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 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Let's get started.
Ryan (Quad Cities)
I have been impressed with the new OC and DC at Iowa. The defense is doing a lot better than I expected and I am not going to put the coach on the blame for the lack of the success on offense. I blame players for that. A lot of plays would have worked if the receivers would have caught the ball and Iowa would be 3-0. Why do people put so much blame on the coach or QB when they do good?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
It's been that way forever, Ryan, and likely will continue to be that way. Quarterbacks and play-callers are going to bear the brunt of praise or criticism. I agree that the defense has been a pleasant surprise, especially the line, which was a major question mark entering the season. The competition will improve, but so far, so good. ... I don't think Greg Davis had a good start, but he probably took a little too much heat. Dropped passes have been an issue at Iowa for a while, and the receivers need to get it done on a more consistent basis.
Why is Michigan not receiving much respect. Granted we lost to the number one ranked team in the nation but it was our first game.
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
It's not Michigan's fault, but when a team is overrated entering the year as Michigan was, and then suffers a definitive, blowout loss, as Michigan did to Alabama, it takes several strong performances to gain more respect. Michigan's only complete game has come against a woeful UMass team. Few were overly impressed with U-M, particularly on defense, against Air Force. A win Saturday night at Notre Dame would go a long way for Michigan. Notre Dame proved itself last week at MSU. Michigan can do the same Saturday night in South Bend.
Jim (Grand Junction, Colorado)
Adam: Will Zaire Anderson retain all his eligibilty since he has played such a small amount of time before his injury?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
Jim, I believe so. Typically players who appear in three or fewer games can regain their eligibility for the season if they suffer a major injury. Nebraska is pursuing a medical redshirt for Anderson, and I expect the Huskers to get one, leaving Anderson with two years left.
Adam I hate to be the one to say this especially as a die hard Northwestern fan but I'm not feeling good with Northwestern's 3-0 record. Its away from the normal Wildcats. I feel that its too good to be true! I feel like Indiana or Penn State will pull an upset. Is this team legit to contend or are there still questions.
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
Kevin, first of all, you should feel very good about the team's 3-0 start. Northwestern has found different ways to win rather than the typical wild shootouts, and the Wildcats have shown obvious improvement along both lines, which is key. Also, Northwestern is a young team and figures to improve as the season goes along. There are some flaws with the 'Cats, and I don't expect them to waltz to 7-0 or 8-0. I don't think they'll necessarily challenge for the Legends division title, although it's possible. But if the line play holds up and areas like wide receiver and quarterback improve, Northwestern should be a factor going forward.
Do you feel that Purdue has a shot to make it to the Big 10 Championship game this year with the struggles of the other teams?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Absolutely, Jordy, especially in the wide-open Leaders division. Purdue's defense is very good, especially up front with Short, Russell and Gaston. The Boilers also boast some playmakers in the secondary (Allen, Johnson). I like their variety of weapons on offense. The key, quite honestly, is quarterback and whether Caleb TerBush can take his game to the next level. Perhaps Robert Marve makes an incredible comeback and contributes down the stretch as well, but I think it'll be on TerBush's shoulders to get Purdue to Indy.
Adam, Nebraska kind of shot themselves in the foot week 2 and lost to UCLA. Say the Huskers win the rest of their games from here on out. What is the highest that you can see them climbing in the rankings, the B1G isn't getting much credibility. Can they offset that by winning big?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Frank, I really don't expect a 1-loss Big Ten team to get in the national title game, if that's what you're asking. Blame the Big Ten's league-wide struggles this month and in previous seasons for that problem. Nebraska needs to focus on winning the Legends division (tougher division), and its first league title since 1999. If Nebraska runs the table, it should be a top 5 or top 7 team. A lot depends on what UCLA does the rest of the way.
Brian (Down South)
Curious if you personally think Redd and Justin Brown would have been offensively better off staying at PSU based on how they fit in new offenses, stats & production thus far. Its a huge topic since their production affects future kids from making transfer decisions.
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
Interesting question, Brian, and maybe something for a future blog post. Redd undoubtedly would be Penn State's top back with a great chance to shine in O'Brien's offense. And Justin Brown could look at Allen Robinson's early success and see what he could have had by staying at PSU. Ultimately, it's still early and you can't blame either guy for leaving, but they could look back at the end of the season and wonder what-if, as is the case with any decision.
Mr. T (Columbus)
After watching Ohio State's performance against Cal I would have said they'd lose to MSU by at least two touchdowns. I'm not so sure anymore after watching Michigan State against Notre Dame. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
The complexion of that OSU-MSU game changed quite a bit after Week 3, didn't it, Mr. T? I agree that it's tougher to forecast now after watching Michigan State's struggles against Notre Dame. I'll say this: the MSU defense will be by far the best unit Miller will have faced. I'd be surprised if he runs wild against the Spartans. The key to the game could be the Ohio State defense vs. the Michigan State offense. Both units have been a bit shaky early on. The one that steps up Sept. 29 likely gets their team a win.
Brian P (Brussels (via Chicago))
What is a realistic expectation in a recruiting boost for Northwestern after the announcement of the new lakefront practice facility? I know not to expect a bunch of 4-5 star prospects, but its location is by far the most stunning of any in the conference. I also take into account their academic standards, which are equalled only by ND and Stanford (and maybe Duke).
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Brian, the new facility helps Northwestern recruit better against some of its Big Ten brethren, but also against a team like Stanford, which has recruited at an extremely high level despite being an academic power. I think the facility helps Northwestern get further with more of the recruits also considering Stanford (and maybe Vanderbilt as well, as James Franklin is a stud recruiter). I don't expect Northwestern to start luring top 20 classes every year. The academic requirements are too tough. But the overall quality of player should continue to rise.
Bucky's Fighting Spirit (Camp Randall)
Hey Adam, remember in 2006 when the Badgers were barely beating bottom 10 teams "winning ugly" was the given slogan. We went 11-1. Remember in 2010 when we were struggling until game 4 when we put up 70 points on Austin Peay? Took down #1 Ohio State too and went 11-1. I'm not saying we'll be 11-1, but don't be surprised if things start to click on offense suddenly.
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
I know a lot of folks in Badger Country would be relieved, Bucky. I've definitely thought a bit about the 2010 season and the parallels there. Wisconsin was very fortunate to beat Arizona State and then surged after its loss to MSU. That said, the Badgers' problems now seem to run deeper. There weren't so many question marks about the offensive line and the quarterback position, and Wisconsin had a few more options at receiver. I'm not saying the Badgers can't have a similar turnaround to 2010 and 2006, but the 2012 squad has more problems, in my view.
dan (fergus falls, mn)
Hey Adam, The Gophers are 3-0, what is their outlook for the rest of the season and is a bowl game out of the question??
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
Dan, a bowl game absolutely isn't out of the question. Minnesota already is halfway there. Saturday night's game against Syracuse is huge. A win puts the Gophers at 4-0, gives them confidence they can beat a major-conference foe without MarQueis Gray and keeps the momentum going. Minnesota then faces an Iowa team it has beaten the past few years and has an open week. I'd expect Gray back for the Oct. 13 game against Northwestern. The thing working against the Gophers is the schedule, as their home slate is challenging (Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State). They're going to need to win a key road game, in my view, to go bowling.
Not going to lie, I kind of miss Jim Heacock.
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
I always thought Heacock was a heck of a coach. His defenses weren't flashy but got the job done and didn't have the number of fundamental errors we're seeing right now. That said, it's too soon to pass judgment on Luke Fickell as D coordinator.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Are you ever going to give me some credit for being the only one months ago that told you how good this Northwestern team was going to be? Remember, I originally called for a 6-0 start with a 8-4 finish and after watching them improve week to week I can see 7-0 start with a 9-3 finish for the Cats. Have some faith in your college AR, there is still room for you on my bandwagon.
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Ha, nice job, Pavlov. I thought Northwestern had three toss-up games and would go 2-1, but the 3-0 start has been impressive, particularly how it happens. That said, Northwestern is by no means a dominant team and still has a lot of room to improve. I've watched the big yards, little points offense for years in Evanston. You have to convert more touchdowns in the red zone. The passing efficiency also has to get better. But as I said earlier, the line play is as good as it has been in a while. While I don't agree with you about a 7-0 start, the ingredients are there for a potentially special season.
AD (San Diego)
What do you think about Robert Marve practicing again, brave or foolish?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
He's been through so much, AD, and he wants to be a part of what could be a special season for the Boilers. While I can understand why some would say it's foolish, and his future health could be jeopardized, it's ultimately Marve's decision and one he feels he has to make. It's hard not to root for the guy. Sure, he came to Purdue with somewhat of a checkered past, but he hasn't had much luck on the injury front. It'd be great to see him part of a push for the title.
Dan (St. Paul)
When do you think Iowa will see Canzeri back on the field? His healing period for an ACL tear is absolutely amazing and also kind of scares me. Do you think we could see him as soon as next week against Minnesota?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
It's the All-ACL chat today! ... I hope Iowa takes no chances with Canzeri, and I don't think the medical staff would have cleared him if they didn't feel he'd be OK. It's truly amazing to see how quickly he has recovered, but he shouldn't be rushed back. I think if he's back by Oct. 20 (Penn State), that would be good.
Ok Adam, how well do I have to do against ND to give the B1G some credit and win the September Heisman?
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
Just do what you do two years ago, Denard. Or in the fourth quarter last year. Sound good? Cool.
Keith Stone (Lansing)
With the poor play of wide recievers this year, why is DeAnthony Arnett not getting more playing time? I've heard he doesn't know the entire playbook, but wouldn't it be better to have a proven playmaker out there knowing 80% than a rookie who knows 100% but isn't catching the ball?
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
Keith, it really surprises me why we haven't seen more of Arnett. As Mark Dantonio said this week, it's not as if MSU has three receivers who are at a different experience/talent level than the others. Why can't Arnett get on the field ahead of, say, Tony Lippett, who has looked much more effective at cornerback than receiver? I think it's important for MSU to get a lot of receivers, not just Arnett, on the field Saturday against Eastern Michigan. You need to see all of what you have, not just some of what you have.
Baltimore Wolverine (Bmore, MD)
For years, Michigan State has enjoyed playing Notre Dame the week after a very emotional Michigan game. Will Michigan fianally be able to bask in this emotional wake? (What do you think Michigan's chances of winning are?)
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
I see your point, Wolverine, although Michigan State also paid the price for facing a desperate Notre Dame team last year. Also, if Notre Dame isn't fired up emotionally to play a Michigan team it feels it should have beaten each of the last three years, there's something really wrong with the Irish. The Michigan game falls at a good time for the Irish, who are playing with confidence but also have plenty of motivation because of the past three games.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Adam - I know you're keeping tabs on Michael Mauti's progress this season. Based on his play so far, do you feel he's all the way back from his injury? Where does he stack up with the Big Ten's other top LBs? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
Brian, he definitely looks 100 percent. I talked with Michael in State College this summer and he mentioned that the knee feels stronger than ever after the rehab. He has been flying around, making plays and outshining teammate Gerald Hodges. Right now, he's a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker, no doubt. But there's a long way to go and he needs to stay healthy.
Drew (Washington DC)
What do you think about QB Vandenberg's year so far? A lot of Iowa fans are disappointed with his performance thus far. He's putting up decent yards but lacks the TDs. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
Drew, while I expected more from Vandenberg, and part of the blame rests with him, he's not getting much help. Dropped passes have been an issue at Iowa for a while now, and guys like Keenan Davis need to sure they can be reliable options for Vandenberg. Iowa was better in the red zone last week. It needs to take another step this week before the Big Ten opener against Minnesota. But Vandenberg isn't the biggest issue with Iowa's offense right now.
Ok I lied, this is the last attempt. Do you feel that MSU's issues on the OL are something that is easily fixed? Considering the OL was supposed to be a strength this year, it was pretty depressing to see ND constantly get pressure with only 3 players rushing the QB.
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Logan, that's a fair point, but keep in mind the Spartans were playing without starting right tackle Fou Fonoti and had some injuries elsewhere. Skyler Burkland is a guy who cracked the starting lineup as a freshman last year before suffering an injury. The staff clearly sees a lot of potential with him, and he should improve over time. This week is all about gaining confidence for the line, as Ohio State poses a tough challenge up front in the league opener next week.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
This was supposed to be Ball's Heisman year, how do you think the current failures for him and this offense to produce over the first 3 games have affected him mentally? Just by watching, this Wisconsin team seems to have lost the mental edge they had in years past.
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
While your last sentence might be correct, it is not correct about Montee Ball. The guy practices harder than anyone, and he cares deeply about playing the game and getting better. Bret Bielema talked this week about reaching out to Ball, who he knows is frustrated, and telling Ball that he has never been prouder of him at Wisconsin. It's a tough situation, but I think Ball is hanging in there. And in two of three games, his numbers haven't been bad at all.
Who is going to the better football game - you or Brian?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Well, I'm going to Michigan-Notre Dame and Brian is staying home to attend a wedding. Maybe the wedding is off the charts, but I'm going to say I'm the big winner.
Do you see Abdullah getting more carries then Burkhead this week? I think it would be best to just get Burkhead feeling comfortable and not risk it for B1G play.
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
Agree 100 percent, Justin. There's no need to overdo it with Burkhead against such a weak opponent. I'm thinking 7-10 carries for Rex in the first half and then sit him down and let Abdullah and dynamic freshman Imani Cross run wild against Idaho State. Nebraska needs Rex for Wisconsin.
Do you feel Garmon has dropped in the depth chart? Bullock was above him, and Weisman stepped up in a big way.
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
The sample size is too small. Let's see what Weisman does against some FBS opponents before saying he's ahead of Garmon or Bullock. It looks like Garmon is closer to playing this week than Bullock, but I don't think you'll get a read on who's where on the depth chart until Big Ten play gets going.
Brett (Conshohocken (soon to move back to Scranton), PA)
Tight ends are getting quite a bit of love in Bill O'Brien's offense, as expected. Would you expect their production to increase more, and/or the slot receivers, as defenses (starting with Temple this week) try to shut down Allen Robinson?
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
Robinson has put himself on the radar, and opposing defensive coordinators will be very aware of him in their game plans. I think it's more important another receiver emerges to complement Robinson. I like the mix Penn State has at tight end with Carter, James and Gilliam, but it'd help if another receiver stepped forward. Robinson should see some double coverage in the near future.
Adam, We hear a lot how Northwestern looks to be in good shape early in the B1G season because of their schedule. One of those games is Minnesota. Yet we hear that Minnesota has a favorable schedule early including their game with Northwestern. Which way do you lean? Judging by the way things are going and the game being at TCF, I say it's a toss-up.
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
It's definitely a toss-up. MarQueis Gray could be back for Minnesota, which certainly helps the Gophers' chances. These teams have played a lot of close games, and while Northwestern has the edge in recent years, Minnesota certainly can win the game. The Gophers are playing at home, which helps them, although few teams play as well away from home as Northwestern under Pat Fitzgerald. Tough one to call. Check back with me in two weeks.
How important is it that Devin Funchess and/or Devin Gardner have a big game saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Huge, huge, huge. And add Roy Roundtree to that mix, John. Notre Dame's defense is very good, but its weakness is the secondary, especially after losing top safety Jamoris Slaughter for the season. Michigan State didn't have the receivers or the quarterback to consistently attack ND's secondary. Michigan has a better chance with Denard and his receiving corps. But those guys absolutely need huge games as Notre Dame will make it tough to run the football with its front seven.
Lou Holtz Kelly (Golden Dome)
ND is running the B1G into the ground this year! Beat up Purdue - CheckBeat up MSU - CheckBeat up Michigan - Pre-CheckACC ACC ACC ACC!
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
Thanks for stopping by, Lou. And you're really cheering "ACC! ACC!" The conference overrated every single year? The conference that can't win BCS bowls but gets tons of media love on national signing day? Actually, that sounds a lot like Notre Dame. Good match.
Doughnuts (No Cal)
Illinois looked good against Charleston Southern last week, should we expect more of the same from them against LaTech? Or should we expect to see more of what we got in the desert?
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
You really can't take anything from the Charleston Southern game other than Illinois' second- and third-stringers can beat woeful competition. I also don't think Illinois is as bad as it looked at Arizona State. Louisiana Tech provides a major test for the Illini defense, and Illinois will need to score some touchdowns to win this game. Illinois gets QB Nathan Scheelhaase back this week, but it really needs to establish an offensive identity in a game where it needs points.
Having seen the improvement in Matt McGloin and the emergence of Allen Robinson, is it safe to say that those two are the best QB/WR combo in the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
It's safe to say it, Koala. although that's not saying too much in a league lacking many great QB-WR combos. Nebraska has one with Taylor Martinez and Kenny Bell, Purdue has one with Caleb TerBush and Antavian Edison. Ohio State could have some (Devin Smith, Corey Brown). But Robinson is the only Big Ten player with more than 20 receptions in the first three games. Not a great crop of receivers right now.
You're really throwing stones at the ACC? You do now you cover the lowly Big 10 right?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Tom, I've been honest about the Big Ten's shortcomings, and there have been many in recent years. But no conference has underachieved more than the ACC. Every year, we hear about the great recruiting classes, that Florida State is back, blah, blah. And then they wet the bed in BCS bowls -- every single year. So yes, the Big Ten is down, but the ACC is a joke until proven otherwise. You want to check the Big Ten's record against the ACC in BCS bowls?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Chris (Charleston, SC)
If Denard goes off again and leads UofM to the win, does he go down among the all time greats in this rivalry? Like Rocket and Desmond before him?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Absolutely, Chris. If Denard leads Michigan to a win, has there ever been a quarterback who tormented Notre Dame more in his career. Both Rocket and Desmond played receiver. It's different to be the quarterback and step up as Denard has every year against Notre Dame. The neat thing about Saturday's game is Michigan needs Denard to be great to win. Should be fun to watch.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
On that note, I'm off. Good chat today. Enjoy the games Saturday!