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 (12:01 PM)
I'm here. Let's get started!
Nate K (Jacksonville, FL)
Adam, who do you think has the more upside on defense this year... Wiscy or Neb? I know both haven't really been up to standards so far but just wanted your take. Thanks!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Wisconsin not up to standards? What game you watching, Nate? The Badgers have been pretty close to flawless so far. Both offenses can put up points, although I'd give the edge to Wisconsin. Badgers also playing better on defense so far, although Nebraska will get a boost with Alfonzo Dennard returns.
Hey Adam, love the blog; no better way to keep me entertained at the office! Anyway, I was wondering-I know Iowa's defense hasn't been the top notch unit we're accustomed to seeing thus far, but who would you say has been the MVP? Hyde has made some big plays, but seemed to struggle as a safety. Morris is all over the field, but seems to not be as steady a tackler as we're used to seeing at that position. Bernstine has missed some time, but seems to bring another level of energy to that side of the ball. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Thomas, I'm here for you, man. Bernstine has brought something to the table. Good to see a veteran player work his way into a bigger role. But the unit still has a way to go.
come on AR! you are B1G guru and you are trailing BB in predictions?!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
It's BRUTAL, Jeong! I've suddenly become stupid after three years of great predictions. Maybe I should dump Bennett. He's messing up my mojo.
SO, when do Texas and Oklahoma move to the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Haha, I guess it's possible, Brian, but if the Pac-12 wasn't willing to accept Texas and all its demands, why would the Big Ten, a league that has thrived on equal revenue sharing. Can't think Nebraska would be too thrilled to have Texas in its league again. As for Oklahoma, I think OU would be a tough sell as an institution to some of the Big Ten presidents. From an athletics standpoint, it's a great addition.
Jeff from Philly (City of Brotherly Love)
With all the flux happening right now in conference realingment. The state of Pennsylvania is really messed up. We have 3 FBS schools that are in 3 different conferences. Do you see PSU making the leap to the ACC
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Nope. Penn State president Graham Spanier affirmed his commitment to the Big Ten on Tuesday. While the ACC might be friendlier to Penn State fans, the Big Ten is clearly a better destination for Penn State's athletics program. You've got the Big Ten Network revenue and other factors. I also wonder why Penn State fans would want to leave the Big Ten for a weaker conference? While the Big Ten has had its struggles, the ACC has been a huge bust on the big stage.
Sagarin Rankings have NDSU ahead of 4 big ten teams including the gophers, thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Interesting, but it's early in the season. The Gophers shouldn't need a Sagarin rating to motivate them against North Dakota State. This is a team that lost to an FCS team last year and nearly did in 2009. Minnesota can't overlook anyone, especially after losing to New Mexico State.
Hey Adam...was last week an Iowa comeback, or a Pitt meltdown? Obviously it was both...but you know what I'm asking, right? I'm afraid it was more the latter...3 punts this year? Good Lord...
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Jason, really good question. Talking to Bennett, who covered Pitt for years, and he said right after it happened that he'd seen this movie before countless times involving Pitt. So the Panthers had something to do with it. But that shouldn't take the credit away from Iowa, which certainly built some confidence in the fourth quarter, particularly QB James Vandenberg. But I wouldn't get too giddy until Iowa cleans up its play on both sides and gets more efficient.
Is there any excuse as to why Braxton Miller should not start every game for the rest of the season? He has the talent, and I can live with the mistakes...but after the Miami game, it has become completely and plainly obvious that Joe Bauserman does NOT have the talent to compete on this level.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Ben, a lot of Ohio State fans feel this way. The big question is whether Luke Fickell and his staff can live with Miller's mistakes, because he will make them, as long as he also brings more playmaking to the table. Keep in mind these are former Jim Tressel assistants, and The Vest HATED turnovers more than anything. Now Fickell needs to be his own man and make the calls for this team at this time, but I have a hard time seeing them giving Miller chance after chance if he keeps committing turnovers.
why do you think there is huge gap between PSU offense and defense? I feel bad for our defense
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
The Lions defense definitely is carrying the team right now, JP. A lot of smart people say Penn State hasn't evolved enough on offense, and the scheme simply isn't innovative enough. But it's also about execution and Penn State needs more from its receivers on a consistent basis. But there are some long-term concerns about the offense, namely the inability to develop truly elite quarterbacks.
The Like Ninja (Unknown)
Adam, I like SDSU's chances against Michigan. I think Hillman has a huge game, and SDSU comes out on top. What's your take on that game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Ninja, I think it'll be a close game. Hillman and the Aztecs provide a very good test for Michigan's defensive line, which should be the strength of the unit. San Diego State players will be really fired up to face Brady Hoke and their other former coaches. But the San Digeo State offense definitely is the key because Michigan will put up some points.
Dan (East Lansing)
Adam - How does MSU fix its Oline problems? Its a disastor and the season doesn't look very good going forward if they can't make some changes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Dan, they can keep putting pieces in different places, and they will if the injuries continue to pile up. But it's true what they say about chemistry and continuity with the offensive line. This group just needs to get comfortable and more confident. It'll take some games, but I think the Spartans can have a decent line by late October.
Please tell me Persa will be ready vs. Illinois. Colter has done some good things, but we need Persa back badly!
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Sam, it seems like he will be ready, but the rhetoric surrounding Persa has been baffling to me. You trot him out at Big Ten media day, you put together a Heisman Trophy campaign, you list him questionable every week on the depth chart and he still hasn't taken a snap in a game. Pat Fitzgerald has been ultra-protective of Persa, which I understand, but the whole situation seems odd to me. Wouldn't be surprised if Persa had a setback or two in his rehab, so while I think he'll be back for Illinois, we'll have to see.
What's the value in playing South Dakota a week before Nebraska? Wouldn't Wisconsin be better off giving their starters more meaningful reps against quality opposition a week before a big game? Or is there more value in resting starters? Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Patrick, look at the Big Ten schedule this week. Wisconsin isn't the only team taking it easy. I expected more competitive games with both Oregon State and especially Northern Illinois, but the Badgers have rolled over the competition so far. I agree that it's hard to get a real gauge on Wisconsin until the Nebraska game, and one potential concern for Bret Bielema is he hasn't seen his players face much adversity in games yet.
Brian Kelly (South Bend)
If Notre Dame's hand is forced into conference alignment, do you think the Irish will end up in the B1G or the ACC? Most folks are pointing east... Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Well, Brian, you know more than I do. I get the argument for the ACC, which will make Notre Dame its crown jewel and has an appealing location in the southeast. But people are overlooking the Big Ten Network factor and what it brings for Notre Dame's entire athletic program. Think of the exposure the Fighting Irish hockey team will get on BTN. Same with the other sports, which Notre Dame really cherishes. I still don't think the ACC is a nationally relevant conference, even with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse. The Big Ten, meanwhile, always has national relevance because of its fan bases, its tradition and its revenue.
Bernard Diggins (Columbus, OH)
Who do you start at QB if you're coaching OSU this week? If Fickell was given job security, wouldn't he almost certainly start Miller?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Bernard, a lot of folks feel this way. But listening to Fickell on Tuesday, I think he'll start Miller even though the freshman is a turnover risk. Fickell talked a lot Tuesday about the need to make more big plays. Miller is a quarterback with the potential to give you those big plays, perhaps more so than Bauserman.
So I'm dying to know. I've looked at every school around for expansion. I don't want 99% of them in the B1G. Only a couple stand out as home runs to me. My question is, do even have a shot at them. GA Tech, Stanford, UCLA. They get no talk, but if the Big East and Big 12 can get raided why not the Pac 12 or anyone else?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Koop, those schools don't get discussed because they're in stable conferences. You don't want to give up stability for the unknown. The Big 12 isn't stable, and that's why you see all these teams looking elsewhere. Stanford and UCLA aren't going anywhere. Georgia Tech was a more intriguing possibility before the ACC raised its exit fee to $20 million. Same held true for Maryland. But I think it's tougher now for the Big Ten to raid the ACC -- tougher, but not impossible.
Drew (Lafayette, IN)
Adam, is Danny Hope out of a job if he doesn't at least beat Notre Dame, or Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Drew, not if he gets Purdue to a bowl game. Morgan Burke remains very supportive of Hope, and if Purdue can just get to six wins and return to the postseason, Hope will be fine for 2012. But certainly a win against the Irish or the Buckeyes will help his cause.
The B10 got super lucky the P12 didnt add Texas, OU,Okie St and TTU. With Mizzou likely SEC bound and Pitt and the 'Cuse gone already the pickings are getting slim. Why be reactive when you can be proactive if youre the B10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Because you're already a really strong league. And you're RICH. RICH, RICH, RICH. Why should the Big Ten share with a Pitt, or a Syracuse or even a Missouri? What are those teams bringing to the table? Just another mouth to feed? It's not always about being reactive or proactive. It's about recognizing that what you have is a pretty good deal.
The Like Ninja (Unknown)
Seeing how each of the Directional Michigan schools (excluding DII Northern) are playing Big 10 teams this weekend, which one of them do you think will be the most competitive?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Western Michigan is clearly the best of the bunch, and Illinois must beware of Alex Carder and the Broncos. Was very impressed with Carder against Michigan, and Illinois must guard against the letdown factor and get another good performance from its defense.
It's disappointing that most people don't understand the concept of quality over quantity. "So when the B1G goes to 16 schools..." Just drop it. Unless we add a ND or similar, there's no reason to dilute the league.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Preach on, brother. The angst of some Big Ten fans astounds me. So do the suggestions of schools like West Virginia or Oklahoma State. Do some homework on your favorite league.
Beau Derek (Hollywood)
What have you learned so far this season - there has been some separation between teams, but I still feel like I don't really know much. Does this have to do with strength of schedule thus far, or did we just see our teams under-perform (play down to competition)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Beau, I agree it's hard to take too much away from the non-league portion. More teams have issues than I thought, namely Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Iowa. But we'll get a much better read on these teams with league play kicks off next month. So many huge games in October and so much will be revealed. I can't wait!
Adam, having some issues here in Sparta. This week I have to play against a friend of mine and then the following week I find myself back at the Shoe. What do I need to do to be successful?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
I'd worry more about your offensive line than facing Dan Enos or going back to Columbus. I think your defense will be fine, but you've got to get that run game going against the Chips on Saturday before heading down to The Shoe.
What do you need to see out of Nebraska at Wyoming in order to for you to go into that Neb Wiscy game thinking Nebraska is going to win? Is there anything you could see that would make you believe that?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Defense, defense, defense. It's all about the Blackshirts, DCJ. If there's not a significant uptick in performance with that unit, Nebraska won't beat Wisconsin in Madison. The offense is what it is -- frustrating at times but always having the potential to make big plays. But Nebraska's defense needs to tighten up significantly or it'll be a long night against Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and the others.
Zach (Eglin AFB)
Adam, Your thoughts on Denard's early passing woes? Is it a result of the new offensive scheme he's in or is it because he's simply getting too excited when he drops back?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Zach, he can throw the short passes, but anything beyond an intermediate route seems to give him problems. I frankly expected a little more after the progress Denard made as a passer from 2009 to 2010. The running ability is fantastic, and I love how Denard plays with no fear and steps up in clutch situations. But if he can't get more consistent with his intermediate to deep passes, Michigan will have some hiccups in Big Ten play.
What's the new ceiling for OSU after they laid such an egg against Miami? Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois (!) definitely look like better teams. MSU, UM, PSU are toss ups. Could they be this year's Texas?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Andrew, while I wouldn't expect Ohio State to go 5-7, the concerns on offense are very real and won't be solved completely after Herron, Posey and Adams return from suspension. Ohio State has to get some confidence in the QB position against Colorado because the first three Big Ten games are very challenging (vs. MSU, @Nebraska, @Illinois).
If the Badgers escape October unscathed (a proposition that's no longer seems like such a giant leap), do you see them finishing the season undefeated?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Don't forget about the trip to Illinois in November. The Illini boast a talented defensive front seven and can put up points with their offense, led by Nathan Scheelhaase. I also think Penn State will be a better team by the time it visits Madison, although Wisconsin is so incredibly tough to beat on its home field.
J.P. (Washington DC)
What is the ceiling in Lincoln this year if the Blackshirts don't get their act together? Also, is Nebraska EVER going to play well on both offense and defense in the same season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
J.P., I understand your frustration. I can't imagine the Nebraska defense won't perform better than it has so far this season. Getting CB Alfonzo Dennard certainly will help. I think the offense will be an up-and-down unit, but Nebraska wants to reach a point where it can rely on the Blackshirts.
John (Birmingham, Michigan)
Adam, do you think there was any element of fool's gold in Illinois' win over ASU? To me it looked like Illinois benefited from ASU shooting itself in the foot more than anything else. Not seeing them as a B1G contender just yet.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
John, I agree Illinois has more to prove, but both teams actually shot themselves in the foot. None of the first five takeaways was converted into points. And you have to credit Illinois for a creative defensive game plan that constantly put pressure on Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler. Both teams had chances, but Illinois make more plays than the Sun Devils and deserved the win.
Max (Just outside of Bangladesh, India)
Hi Adam, it's pretty late for me right now. With this unstable quarterback situation, and with the current situation that us fans assume the coaches aren't properly preparing these kids, do you see frustration taking over and PSU ousts Joe Pa, like FSU did to Bobby Bowden?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Max, great to hear from Bangladesh! It's still early in the season, but if the offense doesn't make significant strides soon, the frustration will continue to mount. Penn State fans should expect more from a program that has every ingredient to be elite. Not to get off on too much of a tangent, but why would Penn State fans want their program in an inferior conference like the ACC? If you want to be elite, stay in the Big Ten and win more titles than you have in the first 17 years. OK, now I'm rambling. But it's important to get the QB situation sorted out and the offense on track in the next two weeks. Remember, Penn State's November schedule is brutal.
Come on Adam, you giving credibility to the lip-service Graham Spanier (and all of these things said in public by any of these schools going through conference shuffling) any amount of worth is laughable.I think you'd find Penn State fans/alumni WANT to move to the ACC. We don't fit in the B1G ... and people like you who ignore PSU and treat them like a step-brother for the most part are a reason why. Your answer is lip-service, because people just can't come out and say their intentions - look at the Pitt chancellor who was charged with keeping the conference together. PSU is as good as gone!!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Rick, Penn State fans can complain all they want, but you honestly think Spanier, the person who matters here, isn't happy in the Big Ten? With all the money the Big Ten generates? With the exposure Penn State's entire institution receives from the Big Ten Network? You really want to go beat up on ACC pansies like you used to as an independent? Will that really boost the Penn State program?
Brian Bennett (Louisville)
I'm kicking your butt in YTD predictions AND our college fantasy league. Is this just beginner's luck or are you just THAT bad?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Long way to go, Bennett. Long way to go.
Have you heard anything that Chryst really wants to be a Head Coach? He and his family are firmly planted in Madison, what are our chances of keeping him around for a while?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Justin, almost every top assistant wants to be a head coach, including Paul Chryst. I think he'd do a great job in the right place. My only concern with Paul, who is a terrific guy, is whether he could handle all the non-football stuff head coaches have to do these days. He's such a football guy, a scheme guy. I don't know if he's a booster function guy.
Adam, how again is the ACC inferior to the B1G? You sound a bit smug, my friend. The ACC is a superior academic conference and a large portion of the PSU alum/fanbase reside in the mid-atlantic. It would seem like a no-brainer to me.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Bob, this is absolutely laughable. Thanks for your comment.
What team has the most talent at skill positions in the B1G TEN?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Good question, John. I like Michigan State's skill-position talent, especially at running back and wide receiver. Penn State has its issues at quarterback, but I like the surrounding weapons as well as the talent at linebacker and defensive back.
Thanks for answering part 1 of my question, so I hope you let me respond - and you follow up. Last one I promise.An ACC network - set-up similar to the BTN - with possibly as many as 110 million residents in the states where the schools are located, with the majority of the major markets ... will make a TON more than the BTN - especially with basketball filling the winter (and relevant baseball in the spring). Don't be short sighted, the ACC is a sleeping giant in that regard ($$$) and FSU, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, PSU, ND at the top of a "New ACC" is pretty attractive no?I don't think Spanier is happy in the B1G. We have no rivals, our alumni and students are heavily skewed to/from the east coast. 8 ACC schools are within closer distance than just 3 B1G schools.IF ND goes ACC ... I'll bet you a sandwich PSU does as well! Are we on?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
You've got a deal, Rick! Or we could bet a large ice cream at the Creamery. Mmmmm. ... OK, here's the deal. Everyone assumes you can just "get" markets. Like the ACC can just "get" New York or Boston with its TV network. Don't you think the Big Ten would add schools like Rutgers in a heartbeat if it truly felt it could claim the New York market? It's not that simple. The ACC has too many irrelevant football programs for my liking. Now yes, if the league added both Notre Dame and Penn State, it would have a huge East Coast presence. But you're also overlooking the Big Ten markets and the huge fan bases the Big Ten brings. It's why Notre Dame should continue to be the Big Ten's top expansion target. Add Notre Dame, and there's not a more popular conference in the country, not even the ACC.
Penn State fans must be really frustrated. Why would you want to trade playing Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin every season for playing Pitt, Maryland, BC, Syracuse, Virginia and VT in a 16 team conference? Go Big or Go Home.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Drew, I understand it to a degree. Penn State is located in a different region than the rest of the Big Ten. State College is not in the Midwest, and the other Big Ten locations are. I get that. Also, Penn State fans want more drivable games like Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse. I get that, too. But to get fat off of average programs like Penn State did for years isn't a way to elevate the program to powerhouse status again. Winning the Big Ten, meanwhile, would do the trick.
Jason (Lincoln, NE)
Adam, do you think the Huskers have been holding back on defense or are there actually issues with the blackshirts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Jason, why would they be holding back? Fresno and Washington both challenged Nebraska's defense plenty of times. I don't buy into the holding-things-back argument too much. These games are meant to prepare you for the conference season, so use them. I see a few issues in the secondary and with the line, but nothing that can't be resolved.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Adam, Ohio State and Michigan have gotten 'fat off of average programs' from the 'Little 8' for years. Why should PSU be any different?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I wouldn't call Iowa and Wisconsin average programs. I wouldn't call Penn State an average program. Yes, the Big Ten has its problems. Yes, the Big Ten could do more in the bigger bowls. But what has the ACC ever done in meaningful bowl games? Besides being a big deal on national signing day, when has that league ever met expectations?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, enough with the Big Ten-ACC debate. Chat over. Enjoy the games this week.