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!
I haven't seen or heard much coming out of Minnesota this offseason. Is Coach Kill on track to make improvements? Do you know anything that can help me get amped up for the upcoming season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Kris, I think you'll be able to get excited about the offense, as MarQueis Gray returns to QB. The unit might not always be effective, but it will show flashes of what Kill's teams have done in the past. As for the defense, other than a good LB corps, it's a big mystery. I know defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys wants to be more aggressive with pressure, so it'll be interesting to see if any D-linemen emerge.
Should Wisconsin be at all worried about their WR depth? After Nick Toon, only Jared Abberderis, a sophomore, has seen the field when the game was still in reach.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Justin, wide receiver depth definitely is a concern for Wisconsin. After Toon and Abbrederis, there really isn't much. It's why I think you'll see tight ends like Byrne, Pedersen and Manasseh Garner, a TE-WR hybrid, more involved in the passing game.
Adam, now that PSU has received a verbal from Skylar Mornhinweg, shouldn't Joe give serious consideration to Paul jones? The threat of Bolden leaving the team would be less costly at that point, and Jones appears to be the better athlete. McGloin can back him up and Skylar can take over in a few years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Steve, I see what you're saying, but Jones has to work his way into the mix. Bolden and McGloin clearly were the top two options coming out of spring ball, and Bolden is still on board as of now. I agree the threat of Bolden leaving remains, but if he wins the starting job he's likely not going anywhere. I do like the Mornhinweg addition as Penn State could be losing some quarterbacks down the line.
Michael Eisner (Florida)
Adam, you need to cover the SEC more in the Big Ten blog. You have a contractual obligation that you aren't living up to.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Haha, I'll leave that to my pals Chris Low and Edward Aschoff. They're in Hoover, Ala., right now for the start of the SEC media day zoo.
What game do you see as the biggest for Wisconsin? Hosting Nebraska? Traveling to East Lansing or Colombus? Hosting Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Justin, they're all big, but the Nebraska game in many ways sets the tone for the conference race. If Wisconsin beats the Huskers, you have to look at the Badgers as the Big Ten favorite. I also think the back-to-back trips to EL and C-Bus are huge because Wisconsin has struggled in both places.
Socalbuckeye (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
Hi Adam, with all the negativity going around I see OSU rallying around that and going undefeated this year. Fickell will be the coach for the long term and the sancations will be light. Any thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
I like the confidence! An undefeated season certainly would keep Luke Fickell in Columbus for the immediate future. While I doubt the NCAA sanctions will be "light," if additional allegations aren't leveled and proven, the penalties won't be quite as severe as my media colleagues want you to believe.
Adam, I enjoy reading your blog, it distracts me from doing my job so well. I am a Purdue fan living in Virginia and want to go to 2 games this year. Which two would you recommend I make the eleven hour drive up to go and see?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Ted, I'm guessing you mean Purdue home games. If so, definitely head up there for the Notre Dame game on Oct. 1. It's a night game, and Purdue will be looking for a signature win. I'd also head up for Ohio State on Nov. 12. I'm sure you remember what happened the last time the Buckeyes visited Ross-Ade Stadium.
Do you think a big ten championship for Nebraska in their first season make the conference look weak? I have nothing against Nebraska because I think they fit the Big Ten style of play nicely.
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Bennett and I recently debated this topic. You can make a case either way, but I think from a national perception standpoint, a Nebraska championship in Year 1 would make the Big Ten look a little weak. The Huskers have a brutal schedule, and they're adjusting to at least eight new opponents. While the Big Ten would love Nebraska to win 9-10 games and, most important, a bowl game, I don't know if the league benefits from the Huskers strolling in and claiming a championship right away.
Joe (Council Bluffs, IA)
My girlfriend is a Husker fan and I am an Iowa fan. We've followed the blog closely and there is one thing you and Brian fail to mention about the Iowa and Nebraska rivalry. They are the top football programs in their states. All the other Big Ten teams are in states with NFL. I know Iowa has the Barnstormers, but Iowa is still far more popular. So when Iowa and Nebraska play, that will be THE game of the week in Iowa and Nebraska, where all the other teams will have the NFL the next day.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Joe, I hope your relationship survives Black Friday! That should be intense. Good points about Nebraska and Iowa. Before Nebraska entered the league, I always felt Iowa and Ohio State were the two Big Ten programs that had a unique pull on sports fans throughout their states. Iowa football is the biggest thing in Iowa, and while Ohio has two NFL teams, the Buckeyes have had far more success. Nebraska certainly fits into that category as a team that can grip a state's attention without having to share with other teams.
Who will help OSU at WR while Posey is out other than Philly Brown?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Good question, Matt, as new WRs coach Stan Drayton faces a tough challenge in Year 1. Philly Brown needs to step up, as do players like Chris Fields, James Louis and maybe T.Y. Williams, who boasts good size. I also think Ohio State will use its running backs more out of the backfield as receivers, and the Buckeyes finally should start featuring tight end Jake Stoneburner more this fall.
Is it possible that the DLine could be a strength for my Badgers even with the loss of JJ? Seems like there is quite a bit of depth at all spots, despite the lack of playmakers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Brandon, we'll have to see, but J.J. Watt did so many different things to help Wisconsin's defense. He wasn't just a great pass rusher but one of the more versatile defenders in the country. A lot depends on whether experienced linemen like Nzegwu, Butrym and Gilbert can take the next step. Wisconsin also needs Brendan Kelly, Jordan Kohout, Beau Allen and other to provide depth. I think the secondary and linebackers both are stronger units, but Wisconsin will need its line to produce.
I think Ohio State should not start Bauserman and rather go with Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham, or especially Braxton Miller because Bauserman is a Sr and he would be gone after this year. So I think they should start one of the younger guys and develop for the future....what are your thoughts
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Evan, you're not the only one to make this argument. If Ohio State isn't going to be competing for a national championship -- the NCAA might prevent the Buckeyes from doing so this year -- why not plan ahead for the future? That said, coaches typically go with the QB who gives them the best chance to win. If Miller and Bauserman are even in camp, maybe Miller is the guy because he's younger. But if Bauserman is ahead, I'd expect the coaches to go with him.
Jake (San Diego)
Adam, you did a piece on the team with the toughest schedule (probably Michigan State), but I didn't see one on the team with the easiest schedule. Who do you think earns that title -- not that any of them are really easy...
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Jake, you're right about no Big Ten team having a truly easy schedule. Illinois has a favorable schedule in my view because it starts off with five consecutive home games and six of the first seven in Champaign. Iowa gets Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern at home and doesn't play Wisconsin or Ohio State, so the Hawkeyes' slate could be called favorable.
And bowl chance for Purdue this year? they face a rough stretch of Penn State, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa all in a row
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
That's a tough stretch, Zach, but Purdue held its own against some of the Big Ten's better teams in 2009. The keys are a good nonconference record -- at least three weeks -- better luck on the health front and an upset or two. But Purdue definitely could get back to a bowl this year. The Boilers should be disappointed if they don't get there.
I know the Huskers have a few true freshman like Jamal Turner and Aaron Green that could make an impact this year. Who are some of the other freshman around the league that we should be watching for?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Ashley, I'm very excited to see what Turner and Green do this fall for Big Red. Braxton Miller at Ohio State obviously could have a huge role, depending on how the quarterback situation shakes out. Some of Michigan's freshmen should see the field, possibly at running back (Justice Hayes, Thomas Rawls).
Beau (Quad Cities)
Adam, what will it take for Kirk to finally get over that hump and make Iowa a destination. I've seen South Bend and Ann Arbor, as I know you have too. We have had much more recent success than either of the teams that play there. If they can recruit top talent nationally, what is stopping my Hawks?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Beau, it comes down to factors like tradition, location and exposure. Iowa has nice tradition, especially under Ferentz, but you can't really compare it to Michigan and Notre Dame over the long haul. Both Michigan and Notre Dame also receive more exposure than most college football programs, particularly Notre Dame through the NBC contract. I love Iowa City, but it's not as easy to reach as South Bend and Ann Arbor. Although Iowa should be able to recruit nationally, particularly at certain positions like offensive line, it's going to be a challenge unless the Hawkeyes start rattling off Big Ten championships.
Adam: I haven't heard a lot about Kevin Newsome lately. Any word on what's happening with him?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
He's still a quarterback at Penn State, which surprises quite a few folks. There certainly was talk Newsome would head elsewhere after spring ball or possibly switch positions, but as of now, he's on board as a QB.
What are your thoughts on Josh Oglesby? Is it too soon to call him a bust, or could he still live up to his five-star hype this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Brandon, I'd look at Mike Adams from Ohio State. The b-word was used about him for a while, but he emerged last fall as a first-team All-Big Ten tackle. There's still time for Oglesby to blossom.
Northwestern had a better defense in 2010 through the first 10 games than it had in 2008 by every statistical measure available. Then the defense fell apart seemingly coinciding with the injury to Persa. You ranked our d-line at 10, LBs at 12 and DBs at 9. Don't you have any love for what the defense did through 10 games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Shakes, stats don't tell the whole story and the cracks in Northwestern's defense were there even before Persa went down. The defense fell apart against both Michigan State and Penn State, and even performances like Central Michigan raised some red flags. That said, I like the secondary. It's just that the Big Ten has good depth there and other teams look at little stronger. The front seven is filled with question marks, and Northwestern has to generate more consistent pressure.
You need to stop referring to your media "colleagues." You are below the media. You are a blogger.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Thanks for setting me straight, Nancy. Funny how all the "media" reads my lowly blog daily.
Jay (State College)
Adam, just an update on Kevin Newsome from an inside Penn State football source. Don't expect to see him suited up this fall to play quarterback or any other position.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Jay, you're not the first person to mention this. Also some buzz about Paul Jones' status for the season. The bottom line is Penn State likely needs Rob Bolden to stick around.
Matt (Grand Rapids)
What do you expect out of Will Campbell this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
I'm glad to see him back on the defensive line. Campbell clearly has the ingredients to be a beast at DT, but whether he has the necessary work ethic and drive remains to be seen. He should watch how Mike Martin goes about his business. I'd expect Campbell to contribute this season. Michigan needs him.
John (Detroit, MI)
Adam, Michigan State starts their Big Ten Schedule off in brutal fashion with game at OSU, then home for Michigan and Wisconsin, and then at Nebraska. Needless to say, this stretch will have a huge impact on their season. How many wins do you think MSU will get and who do you think will give them the most trouble?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
John, that's a brutal month of October for the Spartans. I know from talking with Edwin Baker that Michigan State is really focused on the Ohio State game. The Buckeyes might be short-handed, but they always give MSU trouble. So I'd start off there. A win in Columbus gives Michigan State a big confidence boost. A loss could shake the Spartans before facing a Michigan team itching for a win in the rivalry series.
How do you see the big ten doing against ND this year
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
John, I'd expect the standard 2-1 or 1-2 result. Notre Dame is generating preseason hype as always, but I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with the Irish, particularly given their recent defensive struggles. Notre Dame will be favored against Purdue, and possibly Michigan. The Michigan State game should be very competitive in South Bend.
Jon (Washington DC)
Adam, over or under 1,250 yards for Silas Redd this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Jon, I'd take the under only because Penn State likely will use more than one back. Stephfon Green is still around, and watch out for Brandon Beachum as a potential breakout player for the Lions.
Any inside scoop on what Bubba Starling is going to do? What's your opinion? Take the money and run?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Melissa, it'll be tough to turn down so much money and most likely a longer career in pro baseball, Starling seems like a unique case. He might surprise people and stay with football.
Who should take the reins at Purdue this year at QB? Marve I think is a better "quarterback" but gets hurt everytime he plays, where as Henry is the better "athlete". Or could someone else fill in?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
I'd like to see Henry get the job, at least for the first few games. He played through pain last year, was Purdue's most improved player this spring (according to coach Danny Hope) and has earned the respect of his teammates in the locker room. Sure, Marve is a bigger name who boasts obvious talent, but what has he accomplished at the college level?
Brad (Valdosta ga)
Do you think Taylor Martinez will have more or less yards rushing this year than last
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Interesting question, Brad. Martinez finished 2010 with 965 rushing yards. His production also sharply dropped off in the second half of the season. If Martinez can stay healthy, he's got a chance to eclipse 1,000 yards. But I tend think he'll end up with fewer than 965 because Nebraska will feature Rex Burkhead and other backs in the run game. We'll see.
Andrew (Boston, MA)
Do you think that the fact that all OSU coaches will be coaching for their jobs this year will lead to a great season? I expect the offense and defense to play great and be in form from day 1. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
There definitely will be a unique sense of urgency around the Ohio State program this year, Andrew. But I don't know how much coaches with uncertain futures will help the team win more. Jim Tressel had a good staff before this happened. I don't think much changes there. I think the bigger issue is leadership among the players. Can leaders like Mike Brewster keep the team focused despite all the distractions?
Hey Adam, love the blog, what team in the Big 10 do you think is the toughest to beat at home?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
The two that stand out are Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Badgers are 43-4 at home in the past six seasons. Ohio State hasn't lost a Big Ten home game since Penn State in 2008.
Has anyone jumped out and solidified the number two RB spot behind Coker this year, and do you expect Brad Rogers to be the starting FB or are his heart issues going to keep him sidelined?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Alex, I hope for all the best with Rogers and his health situation. The No. 2 RB position definitely is out there entering preseason camp. Jason White and De'Andre Johnson are the top two candidates, although I'd keep an eye on Iowa's incoming freshmen RBs as well.
Aaron (Lincoln, NE)
If the NCAA comes down with a postseason ban for Ohio State midway through the season (even if it isn't all that likely with the current allegations), could that lead to a motivation problem in the second half of the season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
That's my concern with this whole situation, Aaron. What if Ohio State is 8-0 and finds out it can't play in a bowl? What if the Buckeyes are 6-2 and fighting for a division title? It'll be extremely hard to remain motivated knowing your season won't culminate with a bowl, if that's the case. That's why I mentioned player leadership earlier in the chat. It's going to be so important for Ohio State this fall.
Adam,How much of a QB "competition" will really go on up in Mad Town this summer? How soon do you see BB announcing RW as the starter for this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Brian, Bret Bielema will give Jon Budmayr a chance to compete for the job, but the plan is for Wilson to be the guy. As Bielema said, he didn't bring in Wilson to sit on the bench. If Wilson shows a good understanding of the system and separates himself from the other QBs, you should see a decision on the starter.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Got time for one more ...
Dillon Wascher (Waukesha Wi)
What are some players in the B1G that you think have the potential to dramatically change their team's season, similar to what Cam Newton did for Auburn last year? My picks would Denard Robinson (shocker!), Kirk Cousins, and Dan Persa.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Those three certainly qualify, Dillon. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase is another player in that category. Russell Wilson and Taylor Martinez could put their teams over the top. Most Big Ten QBs fit this description.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, time's up. Enjoyed the chat. Media days are coming up next week, so we'll do this again soon!