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. Got an hour to chat before heading down to the Big Ten media days HQ!
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Hey Adam, I just wanted to comment on you mailblog comment on the Illinois-Michigan rivalry. I would definately say that Michigan is our most hated opponent, there is no team I like to suffer as much UM. It kills me I have to miss this year's game due to my fiance's birthday.And while the feeling may be one sided it is definately turning into a good rivalry. The past four meetings have been exciting contests that had a bit of hype coming into them. And historically it's been a good pairing, I love that Red Grange had his historic performance against the Wolverines. Sure it's not on the level of "the Game" or MSU but it's still a hell of matchup, especially since 1999.I hope the B1G moves to the nine game schedule, the more games against Michigan the better.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Mike, think you're making the right choice in attending your fiance's birthday, but I'm sure it'll be tough to miss the game. You're definitely not alone in this belief among Illini fans. Illinois certainly isn't Michigan's biggest rival, but Illinois loves to beat the Maize and Blue.
Dijon (Columbus )
Adam, could you ask Luke Fickell if he will keep the OSU traditions that Jim Tressel brought to the program. Such as singing Carmen Ohio after every game and the pre game ritual the HIVE?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Dijon, good question. I'd be very surprised if you saw any of these traditions change under Fickell. There might be some subtle changes, like whether captains address the media after every game, but I'd still expect to see the Buckeyes singing "Carmen Ohio," etc.
I am honsetly stunned at the fact that OSU didn't get tagged with Failure to Monitor. How in the world is that possible? Have to imagine that Pat Hayden and Larry Scott will be all over the NCAA in November should OSU get off with what would be akin to a stern lecture...
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Blair, you're not alone in this belief. But as I've written several times, media reports and actual NCAA allegations are two different things. We certainly can question the legitimacy of the NCAA's investigation, but the bottom line is no new allegations have been leveled since April. Up until this point, Ohio State has successfully isolated the problem to Jim Tressel, not the program. And unless there's clear-cut evidence that the program failed to monitor -- again, not saying there is or there isn't -- Ohio State likely won't get hammered.
Ritty, let's say the debt ceiling collapses along with the economy next week. It's every man for himself among the zombie hordes running amok. In what BigTen city do you make your stand and reconstitute a football-loving society?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Haha, good question (although I hope it doesn't come to this). I'd have plenty of choices, wouldn't I? Football is king in most of the Big Ten towns. If I wanted a mid-size city, I'd probably head to Columbus, Lincoln or Madison. If I'm looking for a smaller town environment, couldn't go wrong in State College, Ann Arbor or Iowa City.
Erik (Lincoln, NE)
Is 7am a little too early for you for the breakfast conference tomorrow?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
It's actually Friday, and since interviews begin at 8 a.m., Bennett and I will probably be there anyway. I would prefer the announcement to be at another time, but what can you do?
Brandon (Cedar Falls, IA)
Adam, great job with the blog gets me through work most days. With Kellen Jones being another individual who was either dismissed or voluntarily left the team at Michigan. Do you feel all the players leaving in one of those two ways is due mainly to all the changes that have taken place or might there be a larger issue with the "culture" at Michigan? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Thanks, Brandon. I don't think roster turnover has been a major issue since Brady Hoke took over. You can always expect some players to leave after a coaching change, and teams usually lose a handful of players every year because of playing time, academics, etc. The changes at Michigan since Hoke arrived aren't in the same ballpark as after Rodriguez took over.
nebraska iowa trophy... GIANT i am talking four foot tall ear of corn. not really a "hero" thing but it definitly best represents both states.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Ha, Drew, I'd be all for that. Although I think the schools are going to honor heroes of the past, perhaps Nile Kinnick among them. But a huge corn stalk would rival Paul Bunyan's Axe among the cooler rivalry trophies.
Dan (Iowa City)
Adam, great work with the blog. With Iowa this season, which side of the ball do you see them having more trouble with? On offense they start a new quarterack, a unknown but possible gem at RB with Coker, and only 1 real WR option. On defense the D-line is virtually gone, Sash/Greenwood are out of town, and the LB's have a lot of unprovens. What side should I be worrying about?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Dan, I'd have some concern on both sides, but a little more on defense. The offensive line will be solid, you have a top-line WR in McNutt and an experienced TE in Brad Herman (along with the promising C.J. Fiedorowicz). Also, both Coker and Vandenberg have proven something, albeit in limited action. Losing three multiyear starters on the defensive line and two multiyear starters at safety seems to be bigger issues.
Nick (Saginaw, MI)
What are your thoughts on the undrafted B10 players who have signed already? Who is in the best position to make the team out of camp?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Nick, good question. I'm a little biased as a Chicago Bears fan, but I absolutely love the addition of WR Dane Sanzenbacher. The Bears need receivers, and Sanzenbacher was the Big Ten's best in 2010. I also like Purdue WR Keith Smith to the Lions, Ohio State G Justin Boren to the Ravens and Michigan State LB Eric Gordon to Jacksonville.
Adam, who is the best back-up QB in the league? Go!
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Interesting question, Torrey. Penn State has two QBs in Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin who boast starting experience, so I'd probably go with whomever doesn't win the starting job in camp. Devin Gardner from Michigan is a promising player, and if Robert Marve ends up being the backup at Purdue, he ain't too shabby.
Hey Adam. Love the blog. Any chance there is a future trophy in store between PSU and Nebraska. I would argue those two school already have more of a rivalry than Nebraska and Iowa.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Ron, I'll try to find out at Big Ten media days this week. Would love to see Penn State and Nebraska do something to recognize their new protected crossover. All these new rivalries are great, aren't they?
Ben (Detroit, MI)
Adam, Michigan State no doubt has their most talented team in the Mark Dantonio era, but a tough schedule and question marks on the offensive line loom. How serious is the problem on the offensive line? Who can we expect to come in and fill the holes left by guys like Stipek and DJ Young?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Ben, it's never easy to replace your starting center and both starting tackles in the same year. Michigan State will need young players to elevate their play and the line as a whole to come together in camp. The coaches think they've upgraded their overall athleticism up front after moving several linemen over from the defensive side. But offensive line is one area where you typically can't substitute for experience. I'd expect a few growing pains, but the faster the line comes together, the better Michigan State's chances for a title will be.
John (East Lansing)
Adam, I know there aren't "official" preseason picks to win each division and the B1G championship but Vegas seems to greatly favor Nebraska to win the Legends division. What's your take on this? Will any team in that division emerge and challenge the Huskers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Yeah, no official picks are a real bummer. Very little league of the Big Ten coaches, imo. The Legends division should be very competitive, and I could see five of the six teams winning the title. So Nebraska isn't a clear-cut favorite in my mind, especially as a newcomer to the league. But two big factors favor the Huskers. 1. They have the most accomplished defense in the league entering the season 2. They host top division contenders Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa.
Roderick (Rhode Island)
Adam, I know Northwestern is planning to make a push for Persa as a Heisman candidate, assuming he is able to recover from his injury, what are his actual chances since I know many people don't even rank him as the best offensive threat in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
It's hard for a Northwestern player to truly get on the national radar, although we've seen a few do so since 1995 (Pat Fitzgerald, Darnell Autry, Damien Anderson). The key for Persa is to put up big numbers right away, showing that he's totally fine after the injury and hasn't lost anything during the rehab process. He'll also need Northwestern to make a push for the Legends division title to remain on the Heisman radar. It'll be tough, but people nationally know who Persa is after what he did last year and especially how his season ended (injury while throwing game-winning TD).
Adam, Brian really left us hanging with no lunch links last Friday, can you give us double links this Friday to make up for it? To make it easier you can leave out Minny :)
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Ouch, Bucky. That ain't right. We'll have a few light Fridays from time to time with no links, so don't blame Bennett for that one. But when the season rolls around, you'll get links Monday-Friday, Minnesota links included.
I think Taylor Martinez stands to benefit the most from a simplified run first offense and can put up Denard Robinson like numbers this year. Do you agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
He could, Steve, but Nebraska has to monitor how many hits Taylor takes in a league with more physical defenses that what he saw in the Big 12. Look at Robinson, who missed portions of most of Michigan's games last year. We know Martinez can't cut it when he's banged up, so while he has a chance to be very good this year, it's paramount he stays healthy, especially his legs.
UM RB who gets most of the carries this season....Rittenberg bets his kids college 529 balance on...
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Ha, I'm not that dumb, Nathan. But I do think Michigan's RB competition will be fascinating in camp. I sense that the coaches would like a bigger back to carry the load. Stephen Hopkins is an intriguing player, and there's a lot of buzz about incoming freshman Thomas Rawls, who boasts good size. I'm excited to see if Rawls can rise up the depth chart in camp.
Ada, with the league most likely going to 9 games in 2017, doesn't that actually hurt the conference? Yes it creates one more big matchup for the conference to cash in on for tv revenue but also creates another opportunity for a loss for a team in the conference that is contending for a national title. I would argue its best to keep the same format and have a better chance for your conference to have a team playing for a championship than have an extra week of conference play.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
John, you aren't alone in this belief. A nine-game conference schedule actually adds nine more losses for the league, so it doesn't just impact national title hopefuls, but also teams just trying to make bowl games. On the flip side, it creates more attractive schedules for athletic departments to market.
Rick M (Louisville, KY)
Adam, Why does it seem that you are afraid to admit that you do not want to see Nebraska win it. It will make the B1G look weak. I am of a differing opinion. I think that the Husker are a strong team and have too many weapons to deny their superior talent. Please, don't mis-interrupt my statement as arrogant. I look at it as confidence in my Huskers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
It's not about being afraid. I don't care who wins the Big Ten. But in assessing whether a Nebraska title is good for the league in Year 1, I would say no. It will take time for Nebraska to be regarded nationally as a Big Ten program. If the Huskers win the league in Year 1, especially with their schedule, most will look at it as a poor reflection of the Big Ten, a conference that is still in many ways trying to repair its national reputation. So it's nothing against the Huskers, who certainly could win the league. But I have a pretty good grasp on national perception -- helps to work at ESPN -- but I don't think this would be favorable for the Big Ten.
Adam- an additional game only adds 6 more losses not nine.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Yes, you're right, Jeff. Now you know why I didn't major in math!
justin (new york)
adam, great job with the blog as usual. if you had to predict now, does wisconsin have any 1st team all-americans at seasons end?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Justin, the amazing thing is that despite losing Watt, Carimi and Moffitt, Wisconsin could once again have several players in the All-America mix. You have to look at James White and Montee Ball as candidates. Chris Borland could be a candidate if he stays healthy. And what about Russell Wilson? If he comes in and leads Wisconsin to a Big Ten title, he could gain some consideration as well.
Gabe (Virginia Beach)
Why can't Michigan host a Virgina Tech or LSU at the Big House for a season opener??? I don't like us playing small teams for the opener?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
The Notre Dame series hurts Michigan in this way. Teams like Michigan typically don't want to face two big-time nonconference opponents in the same year. Now some will say Notre Dame is no longer big time, but the Irish look to be on the rise entering 2011. Michigan has a very aggressive schedule in 2012 with Alabama (neutral site) and Notre Dame (road), but it would be nice to see national teams, especially those from the SEC, visit Ann Arbor more often.
For the two teams at the bottom of the prediction lists - my beloved Gophers and their kindred in suffering IU - who are the most likely big name upset victims for each? And which team proves more pesky this year? Power to the underdogs!
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Both teams will have multiple chances to score upsets, Darren. I tend to think Minnesota will be peskier because the Gophers return some nice pieces on offense. I'm very excited to see what MarQueis Gray does as the starting QB. Best upset chances? Minnesota hosting Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin; Indiana hosting Northwestern.
BRIAN BENNETT (SIDELINE)
Hey Adam, when are you going to cut me loose and let me run my own chat time? PUT ME IN COACH
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Pipe down, Bennett. Don't you have some work to do?
Now that Ohio State won't get a bowl ban, do you think recruits that had Ohio State high but commited to another school just to "hold a spot" just in case of a multi year bowl ban will decommit and commit to Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Stephen, this is a really interesting question. The prospect of severe NCAA penalties certainly turned off some recruits toward Ohio State. While it seems less likely the hammer will drop, the NCAA can be unpredictable with these rulings. The other thing working against Ohio State's recruiting is the unknowns about the coaching staff. Recruits want to know who they'll be playing for in 2012 and beyond.
The Badgers should absolutely breeze through their non-conference schedule and enter B10 season undefeated. Does their non-conference schedule weakness hurt them at all? Seems to me some other teams should be rewarded for the risks they take.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
It's certainly debatable whether teams are ever rewarded for playing tough nonconference schedules in college football. It's very different from college hoops in this way. I agree that Wisconsin's non-con schedule is pretty soft, although Oregon State could surprise some folks and Northern Illinois boasts talent and is coached by former UW assistant Dave Doeren. I guess we'll find out the answer to your question when Nebraska visits Madison on Oct. 1.
Adam, one question.....why is it that everyone is counting out the Buckeyes from winning the B1G this year? with Aug 12 and hopefully the end of the NCAA circus near the end, this OSU team is going to be playing VERY mean this year, and last I checked...they are not short on talent! Just Saying!
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Gregory, as I've been writing for months, it's foolish to dismiss Ohio State as easily as some folks have been doing. These players only know how to win Big Ten titles, beat Michigan, etc., and they don't want to end those streaks. That said, Ohio State faces unique challenges this year with a new coach, a new quarterback, several key early season suspension and a ton of production lost on defense. Regardless of the NCAA situation, Ohio State was going to face some obstacles in 2011.
Adam - please explain how it's possible that the NCAA looks the other way while osu does everything possible to skirt around penalties?What I mean is that originally, Tressel was suspended for 2 games. Then it was 5. Then he resigned. Only on the day osu responded to the NCAA did they change the story and say he was asked to resign. The had previously said it was his decision. And that same day they give him a bunch of money? Seem fishy?Now, with Pryor (who could burn the school to the ground if he talked), they're giving him exactly what he wants and what suits them (ban him for 5 years while also explaining that, although no one knew it, he was ineligible for the year). This seems like a move only designed to allow Pryor to get what he wants and osu to get what they want?How am I the only one who's OUTRAGED????
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Chris, you're not the only one who is outraged, but again, smoke doesn't always equal fire in the eyes of the NCAA. Ohio State made it very clear that the NCAA was going to have to prove a systematic problem existed in the program, and from what we've seen, the NCAA has been unable to do so. You can argue the Pryor situation worked out very conveniently for Ohio State because he could have done more damage to the program by staying -- and cooperating with NCAA investigators -- than by leaving. The letter ruling Pryor ineligible was exactly what he wanted -- and in a way, what Ohio State wanted, too.
I think Denard Robinson in a pro-style offense will work about as well as Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan in a spread, what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Matt, I wouldn't go that far, with all due respect to Threet and Sheridan, who were put in no-win situations. I don't think Al Borges will go to a full-blown pro-style offense this year. Spread elements will exist, and Robinson will have some opportunities to do what he did best in last year's scheme.
Do you think Penn State's OL will start this year more solid and consistent than last year's OL?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Derek, the good news is that most of these linemen have been around for a while. Guys like Okoli, Barham, Troutman, Pannell, even Stankiewitch. They know one another and have been in the program for multiple years. It should ease the process of coming together as a line, but you're absolutely right that Penn State must start off the season much stronger up front than it did in 2010.
Adam, Which Wisconsin away game is a tougher match-up? At MSU or at OSU? I think if we get thru both of those without a scratch we'll see ourselves in the B1G championship game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
I would agree, Brian. While the Ohio State game is more important because it's a division contest, the Michigan State game comes first. Wisconsin has lost some tough games in East Lansing in recent years, and this game could boost or damage the team's confidence before the Ohio State game. In terms of pure matchup, Ohio State probably will have a stronger defense than MSU, while Michigan State almost certainly will have a stronger offense than OSU.
Sheridan and Threet in the spread. I just started weeping uncontrollably at my desk.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
pete (Pittsburgh, Pa)
Adam, recent survey of Big 10 coaches JoPa was rated 7. Hw could that be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Pete, the survey asked who is the best Big Ten coach right now? Who would you want to lead your team at this very moment? While Joe would have been the answer in the 80s, other coaches seem to be on the rise right now, namely Bret Bielema, who was voted No. 1, and Mark Dantonio, who should have been voted higher in my view. Joe has earned a ton of respect, but a lot of media folks and college football observers question how much he does anymore and also whether Penn State can be a consistent national powerhouse again, which we haven't seen since PSU joined the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Got time for one more ...
Jake (Lincoln, NE)
In your opinion, is the Big 10 a better conference than the Big 12 in football? Nebraska is picked to win the Big 10 but if they were still in the Big 12 the highest would probably be 3rd or 4th. What do you think Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
I think the two leagues are close. The Big 12 probably has been a deeper conference than the Big Ten in recent years, but I don't think there's a huge gap between the leagues. As for preseason rankings this year, the Big Ten doesn't have an Oklahoma, a sure-fire national title contender. Also, the Big 12 doesn't have a flagship program going through the changes Ohio State is dealing with right now.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, that's all for today. Got to get down to media days HQ. Thanks for chatting!
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