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 started!
Alex (Portland, OR)
With a cupcake schedule left, it seems that the only real test for MSU will be at Iowa. Since the 37-6 thrashing from 2010 is still in the back of my mind, what can you tell me that will give me some confidence for MSU when they head to Iowa City? MSU seems to be a totally different (read: worse) team on the road.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Alex, the Iowa game is the biggest remaining test, although Northwestern could be playing for a bowl appearance on Senior Day. Michigan State isn't so much a different team on the road but a different offense. The defense has been solid and sometimes great (Ohio State), but the offense simply hasn't shown up. It will need to against an Iowa team that puts up a bunch of points on its home field.
So, I guess the problem with the Nebraska defense earlier in the year was Jared Crick. First six games with Crick: 27.2 ppg allowed. Last two games without Crick: 8.5 ppg. What I can't figure out is how Crick was getting the DBs to blow their coverages in those first six games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Ha, are people really blaming the early struggles on Crick? That's utterly ridiculous. Nebraska's D is building confidence, though.
Can Purdue scrounge together 2 more wins to become bowl eligible?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
It will be interesting, Pat. The next two games (at Wisconsin, Ohio State) both are very tough for the Boilers. The last two games (Iowa, at Indiana) seem very winnable. Boilers will need to win one at home to have a chance.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Adam,Kirk Ferentz is facing some criticism lately, and mainly for these more recent road losses dating back to last season. However, I don't think Ferentz is as stubborn as some might think. I think we'll see some different looks, especially on defense, these next few games. It would fire up this demoralized Iowa team and would be very unexpected by opposing teams. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Ted, it wouldn't surprise me to see some shakeups on defense down the stretch, whether it's schematic or personnel. What we've seen clearly isn't working. Iowa is just not a very good defensive team right now, and the reasons aren't mysterious (losing three D-linemen to the NFL draft hurts). It's critical for the Hawkeyes' front seven to tackle well and limit big plays this week against Michigan.
Sam (Central Pennsylvania)
Another PSU Quarterback question...what do you think the chances are that the coaches of Penn State will now opt to stick only with Matt McGloin? I know he's not an "elite" quarterback, but against Illinois this past weekend, he was the one in the game when the offense at least was moving the ball...who's to say that he wouldn't have hit a better stride in the second quarter when the Powers That Be decided to put in Bolden??? Just seems to me that the offense works better with McGloin...what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Sam, Joe Paterno reiterated Tuesday that Rob Bolden is too talented and has done too much to sit on the bench the whole game. So we'll see. It makes more sense to stick with McGloin for an entire game, as he gives Penn State's offense the best chance to score points. Then again, McGloin still must show he can perform well against truly elite defenses. He deserves that chance against Nebraska and Ohio Sate the next two weeks. I do believe Penn State will need its quarterbacks to step up and play better than they have all season to win two more games and claim the Leaders division.
Adam, how do you think the Big Ten did in setting up the Legends and Leaders divisions? It is looking to me like it's a lot harder to win the Legends than the Leaders in year 1 of this setup.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Dave, I know it looks that way right now, but I think we should evaluate the divisions at the end of the season. I think the Leaders could get a lot more interesting as Ohio State is red hot and Penn State has a very tough schedule the rest of the way. So let's see what happens.
Tommy B (Shamokin,PA)
With the injury to Michael Mauti Gerald Hodges has really stepped up. Do you think he could sneak in and steal some awards at years end
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Tommy, I do. Hodges absolutely should be an All-Big Ten selection. Lavonte David from Nebraska and Mike Taylor from Wisconsin are guaranteed first-team selections in my mind, but Hodges would be my third choice. He has been outstanding and seems to be getting stronger as the season has progressed. Very impressed with the Lions junior.
Pete (Chicago )
The officiating in the PSU-Illinois game last week was terrible. As a longtime Big Ten and Illinois fan I'm starting to doubt the integrity of the officiating and the sportsmanship of the snowball throwing PSU fans . It's patently unfair
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Pete, there definitely were some questionable calls (and non-calls), and Penn State should have taken responsibility for the snowball-throwing. It didn't directly impact the game, but a visiting team shouldn't have to deal with it. I wonder how close the officials came to assessing a penalty on the fans.
Adam-3 questions for you. One, what penalties do you feel the NCAA will come down on OSU with? Do you think that Luke Fickell is the right guy for the job as coach of OSU moving beyond this year. Finally, will the potential penalties faced affect OSU's decision on their decision on Fickell.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Sam, Ohio State will have to vacate its wins from last year, face some sort of probation and most likely some scholarship losses or recruiting restrictions. The big question is whether Ohio State gets some sort of postseason ban. The school doesn't think so, but I don't think it's off the table. Fickell has really impressed me the past two games, but his fate ultimately comes down to the final month. Will the penalties affect Ohio State's decision on Fickell? They really shouldn't, but they might.
What do you think would be the reasonable expectactions for Minnesota? Is bottom teir bowl game too soon?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
For this year? Minnesota won't go bowling. But beginning next year, a bowl game isn't unreasonable for Minnesota. Teams typically make a jump in Year 2 under new coaches. I would expect Minnesota to clean up a lot of its issues before the start of the 2012 season.
Drew (Chesapeake, VA)
Adam, Silas Redd is red hot! I feel like he's the top back in the big ten, not just now due to his statistics, but for the next 2 years. Any chance if penn state can put together a better offensive line he becomes a heisman candidate next year? Imagine him behind wisconsins offensive line, he'd be a candidate this year, guarenteed!
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Drew, Redd has been outstanding. He should definitely be on the Heisman radar in 2012. While he probably needs to score more touchdowns to get more national attention, his overall body of work shouldn't be overlooked. The offensive line will be important going forward because Penn State has been inconsistent up front, but Redd is undoubtedly the Lions' RB of the future.
We all know Big Boss Burkhead can put Nebraska on his back in big games. Martinez has proven he has become more consistent when it comes to managing a game and throwing fairly efficiently. However, do you see Nebraska having to throw the ball more in any of their remaining games to make it to the Ship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
I do, Colby. Starting with the game at Penn State. Even if the weather is poor, the Huskers will have to show a willingness to throw the ball because Penn State might have the best defensive front seven in the conference. If the Huskers are one-dimensional, they'll struggle, and they have to be careful with turnovers. So quarterback play and the passing game will matter for Big Red down the stretch.
Mike Stoops (wandering the Arizona desert)
Adam, any coaching or coordinator jobs opening up in the Big Ten? Not sure if you heard, but I'm on the market.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Ha, stay tuned, Mike. Given the state of several Big Ten defenses, your phone might be ringing soon. I know one fan base would love to have you.
Hey Adam-Although we haven't gotten a chance to see too much of Braxton Miller yet, what are your thoughts of him as a quarterback so far and how would you compare him next to Pryor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Bilal, I was really impressed with Miller on Saturday night. He handled a pressure-packed situation with tremendous poise. The guy obviously is a great athlete and might be even faster than Pryor. It's too soon to evaluate Miller as a passer, and I'd like to see Ohio State call more high-percentage passes for him. But like Pryor, Miller is a natural playmaker. When he's surrounded with good weapons, he's a dangerous player.
Would you consider Rex Burkhead to be one of the elite running backs not only in the Big Ten but in the country
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Dylan, I do. We have three running backs in the Big Ten who I would put among the nation's elite. Rex Burkhead, Montee Ball and Silas Redd. They're all outstanding.
Michael (Los Angeles)
Adam, what do you think Michigan's chances are against Iowa this weekend. The O-line is a bit banged up, so I am not sure how that fares for our offense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Michael, the O-line is a concern, but Michigan isn't facing the same Iowa D-line it did the past two seasons. The Wolverines should be able to move the ball and put up points. The big question is whether Michigan can stop Iowa's offense after struggling mightily in 2010 and 2009. Iowa never has beaten Michigan three consecutive times. I actually like this matchup for Michigan, but the defense will need to be on its A-game.
Rick M (Louisville)
Adam, I keep reading from the media how Nebraska needs to pass to win this game or that game. No offense, but that is a bunch of garbage. They need to shove it down the opposition's throat. We will wear them defense out by the end of the Third Quarter. You can see the outcome of the OSU and MSU games. We don't need to stinking pass the ball to win. Nebraska has always been a team that says we are going to run, try to stop us. Sometimes they do, but most times they don't
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Rick, you might be right, but the Nebraska defense won the Michigan State game more than the run game (although Rex Burkhead was great). What I'm saying is that on the road against a great defense like Penn State, being one-dimensional and hoping to wear down the opponent is a questionable strategy. I don't think Nebraska needs to throw more than 20 times or anything, but you have to mix it up on the road. Penn State, in my view, is a little better in the defensive front seven than Michigan State, and PSU will be playing at home.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
What should Illinois work on the most during their bye week? Special teams or restarting the offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Both, really. But the special teams issues are really glaring. Illinois had struggled in almost every area of special teams other than field goals, and then we saw the problems at Penn State. Getting the offense going is also very important before facing two of the better offenses in the league (Michigan and Wisconsin).
Norm Parker (Iowa City)
Adam, I need a pass rusher, are you available Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Yes. I know you want a 5-8 defensive end. This is my moment!
Are Russell Wilson's chances for the Heisman all but gone now with the 2 losses? Time to shift the campaign to Montee Ball?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
J.J., it's interesting. Wilson's numbers still have been really good. Against Ohio State he finished the game completing 20 of 32 passes for 253 yards and 3 TDs. Not too shabby at The Shoe. But the bottom line is as a quarterback, your Heisman stock drops when your team loses signature road games. If the defense had held on at Ohio State, or if Wisconsin had gotten the Michigan State game to overtime, Wilson's Heisman stock would be fine. But this is one of those years where any slip-up costs you in the Heisman race.
Jason (San Angelo, TX)
Big game coming up between Penn State and Nebraska in two weeks. What are the odds that the GameDay Crew comes out to State College?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Jason, while I'm sure the game is under consideration, there's also the Stanford-Oregon contest to consider. But as I've told you, I have absolutely no idea or influence over where "GameDay" goes.
Koop (Madison, WI)
Adam, are you posting in ESPN conversation using the moniker Adam Rittenberg? If no someone is posting with that name pretending to be you. You may want to look into it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Haha, that's definitely not me. But I'm not a hater. He's probably funnier and better looking.
Andy (Vestal NY)
Does Boise St. FINALLY get thier title shot vs LSU/Bama when Stanford trips up against Oregon and OK ST loses against the Sooners?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Very possibly, Andy. A lot depends on how Saturday's LSU-Bama game turns out. If it's a blowout one way or the other, the possibility of a rematch would lose steam. I, for one, would love to see Boise get a shot against LSU or Bama.
John (New York)
Over/Under for Burkhead Saturday is 170. What you taking?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Hmmm, he's on my fantasy team so I'm tempted to take the over. Northwestern hasn't stopped the run or the pass this year. Think Rex is in for another big day.
Mike (East Lansing, MI)
As a Michigan Alum living in EL, it's been a tough couple of years. What's going on in A2 with the recent defections. Is it just normal turn-over with the coaching change or is something more concerning going on?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Mike, to a certain extent, it's normal. But at some point, you go from normal to questionable. The Carvin Johnson departure surprised a lot of people because he had been playing in every game, albeit in a reserve role. Michigan has has an inordinate number of defense backs leave in recent years. It'll be interesting if this trend will die down or if it continues. But it's definitely something to monitor.
I imagine ESPN picks the games you both go to each week. Do you guys ever get an opportunity to trade if you don't get the game you want?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Nick, thanks for being one of the first people to recognize Brian and I don't pick the games we attend. There's always some discussion, but we're usually pleased with where we're headed each weekend.
big Ten coach of the year is...
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Ryan, it'll be very interesting. Joe Paterno will be the frontrunner if Penn State wins a division title. Brady Hoke and Luke Fickell also are in the running, and don't count out Bo Pelini if Nebraska runs the table the rest of the way.
Jeff (Cleveland, OH)
Adam, do you see the Northwestern game being a trap game for Nebraska since it's right in the middle of the big game with MSU and a big game at Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Jeff, I doubt it. Bo Pelini typically gets his team focused for every opponent. And Northwestern's offense will get Nebraska's attention. The Wildcats have been one of the Big Ten's most powerful and efficient offenses this season. If Northwestern had any sort of defense, it would be in the Legends division mix.
Ryan (Omaha, NE)
Adam--My friends and I met you in Lincoln after the Ohio State game and you had me do some post game camera work for you. Any chance my friends and I can attend big games with you on Saturday in return for our incredible post game camera tech work..?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Haha, thanks for the help, Ryan! I'm surprised you guys remembered. Don't think you'd have much fun attending a game with me. I'm feverishly typing for about 13 consecutive hours, barely stopping to go to the bathroom. I'm not very good company on game days.
Bryce (Lansing, MI)
How much does MSU miss Don Treadwell (now the coach at Miami, OH)? He did an excellent job when Dantonio was out last year and the offense looked great. This year the offense has looked terrible at times.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Bryce, I think Treadwell is missed to a certain extent. It's too simplistic to put all the blame on the coaches, but Michigan State's offensive game plan at Nebraska left me scratching my head. The Spartans never tried to attack the middle of the field, where the Huskers have been vulnerable at times this season. But Roushar also called a great game against Wisconsin, especially with how he used Keshawn Martin. So it's still a combination of things when a team falls short.
John (Ann Arbor)
YOU MAY NOT CHOOSE GAMES! BUT YOU CHOOSE NOT TO ACCEPT MY COMMENT
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
WRONG, JOHN! I ACCEPT YOUR COMMENT. DON'T YOU WISH YOU'D ASKED A BETTER QUESTION NOW?
Jon (New Jersey)
Hey Adam! First of all, i think that penn state has a chance at winning their last 3 games. All three of those teams are similar to penn state, good defense and a good running game. Do you think psu can win out? Also, if psu doesnt make the Big 10 champ. game of loses in the champ. game, do you think they could still make a bcs bowl game? We are...
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Jon, of course Penn State has a chance in the last three, but I don't see the Lions winning in Madison. It's a very tough place to win and Penn State hasn't been overly impressive on the road. Just a bad matchup there. But Penn State could win the next two and the Wisconsin game won't matter. If Penn State doesn't make it to Indy, it still would be in the mix for a BCS at-large spot if it only loses once more (10-2 overall record). Can't discount a huge fan base and the Joe Paterno factor.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
There's some guy demanding I make a pick on the Temple-Ohio game. Really?
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Adam, the Big East is in shambles and does not deserve an auto BCS bid this year or any other with the product they have on the Grid Iron. What is your opinion on giving them a time frame to get in some better teams or lose their BCS bid.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
The Big East certainly is being as proactive as it can be as it tries to survive. Adding Boise State in football would help the league's cause to retain BCS AQ status, but it still would be tough. Not very much football firepower in the Big East after losing West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
John (Ann Arbor)
Touche Adam! Haha. Can you talk about the possibility of Michigan winning out, finishing the reg season top 10 in the BCS, having the highest BCS rating of the B1G and not making the championship game (assuming MSU also wins out). Has this ever happened before in another conf?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
John, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but similar things have happened. Usually, it's better to have a high ranking and not make the league title game than going to the title game and losing. BCS bowls often prefer to award at-large berths to teams that haven't lost in their last game.
Most boring game ever attended, go.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Ethan, I'd have to think about the most boring all-time, but honestly, the past three Michigan-Ohio State games I've covered for ESPN.com have been total snoozers, especially the two at Ohio Stadium. I hate to say it because it's such a great rivalry, but the game needs a jolt of competitiveness.
Do you think Iowa will win anymore games this year or should i just lose hope in going to a bowl this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
You definitely shouldn't lose hope, Trent. Iowa has been very good at home and faces Michigan and Michigan State at Kinnick the next two weeks. The Hawkeyes then play a toss-up game at Purdue before a very tough game at Nebraska. It's all about the defense for Iowa, which is getting production on offense from Vandenberg, McNutt, Coker and others. Iowa can turn this around, although it'll be tough.
Hank (Washington DC)
The 2009 OSU-Michigan game was close throughout most of the game. It wasn't a snoozer!
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
That was the best of the three. But I think Tate Forcier just threw another interception. It was a notch above boring.
Adam, how could you not have learned to pick up OSU's defense in your fantasy team. They've been improving substantially through the year and, let's face it, a 3-6 record looks much better than the goose egg you got going on!
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Haha, but I beat Bennett in Week 9. It's the start of a win streak! You're right about Ohio State's defense being a good fantasy pickup, but my error came in the preseason draft when I didn't pick Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson.
Michael (St. Louis)
Why do none of the bigger conferences go for Boise State (Big East does not = Big). Is it geography? Academics? Fan base? Size of school? If nothing else, they're on TV a lot...
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Michael, because as a full-sports addition, Boise State really makes no sense for any league other than the Pac-12. Boise State has a BCS AQ quality football program, no doubt. But little else about the school or the athletic program suggests it belongs in a major conference. Do you want to send your soccer team 2,000 miles away to play a league game? Doesn't make much sense. So while adding Boise for football makes sense, the other elements really don't.
Isn't every game in the Big10 a snoozer or at best a notch above boring?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Ha, nice try Pac-12. The Big Ten is, what, 4-1 against your league this year? And while Stanford-USC was an instant classic, I got to see Wisconsin-Ohio State and Wisconsin-Michigan State the past two Saturday nights. No one would call those games boring.
Zach (St. Paul, MN)
WE STILL HAVE FLOYD!!!!!!! It's not easy to let the other team's RB run for over 250 and still get the W!! Just give us a little love and post this.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Zach, you are correct, sir. It's not exactly a sustainable formula for success to allow 250-plus rush yards a game, but credit Minnesota for making the plays and finding a way to win.
Adam, love the blog. I'm very interested to see how Luke Fickell's popularity and shot at becoming Ohio State's long term head coach develops throughout the rest of the year. I agree with your statement that he has to go 8-4 to have a good chance. What I find ironic is that Tressel went 7-5 his first year at OSU and Fickell has to do even better to keep his job. I agree with you and understand the different circumstances. Just interesting to see the differences in expectations between then and now with Buckeye fans. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
MJ, you have a pretty good handle on the situation. The big difference is the Tressel scandal and the fallout and specifically if Ohio State wants a clean break from this coaching staff. It's not really fair to Fickell or the other assistants, but you can understand if Ohio State wants a fresh start after what happened. I think it's up to Fickell to make the decision harder and harder to make. If he runs the table and goes 9-3, he would make the decision extremely tough.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
It seems to me like MSU has the best chance to run the table with the remaining schedule in the Legends division. agree? Also can you clarify if the first criteria for going to the championship game is overall conference record or division record? thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Cory, I do agree Michigan State, along with Wisconsin, have the most favorable remaining schedules and the best chances to run the table. Key games for MSU are at Iowa and at Northwestern. As to your second point, overall conference record matters most. If two teams are tied, the head-to-head winner goes. If three teams are tied, record within the group of tied teams is paramount, followed by division record.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed the chat! Talk to you next week.