Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone, it's high noon. Big weekend on tap in the Big Ten. Let's chat!
Ryan [via mobile]
Is there any D on Michigan's schedule that can slow down the scoring?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
The one to watch is Penn State, which hosts Michigan on Oct. 12. I doubt Michigan's offense will slow down until potentially that game. The Lions have great depth in the secondary and the ability to run the passer. Ultimately, I wonder if PSU can keep up with Michigan on the scoreboard. Should be interesting. After that, the big challenge comes Nov. 2 against Michigan State, the Big Ten's best defense.
Rod (Iowa City)
Well, not sure how I feel about this weekends game. I bleed black and gold but I am about out of blood... WHEN Iowa wins this game, what do you think it does for confidence to this team? Next week should be no brainer and then Minnesota...might be able to get some confidence in these kids since the coaching staff doesn't say to much good about them. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Rod, it's a must-win for Iowa this Saturday. There would be so much negativity with a third straight loss to Iowa State. The Big Ten schedule is brutal with crossovers against Ohio State and Wisconsin, so the Hawkeyes need to generate some positive vibes, especially on offense, if they want to get back to a bowl game.
I realize it is difficult to judge teams after only two games (and due to the quality of some of the competition). That given, which Big 10 team has surprised you the most so far this season, and which team has disappointed the most?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Illinois is definitely the surprise team. Night and day on offense, and Nathan Scheelhaase is playing with so much confidence. Coordinator Bill Cubit is pulling all the right strings. Purdue has been a disappointment. I thought the Boilers would be more cohesive on offense after a full offseason, despite the new staff. I wonder if Purdue can win another game if things don't turn around soon.
Hello Adam, Who is your pick to lead the Buckeyes in rushing yards this year; Miller, Hyde or Hall?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Good question, Andrew. Miller has been banged up, while Hyde still must serve one more game of his suspension. Jordan Hall has put up big numbers, but he tends to do that when the competition isn't great. I'll still go with Hyde, the power back for a power-driven offense.
cutter (Silver Spring, MD)
It's five days since the Michigan-Notre Dame game and I the Chicken Dance is still rattling around in my head. What was your reaction when you heard the song being played on the Michigan Stadium PA system after last Saturday night's game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
I actually didn't see or hear it as I was on my way to Crisler Arena for the post-game news conference. It's not a huge surprise, though, that Michigan would tweak Notre Dame for getting out of the series. We're seeing more mockery at games, like Ohio State's "Are you smarter than a Wolverine?" display at halftime of last week's game. Par for the course.
Northwestern has been hyping the Oct 5 game vs OSU all year, and for good reason. But, I'm concerned NU won't be prepared for the Buckeyes though, as they get 2 cupcakes and then a bye week leading up to the game. OSU meanwhile will be coming off a tough test against Wisco. Do you think their upcoming schedules will affect how sharp each team looks on Oct 5?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
It's possible, Tom, but Ohio State also could be more banged up entering the game after a physical test against Wisconsin. Northwestern, meanwhile, should be very healthy entering that contest, and top running back Venric Mark should be fine by Oct. 5. But you bring up a good point about a potential letdown for Northwestern the next three weeks. Remember, Vanderbilt pulled out of a game this weekend, as Northwestern was set to visit Nashville. Northwestern has been tested more than most Big Ten teams to date. The biggest question is whether the Wildcats can rise to the occasion when the spotlight is on them. They haven't done so in the past.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What is the latest on the health of Braxton Miller? Does having Kenny Guyton at QB, if Miller can't play, cause for concern given how tough Cal played OSU in Cclumbus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Urban Meyer just said that Miller is healing rapidly but will be a gametime decision at Cal. I tend to think he won't play, and I'm not sure the Buckeyes need him to beat a Cal team with a leaky defense. Ohio State still should be able to run the ball at will in this game with Hall, Smith and others. I don't think last year's game matters that much as both teams are different, especially Cal. The Bears will test Ohio State's defense, but the Buckeyes have too much talent at the line of scrimmage to lose this one.
Matt (Columbus, IN)
Is Kevin Wilson in danger of going the Cam Cameron route in Head Coach employment with his ignoring of IU's defensive problems? How can a program have this long of a historic fail on one side of the ball?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Matt, it's hard to fathom how bad Indiana has been on defense for such a long period of time. It's why I thought Indiana should have gone defense (Dave Doeren) with its last coaching hire, although I also like Kevin Wilson and his potential as a head coach. Ultimately, Indiana has bought in too much to the offense-sells approach as it tries to boost attendance, etc. It's no coincidence why a defense-focused coach (Terry Hoeppner) had IU on track before his tragic passing. Wilson certainly is concerned about defense and has brought in more talent, but they need to see better results.
Dustin Hoffman (Lincoln NE)
B1G wins out or loses 1 this weekend? Does that solidify it as the #2 conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Optimistic, Dustin! If the Big Ten were to win out (highly unlikely), you could make a good argument for the league as the No. 2 conference, although the ACC also has a case to make. Even a 1-loss weekend would be outstanding. The Big Ten could lose six or seven games Saturday -- a lot of tossups.
Kevin F. (DC)
I am very very impressed with Hackenberg so far.. and I have to believe he will deliver at least one signature win in his first year..do you see PSU can go 1-1 against Mich and OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
That certainly would qualify as a signature win, Kevin, and I'd add the regular-season finale at Wisconsin as a signature-win opportunity for Hackenberg. All three games will be very tough, but the first one, against Michigan at home, might provide the best opportunity for an upset, although the Wolverines look awfully good so far.
I know you and BB were pretty high on Spence and Washington prior to the season, but I have not seen the playmaking ability in the OSU front 7 you predicted we would see, particularly in the LB group. Do you think the LB'ers are something we should worry about, or do you think I am overreacting?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It's still early and Washington is banged up and likely won't play Saturday, but it's worth watching whether the playmaking emerges. I've been worried about the linebackers since the middle part of last season, and if Zach Boren hadn't transitioned so well, the group would have been a real weakness in 2012. It's an area where Ohio State must build depth as the season progresses.
Do you think Allen Robinson has a real shot at winning the Biletnikoff award this year? I definitely think he will put up great numbers worthy of the award, but the media loves Marqise lee even tho USC sucks. What say you?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
I can't imagine Lee will win unless the QB situation markedly improves with the Trojans. Robinson certainly has a chance, especially if he can put up big numbers against marquee opponents (Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin).
Which games need to go the way of the B1G over the PAC-12 in order for the conference not to look bad? The obvious to me would be OSU has to win and an Illini loss wouldn't hurt to much. Your opinion for the rest?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Yeah, it's important for the Big Ten to get at least a split with the other two games (UCLA-Nebraska and Wisconsin-ASU). Ohio State can't lose, and a Nebraska win on its home field will be important. Illinois is playing with house money. Wisconsin, while ranked, is definitely the underdog going out to Tempe.
As a Northwestern fan, I have to believe that Coach Fitz is a lifer, and isn't going anywhere. I don't even want to think where the program would be/will be without him. Am I delusional?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
There's a good chance Fitz never leaves, but you have to be prepared that at some point he will. I've always felt Texas would be the only college program that would interest him, and even then, I don't know if he'd leave the situation he's in right now. Northwestern will do whatever it can to keep Fitz in Evanston, and the school's increased commitment to facilities and assistants' salaries has been significant. I think he'll see how far he can take the program with the new facilities, but if he wants to win at the highest level, he might have to leave.
What do you think of Kofi Hughes big first two games and where do you see him getting drafted in the NFL?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Impressive first two games, Jake, and Hughes has some skills that could translate to the next level, but I don't know if he's a bona fide draft prospect right now. Still has a lot to prove in my view.
Adam, B1G fan living down here in SEC country, with the recent news of Alabama players receiving improper benefits do you think the NCAA will actually investigate or sweep this one under the rug like they've been doing recently with other schools?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
I have very little faith in the NCAA, but Yahoo! Sports did most of the NCAA's work already with tremendous reporting of records, phone conversations, etc. The NCAA has so little credibility, and it needs to build up some by actually pursuing stories like this.
Piggybacking on a previous question in which you said you believed Hyde will lead the Buckeyes in rushing this year, Do you think he break 1000 yds? Last year he came up 30 yds short while only playing in 10 games. While he probably won't start next week, he now has 10-11 games to reach that milestone.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Good point, Steve. Hyde would have reached 1,000 if Ohio State had been eligible for the Big Ten title game and a bowl. The Buckeyes likely have 11 games remaining after he returns from suspension, so there's a decent chance he gets to 1,000. The hard thing is he missed three easier opportunities to rack up yards (Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal).
Matthew (Hazellnut, IN)
Considering Rob Henry can't seem to hit the Wabash River while standing on the banks. . .is it time for some option?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
It has been a rough start for Henry and the offense, although he looked a little better last week. Darrell Hazell says the offense will incorporate some spread and some option, and it would be a smart move to play to what Henry does best. I still remember how he ran all over Northwestern a few years ago. Northwestern's coaches didn't know what to expect. There's a longer scouting report on Henry now, but I think you have to turn him loose a little more.
Is Jeremy Gallon the most underrated player in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
He's making our preseason player rankings look pretty bad, Logan. So are Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun, Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase, Penn State DT DaQuan Jones and others.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
How disheartening is it for Spartans fans to have such a world class defense wasted by an offense that can't score on the local high school?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Very disheartening, Tony, and they're not happy with a coaching staff that, while successful in the past, couldn't identify a quarterback despite a full offseason to do so. This is not a new problem, and the issues go beyond the quarterback spot. Michigan State could have a championship-level defense but finish around .500 again because it will be in so many close games that'll go either way. Even a decent offense would put MSU in the title hunt.
Not necessarily a B1G question, but did you see anything last week against Michign that resembles last years Notre Dame team? Is it just a lack of focus or is the defense no where near as strong this year. With 8 starters returning, I was expecting more.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It's not the same Notre Dame team or Notre Dame defense, but I still saw a unit with tremendous power and speed, especially up front. Most coaches would want Nix and Tuitt on their team. I don't think the secondary is as good, and Michigan seemed a step ahead of Notre Dame with its play-calling. The Wolverines consistently put players in space. Notre Dame's early offensive play-calling also left me shaking my head, but the overall offensive performance wasn't bad, aside from the interceptions.
NEB vs UCLA. With UCLA dealing with the death of a player this week, how does that normally affect the play of a team? Also, an 11am CDT start is like 9am for UCLA. Does that affect a team at all or do they rearrange their schedules to make it a non-factor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Scott, none of us can predict how the tragedy will impact UCLA, as teams can either use it as a rallying point or be overwhelmed by emotion. I think the start time is a bigger factor, as most Pac-12 schools are a little sluggish playing early games against the Big Ten. Nebraska has a chance to jump ahead, and a fast start might be imperative as Brett Hundley will make some plays against a young Huskers defense.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
The Badgers win in Tempe if ________?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
They're at least plus-2 in turnover margin, hold the ball for at least 38 minutes and finish long drives with touchdown runs. If Arizona State can't stop the three-headed monster -- White, Gordon, Clement -- the Badgers will win, as they'll be able to hold the ball and pound away.
Carl (Duluth, MN)
is Martez shabazz a viable replacement for boddy-calhoun for the Gophers? I just remember shabazz missing the INT against Texas tech last year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
I think he could be, Carl, although Minnesota will need Derrick Wells to spark the secondary along with Brock Vereen, one of the league's more underrated defenders. I wouldn't judge Shabazz based off of a play in the bowl game, and he has stepped up with some big plays early this season. It'll be interesting to see how the secondary performs next week against David Fales and SJ State.
Tom (A State of Dispair)
Has the ND blog disappeared? I don't see the link to it on the espn cf homepage anymore.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Nope, it's still there, among the team pages we have. Check the right rail of the blog and you'll find team pages to ND, as well as Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and others.
UCF beats Penn St if....?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Bortles gets hot with some early touchdown passes, forcing Hackenberg to rally Penn State from a double-digit hole. Although Penn State ran the ball better last week, the Lions will be in real trouble if Hackenberg is put in obvious passing situations. Turnover margin and special teams also are key, as always.
Can ILL upset Washington? I think the Huskies are good...but ILL has a shot in this game. Should be high scoring...
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Illinois will need to win a shootout to prevail on Saturday. Washington has so many weapons on offense, especially with TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins returning from suspension. Although Illinois' defense held its own last week, it's still a young unit that will struggle with Seferian-Jenkins, QB Keith Price and RB Bishop Sankey. The Illini need Scheelhaase and their offense to show up in a big way with some early points. Washington hasn't been a good road team under Steve Sarkisian, so a slow start is possible for the Huskies.
What do you think of Gardner wearing #98 for the rest of the year in Ann Arbor? Seems kinda tough to see that under center...
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
It definitely will take some time to get used to, Brandon. It was odd for me interviewing Devin after the game, seeing the 98 across his chest. But it's a pretty cool tribute to Tom Harmon, and it means a lot to Devin. I don't think Michigan has to keep doing these, as too many of them dilutes the idea, but this one is unique and has some value.
I love the work you and BB do, but I have to say I think you both are overhyping the MSU defense. As a whole, they are very good, but with the exception of Max Bullough and Dennard, I do not think they have another next level player. I firmly believe ND will have the best defense UM faces all year, especially with the equivalent of an NFL defensive line at ND. Am I wrong?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Um, Charles, I'm assuming you're a Michigan fan trolling here, as the Spartans have several other future pros, including safety Isaiah Lewis. Also, have you seen Shilique Calhoun? Sure, the competition hasn't been great, but he has been a beast so far. The game is on the road and Michigan State has a superior secondary to Notre Dame. I'll predict right now that Michigan doesn't score 41 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans will be the toughest D Michigan faces.
Is it just me or is Bowling Green better than IU? How do you see that game playing out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
I picked Indiana, but I'm not confident. If the game was at BG or at a neutral site, I'd probably go with the Falcons. Indiana has to play much better defensively and start faster on offense to avoid the big hole it found itself in against Navy. I think Nate Sudfeld and the IU passing game, especially at home, will be the difference, but a Bowling Green win wouldn't surprise me at all.
Matt ((5th matt today))
HYPOTHETICALLY.. Iowa beats ISU, eastern michigan, minnesota, and then wisconsin, but loses every other game...does kirk lose his job? even returning all the rivalry trophies to IC? 5-7?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Interesting hypothetical, Matt. I'd say Iowa will use any excuse it can to keep Ferentz, given his contract situation. Winning rivalry games would help his cause, especially the win against Wisconsin. It will take a lot for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz because of his salary and the equity he has built up over the years. Iowa would need to go 2-10 or 3-9 for the school to seriously consider cutting ties and eating so much salary.
Was trolling a bit, but the Calhoun stuff it a bit ridiculous. He has 2 TFL and 1 sack thus far. He has been fortunate to been in the right place at the right time and recovered fumbles his teammates created. Definitely disagree about Lewis...way too slow to play safety at the next level.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Ha, appreciate the honesty! We'll see about Calhoun. Think he'll end up as a better player than the overhyped Gholston (we were guilty of this).
True of False. If Terry plays Saturday for MSU, the staff will ride out Terry as the starter thereafter!
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I think they will, Rook. As Mark Dantonio said, you don't play Damion Terry for a quarter or a half. If you make the decision to burn his redshirt, you commit to him for a significant period of time. Minnesota did a similar thing last year with Philip Nelson. I also think Terry is the future for MSU's offense, which should open things up and incorporate some spread elements. Michigan State simply isn't talented enough on offense to run the pro style at a high level.
Josh (Grand Ledge, MI)
Hi AR, long time fan of yours. I expected a stronger showing of Michigans D-Line at home against ND. In your opinion, what happened and what do they need to do to do better? Thanks in advance.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Thanks, Josh. Michigan is still very mediocre at defensive tackle, and Notre Dame was able to run the ball up the gut against the Wolverines with Amir Carlisle. Michigan hasn't had a great interior defensive lineman since Mike Martin, and it could hurt when the Wolverines face stronger running teams like Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State.
Michael (Los Feliz)
Hey Adam, Love the blog. I'm a huge Golden Gophers fan (even made the trek to Las Cruces last weekend), and I'm extremely excited about this team. The Defense looks solid, especially the D-line and the best secondary we've seen in quite awhile. The Offensive Line is starting to really gel and Mankato Jesus (aka P. Nelson) and the RBs are really starting to play well in the run game. I'm worried about WR though. If the Gophers can't make plays in the passing game I think 6 wins is the ceiling. So, can the Gophers improve the passing game between now and Big Ten play? Do you see guys like Jamel Harbison or Drew Wolitarsky stepping up for us?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Wow, that's dedication, Michael! DId you happen to stop by Casa de Autos in Las Cruces? Oh, Aggie Vision, we will miss you. ... I agree that wide receiver play and the overall passing game is a huge question mark going forward. Harbison, Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones all could play key roles as Minnesota looks for a spark. Although Mankato Jesus' running ability has been very encouraging, the Gophers can't be one-dimensional on offense, even with a seemingly improved line. Their Big Ten schedule is brutal after the opener against Iowa.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Time for two more ...
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Any update on Venric Mark? And should the rest of the B1G be scared that Northwestern is putting up 40+ points per game against BCS conference opponents without Mark (and without Colter for basically the entire Cal game)? I mean, Fitz's NU teams have typically IMPROVED as the season went on, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
We'll get an injury report later today but I don't expect to see Venric until the Ohio State game or maybe for a bit next week against Maine. Still an odd situation as he looked OK in preseason camp. And yes, it's a good sign for Northwestern's offense that it has produced at such a high level without its biggest weapon.
Ra'Shede Hageman (Dinkytown)
Am I living up to the hype? I think so. Expect me to dominate even more when the comp gets better. I'm picking San Jose State as my coming out party. 2 sacks baby!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Always good to hear from you, Big 'Shede. Although pro scouts are more interested in what you do against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, etc., a big game against David Fales and SJSU would be big for the Gophers, who will be tested defensively in that one.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, everyone, time's up. Enjoy Week 3 -- big one for the Big Ten -- and talk to you next week!