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 this chat started!
Steve (Findlay, OH)
hey adam, according to reports the ohio state quarterback battle is becoming a 2 horse race, assuming braxton continues to progress, at what rate do you see him taking the starting job under center?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
While it's interesting to see Miller in the mix with Bauserman, I'd still be a little surprised if Bauserman isn't your starter on Sept. 3. Miller's grasp on the offense will be huge going forward because talent wise, he's the best QB on the roster. Ohio State can't afford major mistakes from that position, so the cleaner he practices, the better his chances are to see the field early on.
Hey AR, While Iowa did loose some key players i look at the roster and we still have play makers at all of the key positions. is it asking to much out of Iowa to expect them to win the legends division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Mark, I don't think you should be devastated if Iowa doesn't win the division, but it's a reasonable expectation for the Hawkeyes to compete. It wouldn't surprise me if a team with two Big Ten losses wins the Legends, which looks like the deeper division entering the year. I like the way Iowa's schedule sets up, and while there are some depth concerns (QB, RB, DL, safety), there's potential for 8-9 wins.
How big of a concern is QB depth for the Huskers? I expect Taylor to have improved his passing while maintaining his status as a dynamic playmaker with his feet. However, if he goes down again we could be for a very long season in Lincoln.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
That's the case for a lot of Big Ten teams, Phil. Keeping Martinez healthy is huge for the Huskers, but his style of play makes a lot of folks nervous. Brion Carnes did some nice things this spring and could be a crucial piece now that Cody Green is gone and Bubba Starling signed with the Royals.
Marion Miner (Annapolis, MD)
Adam:Question: I know that Jim Delaney has stated that the Big Ten is comfortable with their current situation, and I think it's the consensus that should the "super conference" armageddon era unfold, the Big Ten will be forced to make a move. In that case, which do you believe is more likely: the Big Ten expands east, plucking ACC or Big East programs, or that it extends south, even possibly poaching someone like an Oklahoma? The thing that bothers me a little is that in either case, we're talking about the conference pursuing schools that culturally are much different than what appears to be the norm in the current setup. How much a concern will this be for the Big Ten brass?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
The expansion issue certainly is on the Big Ten's radar, but there will be a reluctance to expand further. The Big Ten hit a home run with Nebraska (and with Penn State before that). I don't see too many other home runs out there unless Notre Dame or Texas expresses interest and, more important, is willing to adopt the Big Ten's egalitarian philosophy (unlikely). Oklahoma is a great athletic brand, but as you say, OU isn't a great cultural fit in the Big Ten. Some of the better cultural fits, like Maryland, aren't home-run additions from an athletic standpoint. I definitely sense the Big Ten would rather stay put at 12, but it might be pushed to "act again," as Jim Delany said last summer.
Tim (St. Paul MN)
Adam, Give me your guess on which RB leads the Gophers in carries this year. I don't like any of the returning backs, but the word around here is David Cobb is making some noise.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Tim, Jerry Kill sounded confident about the running back group when we talked this spring. Duane Bennett will be the bell cow entering the season, but the Gophers boast some good young talent there as well. Not sure how big a role Cobb will play, but Donnell Kirkwood and Lamonte Edwards should be in the mix with Bennett.
Hey, love your work. Always a pleasure to see a fellow Adam do well. Anyways, I went to Northwestern. I'm hoping for an update on Persa. Have you seen or heard any reports about how he's doing so far? Any lingering effects of the injury?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Adam, so far, the reports have been favorable. I think the bigger issue for Persa will be rust -- playing at full speed after such a long layoff. Will he be as effective a runner as he was last year? Probably not. But he shouldn't have to be. I don't think the injury will affect his ability to throw the ball and make smart decisions. Northwestern absolutely has to generate a running game from the running back position, and Mike Trumpy is the No. 1 guy right now.
does the Big Ten have a genuine national title contender this year or will parity in the league result in lots of 1,2, and 3 loss teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
I doubt many teams will be able to run the table, but I might have seen the team with the best chance yesterday in Madison. Russell Wilson really could be the difference for Wisconsin, especially during the stretch of back-to-back night road games against Michigan State and Ohio State. Wisconsin has been dominant at home, and should continue to be this year, but you need quarterbacks to win tough road games, and the Badgers have a difference-maker in Wilson.
Hey AR...Coker is predicted to be the OPOY by SI this year. No coverage??? Seriously what do you think his chances are? I like the bowl game performance, but think I need to see more.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
There's an incredible amount of hype around Marcus Coker, and I'm excited to see him play every down this fall. But there are some unknowns. Will Iowa's passing game prevent defenses from stacking the box? How is the overall offensive line depth? I think Coker will be a star at Iowa. Whether he's a superstar this year, I'd rather see a few games before making wild predictions.
Eric (Toledo, OH)
Indiana, Purdue, or Minnesota. Which team is in the best position to become a relevant football program?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Eric, all three programs have a chance to be relevant, but I like the potential in Minnesota. Nearly every coach in the Big Ten I've talked to raves about Jerry Kill. He knows what it takes to turn around programs, and Minnesota has the tools in place, especially with the new stadium, to really raise its profile. It might take a year or two, but Kill will have that thing going.
Mike Martin (Ann Arbor)
Will my fellow defensive lineman help me out this year, or will I have to pickup the slack again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Mike, great to hear from you! You should get more help from fellow linemen like Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh, both of whom could thrive in a new defense. My concern throughout Michigan's D is the overall depth. Line is better than linebacker and secondary, but injuries will crop up, and I don't know if Michigan will have enough to overcome them.
Adam, should Taylor Martinez go down early in the season how much could it effect Nebraska the rest of the season. How strong is their O line and could their running game carry them to multiple wins without a strong QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Ted, while I wouldn't dismiss Brion Carnes, losing Martinez could be a crippling blow for Nebraska. I'm not sold on the offensive line, especially in a new conference that typically boasts great defensive linemen. The running backs should be strong, and Rex Burkhead could be a superstar, but the line has to take a step or two, especially if Martinez goes down.
If you have already posted this in your blog I apologize....realistically what do you see as OSU's record this season? I think a lot of media members are forgetting the talent this team still possesses as well as the fact that the entire staff (minus Tressel) is still in tact. Not to mention they have MSU and Wisco in Columbus. I honestly do not see more than 2 losses this season.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Pat, I see Ohio Sate winning 8-10 games. You bring up a great point, one many folks are missing, about the Buckeyes home schedule, which also includes Penn State. Not many Big Ten teams win in Columbus, and while Ohio State has many issues to address, the talent is there. Ohio State likely will have to win ugly this year, a lot of 17-13 or 14-10 type scores. But if the Buckeyes handle their business at The Shoe, they'll be in the mix for the division title.
@Jaymikk (Iowa City)
Adam, Bennett stated that Purdue could be in hot water for playing an ineligible player (Robert Marve) even though the alleged infractions occurred at another school. I highly doubt Purdue officials had any knowledge of Marve's activities. If Marve gets punished by the NCAA, what are the chances that Purdue takes a hit too?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
I don't think Purdue should worry about playing Marve last year, but there could be risk to playing him this year, now that the story is out there and the NCAA is investigating. Purdue didn't know about these allegations until now, but the school should be cautious if Marve is likely to face repercussions from the NCAA.
Alex (Des Moines)
Iowa's O line with a healthy Coker vs. Wiscy's O line with the three headed monster....who do you take?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
I really like both lines, Alex, but Wisconsin's depth at running back gives the Badgers an edge. Montee Ball really impressed me yesterday, and James White will continue to make plays. You have two proven backs in Madison vs. one in Coker that has great potential but still must prove he can be a featured back for an entire season.
Dustin (Ankeny, Ia)
It seems that even with the addition of Nebraska, alot of the media is SEC this and SEC that, what will it take for the Big Ten to overcome that? Will it take adding teams like Notre Dame...... Texas, Oklahoma.........?????
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Dustin, it's as simple as this: win the national championship. That's really all that matters. It wouldn't hurt to beat an SEC team in the title game, but simply winning the crystal football for the first time in nearly a decade would quiet down the SEC buzz for a bit.
Kurt E. (Chesapeake, Virginia)
Hey Adam, There have been a fair share of close calls and acutal upsets by I-AA teams over Big Ten schools in the last 5 years. What Big Ten Team do you see getting upset by a I-AA team this year? (My money is my alma matet North Dakota State over Minnesota - the Bison beat Minnesota in 2007).
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Ouch, that would be two losses to FCS schools in the past two seasons for Minnesota. We'll see what happens, but that would not be good for first-year coach Jerry Kill.
Adam, after reading your piece on Wisconsin, and looking at the issues that OSU is faced with, wouldn't you finally agree that the Leaders is at least a three team race with those two and PSU? PSU brings a great secondary and linebackers, a potentially good to great DL, strength at WR and RB. Their line looks to be maturing, and with either Bolden or McGloin, we get a pretty decent QB.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Steve, I would add Illinois in that mix, too. Illini have a favorable schedule and a potentially dynamic offense. I don't know what to make of Penn State, to be honest. There are some nice pieces there, but I don't like the indecision at quarterback, and Bolden's comments to Brian Bennett about keeping the door open for a transfer are unsettling. The biggest key could be the defensive line. For years, Penn State didn't have to worry about this group, but there are legitimate questions entering the fall. I really could see Penn State winning anywhere from 6-10 games, a pretty wide range.
Rick W (Pittsburgh)
A crazy theory, but ... What IF this super expansion takes place. Would Penn State ever consider leaving the B1G for the ACC/BigEast combination? They have a history with a lot of those schools ... are a lot closer geographically, and well, let's face it, certain circles in the B1G have never accepted Penn State.I know the B1G is great, I just wonder ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
That would be an idiotic move, Rick. The Big Ten is a stronger conference, a richer conference and a better conference for Penn State's overall athletic program. You'd be leaving tons of money on the table, the Big Ten Network, etc. I know some Penn State fans don't feel truly accepted in the Big Ten, but it's no reason for Penn State to leave a good situation for an inferior one.
Adam...it wouldn't be completely unreasonable for Michigan to start 1-3, right? Just looking at the schedule...Western and SDSU could be tougher than expected...
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Jason, I'd be surprised if Michigan struggles with Western Michigan, but the San Diego State game could be interesting. You know a lot of those SDSU kids want to stick it to Brady Hoke, and both coaching staffs know each other well. I could see Michigan going 5-0 or 3-2 in the opening stretch at home.
Hey Adam, thanks for all the hard work! What is the "night game" to see in the big ten this year at this point?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Ben, it's so hard to pick just one. Nebraska-Wisconsin on Oct. 1 obviously jumps out because those are two teams favored to win their divisions, and it's Nebraska's first league game as a Big Ten member. But you've also got Ohio State-Nebraska, Wisconsin-Ohio State and Wisconsin-Michigan State in that mix. If you like QB play, Michigan-Northwestern isn't a bad option, either.
Adam, Is this the most wide open you have seen the Big Ten ever be in terms of finding a winner? I mean, clearly there is a group of favorite teams (Neb., Wisc.) but there isnt the gap small between those teams and team like Mich., MSU, OSU, and Iowa? Can 6 teams really have a shot at the title?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Absolutely, Kevin. It's as wide open entering the season as I can remember. Having division play certainly contributes to that, but you're right about the gaps between the good and the great not being as wide this season. I could see five teams competing for the Legends division title, and while the Leaders race looks a little narrower, things could change depending on teams like Illinois and Penn State.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Adam, you say the other coaches rave about Kill. What do they like about him?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Craig, first of all they love his personality. They also like the fact he basically came from nothing and has worked his way through the coaching ranks. He was never a "rising star," but he has succeeded at multiple levels. They like what he has done on the offensive side, and they say he's an incredible motivator.
Kurt E. (Chesapeake, Virginia)
Hey Adam, There is all of this super conference expansion talk, and it is caused by 1 sport - football. However, lets say the 16 team mega conference did occur...would the Big Ten look to add teams that maybe have more of a basketball tradition than football tradition? The Big Ten has great basketball programs - Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indians (their 5 national titles). Adding Kansas and Syracuse would be great for basketball. Is this discussed by Jim Delaney?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Kurt, I'm sure it's considered, but football really drives the bus in college sports with revenue, and it's the same way with expansion. Kansas basketball would be great, but Kansas football doesn't do too much for you. Same with Syracuse. You also have to look at factors like market, fan base, ability to move the needle nationally. But football is the No. 1 sporting factor considered in any realignment.
Lou Holtz (ESPN)
Hey Adam. I just though I would let you know that Dayne Crist will win the Heisman and Notre Dame will win the National Championship after blowing away your silly B1G teams. Do you agree that Notre Dame will sweep its 3-game B1G tour?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Dr. Lou, I'm sure you'll pick a clean sweep for the beloved Irish. I think ND goes 2-1 or 1-2, and I'm leaning toward 2-1, although the preseason hype around the Domers is getting old. I do think ND will be respectable on defense, which could make the difference in close games against Big Ten teams.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Do you think Al Golden might regret leaving his situation at Temple and Mid-Atlantic recruiting territory now? I know he's nowhere near being implied in the situation at Miami, but if they aren't playing football in 2012 and 2013, that could hinder his potential move to State College, don't you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Brett, I know a lot of coaches are feeling for Golden today. What a mess in Miami. It's hard to predict what he'll end up doing, but if there's an opening in State College after this season or next, you'd have to bet he'll do all he can to get out of Coral Gables.
Mike (Lewis Center, OH)
Why did we get BB? Why, not Heather Dinnich? She is better to look at. Is not a ginger (no matter how much he denies it...he is a soulless ginger). And he conference actually has a football team or two that can compete in a BCS bowl game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I'm a big Heather Dinich fan, but why all the hate for Bennett? He pretty much lives in Big Ten country and has been doing a great job so far. Sure, he'll be easy to spot in the crowd with that 'do, but I won't hold it against him. And you might want to check the BCS records for the Big East and the ACC. The ACC has been an absolute joke in BCS bowls.
Waffles (Waffleton, Wa)
Do you think if Paul Chryst calls more masterful games this season that he will take a head coaching opening next season, or possibly mid this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Waffles, it all depends on which jobs are open. Chryst isn't going to leave Madison for a medicore or low-level job. He certainly deserves a chance to be a head coach, but he's in a pretty good situation right now. If there are a number of openings at solid programs from BCS AQ conferences, I'd expect his name to be in the mix.
Rick (Adel, Ga.)
Adam, What do you think is better for todays college football in terms of expansion: Product (Nebraska) or the media (Rutgers, Maryland, Syracuse). In these times college football is so national. It seems to me more people would watch a team like Nebraska across the nation as opposed to watching Rutgers. To me the product is more valuable then getting TV sets in a certain region.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Rick, this is a great question. With those "media" schools, the Big Ten is sort of betting on itself to infiltrate a new market. As I wrote a lot last year, adding a team like Rutgers doesn't do nearly as much as getting the Big Ten product in the New York/New Jersey market on a more consistent basis. Obviously, the more people with a real reason to watch your product has bigger potential to grow revenue. But in terms of adding programs that truly matter nationally, the Big Ten couldn't have done much better than Nebraska and Penn State. And aside from adding Notre Dame or Texas, I don't see other realistic options that carry the same national appeal.
Adam, could you get permission to do some kind of contest or drawing where some of your faithful readers get to hang out with you and your entourage behind the scenes at a B1G game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Ted, I'll see what I can do, but hanging out with me on a gameday probably wouldn't be too much fun. We're working 100 miles a minute and doing a million different things. Don't have much time to chat.
Greg (Elkhart, IN)
Will Indiana ever land stud players on the D side? I'm not expecting 5 star players, but hoping for high3's or low 4s. Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Greg, I'd expect the new staff to help with defensive recruiting. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler really gets after it on the recruiting trail, and if he can show some on-field progress this season, it will open help him with prospects. But it likely will take Indiana molding unheralded defenders into good Big Ten players before you can expect a bunch of top-rated defensive recruits to rush to Bloomington.
Adam, we all know about Iowa's struggles with Northwestern in past years. In my opinion, it almost seems like Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe devise a plan of attack and refuse to deviate it from that plan no matter how poorly they execute. PF just seems to figure us out. How do you explain their struggles with NW?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Danny, it's hard to explain, but I think the two programs are more similar than the fan bases want to admit. Both programs get a lot out of mostly unheralded recruits. Both are known for outworking their opponents and being in a lot of close games. I know a lot of Iowa fans think Pat Fitzgerald lives to beat the Hawkeyes, but that's not the case. Northwestern has been a little better in close games with Iowa, but things could easily go the other way.
Tristen (New Mexico)
Who has the best Defense in the B1G? We are traditionally a Conference with powerhouse Defenses so who stacks up the best? Personally I still see Ohio State and Wisconson with the edge on this one. When was the last time Ohio State had a non-top 15 Defense
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Tristen, I'd agree that Ohio State will be excellent on defense until proven otherwise, even with the loss of seven starters. But I think Nebraska has the best defense in the league. You've got three All-America candidates (Crick, David, Dennard), good line depth and more options at linebacker with the return of Sean Fisher. Although several players depart in the secondary, it's a unit Nebraska fans can count on to be strong.
Adam - nice work always! Anyway, which RB at OSU do you think will get teh most carries when Boom is out? Also name a better B1G team with better group of RB's than OSU... Thanks and keep up the good B1G analysis
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Tom, I think Jaamal Berry gets the first crack for the Buckeyes. Ohio State also will use several backs as pass-catching options, namely Jordan Hall. As far as your second question, Wisconsin has two proven running backs, and Michigan State and Nebraska might have as much depth at RB as the Buckeyes.
Hoke and Borgess has said that they plan to run Denard 10-15 times a game. But with Denards limited experience at the college level wouldn't we see the same amount of runs as last year, due to him giving up on the pass and running out of confusion?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Nathan, that's an interesting point, but I'm sure the coaches want Denard to be patient and not just take off if his first passing option isn't there. Keep in mind Denard threw the ball well at times last year and made a dramatic improvement as a passer from Year 1 to Year 2. All these Michigan fans clamoring for Devin Gardner should remember the strides Denard made in 2010.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
MikeOD (Davenport, IA)
Adam, PSU, Wisc, OSU, Neb, Mich, and Iowa are all teams with stadiums that are consistently ranked among the toughest places in the country to play. In your opinion, how do those stadiums rank in order of difficulty?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Mike, I'd prefer to reserve judgment on Nebraska until after attending a few games in Lincoln. As for the others, I'd go Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Nice job, everyone. Check the blog later for a chat wrap (with highlights). Let's do this again next week! Season's almost here!
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