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 guys, I'm here. Happy Halloween. Let's chat!
Larry (Skokie Il)
How many Bowl games do you foresee the Big Ten in, given the fact we have two ineligible teams playing this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Larry, I'd expect six and possibly seven bowl teams from the Big Ten. Either Michigan or Minnesota will get there Saturday, and I expect both to be bowl-eligible. Between Iowa, Purdue and Indiana, I expect at least one and possibly two to become bowl-eligible. Three teams -- Northwestern, Nebraska and Wisconsin -- are already there.
I?m waiting for this love affair you?re having with the Buckeyes to end. I?ll give them credit for a great season so far but the way it?s come about isn?t at all impressive. I get it, a win is a win whether it?s by 1 point or 100 but at some point they?re going to need 1) more offensive weapons than just a mobile quarterback, 2) a defense that can get off the field sooner and doesn?t give up the big play, 3) and a well-coached special teams unit (blocked punts, missed field goals, Indiana?s onside kick). All I?m saying is that they are good, not great.
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
That's all we've said, too, Nick. How many times have we written that Ohio State is the best flawed team in a flawed league? There's no way Ohio State would be 10-0 if the Big Ten was close to respectable. That said, Meyer deserves a lot of credit for getting this team to buy in and play extremely hard despite some of the depth issues and a roster that will be much better in 1-2 years.
Jon (Go Badgers!)
Give Curt a chance! Give Curt a chance! Give Curt a chance!-Will Bielema listen? And if so, what a first game/opportunity that would be for Phillips, to essentially play for a spot in Indy.
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
For sure, Jon, and Curt has earned his chance by fighting through so much adversity. Listening to Bielema on Monday and Tuesday, I'd be surprised if Phillips doesn't get his chance next week. Although he needs a strong week of practice, I get the sense Wisconsin is ready to give him a chance after seeing O'Brien struggle.
Pipeline (My desk)
Does the forecast call for Sandy to affect the B1G games this week?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
It doesn't appear so, Pipeline. Penn State is on the road, and State College would be the closest to the path of the storm. I haven't studied Saturday's weather yet, but I don't think the storm will be any sort of factor.
Two questions: Pelini's defenses have been great against pro-style offenses, do you see any reason for that changing this week? MSU's defense seems to be set up more for the pro-style defense as well do you think Nebraska's speed could expose it?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Justin, I don't think either offense will put up too many points, but Nebraska certainly has more weapons and the ability to strike quickly. The Huskers haven't seen a defense as fast and as talented as Michigan State's, so it'll be interesting how Taylor Martinez and his teammates respond Saturday. But Nebraska's D does well against most pro-style offenses, and Michigan State's isn't a good one.
Maury Wills (Sugarcreek, OH)
Adam, rank the B1G QBs for us. Your top five.
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
1. Miller 2. Martinez 3. McGloin 4. Robinson 5. Colter
If IU manages to get to the championship game at 5-7 and somehow wins it, would their still under .500 status keep them out of the Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Nope. The Big Ten champion goes to the Rose Bowl, no matter how poor its overall record is that year. The only way it doesn't go is if it goes to the national title game. So a 6-7 Hoosiers team could go to Pasadena. How fitting that would be the way this season has gone in the Big Ten.
Big Bill (Down the Hill)
If Michigan wins out and defeats an undefeated OSU, do you think they could climb back into the top 16 without the B1G championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
There's a slight chance, Bill, although it would need to be the top 14, not top 16. Michigan would need Northwestern to win its other games and for the Minnesota and Iowa wins to help as well. It also depends on what happens elsewhere. I really don't see this happening, though.
Jordan Lynch (NIU)
How many B1G teams would trade their QB for me?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Quite a few, Jordan. Any chance you can suit up for the Badgers next week at Indiana?
Hank (Washington DC)
Does Michigan win if Denard doesn't get injured against Nebraska? I think it would've been a much closer game. I wasn't impressed with Nebraska.
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Hank, it's a toss-up if Denard stays in the game. Nebraska was playing a little bit better, but Michigan's defense had limited damage, and the offense had a first-and-goal when Denard left the field. A touchdown there, and the game changes. It's hard to say how the second half would have played out, but Michigan's defense wouldn't have been on the field nearly as long, and Michigan wouldn't have lost by two TDs.
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Hi Adam, who do you think has the easier path to go undefeated for the remainder of the year between Nebraska and Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Nebraska, simply because the Huskers don't play Ohio State. The Huskers have tough games the next two weeks, but they match up well defensively with both MSU and PSU. They'll be heavily favored in their last two games (Minnesota and Iowa). Michigan still must win at Minnesota, which has some confidence after last week's win. It must beat a 7-2 Northwestern team, and Iowa team that has caused U-M problems as of late, and then Ohio State.
Hank (Washington DC)
Do you think Brady Hoke is to blame for not having Devin Gardner playing QB when Denard got injured? Russell Bellomy looks awful and will probably be a permanent clipboard holder.
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
Think you're being a little harsh on Bellomy, who is young and will be a better fit for the offense Michigan eventually will run than the current one. I think it's more than fair, however, to question why Devin Gardner wasn't getting more snaps in practice at quarterback, given Denard Robinson's injury history. The fact Gardner wasn't prepared to step in for a quarterback who has been banged up throughout his career reflects poorly on Hoke and the coaching staff.
Purdue upset Penn St this weekend or have they completely thrown in the towel?
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
I've given up on trying to predict Purdue. Thought they would show up last week at Minnesota, and they didn't. Robert Marve gives the Boilers a chance, but the stands will be empty and Penn State is looking to get back on track after the Ohio State loss. If we see the same Purdue defense we saw against Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Penn State will win easily.
Any chance for Kain Colter for MVP in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Not this year, Kyle. Braxton Miller has the Offensive MVP award locked up, and you can even make a stronger case for Venric Mark than Colter. I love what Colter did last week, and Northwestern's questionable game plans against PSU, Minnesota and Nebraska cost him quite a bit. He's having a nice season, but he's probably the fourth or fifth best QB in the Big Ten this year.
Happy Halloween Adam. Let's talk Trick-or-Treat, Rose Bowl style. Right now, what is the Big Ten's most favorable matchup, and what is the scariest?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Scariest: Any Big Ten team vs. Oregon. Most favorable: Nebraska or Michigan vs. Stanford
Will MonTEE break the TD record this year? If things work out he could have 5 more games, that's just 1-per. What are your odds that he leaves Madison with the record?
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
Bucky, I'd be surprised if he doesn't get the record. He still has an opportunity against Indiana, which doesn't defend the run well. Ohio State's defense hasn't exactly been lock down this season. It hasn't been the season Montee hoped for, but I still think he gets the all-time TDs record.
Boogie Monster (B1G Country)
If Nebraska and Michigan sweep the rest of the season. Nebraska wins the big ten championship. How likely do you see Michigan fans saying that we only won cuz Denard got hurt, and Buckeye fans saying that we would have lost again to them too, if they were eligible for the title game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
How likely is it fans complain and say "if this happened, then"? Uh, yeah, I think that's pretty darn likely, Boogie.
What is it with Northwestern in the fourth quarter? They seemed poised to throw away another lead on Saturday against Iowa, but managed to hang on. Is this a coaching issue? Fitzgerald is, undoubtedly, a great leader and recruiter for NU, but do you think he has the tactical expertise to back it up?
Adam Rittenberg (3:25 PM)
It has been a problem for years, GS. As good as Northwestern has been in close games, the Wildcats seem to struggle with big leads and in putting away teams. Fitz is a conservative coach to the core, and he often tries to win by having the other team make more mistakes. Another reason is that Northwestern's up-tempo offense has to slow things down with a lead to kill time. Last week, you saw an inexcusable error -- bad snap on first-and-goal -- prevent a score that would have put Iowa away. I've talked with a lot of Northwestern players about finding the killer instinct. They know it's an issue, but they just seem more comfortable in close games.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
So, when does the secret meeting between Delaney and Emmert take place to change the definition of post-season NOT to include conference championship games? I'm thinking soon...
Adam Rittenberg (3:27 PM)
Lou, that really is a Big Ten decision. The Big Ten chose to do it that way last year, when it launched the title game and when Ohio State was in danger of being hit with sanctions during the season. The NCAA really doesn't make that call. It's the Big Ten's event. It can have its own rules. The question is do you want to see a team win the Big Ten championship and not go to the Rose Bowl?
If IU beats Iowa, are you coming to the 812 next week to watch the Leaders division play-in game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Eric, as always, we don't know our game assignments until the Sunday of game week. But it would be a lot of fun to cover Indiana-Wisconsin. We've NEVER covered a game in Bloomington since the blog network started. We'll make the pitch to have Brian or I there, but again, we don't make the call on whether we go or not.
Jason Voorhees (Your Closet)
What is more accurate in your opinion, the BCS computers or the two human polls? Computers have Nebraska ranked 15th, the human polls drag them all the way to 20th. Computers have FSU and Clemson ranked 21st the human polls put them 9th and 10th.
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
I'm not a big fan of the Coaches or Harris polls, but I still prefer them to most of the computer rankings. There are some good ratings systems (Sagarin) and some terrible ones. So in general, I prefer the human polls.
Who is the B1G Defensive player of the year? I think Johnathan Hankins, whose your pick?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
He's having a nice year, but is he having a better year than Bradley Roby (nation-leading 18 passes defended, 3 TDs)? My pick is still Penn State's Michael Mauti. Michigan's Jake Ryan and MSU's Max Bullough also in the mix.
Adam, if you were Michigan, Nebraska, or Wisconsin, would you rather be matched up against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, or Florida/LSU in the Capitol One?
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
I want no part of Oregon. None at all. Ducks are scary good. LSU has QB issues and Florida, while very good, doesn't scare me as much as Oregon.
JCubed333 (F. Murray Abraham's House)
What are the chances my Spartans make the B1G Championship?
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
Still pretty slim. The Iowa and Michigan losses really hurt. Now if Michigan State wins this week and Michigan loses, the situation changes quite a bit. But I want to see MSU win a game at home before labeling the Spartans a serious contender in the division.
Is Hoke making a mistake by taking away an offer if a recruit commits, but still wants to take visits? I am shocked it even happened with their minor league affiliate Cass Tech
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
I like it, Mike. It shows some principles in a very unprincipled part of the game. If you aren't all-in when you give your word, we don't want you.
Mauti and Hankins' teams went head to head. Mauti gave up 250 yards rushing, Hankins gave up 35. Also, Hankins faces a double team every down, every game. Zero teams have run up the middle on OSU. Cal/Nebraska ran to the outside, and both got 70% of their yards on a total of 4 carries combined (2 NU/2 CAL). Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
Yes, Jared, Mauti by himself gave up 250 yards, while Hankins by himself gave up 35. That's really sound logic.
Adam, your pal Bennett pretty much laughed at the idea of Michael Carter being 1st team big ten. What are your thoughts? He's among the conference leaders in pass breakups and is asked to play a lot of single coverage since Minnesota struggles to stop the run. He has more than held his own in that scenario and has been a lockdown corner at times. Him and Roby seem to be the two logical choices to make the first team.
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
Oh, that Bennett. He's a barrel of laughs. I think besides Roby, no Big Ten cornerback is a lock for first-team All-Big Ten. Carter is definitely stepping up his game in recent weeks for a very good pass defense. He's in the mix, in my view. I'd put Northwestern's Nick VanHoose, Wisconsin's Devin Smith, Purdue's Josh Johnson and Ohio State's Travis Howard in that mix, too. Howard, while putting up some nice numbers, seems to get beat too much.
Mike Myers (o Y o)
Nebraska v. Wisconsin rematch int he BCG. Does Wisconsin stand a chance without Stave, or do the Huskers have their number either way?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
It'll be tough, Mike, although the new quarterback -- O'Brien or Phillips -- will have a few games under his belt as the starter by then. The key for Wisconsin is to do what it did in the first half against Nebraska -- force turnovers and hit on a few big plays offensively. Wisconsin would have to let Nebraska beat itself. The Huskers are the more talented team this year.
Adam why won't Gary Nord stick with his run game. If Purdue wants to win that what he will have to do.
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
It's interesting, Jake, because Purdue ran the ball a lot last year and featured different backs. I liked the way the Boilers mixed up their personnel last year. The loyalty to TerBush has hurt Purdue at times this season, and after the way Ohio State ran on Penn State, Nord can't abandon the run game on Saturday.
Danny O'D (Davenport, IA)
Adam, do you think it was wise for Gary Barta to re-affirm his commitment to Kirk Ferentz after yet another embarassing performance? Iowa is already financially committed to him through 2020 and fans are starting to become very restless. Could this end up effecting recruiting efforts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
I don't know what he's supposed to say, Danny. As far as the impact on recruiting, a vote of confidence for the current coach typically helps recruiting rather than hurts it (verbal commits can go elsewhere). Iowa is locked into Ferentz. Just too much money and too much power there. We can argue whether Ferentz has earned it or not over time, but Iowa is paying a big-time salary right now, and it isn't in a position to eat all that money.
Adam, Love the blog! I read an article where on Mlive where Dantonio is worried about the Sea of Red taking over East Lansing this weekend! Do you foresee that happening? Do MSU fans really give up on there team that easy?
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Nate, I'm a little surprised by those comments, not that Dantonio made them but that Michigan State's fan support might be a question mark Saturday. Yes, MSU has been disappointing and hasn't performed well at home, but I still would expect Spartans fans to show up on Saturday. If not, it will turn into a Sea of Red. We've seen it already (Northwestern).
Phillip Nelson (UofM)
I guess recruiting rankings mean very little. Why can't Michigan get a freshman like me to lead their team to success? What was wrong with their recruiting? Should Michigan fans be concerned? Sure they have great defenders coming in, but what about on the offensive side of the ball?
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
While we could debate whether Michigan should be recruiting more quarterbacks, the Wolverines are recruiting signal callers to help them with the post-Denard offense, not the current offense. Everything will change with Michigan when Denard leaves. He's a great player, but in a way, he has been holding the program hostage in terms of the direction it wants to go eventually. Bellomy may or may not work out, but let's see how he does in a pro-style system. Shane Morris is an elite recruit who should be the QB of the future. Nelson definitely looks like Minnesota's QB of the future, but it doesn't mean Michigan is in big trouble.
Michigan was a preseason top-ten team and was in the top three recruiting nationally. What factors have led to their underachiving this season and will this hurt them on signing day in February?
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Greg, you kind of make my point for me. Top three recruiting nationally doesn't equal great team this season. Michigan's roster isn't exactly set up to succeed in 2012. It's going to be a very, very good roster in 2014. The Wolverines were vastly overrated entering the season. We all know that now. But the preseason ranking and the recruiting ranking are separate issues. Michigan doesn't have enough depth and enough elite veteran players to be a truly great team this season. But that will change in the future, in large part because of, yep, the recruiting.
Adam, I also beleive that Terbush couldnt manage the offense. But I am afraid to say with the chance of Short being out this could mean the season will be slipping fast.
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Short seemed to think he'd be playing Saturday (said he's 90 percent). But the season is already slipping away. That's what happens when you don't show up in three of the first four Big Ten games.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
It's interesting to me that all of PSU's TE's seem to step up at different points - Carter, Lehman, James, Gilliam, but outside of Robinson, no other WR's have differentiated themselves. Do you think that's a matter of route-running or just the great matchups that the TE's make allowing McGloin to get them the ball easier?
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Bill O'Brien's offense is a dream if you play tight end. He's brilliant at getting those guys in positions to make plays. We knew the WR spot would be thin this year with the offseason departures. To have a player like Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for PSU. The depth there should get a little better over time, but if you're a tight end recruit, why wouldn't you want to play for Bill O'Brien right now?
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Who are your top 3 Heisman guys right now?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
My last Heisman Watch ballot was: Klein, Te'o and McCarron. I dropped Braxton a bit, but I'm definitely open to moving him up depending on the final three games and what happens elsewhere.
Zac (Los Angeles)
Total regional outsider to the Big 10 here, but does anyone regret the Ron Zook firing at this point, Illinois 2012 looks like Maryland 2011 at this point.
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
There are definitely some Illinois fans who do, but Illinois was in a tough spot last season. It had dropped six straight after starting 6-0. Attendance was plummeting and many influential people wanted a change. I don't blame Mike Thomas for firing Zook. But the Tim Beckman move certainly isn't working out well so far.
Roger D (Paternoville Forever)
Is there anyway for the B1G to investigate the officiating in the OSU v PSU game on Saturday? That was an outright sham if I say so myself, the officials were clearly calling the game in Ohio States favor. Can BOB and PSU protest for an investigation?
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
Roger, I know Bill O'Brien wasn't happy with the crew. I didn't see the game as closely as Bennett did (he was at Beaver Stadium), but there were some questionable holding non-calls on both sides. I know Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo very well, and I know he's tough on the officiating crews in terms of his evaluations. If you don't see that crew in a big game in the next few weeks, you'll know Carollo didn't think highly of their performance, either.
Looking ahead to next season, which B1G teams are your top 4?
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Ohio State and Nebraska are definitely Nos. 1 and 2. After that, it gets interesting. Michigan State still should be very good, and I think Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan should be solid. Only Michigan loses its starting quarterback out of those six squads.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
It's been a while since a defensive guy has won the Heisman, does Te'o have a shot if ND is the only undefeated team left out there at years end? He was all over that Oklahoma offense and looked like the best LB in the nation!
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
He definitely has a chance, Dog. But he likely needs Notre Dame to run the table, and to have a big performance against USC in his last chance to impress Heisman voters like me. The thing that hurts him is that some of the other candidates -- Klein, McCarron, Barner -- will have opportunities after Nov. 24 to impress the voters.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Beau (Quad Cities)
I'm not for getting rid of Kirk, but how about he takes a reduced salary until this team starts competing nationally again?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Beau, while I understand your frustration, a coach should take the salary the school agrees to pay him. If you get the contract, you should get the money. That's the way I look at it.
Reasonable fan (your imagination)
What games will you guys be at this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Both of us are home this week, but we hope to be on the road again soon.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Thanks again for the questions. Happy Halloween!