Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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!
Adan Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here on time this week. Let's get going!
Jason Gruber (Marion Ohio)
Why is everyone so low on Ohio State? They beat the same caliber of talent that Oregon has faced in the same manner, yet everyone thinks Ohio State will fall this weekend.
Adan Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Who is everyone? Brian Bennett and I both picked the Buckeyes, and many others are doing the same. Mark Schlabach picked Wisconsin, but I haven't seen too many others going with the upset. Ohio State hasn't been tested and we'll see how Urban Meyer's team responds to some adversity. The FAMU game did more harm than good because FAMU is so inferior, but it won't matter if Ohio State looks good Saturday night.
Rizwan Siddiqi (Dallas, Texas)
Do you think poor performances like the Akron and UConn games have an impact on new recruits considering Michigan (specifically De'Shawn Hand who is due to make a decision early Nov) and undo the good impression the ND game may have had on them?
Adan Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
I don't think so, although recruits certainly pay attention to what's going on. If Hand enjoyed his time in Ann Arbor for the ND game, he'll base his decision more on that and not on the other games. It's still about the place and the people more than anything.
C-NAGS (B. Apple)
Any idea where PSU QB castaways ended up? And are they playing? I know Bolden is on pine at LSU but what about Newsome, Paul Jones & Bench?
Adan Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Steven Bench is playing for South Florida. Kevin Newsome went to Temple but quit the team before the season after moving positions. Jones is playing for Robert Morris.
Now that Penn State has extra scholarships to use it seems imperative to get more linebacker and offensive line help. Who do you see them targeting?
Adan Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Linebacker definitely will be a priority with Carson graduating and Hull entering his senior year.
Adam, I feel like GameDay will be in Evanston next regardless of whether OSU beats Wisconsin on Saturday. Air Force @ Navy is a possibility, but beyond an Armed Forces tribute the only other option is Washington @ Stanford. If they want to brave 6:00 a.m. at The Farm, UCLA two weeks later is a better option. My concern is that with so many uninspiring choices from the ESPN family (Greenberg, Wilbon, Musburger, etc.) for guest picker they'll miss the obvious choice. Please contact your corporate overlords to ensure Stephen Colbert will be on the set.Also, if you could give me some reason to believe that the team that slept through an entire game last weekend against a good, not great, FCS team won't embarrass itself on primetime national television, that would be great as well. Thanks!
Adan Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Ha, you give me far too much credit here. GameDay will go where it wants and doesn't listen to an underling like myself. I do think the Ohio State-Wisconsin game will have some bearing on things. Colbert would be an outstanding guest picker. Northwestern historically plays down to its competition, and the coaches' approach toward those games is basically to get them over with, no injuries, not showing much. It lends itself to boring football. They need to turn the page now.
Am I crazy, or does the Wisc offense match up very well for the OSU defense? Sure, the Buckeye front 7 is young, but they can lock down Abbrederis with Roby and load up the box to stop the run. Am I wrong?
Adan Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
If Wisconsin doesn't show a second dimension and more options in the pass game, you could be right, Andrew. It still will be a big test for Ohio State's defensive front seven, which isn't very experienced. Can the young linemen step up? Ryan Shazier needs a huge game at LB for Ohio State to slow down Gordon/White.
Ted (Johnson City, TN)
I understand that Rob Henry is not Drew Brees, or even Curtis Painter for that matter, but no matter who our quarterback is, they won't preform well unless they can get some protection from the O-Line and the receivers can get free from their defenders. Would a change at qb really be that good for the team?
Adan Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Some good points here, Ted. The offensive line has underperformed so far, and Purdue doesn't have enough weapons on the perimeter. BJ Knauf has been a nice story, but I expected more from some of the Boilers' outside receivers. The line was supposed to be a strength of the team. I just wonder if this season is shot, why not play the freshmen?
Samuel (Iowa City)
Adam, the other day your colleague used the phrase "one hand tied behind his back" when referring to BOB, implying that BOB was in an unfair situation. It seems like with the scholarship restoration, people's appetites are whetted. Fair or not to the current program, have people already forgotten PSU earned these sanctions? BTW, I'm not against the sanctions being lifted. But I don't think I've read "Sandusky" on the blog in over a year.
Adan Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Samuel, we can debate whether the sanctions were justified, but how is having fewer scholarships to offer not having one hand tied behind your back? Seems fairly obvious. I do agree that we should never forget what happened at Penn State when Sandusky worked there -- and in the years after.
How can Iowa win a rivalry game during MN's homecoming?
Adan Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
How? Well, I think the matchup is fairly even on paper, and while Minnesota will benefit from home field, it's not like TCF Bank Stadium is The Horseshoe. Opponents have won there before. I think Iowa has a more balanced offense and the defensive line to contain Minnesota's run game just enough. Game could go either way but I picked Herky, while Bennett went with Goldy.
If Wisconsin loses,Can they still make an at-large BCS bowl? They and OSU have similar schedule opponent except rivalry opponents MN/MI..A co leaders division champs sounds worthy enough vs anything the legends or a Non AQ would have to offer.
Adan Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Wisconsin would have to win out, and a lot depends on what happens in the Legends division. Michigan and Nebraska remain as attractive or more attractive to BCS bowls than Wisconsin because of their large, travel-willing fan bases. One benefit Wisconsin could have in this scenario is it would end the season with a long win streak. Typically, the loser of conference championship games stays out of the BCS mix.
Hey "Adan", you're right, Penn State graduated 90% of its players and never has had a major infraction of any actual NCAA rules. You should never forget that.
Adan Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Another important point, Joe. We shouldn't forget this, either. You have to look at the complete picture with Penn State, a program that has been portrayed in two extremes over the years.
Nathan (Des Moines)
What is the probability of Iowa heading to Ohio State on Oct. 19 with a 5-1 record? Is Iowa better than what people thought they would be?
Adan Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It's possible, Nate, and it's likely if the Hawkeyes win on Saturday. They'll be 4-1 and riding a wave of confidence as they return home to play a Michigan State team searching for its offensive identity. Iowa's offense will be challenged to beat the Spartans, but the Hawkeyes won't have to score much. I think Iowa certainly is an improved team. How much? We'll soon find out.
Honestly....... who is faster at eating chicken wings........you or Brian Bennett? (PS - do you know how to spell your name? Or is this some sort of alter ego on here today?)
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Ha, I just noticed that. Someone in Bristol is in BIG trouble (just kidding). I'm a bigger dude than Bennett, but he might beat me on the chicken wing challenge. We'll have to find out sometime.
Just wondering what you might have heard abut Melvin Gordon's pro prospects? Also what do you think the chances are he doesn't stick around for his redshirt Junior year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
His pro prospects are extremely high, Bryant, and if he keeps up this type of production, I would expect him to go pro. It always has been his dream to play in the NFL. His mother certainly keeps him grounded and wants him to do well in school. Melvin also really enjoys the college experience. But at that position, if you get a strong draft grade, you make the move. I also think Melvin will learn from what happened with Montee Ball, both the good and the bad.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is it time for the folks in Ann Arbor to be concerned about the Wolverines and their struggles against inferior, at least on paper, competition? Are the Wolverines overrated? They should not be going down to the wire against Akron and UConn.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
They shouldn't, Tony, and yes, it's time to be concerned. After seeing Notre Dame twice so far, I think we overvalued both ND and Michigan entering the season. Michigan's win against ND looks less impressive now after seeing both teams struggle a bit the past two weeks. There's a chance Michigan could make major strides the rest of the year, but eventually, the turnovers will catch up to the Wolverines. They may just be a year away, looking at the talent they're bringing in through recruiting.
Nate C. (Minneapolis)
Do you think the Gophers passing game will become relevant this week? The Hawkeyes will obviously be expecting a run-first mentality from the Gophers, but I think Coach Limegrover could use that as an opportunity to make the receiving corps a factor. Has the passing game been mostly avoided up to this point due to the success of the running game or the inefficiency of the passing attack?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Minnesota's offensive line improvement certainly has contributed to the run-first mentality, in addition to having mobile QBs (Nelson, Leidner). But Minnesota really doesn't have much on the perimeter. I see some flashes from players like KJ Maye, but Minnesota's WRs/TEs aren't going to scare anyone right now. We need to see some of those guys step up in Big Ten play or defenses will bottle up the run.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
I'm a bit surprised by Delany's comments (though in theory they make a lot of sense). You would think a lot of "blue chip" guy might want to take advantage which would dilute his product and potentially harm revenues. That runs counter to most everything he does.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
He's willing to take that risk, Lou, and that's very interesting. We've already seen the one-and-done rule ruin college basketball, which is a vastly inferior product than it was 10 years ago. I think college hoops would benefit from having the NBA-ready guys go pro right away. College football, meanwhile, still would have enough great players because it's very hard to go from high school football to any type of pro ball.
It is very interesting that everyone was so eager to jump on the Michigan hype train after the first two weeks of the season and so eager to jump off after the last 2 weeks. If Michigan impresses in weeks 6&7, will everyone climb back aboard? I bet they would. My biggest question is this: Why do you two as well as the guys on BTN seem to think that Michigan is suddenly awful? They have had very bad execution at times from both Gardner and Jack Miller, but remain the same team that blew up Central in week 1 and handled ND in week 2. What makes you think this team is not capable of picking back up and finishing the regular season heading to the CCG?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Justin, the Wolverines are probably somewhere in the middle, not as good as they looked early and certainly not as bad as they looked the past two weeks. My issue is the turnovers. Brady Hoke pointed to them throughout the offseason as the reason why Michigan lost five games last season. And it's still a problem. If Michigan starts taking better care of the football, it will challenge for a division title, especially since no team looks dominant in the Legends. If Michigan was in the same division as Ohio State and Wisconsin, it would be in big trouble.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Happy Thursday Adam! Lets just assume for a moment that Floyd comes back to Iowa City Saturday night. Might we see a flip flop of Minny and Iowa in the Power Rankings? Think a 4-1 Iowa squad on a 4 game winning streak could certainly be listed at 7 in an average B1G conference. I'm excited though and certainly stand behind my IOWA ON THE RISE comments from last week.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Iowa definitely will move up and Minnesota will definitely move down. Whether they completely swap places remains to be seen, but Iowa would have some momentum for the first time in a while before the MSU game.
Trevor (State College)
Do you think the increase in scholarships PSU can give out will entice recruits to come or will it not make a difference to them? Also, what school (s) do you think have benefited the most recruiting wise because of the PSU sanctions restricting who can be offered.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Well, Penn State can bring in more players because enough good/great recruits still want to play for the Lions. But the bigger thing here is the likelihood that the bowl ban is reduced from four years to perhaps two. Bill O'Brien can sell that to recruits, who more than anything want to be able to compete for championships.
Adam do you agree:1 : Kenny guiton runs the offense2 : Braxton Miller runs.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
No, I don't. Let's pump the brakes on Kenny Guiton, guys. He faced a terrible Cal defense, a terrible San Diego State team and FAMU. Moreover, Miller hasn't had a real chance to play alongside all these weapons in games. Sure, he didn't look sharp against Buffalo but likely would have put up big numbers against the three opponents that Guiton torched. Miller was a one-man show last year. Let's see what he can do with a real supporting cast.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Adam, after seeing the Ohio State game against FAM, I am glad that the BIG 10 has decided against playing FCs schools. Also, on college gameday last Saturday, North Dakota State's fans had signs knocking the BiG 10, why was this the case?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
I think you answer your own question here, Phillip. The North Dakota State fans were referring to the Big Ten's push to stop scheduling FCS foes. Listen, if there was a way to ensure the Big Ten would only schedule good FCS teams like ND State, I'd be all for it. But it's too difficult to ensure that.
David (E. Lansing)
Why do Michigan's turnovers concern you more than our porous o-line, which sets my Wolverine knees a-knocking?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
No statistic correlates more to losses than turnovers, so that's why I'm concerned. But the offensive line also is an issue, although Fitz Toussaint ran well in the second half last week. Still too many plays for no gain or negative yards. Michigan's youth showing up front.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Adam - can we please talk a little Sam Ficken around here? Kid is a great story and should be a Groza finalist. This after being the poster child for the demise of PSU football after the UVA game last year. Is it too soon to start the Ficken for Heisman talk?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Ficken for Heisman? Uh, no. But he is a tremendous story, Brian, and it shows how tough he is mentally to bounce back from such a rough start to his career. Remember, if the sanctions hadn't come down, Anthony Fera would have been the kicker (if not for injury) last season. Ficken has quickly made himself one of the league's most reliable kickers. Great to see.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
What's your real sense about lifting the bowl ban after this year? I think it's a given (assuming no "relapses", for lack of a better word) as no one said straight up "no way".
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen at this point, Lou. The NCAA clearly is backtracking, and all of these cases show that it's more about the response than the initial problems. Penn State, by all accounts, is responding as well as possible.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Adam, where you surprised at the pass interference calls against MSU, how do you see them rebounding from that tough loss?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
I was surprised by the calls, although maybe I shouldn't be. It seems like it's impossible to play aggressively as a defensive back any more. Officials are so trigger happy on those plays. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly even expected several PI penalties to be called. Michigan State's defense will be fine. The big question is how the Spartans' offense responds on the road at Iowa.
Brian Bennett (In your head)
I just downed 85 chicken wings at my local bar AFTER seeing that question about a wing eating contest. Still hungry too. Might order some ribs next. Bring it Ritt!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Injury report for Saturday:Bennett, Brian -- OUT (indigestion)
Am I the best trophy in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
You might be, Floyd. Just watch out for that Axe. He's pretty good, too, and Paul Bunyan might want some bacon.
Matt (Des Moines, IA)
What more likely...Weisman rushes for 150+ yards, or the Iowa defense hold the gophers under 100 rushing yards?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Weisman runs for 150. Minnesota's defense is good but vulnerable to the big play. I can't see Iowa holding Minnesota to less than 100 rush yards. Gophers will run the ball a lot in this game, and they have enough weapons to crack triple digits in yards.
Ashley [via mobile]
How about a little SJB love? Can Stanley the Manly give Roby a run for top B1G DB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste certainly has been a bright spot on a mostly terrible defense, Ashley. He has made a nice transition from wide receiver and still shows excellent ball skills in recording those interceptions. He's still a notch below Roby and Darqueze Dennard on my list of Big Ten top CBs, but he's moving up for sure.
Do you think Northwestern has been holding anything back so that Ohio State would not see it? This is a signature career win for Fitz and Northwestern if they win this game. The offense struggled a bit but it seemed like they were running the same plays. Also, I expect Colter to be lining up at receiver this week. The last two years he played some receiver in the Big Ten opener. He should be on the field at all times against Ohio State with his ability to get extra yards.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Kevin, I can assure you Northwestern held a lot back in the first four games, especially against Western Michigan and Maine. You'll see a lot more creativity from Mick McCall on Oct. 5. As for Colter at receiver, you might see it a little, but keep in mind Northwestern hasn't been able to use its best offensive threat -- the read option game with Colter and Venric Mark -- all season. Mark is expected back for Ohio State, so that changes things dramatically.
Have you heard any injury updates for UW? Specifically Pedersen and Lewallen. Going to be extremely difficult to go to the Shoe and win without those two.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Bryant, we'll know more tonight when Gary Andersen addresses the media, but I expect Dan Voltz to start in place of Lewallen against the Buckeyes. Pedersen sounded as if he'll play Saturday. CB Peniel Jean also is improving.
Where would you rate Rutgers and Maryland in the B1G power poll? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Good question, Mike. Maryland certainly would be in the top 6, and Rutgers might be, too. I'm very impressed with what I've seen from both teams so far. Rutgers is a two-point conversion away from being undefeated.
Adam, do you see the Gophers having a better chance to win with either QB? Personally I'd rather see Nelson if healthy, I know he's not a proven passer yet but he did show flashes last year (especially against Purdue), he has more experience, and is still a very capable runner.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Love all these Gophers questions! I tend to agree, Jay, as Nelson boasts Big Ten/bowl experience. I like what I've seen from Leidner, but he hasn't faced a Big Ten defense yet. I actually think Minnesota could be effective with both QBs, depending on how they use them. They have similar skills.
Do you think the NCAA will restore the wins for PSU? My gut says no as it would give Paterno the record, but it would be nice to recognize the accomplishments of all those players. Not sure how you feel, but I've never understood the concept of vacating wins at any level. Unless there was actual cheating in the game that influenced the outcome, spying on play calls, messing with the play-clock etc., these games happened and should be counted.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Not a huge fan of vacating wins, either, but I don't expect this at all. Would be an absolute shocker if the NCAA restored wins for Joe Paterno and Penn State.
Don (Baton Rouge)
What's with the B1G lovefest in here? Let's talk some SEC. Who you got, LSU or UGA and is the winner the favorite to win against Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Well, I run the Big Ten blog, Don, so that's what we focus on. But happy to field an SEC question. I really like what I've seen from LSU, but Athens will be a tough test. I like Georgia winning at home and facing Alabama in the SEC title game, a rematch of last year's classic.
Duron, Columbus [via mobile]
Hey Adam, thanks for all the blog work. What would you put the chances the Bucks take care of Wisconsin just like Nebraska last year? I'm seeing a few parallels and it's not like Meyer has needed to show much on O. With a healthy and rested Miller, could things turn ugly by the 3rd quarter in a raucous atmosphere? I doubt I need to mention the night factor.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I don't see a blowout, Duron, although Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is very aware of Ohio State's ability to start fast. He cited Ohio State's 102-14 scoring edge in the first quarter -- calling it an "obnoxious number" -- and said Wisconsin needs to weather the storm. But Wisconsin is a veteran team that has played in a lot of tough venues and held its own. The Badgers never get blown out, and I'd be surprised if it happens Saturday night.
Ashley [via mobile]
As a Husker fan, who should I root for in the OSU/UW game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
It depends on which team you would rather see in the Big Ten championship. Nebraska's struggles on defense would suggest you'd rather see the weaker offense, which would be Wisconsin, at least on paper. Then again, do you really want to see Wisconsin in Indy again?
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Who is your current favorite to challenge Ohio State for the conference title now that Michigan appears to be very shaky and vulnerable?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
This week's game is huge because a Wisconsin win would put the Badgers in the driver's seat for the Leaders division title. Wisconsin has an easier crossover schedule than Ohio State, missing Michigan, MSU and Nebraska, and getting Northwestern at home. I also think Northwestern could challenge for the Legends division title as long as it doesn't start 0-2 in league play, which will be tough with Wisconsin and Ohio State.
What Big Ten coaches do you think are on the hot seat?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
There's no obvious choice right now. Kirk Ferentz has shown improvement with Iowa and has a hefty contract (with a big buyout) on his side. The Bo Pelini watch at Nebraska could begin if the Huskers struggle in November, but I still would be surprised if Nebraska parts ways with Bo. Other than that, there's really no one as I believe Tim Beckman gets a third year at Illinois.
Generally, most people are concerned about Wisconsin passing attack (abby only threat), how is PSU any different with only Robinson. Both are elite recievers? Clarify if you can.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Penn State has a completely different offensive structure than Wisconsin, based on an NFL-style passing game. Both teams are deep at tight end, but Penn State has more natural pass-catching TEs than Wisconsin does. You also have to look at Stave and Hackenberg and acknowledge the differences with Hackenberg's potential as a passer. Stave is a nice player, but Hackenberg likely will be on the NFL radar very soon.
Chuck (Mt. Morris, MI)
Is there any chance Gardner loses his starting spot? 3 or 4 turnovers isn't going to lead to a victory against MSU or Ohio, but it's still hard to see him getting yanked.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Zero chance. I'll shave Bennett's head if it happens.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one ...
Settle an argument for me...I tell my girlfriend that the Badgers/Buckeyes aren't rivals and that this game just means a lot because they have faced off in some big (and close) games in recent history. She's a Badger and insists they are fierce rivals and always have been.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
There's definitely a rivalry, but it has grown more in recent years than throughout history. But if you look at what Wisconsin has done since Barry Alvarez arrived, the Badgers have been as big a threat to Ohio State as Michigan, if not more so in certain stretches.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK guys, all done for this week. Enjoy the games!