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)
We're barely a week away from college football! Let's get this thing going.
Kill or Wilson? Who will get it done quicker?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Indiana adding stud QB recruit Gunner Kiel certainly helps the case for Wilson, but I want to see how much progress is made on the defensive side, which has always been the Hoosiers' Achilles' heel. Would lean toward Kill and Minnesota, which has some nice pieces in place right now.
Jeff (Denver, CO)
Do you expect JoePa and the PSU coaching staff to name a starting QB prior to next Friday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Jeff, I'd hope so. A little surprised they haven't named somebody already. How much more time do you need to evaluate Bolden and McGloin? They've been competing in some form or another for more than a year now.
Danny OD (Davenport, IA)
Adam, this is in response to your answer to a question posted on yesterday's mailblog. You put Iowa in the second tier of fan bases in the B1G. What was your reasoning for that? There is a reason that Kinnick is consistently found in the top 15 of hardest places to play in the COUNTRY. There is a reason Iowa is so tough to beat at home (56-16 since 2000) There is a reason we are always looked at for the upper tier bowls and often chosen for those bowls, because we travel so well and are so loyal to our Hawkeyes. With that being said I suppose I am just curious about how you grade fanbases and why Iowa isn't up there with Mich, PSU, and OSU.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Danny, I nearly included Iowa among the top tier of traveling fan bases, and there's no doubt Hawkeyes fans show up for bowls. I just don't know if there's quite the same national following as you see for Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. Those programs have made more appearances in top-tier bowls -- although it's been a while for Nebraska -- and have a bit more reach. But it's very close. Iowa and Wisconsin are definitely in or near that top group, and Michigan State also travels well..
Is Gray the for sure starter in Minnesota? A lot of talk about the freshmen Shortell having a very impressive camp.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Derek, Gray is the starter entering the season, but Jerry Kill told me yesterday he'll definitely play a lot of young players. Shortell seems to be having a nice camp and should get a look at the No. 2 QB spot.
Hi Adam - lifelong UM fan here, roasting in Phoenix but not missing the cold winters at all...what are your thoughts on the UM/ND game under the lights game? Both teams seem to have a lot to prove - who has more to win in this game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Great question, Blake. Both teams have a lot at stake, but I actually think Notre Dame has a greater urgency to win. The Irish have lost two straight to Michigan despite having arguably better teams. This year, Notre Dame enters the season with a higher national ranking than Michigan. There's all this tired talk about the Irish being back. But if they lose to Michigan again -- a Wolverines team going through a lot of transition, mind you -- there will be some backlash. Now it's also extremely important for Michigan as well b/c the Wolverines have a schedule set up to rack up some early wins.
Matt (Wexford, PA)
who do you think wins PSU QB battle? Who is better in your opinion and will they be the correct choice?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Matt, I've thought it would be Bolden all along, but Matt McGloin is showing that he shouldn't ever be dismissed. McGloin is a plucky guy who doesn't care what outsiders think -- which is probably good since he's not the popular choice to win the job. Ultimately, I think Bolden has more upside and can bring more skills to the offensive backfield. But this thing seems to be very, very close.
Adam (great name, BTW), I'm a regular reader/commenter on your blog, and I love it. You guys do a great job and the group of regular commenters is great. Do you and Brian ever read the comments, or are you too busy writing stuff to pay any attention to the shenanigans at the bottom of the page? You should join us sometime. Brian maybe shouldn't, unless he enjoys ginger jokes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Ha, Brian just got a haircut, so easy on the ginger jokes. We do check comments from time to time, but we're really busy and don't have much chance to contribute. Honestly, when it turns into who posts a comment first or who can dig on another team or fan base, I lose interest real fast.
Adam, why are so many media outlets not putting more stock into the size of the "chip" that the Buckeyes are going to be playing with this season. One even went as far as to predict that the Buckeyes would finish the season with a 7-5 record! Really?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Gregory, I'm the guy picking Ohio State to go 10-2, but I see what you're saying. Losing your head coach is a big deal, especially when he's been so successful. Losing your starting quarterback and your head coach in the same summer, coupled with all the other distractions, can take a toll on a team. But I do think people are dismissing the Buckeyes' ability to reload, the talent they always have on defense and their ability to win games at home.
Adam, watching da Bears get beat down by the Giants on MNF I couldn't help being impressed with how both teams ran screen passes. Did you see anything in Madison last week/do you think the Badgers would be a good screen team? They seem to have all the pieces, an athletic line, good blocking TEs and stud RBs.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Bucky, I saw more routes being run by the Wisconsin running backs than screen passes. I'm sure the screen could be part of the offense, but both Montee Ball and James White can run good routes coming out of the backfield. As for the Bears, it seems like we'll see a heavy dose of screens involving Matt Forte and former Minnesota Gopher Marion Barber III. Will Jay Cutler survive the season? I hope so.
Mike Garrett (Unemployed)
Any chance I get to be the head of the COI for the Miami case?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
That would be awesome.
Adam, have you and Brian been given your week one assignments yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
We have, but they're top secret and ESPN.com would have to kill us if we revealed them.
Jon (Portage, Mi)
With 2 players departing the Wolverines this week, do you think there is something more to what is happening? or is this just normal attrition with a new staff
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Jon, I think you have to look at each player's situation individually. I hear there could be some more departures, but Michigan likely won't be losing any guys who figured to be big parts of the plan for 2011. Playing time is a big consideration for many of these players, and in the case of Je'Ron Stokes, he wasn't going to play much this year.
Adam,How much difficulty do you see Nebraska having as they transition from the familiarity of the Big 12 to new teams, new stadiums, new systems...and a hellacious schedule? As much as I hope for a great season, it seems as though they could be a very good team and still suffer several losses in the adjustment.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
RN, it could happen, and Nebraska certainly has to study more film in the offseason than it had to in the Big 12. But as Bo Pelini often says, football is football, and it comes down to executing your schemes and techniques better than the opposition. I don't think Nebraska will lose to Wisconsin or Ohio State or Michigan State because those teams play a dramatically different brand of football. These games come down to the little things, and Nebraska will have to limit its mistakes and handle some tough road environments (Madison, State College, Ann Arbor).
Are we really stuck with Leaders and Legends? I know there was talk of changing them when they were first announced but it seems like the out-cry has died down.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Dan, it has indeed. The Big Ten is definitely promoting Legends and Leaders, as every email I get from the schools has the division names displayed prominently. My sense is it would take another major protest by fans to get these names changed.
Adam - this is probably tough to judge before one snap has even been played, but who is your preseason pick for B1G FOY? Any chance Wisconsin could three-peat with Melvin Gordon?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Drew, Gordon is a talented guy, and it'll be interesting to see how many carries he receives this fall. But I'll say this: if Braxton Miller emerges as Ohio State's starting QB and doesn't completely fall apart, he'll probably get the nod.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Aren't you overstating things a bit in today's Lunch Links, saying Colter has pulled even with Persa? It seems to me Persa is practicing, increasing his reps with the offense, all the while rehabbing the Achilles....this Colter as QB #1B talk seems to be (a) a smokescreen by Fitz, and (b) acknowledgment that Colter will play in some formations (Wildcat/Pistol, etc.)
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Chris, Brian wrote that, not me, but this situation with Persa is interesting. Northwestern is sending mixed messages regarding the expectations for Persa, trumpeting him as a Heisman candidate and now calling Colter "1B." I don't think Persa will be the same player as far as his running ability, which is a big part of Northwestern's offense. But if he can make good decisions in the passing game and maximize a deep and talented group of receivers and tight ends, he's still by far Northwestern's best option. I'm going to head up to practice later today to get a look at Persa for myself.
John (Linebacker U)
Hey Adam. How do you feel about Glenn Carson earning the starting Mike job and Mauti going back to the Sam position.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
John, it's pretty impressive. Mauti has been billed as one of the Big Ten's best linebackers, so for Carson to emerge the way he has this spring is very interesting. I love Penn State's LB depth as players like Carson and Gerald Hodges really have come on strong during the offseason.
I agree with your prediction that OSU's streak of B1G championships will come to an end. I am wondering, however, how you see it happening. Is Bucky really going to come in to the Shoe and win? Will OSU lose two other games and Wisc only lose the one to the Buckeyes? Just wanted to get you to expand a little on your prediction. Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Lucas, I see Wisconsin sweeping its home schedule and going 1-1 during the stretch of back-to-back night road games. Hard to say whether the loss comes against Michigan State or Ohio State, but I think the Buckeyes drop two league games, including at least one crossover contest (Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan).
Rittenberg, when are you going to answer one of my questions? I'm a fellow Adam for crying out loud! Of Michigan's four "marquee" games this year (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State), how do you see the Wolverines coming out? I think they legitimately could beat any of those teams (except maybe Nebraska) if the circumstances are right, but they could also lose to all four of them. Based on what you've seen from those teams, what do you think Michigan's record will be against them?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Ha, always have love for a fellow Adam. Greatest name in the world. ... I agree those four games could go either way for Michigan. I see the Wolverines beating one of their two Big Ten rivals but not both. The Notre Dame game is a toss-up, and depending on Nebraska fares, the Nov. 19 game in Ann Arbor could be, too. I see 2-2 or 1-3 being the likeliest outcomes for Michigan, but 3-1 isn't out of the question.
Hi Adam, big Husker fan here. Are you as scared as I am for the Heroes Game trophy? After the whole "Legends and Leaders", the name for the Nebraska-Iowa rivarly, and the Cy-Hawk trophy, it is starting to seem like schools and conferences as a whole are trying too hard to have a better overall image. Maybe as a result of all these off the field issues. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Ronnie, I would hope the trophy designers get a lot of feedback before picking one model. You don't want to see a redux of this Cy-Hawk thing. The image thing is getting a little annoying with Leaders, Legends and Heroes, but the Big Ten is trying to portray positive symbols. Not sure if it's resonating as well as the league or the schools would like.
Texas A&M looks to be poised to leave the Big XII, regardless of what happens with the SEC. If that falls through, how hard does B1G look at the Aggies?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Not very hard, Gunner. Fans really need to understand that for the Big Ten, it's not all about the athletic program. It's about building the brand and adding an institution that jives culturally with the Big Ten. To me, Texas fits this description a lot more than A&M, but Texas also doesn't want to share equally with its conference brethren, which is critical for the Big Ten. I really think if we see another Big Ten expansion push -- and it would be a reluctant one -- the league would look more to ACC schools.
Follow up to FOY question, Adam. Miller would only get the nod for that if he didn't completely fall appart AND the bucks win a lot of games right? 2009 and 2010 both saw dynamic freshman quarterbacks on mediocre teams who lost out to Wisconsin frosh.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Drew, you're right, but 2008 saw a pretty decent but not great freshman QB from Ohio State win Freshman of the Year honors. His name: Terrelle Pryor.
Tom (Fairfax, VA)
I'm told our earthquake could be felt all the way to Chicago. Hope you're OK. On your bowl predictions -- you have 10 B1G teams going to bowls this year. Do you see a way for a team like Minnesota to get to 6 wins, and make it 11 (so that they don't knock Purdue out in doing so).
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Didn't feel it, Tom, but I grew up in California. I'm used to these things. ... Minnesota would have to go no worse than 3-1 in non-league play, as the Gophers Big Ten home schedule once again will be challenging with Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. I don't see the Gophers winning too many conference road games, so they'll have to start off strong.
Tony (Talent Rock, CO)
How cool would it be to have a B1G/SEC challenge like the B1G/ACC challenge in basketball? Would the conferences ever be interested?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Tony, it would be cool, but it would never happen. Too many schools are hesitant to give up home games and the money they generate. Jim Delany has told me when you have two leagues filled with massive stadiums, there's a greater reluctance to schedule games against one another. Only one Big Ten-SEC matchup this year (Alabama-Penn State).
Adam, do you see Iowa's easy home schedule taking them anywhere this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Jordan, it could take the Hawkeyes a long way. Iowa needs to end its home losing streak to Northwestern and continue its success against Michigan State and Michigan, but the Hawkeyes have an opportunity to capitalize on a favorable slate.
With Nebraska out of the Big XII, I would like to see Oklahoma and Nebraska play the early game (11:00 CST) on Thanksgiving Day every year. Just because the Huskers bolted the Big XII doesn't mean the rivalry needs to stop. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Yeah, not happening, Ted. It would screw up the Big Ten schedule, which features conference rivalries on that final weekend of the regular season. Plus, there already is an investment in Nebraska playing Iowa on Black Friday. While I'd love to see Nebraska-OU resume, it would need to be earlier in the season.
Chris (Ann Arbor)
Who is the top RB for the Wolverines?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Chris, coach Brady Hoke said Tuesday that if the season started now, Michael Shaw would be the starter and Fitzgerald Toussaint as the backup. Pretty interesting. Vincent Smith is clearly Michigan's third-down back, a good role for him. Shaw has done some good things, and he has added some weight during the offseason, which should help in this offense.
Doug (Hudson, Michigan)
How do you rate the job Mark Dantonio has done in East Lansing?Has MSU joined the big boys for good, or was last year's co-championship a fluke?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Dantonio has done an excellent job, and Michigan State is getting closer to being part of the elite. But the Spartans still must show they can win big-time bowl games, and they also must show they can beat really good teams on the road. The good news is that the 2011 season provides the perfect barometer for this program with so many marquee road games.
Chris (Athens, GA)
How cool would the challenge be though?Bama v. PSU, FL v. Ohio State, LSU v. Michigan (Les miles anyone?), Nebraska v. Georgia, Auburn v. Wisconson, Tenn v. Iowa, and MSU v. Arkansas...WHO WOULD NOT WATCH EVERY GAME!?!? I'd pick SEC 4-3 or 5-2, leaning towards 4-3
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Chris, I'm with you! Now get in your car, drive around the SEC and start convincing those ADs why they should do this. Unfortunately, you'll encounter a lot of resistance.
Do you think the 15 players from the U who are being investigated will play while the investigation is ongoing? Or, more importantly, will they be playing Sept 17th against the Buckeyes?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Andrew, there's a lot of pressure on Miami to figure out the players' eligibility situation before the season kicks off next week. You DO NOT want to play a player if there's a chance he gets ruled ineligible later. So Miami should be cautious, even with a key player like QB Jacory Harris. I'd be a little surprised if either Miami or Ohio State was at full strength when they meet Sept. 17.
Brad (Valdosta )
Hey Adam, I watched the rerun of last years Rose Bowl yesterday and saw what looked to me that TCU's speed was the deciding factor in that game. Do you think that could be the same factor in the NED WIS game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Brad, I've thought about that a lot in relation to the Wisconsin-Nebraska game. Can Lavonte David be Tank Carder? If he is, the Badgers could be in a lot of trouble. Nebraska also has some defensive backs similar to TCU's. Wisconsin will need to run the ball effectively, and it will need to commit to the run more than it did in Pasadena.
Tony (Fayettenam, NC)
I'll be in AA for "The Game" this Nov. What are the chances my Wolverines snap the losing streak? 50% or better?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Tony, I fully expect it to be a more competitive game than it has been the past three seasons. We'll know a lot more about both teams then, and several players on both sides should be a lot more comfortable in their roles. I see a lower-scoring game being decided at the line of scrimmage. If Ohio State's offensive line has the edge against what should be an improved Michigan defensive front, I give the edge to the Buckeyes.
Tell Brad that the U was supposedly the fastest college football team two years ago....didn't help them out in the bowl game vs. Wisc
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Yeah, but that's because they were cold. Wimps.
Still having trouble figuring out why people say Nebraska has such a tough schedule this year. Had they stayed in the Big 12, the Huskers would have had to face Texas A&M (8), Oklahoma State (9), Missouri (21), and Texas (24) on their way to likely facing Oklahoma (1) in the conference title game. Is it me, or upon further review, the Husker schedule not as bad as it could have been?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Totally agree with you, Homer. I think people overreacted to Nebraska's division crossover schedule, which is very challenging with road games against Wisconsin and Penn State and a home game against Ohio State. But the Huskers' division schedule really isn't that bad, and Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa all must come to Lincoln. It's a tough schedule, but Michigan State's is tougher in my opinion.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Question about your "under" prediction on the over/under of eight for Penn State. I understand hesitation regarding the QB and D Line, but in the grand scheme, I feel as though there's more certainty about this year's Penn State team than last year, whereas there's less certainty around the conference than there has been in quite some time. I could see anywhere from 8-10, so what gives? I know Iowa has had the upper hand lately, but things have to give at some point, not to mention I think we can grab at least one from the stretch of the last three games. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Brett, getting at least one in the last three is big, but I just don't see why Penn State fans are so confident without actually seeing how the QBs look. If we get the same inconsistency as we saw last season, it'll be very tough to beat Alabama, Nebraska, Ohio State or Nebraska. Maybe I'm making too big a deal about the defensive line, as history shows Penn State will find a way to produce there. But I just wonder if Penn State can control the line of scrimmage against teams that will be extremely tough up front.
Tony (Talent Rock, CO)
So the cy-hawk trophy shouldn't be scrapped. Why shouldn't it just go to the loser of the game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Ha! Great idea, Tony. I think I'll just send the trophy to Bennett as a Christmas present.
The SEC AD's would agree to the B1G challenge IF every game was a home game for the SEC schools. ie-Florida hasn't played an OOC game outside the state of FL since the 1980's...seriously!
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Yep, case in point. While there's hesitancy from ADs in both leagues, some SEC schools simply aren't going to leave the area to play nonconference games. It's a shame.
Adam,After your visit to Madison, what do you see as our biggest weakness going into week 1?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Wide receiver depth is a concern, but there should be enough at running back and tight end to offset it. Russell Wilson throws the ball well to the RBs and TEs. ... Biggest weakness is depth in the defensive back seven. If Chris Borland doesn't stay healthy, I would be very worried as it's a different defense when he's not on the field. And while the top four defensive backs are solid, there's not a ton of depth there.
I need an explanation on how you can predict a 10-2 record for OSU. The suspensions and turnover on both sides of the ball must mean nothing to you. They were 11-1 last year with a really good team and you say they will only lose one more than last year? Please explain your wacky prediction.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Nathan, Ohio State can win a lot of games 17-13. It will have to this season because of the suspensions on offense, but what makes you think opposing teams will score much on the Buckeyes' defense. Other than Wisconsin last year, few teams have exerted their will against the Ohio State defense. I think defense, special teams and the run game will keep Ohio State in every game this season, and the Buckeyes know how to win and they have the talent to do it. Could they go 9-3 or 8-4? Sure. But they also have a chance to win 10.
Forde mentioned in his Big 10 preview the biggest challenge the league faces is recruiting. With all the talent in the south, the Big 10 is at a disadvantage. Have you had a chance to ask Bo at Nebraska what he thinks about the talent in the Big 10 vs. Big 12? What does Bennett see talent wise vs. the Big East?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Vinnie, I meant to ask Bo about recruiting when we talked this summer, and it's a topic I'll definitely revisit as things go along. Nebraska's recruiting will have to change a bit, and Pelini's ability to get recruits from his home state of Ohio will be big.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
OK, time for one more ...
I could say the exact same thing that you said to Nathan about Penn State this year.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Mike, that's a good point. Penn State will need to keep scores down, especially in a game like Alabama, where points will be tough to come by. The Lions could do it, but I have greater concerns about their defensive line than I do with Ohio State. If the Penn State D-line performs like it did in 2009, 2008, 2005, etc., the Lions should be very tough to beat because the whole unit will be among the Big Ten's best.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, time's up. One more preseason chat next week and then let the games begin!