask another OSU-NCAA question, but this one has been bothering me. Many analysts have been talking about OSU having last season's wins vacated. I understand this fully, with one exception. How could the NCAA possibly vacate the Sugar Bowl when they explicitly authorized the ineligible players to take part? It seems they would really be recognizing their own mistake more than punishing OSU. On what basis could they vacate the Sugar Bowl when the ineligibility issue was known by everyone who wasn't living under a rock at the time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Lucas, I've been thinking the exact same thing! Aside from Jim Tressel's prior knowledge of the ineligible players, there were no secrets entering the Sugar Bowl. We knew they had violated NCAA rules and we knew the NCAA still allowed them to compete. Now Jim Delany and others wouldn't have lobbied for the players to participated had they known what Tressel knew, but it would seem hypocritical for the NCAA to vacate the Sugar Bowl win.
Adam, What do you see has the long term prospects of Bret Bielema at Wisconsin? A lot of Wisconsin fans were unfairly harsh during the 2008 season, but in my opinion Coach Bielema did an impressive job guiding the program during the transition from Barry Alvarez, learned from his mistakes and now clearly has us on the up swing coming the Rose Bowl. Is he a guy who will be a "lifer" at Wisconsin or will he jump at another opportunity?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
I think Bielema really matured and grew as a coach after the 2008 season. You saw him do a better job in 2009, and he really blossomed during the course of last season. Bret recognizes he's in a great situation at Wisconsin. He's a Midwest guy, so his family isn't far from Madison. While the Iowa questions might always be there because he played for the Hawkeyes, I could definitely see Bielema remaining at Wisconsin, especially if the program's national profile continues to grow.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Adam,How importantant is the game at Virginia for Indiana and if they can go 4-0 out of conference,do you see 2 or more wins in the conference and a bowl bid for the Hoosiers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Phillip, the Virginia game is huge for Indiana, especially from a confidence standpoint. There are so many question marks with IU, but an early win against an ACC opponent could really springboard this team. Indiana didn't get tested nearly enough in non-league play last year -- the Arkansas State game was close but shouldn't have been -- and it showed in Big Ten play. Virginia isn't an elite program, but the Cavs will challenge Indiana.
Patrick (Harrisburg, PA)
Adam, whatever happened to Dakota Royer at Penn St? Never hear his name mentioned anymore. Did he just get lost in the crowd at a loaded LB posititon?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Good question, Patrick. I think we'll hear more about Royer and other members of the heralded 2010 recruiting class this year. Royer, Khairi Fortt, C.J. Olaniyan and others have a chance to contribute for a defense that must regain its edge. Penn State needs its young players to step up, so Royer has a great opportunity ahead of him. That said, the linebacker corps looks pretty good with Mauti, Hodges, Stupar, etc.
Entering the first year of the new divisions, how do you feel about the short-term balance of the division alignments? Seems to me that on paper in the preseason (I know, I know) the Legends Division might be a tougher road. Will it be significantly tougher?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Jack, things will change year to year, and I agree that the Legends division looks deeper entering this season. But long term, I like how the divisions shake out, both from a competitive standpoint and from a branding standpoint. The Big Ten wants competitive division races first and foremost, but it also wants both divisions to attract national attention. Putting certain teams in certain spots should help achieve both goals.
Tom (Lincoln Park)
Adam, are Michigan's special teams going to be any better? I thought one of the big issues the last 3-5 years was the teams inability to make field goals, which put a ton of pressure on both the offense and defense. And the planking thing is stupid. No explanation necessary.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Haha, I was at a concert Sunday night where one of the musicians said planking is both the dumbest thing and coolest thing ever invented. I'd probably lean toward the dumbest thing ... Making field goals is huge for Michigan because the Wolverines might not score as many big-play touchdowns as they did a year ago. It puts a ton of pressure on an offense if the kicker can't consistently connect from within 40 yards. I can't imagine Michigan is much worse in this area, but a lot could ride on whether freshman Matt Wile answers the bell.
Adam:I really enjoy your blog. It has become a must read for Husker fans.Just a comment to let our fellow conference brethren (it is great to say that!) know there will be toasts all over Nebraska, come midnight tomorrow. To say we are collectively excited would be an understatement.The essence of Nebraska is the love of the game. That is why a trip to Memorial Stadium should be on any fan's bucket list. We love our Huskers, but we also love college football.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Mike, great to hear it! Colleague Brian Bennett and I will be welcoming Nebraska to the Big Ten in our own way Friday, so be sure and check the blog for some Huskers-related content.
Colt McCoy (Cleveland)
Adam,I need some help at receiver in Cleveland. Who are the best Big Ten prospects to help me out in the coming years? My Browns need a few good draft picks..
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Hmmm, what do you think, Husker fans? Should I help a Longhorn out? ... Colt, I think you'll have some options coming out of the Big Ten in 2012. Several teams have excellent No. 1 receivers with NFL potential. I'd keep an eye on Penn State's Derek Moye, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Ohio State's DeVier Posey, Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight, Wisconsin's Nick Toon and Indiana's Damarlo Belcher.
What do my Spartans have to do this year in order to be in the BCS conversation? What positions have to step up?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Offensive line is the big one, Alex. MSU must replace both starting tackles and its starting center, which is never an easy task. If the line holds up, Edwin Baker and the running backs have room to roam and Kirk Cousins has time to attack. The offense will be very good. On defense, I like the tackle spots but want to see a more consistent pass rush from the ends. I'd keep a close eye on big Will Gholston. Can he become an elite pass rusher in the Big Ten? If not, who steps up for the Spartans? I really think Michigan State's season comes down to the two lines. There's enough talent at the skill positions to win another B1G title.
Charlie (Lincoln, Nebraska)
What are the 5 biggest Big Ten Conference Games that will decide who is going to the Big Ten Championship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Good question, Charlie. Here are five DIVISION games that should help decide who goes to Indy: Wisconsin-Ohio State, Michigan State-Nebraska, Penn State-Wisconsin, Iowa-Nebraska, Michigan State-Iowa.
Greg (Jackson, MI)
Adam: What prompted ESPN to add another B1G blogger? Is Brian being groomed to be your replacement, or will be just be picking up your slack?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Nope, I'm not going anywhere (sorry to disappoint some of you). The move was made to enhance our Big Ten coverage for years to come. Without going into too many details, you guys are a big reason why Brian has joined me. The Big Ten blog has benefited greatly from your continued support and participation. Keep it up!
What would you say is the marquee big 10 game this season at this point Adam? By marquee I mean the ONE game that will have the biggest national hype and have the biggest impact on the big 10 title or national title chase?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Drew, Ohio State-Nebraska had been billed as that game, but I'm not so sure it carries the same zest after the departures of both Tressel and Pryor. This was the game that both men would have returned to the field. Without them, I'm not quite as jazzed. The spotlight might turn to Nebraska-Wisconsin, the Big Ten opener. This matchup likely will pair the two division favorites in a potential Big Ten championship game preview.
Just wondering what you think about Nebraska starting 0-2 in conference play. Would this end their conference hopes or could they still pull it off?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Nebraska fans should know an 0-2 start won't doom the Huskers' hopes. Why? Both games occur against Leaders division opponents (Wisconsin, Ohio State). So as long as Nebraska took care of business in the Legends division it would go to Indianapolis. The Huskers benefit from their division schedule because they play Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa all at home.
PPD (Chicago, IL)
11/19/11, Bucky in Champaign. This will be a bigger game than anyone has acknowledged thus far this offseason, heard it here. Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
PPD, I can definitely see Wisconsin-Illinois being a much bigger game than people think entering the season. The Illini finally have a favorable schedule and a chance to continue their momentum from 2010. They've always been tough on Ohio State at home, and they could make things challenging for Wisconsin. The big key for Illinois is building depth on defense after losing players like Corey Liuget, Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey.
Paul (Lansing, MI)
PS, How big is the night game when Wisconsin travels to Spartan Stadium? As an alum, I cant wait to go to that game (on our homecoming too)! Given the badgers success (or lack there of) in the state of Michigan, I see that one as HUGE, even though both teams are in different divisions.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
It's another huge game, Paul, and Michigan State definitely benefits from the late kickoff. Spartan Stadium will be electric, and Wisconsin has really struggled in East Lansing the past few years. This game could pair two top 10 teams. Should be a good one.
think brion carnes has a chance to take over the starting spot from taylor martinez at nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Tom, he'd have to make a push in camp. I'd be surprised if Bo Pelini goes away from Martinez to start the season, but with Cody Green gone, Carnes has an opportunity to push T-Magic. I liked some of the things Carnes did in the spring game. There's also the Bubba Starling factor.
sean (rockwood, mi)
Adam, who do you think is going to be the "bellcow" tailback at UM this year, and get 20+ carries per game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Sean, good question. I could see Stephen Hopkins becoming that guy, and there's a good deal of buzz around incoming freshmen Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls. I wouldn't count out veterans like Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith, either. Shaw averaged 5.4 yards a carry in 2010.
With the addition of Russell Wilson, how do you see Wisconsin handling the four-game stretch of Neb, IU, @MSU, @OSU? If they escape it with one loss (preferably to Mich. St.), do you see them reaching the first Big Ten Championship game? What is their ceiling?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Craig, a 3-1 mark during that stretch would be pretty solid for Wisconsin. Depending on the loss, the Badgers would be in decent shape to win the Leaders division. Wisconsin's ceiling depends on the quarterback spot, Chris Borland's health and whether the defense can make strides. If things fall right, the Badgers could be on the national title radar.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Are people sleeping on the Nebraska-Penn State game? There is some tradition to this matchup dating back to the early 80s with Blackledge, Warner, Rozier, Craig, and Gill. This could be one of the best of the year in conference.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Tony, in terms of tradition, it's one of the best. And if Penn State addresses some issues and regains the form it showed in 2008-09, it could be a big-time late-season matchup. It's also Penn State's home finale, and with the constant questions about Joe Paterno's future, it could be historic.
Chris (New Haven, CT)
Adam, love the blog. Question...it's so frustrating to not be able to have any grounds to argue for Michigan to be rightful big 10 contender. How long do us UM fans have to wait until we are "back"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Chris, I don't think you'll have to wait too much longer. If the defense begins to make strides, Michigan will move closer to a breakthrough. You've got to love the way Brady Hoke has recruited so far. But they've got to get it done on the field in the fall.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
One more for the day ...
"I'm glad the SEC is now taking such a leading role in NCAA proposals," he said. "That?s a very entertaining thing for me to watch.? HAH!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Great line from Bret Bielema. Wish more Big Ten coaches would take some sarcastic shots at the SEC.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Great chat!