Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here for your questions. Hope the week is treating you well. Let's get started!
Mike (Paris, OH)
Michigan State still not rated? Please explain.I know their offense can struggle but people don't seem to mind rating teams with great offenses and no defense.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Yeah, there's not much rhyme nor reason to why teams are ranked or not ranked between Nos. 20-25. The problem for Michigan State is no signature win, as the Spartans lost to Notre Dame in September. You could say the same thing about Nebraska, though, and the Huskers are ranked. Bottom line: If MSU keeps winning, the ranking will come.
Jeff (Eastern Nebraska)
Adam- In response to your poll about what team would have the best chance at getting a BCS birth....it makes me wonder if the Cornhuskers simply need to make the top 14 in the polls? Since they haven't been to a BCS Bowl in years, and the fans would be almost guaranteed to show up, isn't that what it really the bowls are looking for?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
It's a part of the equation, Jeff, and Nebraska's ability to travel is respected around the country. It depends on what other teams are available and whether the big bowls would want a team with arguably a more impressive on-field resume than Nebraska. But if it's between Nebraska and, say, UCLA or Stanford for the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl, I'd expect Nebraska to get the nod because of how well the Huskers travel.
Sun Devil Fan (Tempe, AZ)
What happened to Ra'Shede's brother, Xavier? Your story didn't say.
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Thanks for asking. Xavier is actually studying at the famous Alvin Ailey dance school in New York. Clearly both brothers have some physical gifts.
Adam, over the past couple weeks I see these articles about Gordon being the best back but lets face it, people think that way due to Wisconsin's commitment to the run game. If you could take any back from any Big Ten team and put them as your #1 on Wisconsin would it still be Gordon and do you think if it was someone else they would put up bigger numbers?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
No, it would be Gordon, and I probably wouldn't think twice about it. Carlos Hyde would be the only other back I'd consider, as I love his power running style. But this isn't one of Wisconsin's best offensive lines -- a good one mind you, but not a great one. Gordon would be piling up these types of gains with most teams. He's a truly special player, and I'd want to build my offense around him.
Jimmy Shnickleman (Indianapolis)
How do you see match up between Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg and the sometimes supect Ohio State pass defense?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
It'll be very interesting, Jimmy. Urban Meyer wants to see better play from Bradley Roby, and Roby will be tested by the Big Ten's best receiver in Penn State's Allen Robinson. That particular matchup will be fabulous. I also want to see how Ohio State handles Penn State's tight ends. Iowa had some success last week with Duzey, and Meyer notes that Penn State is better at that position.
Hi Adam,Big PSU fan here...but I'm also a realist - I know that it is a long shot for PSU to come out of Ohio with a win...that being said...there isn't anything more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose who have some very talented players - thoughts on that...do you think OSU should take PSU seriously or do you think they are going to look past PSU...
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
They had better take Penn State seriously, Lisa, especially after some challenges in recent weeks, particularly in the Northwestern game. Penn State has won two of its last three games in Columbus and has the type of offense to give Ohio State fits. The good news is Ohio State doesn't have a good reason to look past Penn State. That could be a problem later in the season as the Michigan game gets closer, but not right now.
How do you feel about the Jerry Kill situation? The man is a great coach, just look at the progress Minnesota has made recently, but I can't imagine the strain that his seizures have on the team. Do you think he sticks around after this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Jerad, the team seems to be handling the situation as well as it can, but I agree that over time, the situation will wear on the Gophers. Kill fully knows that he can't keep having seizures in or around games, and he's doing anything he can to improve his medical situation. I don't expect him to step down after the season unless he's convinced that the seizures can't be prevented in high-tension moments like games.
Kip (USAF Academy, CO)
Is Bradley Roby sitting out the first half of the game on Saturday because of the targeting penalty??
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
No. The foul occurred in the first half against Iowa, so it doesn't extend into the next game. If it was a second-half violation, Roby would sit out the first half against PSU.
Adam, Northwestern has truly had Iowa's number the past decade (They even ruined the Hawkeyes perfect 9-0 Start in 2009)What do you attribute this to? Is Coach Ferentz over looking the Cats year in year out? Does coach Fitz have a personal vendetta against the Hawks (This seems to be the rumor that spreads though out our state.)Clearly Northwestern comes in well prepared and sees it as a big "rivalry" game... Where the Hawks don't necessarily share the sentiment.
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
It's definitely a meaningful game for Pat Fitzgerald, right up there with Illinois, and that does translate to Northwestern's players. But I think talent-wise, these are two similar teams that should have a fairly evenly matches series in the foreseeable future. Northwestern's spread offense seems to give Iowa problems, especially with a running threat at QB. That's why Kain Colter's likely return could be the difference Saturday. I don't think it's a matter of Iowa not getting up for the game. If it is, Ferentz can use the past 10 years as motivation for his side.
What is the latest injury news for NW?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
RB Venric Mark out, DT Sean McEvilly out, but QB Kain Colter likely in.
Hey Adam, who do you see as the most likely regular season loss for the Buckeyes if you had to pick one? Penn State always plays OSU tough, the Indiana offense is scary, Purdue has some voodoo over Ohio State, Illinois is improving and could be a trap game, and of course Michigan to close out the schedule. Who could you see them tripping up against?
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
It's still Michigan, Trasch. The Wolverines are the most talented team left on Ohio State's schedule, and they get the Buckeyes at home. I might say Penn State if the game were in State College. You're right about some potential trap games, and Indiana could turn into another shootout. But I think Michigan will be a better team by Nov. 30, and will give Ohio State a tough test at the Big House.
What is your take on the targeting call on Roby this past weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
From what Big Ten officiating chief Bill Carollo has told me about the rule, it was the correct call. There was helmet contact, and Roby did launch himself -- maybe not much, but a little -- into the taller Fiedorowicz. We can debate whether such a play should result in an ejection, but according to the rule as it has been explained to me, that's targeting.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Adam, a few weeks ago you told me Iowa's rebuild would take 2-3 years. What do you think now with the half the season on the books?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Samuel, I think the process has been accelerated, even if Iowa only ends this season with six wins or so. Iowa's 2014 schedule is extremely favorable with no Ohio State, no Michigan and no Michigan State. The Hawkeyes should be in the mix for the West division title. My concerns are whether Iowa can reload on defense after losing a standout LB core and CB B.J. Lowery. I think the offense will be OK.
Kip (USAF Academy, CO)
What night game environment is better? Ohio Stadium or Beaver Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Better environment: Beaver Stadium. Most intimidating environment: Ohio Stadium. Both are terrific, though. I love covering night games at both spots.
scott (eastern us)
if Hackenburg goes in to OSU and has a big game and somehow comes out with a win....(yes a big IF)...what does that do to his "star status"...do you see him being mentioned as heisman material in a year or two...ok..that's thinking way out..but I'm just amazed at this freshman's poise...
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
Scott, as Brian pointed out earlier this week, Hackenberg already has the Big Ten freshman of the year award basically locked up. He'll certainly be in the mix for freshman All-America honors. While I want to see how he does as a sophomore, when some promising freshmen backslide, his future is extremely bright, especially if Penn State continues to put the right pieces around him. His demeanor and confidence, to go along with his obvious talent, have made him an effective quarterback so early in his career.
Mike P (Greater KC)
With rutgers and maryland joining the conference next year or in 2 years how will conference alignment look... with both being an east coast based school will there be east and west and someone like Purdue and Illinois join the west division or how will it be split.
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
Mike! Welcome back, buddy! Were you sleeping the last six months? This came out in April (http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9191768/)
Hey Adam, explain, if you can, why Gordon gets such Hype as being the best Back in the BIG, and yet Abdullah is right on his tail ans we hear nothing from sportswriters on him and what he means to the Huskers. As a Michigan fan, I really get tired of all the Hype put on Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn St. These other programs in the BIG are just as important, and are a great value to the league..So explain, why the Love for Gordon and not Abdullah or venric Marks. Hyde has played how many games this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Moonie, I hear you about Abdullah, who has been huge for Nebraska this season and deserves more regional/national attention than he's getting. But Nebraska has been definitely outside of the spotlight since the UCLA debacle, as the schedule has featured several lower-level opponents. Abdullah will get his due if he performs against teams like Michigan and Michigan State next month. Even a big game this weekend against a solid Minnesota defense will help him. Gordon has had more big-time exposure opportunities, and he frankly has been a more dynamic player (nothing against Abdullah). Venric Mark has only played in one full game this year, as injuries have sidetracked his senior season.
Does the addition of schools like UCF, SMU and Air Force hurt Michigan's strength of schedule moving forward with Notre Dame falling off next year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
I like the UCF addition as the program is on the rise, but SMU and Air Force don't do much for me. And as I look at Michigan's future schedules without Notre Dame, I get a little said. There's not much on there that makes me go wow. Maybe Arkansas will have its act together -- with or without Bret Bielema -- by the time that home-and-home rolls around. But I wonder if Michigan's strength of schedule will be good enough to get the Wolverines into the College Football Playoff? We'll see.
Nicholas (Columbus Ohio)
It seems like Ohio State is destined for the Rose Bowl. Would a win in the Rose bowl and a 2-1 split of B1G vs SEC in other Bowls(Outback, CapOne, Gator) really improve the B1G image much. Or will it really take OSU in the NCG game and winning it?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
Nicholas, ultimately it will take a national championship to really improve the Big Ten's image. But the scenario you outline certainly wouldn't hurt, especially after last season. It might take smaller steps to boost the Big Ten's rep after so many down years, and a Rose Bowl win certainly would be nice, especially in the 100th addition. The Big Ten has struggled so much in that game during the past 13 years.
Chris P. (New Jersey)
Adam, BO'B was non-committal when asked about the running back situation this week vs Ohio State. Do you think Belton will get the start, or will he go back to Zwinack?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
It will be an interesting situation to watch, Chris. I think Belton will get a chance to build on what he did against Michigan, but O'Brien won't abandon Zwinak, either. Zwinak can't have fumbles like he did against Michigan, particularly on the road. Belton also might have more upside, but Zwinak has been a very effective player, especially in the red zone.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Adam, am I the only one looking at Mizzou's 7-0 record and wondering what if the B1G had taken Missouri when it had the chance?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
You're not, Samuel, and Missouri would have been a good fit in the Big Ten, a better fit than it is in the SEC. But the Big Ten was looking for TV sets and large population bases with its most recent expansion. It wants the East Coast, and Missouri obviously isn't there.
Colin (North Carolina)
While everyone talks about Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, and even Northwestern. Many people leave out Michigan State, I feel like Michigan State is a huge underdog in the legends division. How do u feel about MSU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
A huge underdog? Really? I'd consider the Spartans one of the division favorites at this point because they have the single best unit in the entire Big Ten (defense). Michigan State needs to get past Illinois before the home showdown against Michigan, but the Spartans are in good shape for the division title. They'll have some tough road tests against Nebraska and possibly a healthy Northwestern team, but the schedule sets up well. If the offense becomes a little more consistent, MSU will be tough to beat.
Adrian (New York)
Did you see that PSU picked up some recruits after the Michigan game...got some guys to flip..what would a win at OSU do for recruiting....also do you see BO'B being able to keep up with the recruiting of coaches like Meyer once the sanctions are over?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
Adrian, it's interesting that Penn State has only one Ohio native -- a freshman walk-on wide receiver -- on its roster right now. Bill O'Brien talked this week about how tough it is to get players out of Ohio, especially when Ohio State is playing so well. So yes, a win on Saturday night could help Penn State. O'Brien and his staff have held their own on the recruiting trail despite the sanctions, and the increased scholarships should help them. But if the bowl/championship ban is lifted next year, that would be the real boost as they could sell the chance to play for titles right away.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Going to my first Rutgers game (EVER) this weekend in Piscataway, debating wearing my PSU Blue under the cover of a Rutgers hoodie, need to scout out the place before the B1G invades next year...any assignments? Besides hitting up the Grease Trucks after the game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Nice! I love scouting trips. Give us a sense of the tailgating scene, the in-game atmosphere, the student section support. I'd also love to know the best Friday night eateries around the stadium. Full report on Monday, OK, Rob?
I Fitz's idea about yellow/red cards, or something similar, if they're gonna keep the targeting. However, it's tough to ID if a shot is targeting helmet or not when there's so much motion between the players (ex., offensive guy ducks and gets hit in the helmet). What about making it illegal to duck the head down at all, O or D. I know it'd be an extremely painful learning process, and completely change the way tackles are made and guys fight for yards, but if want to get serious about avoid head/neck injury it seems we're in need a a complete shift...thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
Dave, it would be tough to enforce, but I like the idea of encouraging offensive players to keep their heads up with the ball rather than lowering them and risking greater injury. It needs to be emphasized as much as targeting on defense.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Assuming Wiscy wins out, what percentage chance do they have of reaching the top 14?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
It depends a lot on what other teams do, but we've seen so much fluctuation lately, and the fact that the SEC will be full of teams with at least two losses should help Wisconsin's cause. If the Badgers finish the season on a seven-game win streak, someone has to notice, right? I just wonder if their computer numbers will be strong enough.
I miss the days when writers appreciated a good defense. Now it seems you need an explosive spread offense for anyone to look at you. Is the old style of B1G football long gone? Will B1G schools ever get the national attention for playing great D and running the ball 50 times a game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
You're right that offense sells in today's college football, although Wisconsin has received a lot of positive attention for its run-focused attack. Ultimately, if you win a national championship with a great defense and a somewhat bland, run-driven offense, you'll be celebrated. But we do tend to gravitate toward the "fun" teams, of which there are some in the Big Ten but more in other leagues like the Big 12 and Pac-12.
Borland was injured on special teams punt coverage. Is it normal for a player of Borland's stature to be on special teams? Seems a bit risky to have a guy like that out there when he means so much to the defense.
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
As we both know, Borland wants to do it all and would be on every special teams unit if he could (he used to be, I think). Most non-quarterbacks are on at least one special teams unit, so it's not a huge surprise, especially for a defensive player with such great ability like Borland. Wisconsin might want to rethink how they use No. 44 down the stretch because he's so valuable, but it's hard keeping a player like him off of the field.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Why can't we see a B1G vs. SEC program like the B1G vs. the ACC has in basketball? Fans would love it and it would be a ratings bonanza!
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
They would, Bren, but it's too difficult logistically. The Big Ten tried this with the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 couldn't deliver because four schools weren't on board. I'm sure the same thing would occur with the SEC, especially given the tendency for SEC teams to never leave their state (cough, Florida, cough) or the region.
Max Bullough is one of the most underated Linebackers in College Football, Agree or Disagree?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
People who know the sport have a lot of respect for Bullough, but he's probably a little underrated nationally. His stats might not be as eye-popping as those of other linebackers, but he's the heartbeat for arguably the nation's best defense and one of the smartest players in the country. He definitely gets his due from the Big Ten blog.
Kevin (Easton, PA)
What do you think are the odds for an upset for the Illini against MSU this weekend? I'm a bit nervous as a Spartan fan for the dreaded look-ahead game with Michigan next week. MSU defense always shows up, but will the offense?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
Good question, Kevin, as I think the offense will need to show up more than it did against Purdue. Illinois is the type of offense -- true spread, creative play calls, big-play ability -- that can have success against the Michigan State defense. I could see the Illini scoring 14-21 points on Saturday. That puts the onus on MSU's offense, which scored only seven against Purdue and looked dysfunctional in the pass game. You can't count on your defense to score touchdowns every week, and QB Connor Cook and his receivers will need to be better on Saturday in Champaign.
Andrew (San Antonio, Texas)
Adam, I'll be honest and be the first to say that I am worried about playing at Iowa next week. Do you think the Badgers pull it out and if so is it a nail bitter? Lastly, I want to start looking into where I should go for Christmas vacation but want to follow the badgers? Is Florida still a good bet (either Capital One, Outback or at large berth in Orange Bowl)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
The open week comes at a good time for Wisconsin, Andrew, especially with LB Chris Borland banged up. The Iowa game will be a tough one for sure, especially if the Hawkeyes beat Nothwestern and come in with some momentum. But I expect a close contest at Kinnick as the two longtime rivalries reunite. At this point, a Florida Bowl, most likely Cap One or Outback, is the best bet for Wisconsin, but things could change if the Badgers win out, as the Fiesta Bowl (last at-large pick) comes into play.
Lance (Behind enemy lines, South of the Mason-Dixen)
What are the chances the Penn St ever really develops a rivalry in the B10. Most fans consider Ohio St the biggest game of the year, but that will never be a rivalry game for obvious reasons. Maryland seems like it is going to take a while to even get to the mid level of the B10. Is Rutgers our best bet, or will we continue have to play for the ugliest trophy in history?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Yeah, the MSU-PSU series may never rise to rivalry status for me. Penn State and Nebraska could have been a nice rivalry, but the teams won't play every year because of the division alignment. As long as O'Brien and Meyer remain at their respective schools, I could see the Ohio State rivalry grow and grow. But Michigan always will be No. 1 for the Buckeyes. It's a bit of a tough spot for Penn State as Maryland and possibly Rutgers would only be rivals because of location, not competitiveness. It's why I'm glad the Pitt series is starting up again soon.
Kevin (Easton, PA)
How beneficial will Michigan's bye week be before the MSU game? I remember a few years ago when MSU had a bye before the Michigan game, and Dantonio said it was good but also bad because the team got too high too quickly and was a bit flat during practice leading up to the game. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Kevin, I don't buy into bye weeks as much as most fans do, as they aren't as strong of a correlation to success as you think they would be. That said, the extra prep time could help Michigan's defense get back on track after it struggled so much against Indiana. Michigan State's offense obviously isn't as big of a test, but the Wolverines can't expect to score at will against MSU like they did against Indiana. I also think the extra week should help a guy like LB Jake Ryan take a step closer to being 100 percent. Michigan will need to make some plays on defense at Spartan Stadium.
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Have to cut out a little early today, so this will be the last one ...
Who do you have winning each division as of now? and who would you have winning in Indianapolis? As a husker fan I can't help but look at the inconsistency (us included) around the Big 10 and get a sense that Nebraska's chances at a Rose Bowl birth are going up. With Michigan looking wildly inconsistent, Northwestern looking mediocre, and Ohio State being challenged by a slightly above average Iowa team it just seems things in Lincoln are looking up. Penn State and Michigan State seem to now be the biggest obstacles from another legends title.
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
Jack, I wouldn't dismiss Michigan, as the game is on the road, and Northwestern should be healthier on offense by the time it comes to Lincoln, where it won with a much worse team in 2011. But yes, I agree that Nebraska's division chances are looking up. I don't agree on the Rose Bowl, though, as Ohio State would be a heavy favorite to beat Nebraska in Indy. The Huskers haven't shown up for some of their biggest games in the Big Ten -- 2011 Wisconsin, 2011 Michigan, 2012 Ohio State, 2012 Big Ten title. Until that starts happening, I can't really buy in to Nebraska as a league championship contender. A division title, sure.
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
OK guys, gotta jet. Thanks for the great questions this week!