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 (3:01 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's chat.
Mrs. Delaney (Chicago)
Jim keeps pacing at night wondering how to create some buzz for the conference. Then he told me to book some flights to Newark and start taping Jersey Shore. Any idea why?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Ha, I'm sure the real Jim will appreciate this. I know Jim loves his home state of New Jersey. Doesn't strike me as a fan of The Situation or J-Woww, though. You're clearly talking about Rutgers, a program that I know interested Delany during the last expansion study. Could it interest him again? Perhaps. But the Big Ten isn't currently looking to expand.
RPF (Minneapolis, MN)
Adam, what do you expect out of a Gopher offense that will supposedly be running mostly through Shortell with the occasional snap to MarQueis? Do you see this system working well enough to topple NW? Or is the Wildcats' offense much too powerful for it to even matter?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
I have my doubts as to how effective MarQueis will be even if he plays Saturday. Shortell should get most of the reps, and he has the ability to attack a sometimes-shaky Northwestern secondary. If Minnesota can protect Shortell and spark its run game better than it did against Iowa, it has a good chance to win. I do expect Northwestern's offense to be better, though, and Minnesota will need to put up some points on Saturday.
Do you think will Nebraska compete in the Legends division with that defense? Team already have a loss and Denard will torch them just like Miller did if it doesn't improve drastically...
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Brian, Nebraska clearly has to improve a lot against the spread to have any chance to go to Pasadena. The Huskers get two spread teams next (Northwestern and Michigan) before concluding the season with pro-style offenses. I'm sure defending the spread is the No. 1 focal point for Bo Pelini and John Papuchis during the open week, but the track record isn't good there. I'm still waiting to see what's special about Nebraska's defense. It has been decidedly mediocre since the Huskers joined the Big Ten.
Hi Adam. It seems like anytime expectatons for Purdue reach a certain height, the team crumbles. Many of my Purdue-fan friends were touting last week's matchup against Michigan as the "biggest game in West Lafayette in years!!" We all saw what happened. Before that, the "biggest game" was in '07 against Ohio State, and we needed a last-minute cheap touchdown to prevent getting shut out. Before that, it was the '04 Wisconsin game, which I don't like to talk about. Can we just all agree to stop praising Purdue before anything happens, so that when they win we can just be pleasantly surprised, rather than feeling crushing disappointment when we fans think Purdue is supposed to win a big game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
Ha, Brian, totally understand your feeling about this. And I won't bring up the name Scott Starks ... whoops. Like a lot of teams, Purdue has struggled to step up when in the spotlight. The Boilers seem at their best under the radar. But at some point, you need to turn the corner as a program. Is Danny Hope the guy to engineer that change? We'll find out soon, perhaps Saturday, as a loss to Wisconsin puts Purdue in position to be 0-3 to start league play, a position from which they might not recover. This week's game definitely feels like the defining one for Hope and the Boilers. The sting from last week's performance can go away if they step up against Wisconsin.
Hey Adam, Bill O Brian for coach of the year? he has transformed Penn states offense and has the players buying into his system thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
He'd be my coach of the year pick in the Big Ten right now, Bob. Has done a great job, with the help of several terrific seniors, of keeping team focused after the 0-2 start. The offense is clicking, and I've seen significant strides from Matt McGloin at quarterback and the O-line, along with the emergence of Allen Robinson as a star WR. O'Brien is showing he's a pretty good coach, certainly better than the guy many PSU fans thought they were getting in January.
Why all the talk of the Big Ten being down? The Big Ten has been a 1 team league for a decade since Michigan fell off. No Team has been as good as OSU each year and that is what the league is. A 1 team league that will have a weak team have a good year when they have alot of seniors on the team. Right?
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
Tim, while I agree that Ohio State has been the only Big Ten team to consistently compete at a national level in the past decade, other programs have risen and fallen. Iowa won the Orange Bowl in 2009. Penn State won the Orange Bowl in 2005. Michigan has recorded some big wins. So has Wisconsin. From a national perception level, you're absolutely right. But I think the league itself has had much more parity than, say, the 1970s.
Adam, it's been a little while. I'm excited that MSU finally has a receiver that can haul in the tough (and not-so-tough) passes, but I feel like the MSU offensive staff still gives up on the run game a little too quickly sometimes. Agree/Disagree?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Alden, there have been times where Michigan State has puzzled me by going away from Bell and the run game. The Notre Dame loss certainly was one of these times, and Mark Dantonio acknowledged they abandoned the run too early. I think there's such a desperation to spark the passing game and find someone on whom they can rely to catch the ball, and this sometimes leads to minimizing Bell and the run game more than normal. You can't forget Le'Veon Bell. He's too good.
Any chance Illinois hangs with Michigan this weekend? Or just simply not enough weapons besides Scheelhaase for Illini?
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
Brian, it's going to be tough. Michigan's defense has been pretty salty of late, and Illinois hasn't shown any consistent weapons other than Scheelhaase. It's up to the Illini defense to keep this game close, maybe force a turnover or two early and convert that into points.
is the era of the 12n game over? I watch every michigan game and usually there are 6-8 12n games, now there hasn't been 1 yet? i get the money and ratings
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
College football is becoming a night-time sport, if it isn't there already. Prime time is when the significant games are played. That's what most of the country wants to see. There still will be some good Big Ten games at noon, but I'm convinced that the league soon will have to get rid of its archaic November night games policy and join the rest of the country in promoting night football. It's a majority-rules type deal, and while I understand some Big Ten fans prefer the noon kickoffs, more people -- especially young people -- love the prime-time games more.
Has Nebraska become the Virginia Tech of the B1G? Rated high at beginning of each year and always seems to have a couple of head-scratching performances.
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
That's an interesting take, Mitch. When the Huskers start getting into BCS bowls they don't deserve to be in and fall flat on their faces every January, maybe I'll start using that label. At least Va Tech is winning its conference, though.
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
Well, not this year, but you know what I mean.
Mike (In Limbo)
Two camps on MSU. 1. under performing with two many unjuries and holes to fill this year. The WR aren't good enough and the O-line is now too beat up to be a top team2. lost games to 2 top-10 teams that match up well against MSU. The QB and WR are now coming into form and improving each week. The D has held up with little help from the O and is positioned well for a stronger 2nd half of the seasonWhich camp are you in?
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Mike, I'm more in Camp 1 than Camp 2, but I also can see the offense making some strides in the second half of the season. The offensive line injuries still concern me, though. Losing Fonoti was a huge blow for a group that still doesn't have the type of O-line depth you see at similar programs (Wisconsin, Iowa). If the line holds up and another receiver emerges alongside Burbridge, Michigan State should still be in the mix to win the division
Nick (Iowa City)
Hey Adam, do you think Vandenberga??s road woes will continue this week in East Lansing or will the 1, 2 punch of Bullock and Weisman help in opening up the pass game? (JVB is 2-6 as a starter on the road and 6-6 TD-interception ratio)
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Nick, I really think Vandenberg much open up the run game, not the other way around. Michigan State will gang up at the line against Weisman and Bullock and force Iowa to win the game through the air. It's really important for Vandenberg to get the pass game going early and show he's going to have a different season on the road this year. If Iowa expects Weisman to carry it to victory in East Lansing, I think the Hawkeyes will be disappointed.
In the SEC its called "beating up on each other" in the B1G its "a down year"
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
Six straight national titles vs. one in the BCS era. You earn the right to "beat up on each other" by actually beating up on the best teams from other leagues. The Big Ten simply hasn't done that enough in recent years.
I would posit that Carlos Hyde is a better complement to Miller than Jordan Hall since he can run between the tackles. If Hyde contines to impress, will Hall get his starting job back?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
Good question, Andrew, as I was thinking the same thing while watching Saturday's game. Urban Meyer talks a lot about how his offense, despite falling under the spread label, is rooted in power football and running downhill. Hyde certainly seems to fit that description -- because of his size -- more than Hall. The coaches love Hall's versatility and see him more in the so-called "Percy position," after former Florida star Percy Harvin. If Hyde continues to produce as the lead back, it might allow Ohio State to use Hall in different ways when he comes back.
Dr. Tom (Lincoln)
Adam, Any chance i can become a B1G blogger in January?
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Yes! Can you write 12 posts a day? Can you shoot videos? If so, send me your portfolio and I'll get back to you.
Brandon (Grand Rapids, MI)
Why are Big Ten fans so delusional regarding the SEC? Did they not see how poorly the B1G performed in the nonconference? Have they not been watching the games? This is the worst I'd ever seen the conference in 35 years of watching it.
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Sometimes, the truth hurts, Brandon. The Big Ten's non-league performance only reinforces the perception that the league is bad. I will say the Big Ten has matched up better with the SEC than many think, but the wins aren't coming at the very top, which is all that matters in terms of league reputation.
Jon (Norwalk, CT)
After last weekend's games, I feel slightly more confident about Wisconsin winning at Purdue.............Key word, slightly. What are the keys to the matchup? Wisconsin is getting healthy at the right time and I think Stave showed enough at Nebraska that we shouldn't expect him to be too rattled by the environment.
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Jon, although Purdue's defense looked bad last week, the Boilers' D-line provides Wisconsin with its toughest test since Oregon State in my view. The Badgers' O-line needs to establish itself early in the game and give Joel Stave some time to get settled. Winning the turnover battle is huge on the road, and Michigan clearly cashed in Purdue's mistakes last week. I also think the kicking game will be key -- Wisconsin can't afford any major breakdowns in the third phase, which has been a problem in road games recently.
Ritt,What is your opinion on the last touchdown OSU scored on Nebraska? I know Urban doesn"t care! Urban will not let off throttle and I think it is just what the bucks need! Pelini seemed pissed!
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Todd, mixed feelings on it. I don't have a problem with the play call. I wonder why you have your starters on the field when the game is decided, if nothing else than to prevent injuries. But I'm not as much of a sportsmanship defender as some media folks. My feeling in many of these cases is, feel free to make a stop. Feel free to send the message as a defense at the end of the game instead of getting stomped on again. It's why I didn't feel sorry for Indiana a few years ago at Wisconsin. You're a Big Ten team. Make a stop.
Have you heard anything about the possibility of the NCAA reducing the sanctions against Penn State at some point in the off season now that the university is closer to "checking off all the boxes" in terms of their compliance issues?
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
No. Mark Emmert wouldn't have gone down the path he did only to back off and reduce the sanctions. Not happening.
If Gene Smith had self-imposed a bowl ban on the Bucks last season, how likely is it that the NCAA would NOT have banned the team this season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:32 PM)
I think it's very likely. Ohio State was shocked that its violations led to a 1-year ban. Wouldn't it have been even more shocking to get a 2-year ban? I don't think Ohio State would be banned this year if it had been more proactive and less arrogant about the penalties coming down. While you never know how the NCAA will act, I don't think Ohio State's violations merit a multi-year bowl ban.
Would the Buckeyes be getting more love from the AP voters if they weren't facing a bowl ban?
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
They'd be getting more love from the AP voters if they weren't in the Big Ten. Has more to do with it than the bowl ban. People respect what Urban is doing, and how Braxton is playing.
Caleb Terbush (West Lafayette)
What do I need to do this weekend to keep my job and turn the fans my way?
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
No turnovers and a strong fourth quarter to lead Purdue to a win. Winning will make the Marve chatter dissipate.
Chris (New Haven, CT)
Adam, I haven't given up on you yet...I'll keep asking until we address it. We are always hearing about how great the SEC is and how down the B1G is. I know it's not everything, but hasn't oversigning played a role? Why doesn't anyone in the media talk about oversigning in the SEC?
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
Chris, it has been written about, and it is a factor. But it's not as big of a factor as Big Ten fans would like it to be. It's not the sole explanation for the SEC's dominance and the Big Ten's struggles. So while I think it should be pointed out from time to time, it's disappointing when Big Ten fans hang their hat on the SEC oversigning argument rather than admitting the problems in their own league.
O'Brien has done a great job at PSU...finishing 3-3 to me would be a major accomplishment and anything better would be all star status for him. McGloin makes me nervous still...is he really that much better and I am stuck in flash back land...or is the real McGloin about to show himself with stiffer competition?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
McGloin is clearly better. We'd both agree about that. But he also has been fortunate not to have been picked off a few times. Northwestern missed several chances last week. If Penn State continues to protect McGloin, he'll continue to have success. But I do think the tougher competition coming up will make it tougher for PSU. McGloin will have a tough game or two along the way, but his strides are obvious in O'Brien's offense.
Does IU have a chance to go to a bowl, and if so, who are they beating to get there?
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
Eric, Indiana has been in almost every game for a while now. The Hoosiers simply need to get over the hump. They still need four more wins to get to a bowl, which will be tough with their Big Ten struggles. Here's how they get there: beat Navy, beat Illinois, beat Iowa at home and pull off an upset against Wisconsin, Penn State or Purdue. Can't see IU beating Ohio State this week, but the other games aren't guaranteed losses.
Seat Cushion (Mid-west)
It's about midway point of the season, am I heating up for any coaches in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
Not yet, Seat, although you could be heating up fairly soon. Danny Hope needs a good week against Wisconsin. Bo Pelini isn't on the hot seat, but he has a new boss and needs to perform better with no more embarrassing losses. Tim Beckman has been a failure so far, but he's only in his first year. And while Kevin Wilson isn't winning games, his team is definitely showing progress.
Nick Rolando (Orlando)
Adam, my mom went to Illinois and they are my second team behind Florida. I like Beckman and think he will do a really good job. How long before he turns it around in Champaign? BTW, any coach is an upgrade over Zook.
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
See, Tim Beckman still has a friend on this earth! I think it'll take at least another year to get things on course. The depth just isn't where it needs to be for the Illini. Beckman and his staff really need to get after it on the recruiting trail as they lack playmakers right now and lose several NFL-caliber players after this season. It's a tough situation right now, but talent hasn't been the biggest problem in Champaign.
If Iowa wins in East Lansing can we set our sights a little bit more on the Division race? I mean, why not Indianapolis? If there was ever a year that an average team could surprise and find themselves with a few losses in the League Championship Game with a chance to sniff the roses wouldn't it be this year? I'm not getting ahead of myself...I'm just saying, its nice to get into conference play knowing the slate is clean. If Iowa wins this weekend I think that 6-2 and sneaking into Indy isn't out of the question.
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
Mark, I agree. A victory Saturday changes the outlook for Iowa this season. The division is wide open, and a road win in the division against a team like MSU would be huge for the Hawkeyes. Iowa still has some tough road games against Michigan and Northwestern, but the Hawkeyes definitely would put themselves in the discussion if they can win this week. I definitely saw improvement from Iowa against Minnesota, but the Hawkeyes' recent track record on the road hasn't been good.
Adam, name one team that got a bowl ban without LOIC. That team of course is OSU. Smith had every reason to believe that the NCAA would not give them a bowl ban as there was no precedent for a school who received FTM and not the dreaded LOIC. I don't think it was as arrogance as much as it was looking at past cases.
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Pam, understand your point and that's exactly how Smith approached it. But you also have to consider what happened at Ohio State -- a person in a leadership role repeatedly lying about violations. You can't base it all on past cases. You have to look at how Tressel's lying and the Terrelle Pryor mess looks publicly and how the NCAA sometimes wants to send messages with its penalties. My point is last season wasn't going anywhere for Ohio State, and imposing a bowl ban in early November would have been a shrewd move. It certainly could have helped Urban Meyer and the 2012 team unless the NCAA tacked on another year (unlikely).
Bren (Berkeley, CA)
Adam: the B1G isn't just losing on the field to the SEC they are losing off the field in battle for public perception. Just look at the recent playoff debate. The B1G had trouble communicating their vision and plan to the country. Some of the changes may have been able to tip the scales a bit (see Campus Sites Host) toward the B1G's favor...yet the SEC was able to craft a message that quickly dismissed those plans.
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Bren, I think the whole "SEC wins, Big Ten loses" narrative around the playoff debate was really lazy by a lot of my media colleagues. Those who read the Big Ten blog know what really happened, and how having a selection committee that valued strength of schedule was Jim Delany's idea, not Mike Slive's. The campus-sites thing was a bit of a pipe dream, and many of the Big Ten ADs weren't even on board with that. I don't see that as a major loss for the Big Ten. While the SEC got its 1-2-3-4 concept, the system also will recognize conference champions who play tougher schedules if it's a close call between the 4/5 teams. That's more of Delany's influence than anything else.
Based on what you have seen so far of Wisconsin and Purdue, is it a forgone conclusion that the legends winner goes to the Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
Ryan, while nothing would surprise me in this year's Big Ten, I've predicted for months now that the Legends division champ would go to the Rose Bowl. That was before Wisconsin stumbled out of the gate, Illinois underachieved, etc. So I've been saying that all along, and I'm sticking to it.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Intetesting debate in the Illini nation, should Illinois realistically expect long term success?
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
Mike, it really depends on the coach. They haven't found the right guy to build for the long term in Champaign. The facilities are there and I think the fan support will be there, too, if the wins come. There's a perception -- fueled by the struggles of the past few decades -- that something in poisoned in Champaign and the program never will truly turn the corner and stay there. I think it's all about consistency and continuity at the top. Whether Beckman provides that remains to be seen, but it has been a very rough start for him.
Something in SEC country really irks me: 7 SEC schools will be playing FCS schools in the 12th week of the regular season. The NCAA allowed the FCS match ups as tune ups but the SEC is abusing them to make their conference look better and to take rests before they play ACC in-state rivals. Should Delany and the other commissioners take this up with Emmert and get a rule change to limit those games to weeks 1-3?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
No. I think Delany should change the Big Ten schedule to more closely resemble that of the SEC. This is what Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and others have advocated for in the Big Ten. You then have a few conference games earlier in the season to spice up those September Saturdays. You can also give your team a breather in late October or early November against a weaker opponent, after injuries have piled up. I think it's a smart approach. While no one wants to see six or seven Big Ten teams play the FCS on the same weekend, you can sprinkle those games in with the conference games and no one will care.
wouldn't it be more efficient for you and Brian to split the B1G. You each cover 1 division? that would provide more depth on each school. just a thought.
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Was brought up, but it's not the best approach. We each need to know the entire league. We have to be able to go to every Big Ten stadium and know what's going on. I realize the blog isn't as in-depth as some of you want it to be. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I strongly prefer the way we do it vs. covering one division.
Dan Hess (LA, California)
Is the best case scenario for the B1G that Oregon heads to BCS Nat'l Champ game? I can see an underachieving B1G team beat an uneven USC or Stanford in Pasadena, but not an insanely fast Oregon team. Is that our only hope for a Rose Bowl win this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Dan, I think so. I don't think any Big Ten team could hang with Oregon this season. Maybe Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are ineligible. Stanford is probably the best matchup for the Big Ten between the Pac-12's big three -- Oregon, USC, Stanford. I wouldn't count out Oregon State, either, although its QB injury really stings. Big Ten fans should keep rooting for Oregon to win out.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Last one for the day ...
What would it take for Marve to get the starting job? He sure looked healthy last week.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
I think it will take multiple turnovers from TerBush against Wisconsin and Marve showing he can stay on the field, execute all the plays (not just the spectacular ones) and not turn over the ball. Clearly, TerBush has impressed Danny Hope more in practice, so he'd have to really struggle to prompt a permanent change.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Time's up. Thanks again for the questions. Enjoy Week 7!