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)
Greetings from Big Ten Conference headquarters, where I'll be chatting for the next hour. Made the trip out here to check out the Stagg-Paterno Big Ten championship trophy, which will be making its way around the league this fall.
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Let's get started ...
AR - absolutely furious that the u got off scott free in this investigation with their best players getting a 1 game suspension. Feels like taking benefits from a booster would be considered a worse crime then selling some of you OWN personal items... pretty hypocritical if you ask me.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Mackey, you're not alone in this belief. The NCAA seems to be making it about the money received and not about who the transition took place with. Ohio State players received more benefits ($1,000 or more) than the Miami players, so they were handed longer suspensions. It's interesting to say the least.
Les (Erie, PA)
Many in the media are predicting Ill finishing ahead of PSU this year in the Leaders division. How do you see them matching up head to head this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Les, it should be a competitive matchup. Illinois heads back to State College, where last year it won for the first time in team history. Both teams have opportunities to rack up some early wins before facing one another. It's pretty critical for Penn State to start off strong. The one element that should be different this year is Penn State's offense, which had absolutely no identity in last year's matchup. Penn State should be more polished and will test an Illini defense looking to replace 3 NFL draft picks. On the flip side, Illinois' offense also will be stronger than the one PSU faced last year.
iadodger (Iowa City)
AJ Derby has moved up to the backup position for the Hawkeyes. Barring injury, what has to happen for him to becom the starter during the season, like Stanzi did in 2008?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
James Vandenberg would really have to struggle, Dodger. Vandy has the confidence of his coaches and teammates even though he hasn't played much since late in the 2009 season. I would be very surprised if we saw a change at starter barring an injury.
AR, you ALWAYS pick favorites to win games.. and it is not fun. starting this season can you please have one mandatory upset pick each week? please..?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
I'll see what I can do, Jeong, but I'm not going to pick an upset just for the sake of it. I'm going to go with the team who I actually think will win. My record has been pretty solid the past few years, and I intend to keep it that way.
Who will step up and be a good solid running back for Ohio State while Herron is serving his suspension?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Dan, I thought Jaamal Berry would be the No. 1 back, but he has been limited by a hamstring issue and might not play in the opener. Jordan Hall will get a shot, but I know Ohio State also wants to try him out as a receiver. That opens things up for Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, two bigger backs. If Berry can get healthy, I think he'll be the lead back for the Buckeyes.
Matt (New York City)
What are you more curious to see this Saturday when Michigan takes the field against Western Michigan - how Denard adjusts to the new offense (ie: taking snaps under center) or how Michigan's defense will look under Mattison and Hoke? And which is more crucial to a successful season in Ann Arbor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Matt, I'm definitely more interested in Michigan's defense. I know Denard and the offense will get more attention, but Michigan's season hinges on how much the defense improves from the past three years. Despite a comfortable win against UConn in last year's opener, the defense showed some problems that were exploited later in the season. I'm going to keep a close eye on positioning, fundamentals and how Michigan works to limit the breakdowns that surfaced too often the last few years.
Collin (Los Angeles)
How do you see the B1G doing this weekend in their out of conference games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
It should be a pretty good week for the Big Ten, in large part because there aren't many great matchups. Minnesota and Northwestern are most likely to lose games, although Purdue and Indiana both could be in some nailbiters.
With TX A&M looking to leave the Big 12, could you see The B1G at least entertaining the thought of the Aggies joining B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Nope. The Big Ten is monitoring things but not discussing new members at this time. Plus, A&M isn't a great fit for the Big Ten. Please keep this in mind when throwing out expansion candidates. The school has to fit the league. It's more than just football. There really aren't that many schools that truly fit the Big Ten.
your boss (in Bristol)
AR, you go to State College next week to cover Bama game I will send BB to Big House. AR please come to Beaver Stadium next week!!!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Well, if you say so ...
This the B1G, so lets hear your prediction for offensive and/or defensive lineman that everyone will know by the end of the year that few of heard of today?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Here are a couple of names. Offense: Illinois T Jeff Allen, Wisconsin T Ricky Wagner. Defense: Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins, Nebraska DT Baker Steinkuhler, Northwestern DE Tyler Scott.
Matt (Music City)
Who is on more of upset alert this week? Boilers or Hoosiers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It's a tough question, Matt. Middle Tennessee is a stronger opponent than Ball State, although Purdue will be playing at home. And while Caleb TerBush doesn't have much game experience, he has been around for a while and would have played a lot last fall had he been eligible. I really have no idea what to expect from Indiana against Ball State. I don't think they'll be sending that game tape to the College Football Hall of Fame. I would say IU is on alert slightly more than Purdue, but they're both about the same.
Bennett didn't do it.(I know I know millions of questions can't get them all) Maybe you can. I don't like Castillo, my hope was to see Lowery, he's hurt. Can you make me feel good about the Iowa secondary? Why not Bernstein? Why Castillo?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Jack, it's interesting. I though Bernstine's experience would result in him earning a starting spot somewhere in the secondary. Clearly, he hasn't done enough in preseason practice to put himself ahead of Castillo. But I'm not as concerned about the corners as the safeties. It's really hard to lose two multiyear starters (Sash, Greenwood) at that position and not have some type of drop-off. While Micah Hyde isn't a new starter, he's moving positions.
Michael (Omaha, NE)
If you compared Husker Coverage with other B1G teams, which teams are more covered in their respective areas? Meaning, is there non-stop talk all day every day in each and every news/media/blogs/etc everywhere?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Michael, Nebraska football certainly is a 24/7/365 experience within the state. The closest Big Ten example would be Ohio State. Huge media corps and constant coverage year-round. Michigan also gets a lot of coverage, but there are other big sports teams (pro and college) within the state. Two programs that would get more coverage if they were more accessible to the media are Penn State and Iowa. Both programs really don't do much with their players and coaches outside the season.
Michael (Los Angeles)
Adam, Pat Forde picked the Gophers to shock USC this weekend. Headline reads 'LA skies turn Gray as Gopher QB leads upset bid'. Are you jumping on the bandwagon? Pass the Kill-Aid!
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Wow, that's quite a bold selection from Mr. Forde. I think Jerry Kill gets that thing going soon in Minneapolis, but a young team with a first-year starting QB winning its opener at the L.A. Coliseum? Seems like a bit of a stretch. I'll say this, though: MarQueis Gray gives Minnesota a chance because of his size and versatility. USC hasn't handled dual-threat QBs very well.
Coach McCall up in Evanston has done a pretty good job developing QBs over his career. His coaching had BGSU QBs Josh Harris/Omar Jacobs and NU QBs Mike Kafka/Dan Persa all performing VERY well in their 1st game of the season as a full time starters.With Persa potentially limited or out against BC, is there any reason to suspect that Cain Kolter won't have a similar experience if he ends up being the starter?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Ian, that's a good point. McCall is one of the best quarterback coaches in the Big Ten and is very underrated nationally. Colter certainly looked more polished as a passer when I saw him practice last week. He needs to make Boston College's D respect him as a passer or it'll be a long day for the Wildcats offense. Mobility really is critical for Northwestern's scheme and Colter has no issues there, but I would expect some mistakes on the road in his first start (if he is the starter).
Is Bennett single? I have a thing for red headed men.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Sorry, Amanda, he's not. And if he were, you'd have to get in line.
Kevin (Grand Rapids)
How many games does MSU have to win for Cousins to have a legitimate chance at the Heisman?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Kevin, I would say 10 or more, but it's not as much about the win total as the games where Cousins would need to perform big. A huge performance at Notre Dame in Week 3, for example, would help his cause because Notre Dame games attract national attention. Leading Michigan State past Ohio State in Columbus in Week 5 also would help Captain Kirk. In short, if he plays really well in some of these tough road games, he'll be on the Heisman radar.
Adam, I think alot of media are overlooking one critical factor in PSUs offense this year as compared to last. That is the running back position. I know Royster racked up some yards in his career, but PSU fans already know, and I read in the lunch links that even an anonymous big ten coach stated that he did not play to his potential last year. Couldn't Silas Redd be PSUs x-factor this season? I think he will be.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
He certainly could be, Lance. I really like Redd's potential to be a star this season. The concerns many have are with the offensive line, which hasn't been great since the 2008 season. Penn State needs that unit to come together and perform well, which will help Redd, Brandon Beachum and the other Lions ball-carriers.
Adam, nice meeting you at the local driving range a couple weeks ago. How do you see Michigan D stacking up against WMU QB/WR combo, especially with Woolfolk back in the secondary this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Ha, great meeting you, too. And sorry you had to watch my golf swing -- hardly a thing of beauty. ... Talked with Woolfolk last night and he's impressed with the Western Michigan QB and WRs. They provide a good test for a Wolverines secondary that has to take several steps forward this year. The big key, however, is the defensive line. We've heard so much about the front four since Brady Hoke took over, and this is an opportunity for the group to rise up and put pressure on WMU. Michigan still isn't good enough in the secondary to stop dynamic passing offenses if it doesn't generate some pressure from the line.
Murray (boone, nc)
AR, you are on a desert island. you have the choice of ONE B1G game to watch the entire season. Which game do you pick?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Wow, Murray, say it ain't so! One game? That would be a tragedy indeed. ... I'd go Wisconsin-Nebraska. It's the game that kicks off the Big Ten season. It shapes the league title race and could be a preview of the championship game. Ohio State-Nebraska would have been my pick had Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor still been with the Buckeyes. So much intrigue.
Glenn Carson (Happy Valley)
Adam, you may not know who I am now, but by season's end you sure will. You'll see it when I tackle Trent the first time on Sept. 10th!
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Glenn, I do know who are, and I'm excited to see you on the field this fall. You impressed me by winning the middle linebacker job in camp and moving veteran Michael Mauti to the outside. Penn State definitely needs you to do big things against Bama's offense.
Had JJ Watt come back, would he have been above Crick at the #1 spot in your preseason player rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
No doubt about it. JJ finished No. 2 in the 2010 postseason rankings, so he would have been No. 1 with no argument heading into this season.
Jay (Iowa City)
How much would it hurt the Big Ten if a 9-3 or 8-4 team beats a 11-1 team in the conference championship game and then goes on to lose its BCS bowl? Especially in the first year of a conference championship game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Any BCS bowl loss hurts the conference, Jay. But you bring up a potential downside of adding the league title game. The divisions might not be balanced in terms of competitiveness, but both division champions will head to Indy, and it only takes one win to go to a BCS game.
Do you see the JUCO transfer pair of Joe Carter and Damion Stafford making an impact on the Blackshirt D this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Carter is a name I've heard several times during the preseason. I'm interested to see how much he'll play in Nebraska's defensive end rotation. There's a lot of depth up front for the Huskers. Stafford also is in a bit of a crowded position group in the secondary, but teams typically don't bring in Juco players to sit on the bench.
I'm a little surprised that Mizzou is not thought of more as a good fit for the B1G. It would move the league a little south (which Delaney seems to think about), two big new TV markets, solid academics, geographically it works, and a decent football team. I am missing something?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Missouri has a lot of factors working in its favor, but the Big Ten didn't like the way the governor stumped for Mizzou last year. Plus, Missouri lacks that wow factor Nebraska has. It's not a program that moves the needle nationally in football, despite being a solid team (also in basketball). You guys keep throwing out these expansion candidates and I don't see many home runs there. Penn State was a home run. Nebraska appears to be a home run. Notre Dame and Texas would be home runs. Missouri? Texas A&M? Maryland? More like singles and doubles.
Adam, not a big fan of the blog, anyways heres a question. If Russell Wilson doesnt live up to the hype, does that reflect poorly on the coaching staff of Wisconsin more so than NC State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Thanks for being honest, Bucky. I don't know if you can blame Wisconsin's staff too much if Wilson doesn't match his hype. The Badgers needed a quarterback, not only for performance but for depth. Curt Phillips and now Jon Budmayr both are sidelined, so Wisconsin really has few options under center. Even if Wilson isn't an All-Big Ten caliber player, Wisconsin made the right call in pursuing him. The Badgers made their team better.
Jason ((Madison, VA))
Expansion question: How hard to you think Delaney is looking at schools like Maryland and Virginia? They would come in as natural rivals, add TV markets, expand to the south and east, and they both meet the academic culture of the B1G. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Jason, I believe if the Big Ten gets serious about another expansion, it would look hard at the ACC schools. While I just called Maryland a single or a double in terms of an addition, bringing in the Washington DC market would appeal to the Big Ten, especially with the rise of the Big Ten Network. Maryland would get the Big Ten in the door for that market. And from a cultural standpoint -- academic reputation, etc. -- Maryland and especially Virginia fit a lot better than some of the Big 12 schools people keep throwing out there.
BeauDog Millionaire (India)
What will it take (other than 9-10 wins) for Minnesota to get back to prominence. Coach Kill looks like he has us going in the right direction, but we are tired of losing and want to make a big splash in the first year. Do you think our schedule could let us get a few more upsets than most people think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
The schedule definitely provides more than a few chances for big upsets, Beau. Not only does Minnesota visit USC, but it hosts Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin and visits Michigan State. I'd be pretty shocked if Minnesota approaches 10 wins this year, but the Gophers can take a step toward competing for a Big Ten championship. It has been far too long since Minnesota called itself a champion, and ultimately, that's what will get this program back to prominence.
BeauFanHawk (North Liberty)
Iowa seems to have a let down game (or two) each year - where do you see our biggest chance at an unexpected loss this year, other than our nemesis from the NorthSide?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
I listed Purdue as a potential trap game for Iowa in my 2011 schedule analysis. The Purdue game falls after back-to-back home games against the Michigan schools, and before the much anticipated trip to Nebraska. Although Purdue has its issues right now, the Boilers could be an improved team by the time Iowa visits on Nov. 19.
Why isn't anyone talking about Pitt and West Virginia for expansion? Both are solid football schools . . .
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
One school (West Virginia) doesn't match up academically and the other (Pitt) is in a market where the Big Ten already has a presence. C'mon, guys, spend some time actually studying these schools -- not just the football teams -- before throwing them out there.
In your eyes what would be considered a successful debut for Wilson tomorrow night?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Being out of the game early in the third quarter.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
If you had to pick one of the four games PSU will be a definitive underdog in, which do you think they have the best chance to pull the upset? Bama, Neb, OSU, Wisc?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Good question, Brett. I'd probably go with Nebraska at home. The Nebraska game is the home finale and could be the final home contest for coach Joe Paterno. It's a long trip for the Huskers, who will have played some very tough games by then. Wouldn't shock me to see Penn State win in Columbus, especially if Ohio State is heading downhill by then.
Ok Adam, here's an possible school for expansion for you to try to pick apart: Boston College. New media market and fits academically.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Tim, I've always liked Boston College as a potential addition, but I didn't hear BC mentioned much when the Big Ten conducted its expansion study last year. The Boston market is great, but it's truly a pro sports town and BC doesn't really move the needle in that city. The Big Ten would be betting on itself to make a splash in the market, but from a cultural and athletic standpoint, BC makes sense to me.
Are the Badgers putting up video game scores any more this year? Would it hurt them to be seen as running up the score?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
I think you'll see some big score totals from Wisconsin, especially early in the season. You have two dynamic running backs, a potential difference maker at QB and an offensive line that should once again be among the nation's best. As for running up the score, Bret Bielema has that reputation now, whether it's fair or not, but opponents can always feel free to stop Wisconsin now and then.
Pitt at Iowa, Adam. Who you got if you had to pick today?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I'd go with the Hawkeyes. Iowa has been very good at home for the most part. Pitt is going through a coaching transition. While the Panthers certainly have some talented players, I think Iowa wins that one.
Jim Delaney (Chicago)
Expansion isn't just about football! (Why can't these people get that through their stinkin' heads?)
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Thank you, Jim! Now if only you -- and everyone else -- could spell your last name correctly.
Should we start up our own ACL insurance plan for incoming players, especially those with "Rob" in their name? We want Hope to turn things around for us, but injuries keep appearing to key pieces. Coach Hope probably doesn't too many chances left if he cannot get a winning record in conference. What time frame should he be allowed to get things back on track?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Wow, I didn't think about the "Rob" connection. That's pretty eerie. I do think Henry's injury could make it hard once again to truly evaluate Danny Hope. But at some point, he needs to get this program to a bowl game, and even without Henry, I think Purdue can get there if certain things go right. Obviously, you can't afford too many more major injuries to key players, but I wouldn't count out the Boilers by any means.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
rich rodriguez (ann arbor)
we as a team were on track to win 9 games this year. why are they not holding the new coach to that number?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
They might, Rich, especially if the Wolverines start off strong like they did in your final two seasons. But Brady Hoke undoubtedly will get more time than you do to get things right.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, that's it for the day. Great chat, as always. I'm going to go and check out the Big Ten championship trophy. Season is one day away!