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!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
I'm here, let's get started!
Bernie (Columbus, OH)
If Ohio State continues to amass early leads in games and the stat lines for Kenny G keep growing, could you see any chance of a 1st & 2nd team finish for All-B1G QB (media or coaches poll) for the Buckeyes? Maybe at least 1st/honorable mention?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Maybe first team and honorable mention, Bernie, but I don't see the Buckeyes getting the first- and second-team QBs. Listen, I love Kenny Guiton as much as the next guy, but he has gone against some of the worst defenses in college football. I'd like to see how he fares against a defense like Michigan State. The Big Ten isn't loaded with worthy quarterbacks, but I could see the second-team spot going to a guy like Christian Hackenberg.
DJ (Mpls )
When reading Bowl Projections, one thing that always seems to come up is Minnesota having a bad reputation for traveling fan support. In fairness, Minnesota hasn't played on New Year's Day in over 50 years and I believe that Minnesotans would flood any warm destination to a Bowl Game of more prominence. We had the largest fan support in our run to the NCAA Final 4 in 1997 (since taken off the books). Can Minnesota get past this reputation issue? Hoping for a Gator Bowl bid if we can knock off Penn St. this weekend!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
DJ, some good points here. Ultimately, it's Norwood Teague's job to sell Minnesota to the bowl reps. I've had multiple bowl people tell me Minnesota travels worse than any fan base in the Big Ten, but part of that could be apathy about the bowls the Gophers have made. There's certainly some enthusiasm around the program right now, and a New Year's Day bowl would only enhance that. I don't think you can compare a Final Four to, say, a Gator Bowl appearance, but Minnesota will have opportunities to sell why it should go to a good bowl.
Mike (Rochester, Minn)
Why such lack of respect for Minnesota? No one picked them to beat Indiana but yet it was Minnesota who almost gave the game away. Same with the power rankings. No reason Nebraska should be ahead of Minnesota when Minnesota beat them two weeks ago. Minnesota also went to Evanston and won 3 weeks ago whereas Nebraska needed a last second hail mary to beat Northwestern in Lincoln. Bo Pelini even said that his team got dominated by a much better Minnesota team.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
We really struggled with that one, Mike. You can't make the power rankings completely based on head-to-head results. Otherwise, an Iowa team that dominated Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium would be ahead of the Gophers. Maybe we should have had Minnesota ahead of Nebraska, but if the predictions play out like we expect them to this week -- Minnesota winning, Nebraska losing -- you'll see a different order on Monday.
Carlos Hyde to me should be in discussion as the best back in the league. When you are judging a 1st team selection, it should be based on what they have done in the league. Can you say Gordon or Abdullah have had a better conference season than Carlos?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Gordon hasn't been the same back in Big Ten play, Joe, but Abdullah has put up huge numbers and might be the league's top ball-carrier right now. It's definitely a three-man race between Abdullah, Hyde and Gordon, and I can't wait to see how it ends. Hyde has been extremely productive in league games the past two seasons.
Golden (Philadelphia, PA)
Will you be upset if the Buckeyes finish undefeated and do not play for the Crystal Football?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Will I? Not necessarily. I have no attachment to Ohio State, but I would be upset if the Buckeyes were passed for, say, a 1-loss SEC or Pac-12 team. That's not fair, in my view. But if the top four teams continue to win and Ohio State gets left out in favor of Alabama-Oregon or Florida State-Alabama, I won't complain. Those teams have proven more, in my view.
Jonathan (Houston) [via mobile]
Your game prediction battle with Brian has become boring if you both pick the same teams to win each week, like today. I propose putting more emphasis on the final scores: whoever is closer to the combined total of each game gets an additional W for their win total. So this way, even if you both pick the same teams to win each week, one of you can still humiliate the other with your prognostic powers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Not a bad suggestion, Jonathan. Ultimately, we have to pick who we think will win on Saturday. I've differed from Brian on one game in each of the past two weeks and been wrong each time (last week, the Hail Mary got me). There's an expensive dinner in Indianapolis at stake here, so we're not going to have different views just for entertainment value. But maybe we'll look to do something with the scores.
Why do you think MSU has suddenly jumped through the rankings the past two weeks (last week they were the biggest mover in the AP and Coaches), but still aren't getting much respect in even the big ten? The number one defense in numerous categories and even top 3 in several more should mean something
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Who isn't respecting Michigan State in the Big Ten? I can't think of any coach or team that doesn't appreciate what the Spartans are doing, especially with their historic defensive numbers.
BenDair (out there)
Odds of a Stanford / MI St Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
A Stanford victory tonight certainly would help the odds. The easiest path would be both teams winning their respective conferences. Otherwise, it would come down to whether Ohio State reaches the BCS title game. If so, would Michigan State be eligible for BCS at-large selection? Would the Rose Bowl then pick the Spartans? I'd think so. There are several variables involved here, but if both teams win out, I'd expect to see them in Pasadena.
goofus [via mobile]
It appears that starting 2016 every team gets a seeded rival they play for 6 years straight can you confirm. Neb always plays OSU mich - wisc iowa -penn state MSU- NW etc.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
No, that's not true. The only protected crossover game that takes place annually is Indiana-Purdue. The frequency of these matchups is either coincidental or because of parity-based scheduling, but they won't take place every year.
Pete (Eau Claire)
Given that Stave is a sophomore, do you think he's the type of QB Gary Anderson would want under center for the next two years? He's numbers have been pretty good this year, but I'm wondering if you think it's possible Stave may find himself in the back up role in the next year or two?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Andersen likes Stave, and Stave will enter 2014 as one of the Big Ten's most experienced quarterbacks. But it wouldn't surprise me if Bart Houston pushes him a bit in the spring, especially if Stave struggles down the stretch. I don't think that job is guaranteed going forward.
What is the key component n the mediocrity of Michigan? is it coaching? lack of talent? inexperience?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Inexperience certainly has played a role this season, as the offensive line shows its youth. But I don't see enough player development going on at Michigan, which seems to have enough talent to compete for Big Ten championships. Where are the stars on defense? Why can't Al Borges run the offense he wants to run? I just don't see enough players taking the step from good to great or average to good. Perhaps that changes down the stretch and next season, but it's disappointing to see Michigan essentially out of the division race in early November.
Matthew (Winston Salem)
If you had to pick one coordinator from the B1G to be head coach of your team, who would you pick and why?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
I'd go with MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, and not just because I like him personally and would love to cover his teams. Narduzzi would instill the type of defense that could take a bad or middling program to the next level. Recruits would want to play for him, especially on defense. Narduzzi also has matured a little and should handle the head-coaching spotlight better than he would have a few years ago. I also think Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is a future head coach, but Narduzzi is further along in his career.
Hank (Washington DC)
Adam--use a swaddle wrap to help your baby sleep at night. Pacifiers help too!
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Thanks, Hank! We've definitely tried the swaddle, and it works sometimes. He just doesn't want to go back to sleep when he wakes up at 4 am. Makes for some long nights!
Jordan (East Lansing, MI)
Adam, lets say that msu and ohio state both go to the BIG championship game. If somehow MSU beats OSU and gets to the Rose bowl, how much of a shot would you give them to beat oregon or stanford?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Michigan State-Oregon would be a fascinating contrast in styles, not to mention a ton of green in the grandstand. I don't know if the Spartans could stop the Ducks' speed for four quarters, and would need their own offense to move the ball and control the clock. Michigan State-Stanford also would be a fun one, although the teams play similar styles even though Stanford runs a 3-4 defense and MSU uses a 4-3.
Alabama has really only beaten 2 winning opponents in T A&M and Ole Miss (3 losses.) Oregon only has 2 wins against teams with winning records (and both have rather porous defense). Why does the media think they've proven more than Ohio State has?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Bill, that's a fair point, but you also have to look at the remaining schedules. Oregon's game at Stanford tonight is tougher than anything Ohio State will face the rest of the way, as Michigan doesn't look like as tough of a matchup as it seemed back in September. The Ducks also would face Arizona State or UCLA in the Pac-12 championship, a decent game. Alabama has LSU this week, Auburn in the Iron Bowl and most likely South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC championship. Ohio State's toughest remaining games are Michigan (meh) and most likely Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, a pretty good test.
Jacob (NJ) [via mobile]
What looks better for the badgers - blowout win or close win?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Against BYU? Blowout win. Not even a doubt.
First off, calling my shot. MSU beats the buckeyes. Second...player development for Hoke. JT Floyd, Ramon Taylor, Beyer, Clark, Gallon, Funchess, Ryan, Countess, and most notably, Will Campbell went from massive bust to totally competent in one year. Development is there...the talent isn't...yet. The real talent is mostly RS or true freshman...which are going to be a year or two down the road anyway...
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
I agree Hoke deserves credit for developing those players (I wouldn't call Campbell totally competent, but whatever), and you're right about the team's talent being mostly in the younger classes. But I don't see the culture Hoke wants really taking hold in Michigan just yet. Do you see a physical team? A particularly tough team? Maybe that's inexperience or the fact there are a lot of Rodriguez players still there, but we all expected Michigan to be a bit further along. I mean, Michigan had more on the line last week at MSU and had no answers for the Spartans. That's pretty disappointing.
goofus (chicago) [via mobile]
Ok, lets wait until the 2020-21 schedules come out and then we will see who is right about the seeded rivals. If you look at how the rotations are set up in 2016-2019, it strongly suggests that OSU will play nebraska for 6 straight years. Maybe this is a better subject for the off season when things are slow.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I'll check with the Big Ten, but my understanding is that there are no seeded rivals.
Any hope that the Hawkeyes are actually able to get a win against a suspect Nebraska team this year, and actually begin to get some fire started against the team that was geographically chosen to be "rival". We have fallen short, and one of the cool things about the B1G is the rivalry games. Any chance that this "rivalry game" ever grows wings?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Taj, this is an important year for Iowa to provide some juice for the rivalry. The Hawkeyes must take care of business this week against Purdue. Then they'll have two weeks to prepare for Michigan, a team they've played well against at Kinnick Stadium. A potential win there would give Iowa a lot of momentum heading to Lincoln. But yes, Nebraska is definitely vulnerable, especially if the Huskers drop their next two games to Michigan and MSU. Iowa has to beat Nebraska soon to give that rivalry a boost.
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
Did the hail mary save Coach Pelini and his job for this year or create new / higher expectations that we need to win in dramatic fashion every week
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
I don't think it saves Pelini if Nebraska stumbles in its final four games (Michigan, MSU, PSU, Iowa). It does give the Huskers a chance to turn things around and make the Legends division race more interesting, but they'll need to beat Michigan in the Big House on Saturday, something no team has done to a Brady Hoke-coached team. Nebraska doesn't need to win in dramatic fashion every week, although I expect the next few games to be close. The Huskers just need more wins, period.
Pabst Blue Ribbon (Wisconsin)
What does Melvin Gordon need to do to get amongst the top 5 in Heisman voting? Is it possible at this point? Chances he returns next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It will take a very strong finish, PBR (yum), as the top three Heisman spots are basically set with Mariota, Winston and Manziel. Baylor's Bryce Petty is in the mix, and the two BCS non-AQ stars, Derek Carr and Jordan Lynch, can't be overlooked. Gordon has been a little quiet lately, so he'll need a strong surge, beginning Saturday against BYU.
Does Urban win coach of the year? or is OSU just ineligible for the award?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Mike, I'm going to write this soon, but if Ohio State runs the table again, Urban absolutely should win the award. It shouldn't just go to a first-year coach or one that improves a middling team. We haven't seen a Big Ten team go undefeated in back-to-back years for a very long time. It's absurd that an Ohio State coach can't seem to win the award, but that should end this year if the Buckeyes win out.
How does the remaining schedule prove anything? If they both make it through those schedules, sure, but they're not much different right now than Baylor...
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Fair point, Bill, although Alabama's road win against Texas A&M resonates nationally more than Ohio State's home win against Wisconsin. I agree that right now, all three teams are somewhat unproven, and that it's based mostly on conference perception, where Ohio State is hurt by being in the Big Ten.
thoughts on lewan saying he was "protecting his quarterback" when tugging on lewis' facemask? the guy was laying facedown on the ground! how can he say he lost composure for a "second" when he was grabbing guys all game long? maybe it was the comments after the akron game (we'll never look like this again--until Uconn) but it's hard to take what he says without a massive grain of salt
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Damage control, Pat. That's all it was, as Lewan and Michigan are trying to avoid a suspension from the Big Ten. There's no word yet from the league office, but I'd expect to hear something on Friday, when the league usually announces discipline. My guess: suspension for part of the Nebraska game (quarter or half).
Would it be nice for Nebraska to have a historical rival in the conference? If it's Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, or even K-State(Hey I know that would not be a team the Big 10 would probably show a lot of interest in but it would be for Nebraska). Just have some former rival to play again would be nice for the Huskers. Come on Mizzou you would fit better in this conference.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Ha, Mizzou would have loved to get in back in 2010, but the school was much too public in lobbying to get in the Big Ten, which ended up having little interest. Would it be nice for Nebraska to have a rival? Sure. But does Nebraska really have any historic rivals other than Oklahoma? I was talking about this with a longtime Nebraska writer this past weekend at MIchigan State, and he noted that Nebraska really doesn't have many longtime rivals that resonate like Michigan-MSU, Michigan-Ohio State, Iowa-Wisconsin, etc.
Bob (Nebraska buckeye)
Brady Hoke is getting heat now that he lost to 'little brother' again. I know its early but handling these preassures is part of the job. It seems Hoke may not be the answer in Ann Arbor. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Brady understands the pressure of the job and what it takes to have success at Michigan. He sets the standard himself: Big Ten championship or bust. It looks like bust for the third straight season. That said, it's too soon to say he isn't the answer. He has recruited extremely well and deserves a chance to develop more of those players. If Michigan is still losing to its rivals and not winning its division in 2-3 years, then Hoke will be on the hot season. But Michigan isn't interested in making another coaching change, not with Dave Brandon as AD.
With the way the B1G is being regarded this year, as the 3rd or even 4th best conference in the NCAA, what motivation is there to pick a B1G team for the rose bowl if tOSU moves onto the NCAA CG? Do you really believe that the B1G is worse than the ACC?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Gerry, the motivation for the Rose Bowl is that the 100th game takes place this year and the traditional matchup should take place if at all possible. If the Rose Bowl can select a Big Ten team -- it must be in the top 14 of the final BCS standings -- it will. And I won't argue.
Do you Melvin Gordon returning for 2014? How much preseason heisman hype would he have? I think more than Ball had.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
He won't have more than Jameis Winston, I'll tell you that. But Gordon certainly would gain more national attention going into next season than he did going into this one, especially with the opener against LSU. That said, I'd be a little surprised if he chooses to come back. Gordon is NFL ready, and he plays a position with a short shelf life.
Grant (San Francisco)
Too many people are already penciling in MSU for the B1G Championship Game, and even a Rose Bowl. I have been a Spartan fan for WAYYYY too long to take this for granted. Let's focus on our most immediate challenge, Nebraska. What will the Spartans' biggest challenge be, going up against a program they haven't had any success with in the past?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Mark Dantonio endorses your approach, Grant. I think the fact MSU hasn't beaten Nebraska will serve as fuel for the Spartans next week. The big key is to limit Nebraska's big-play offense, which hurt the Spartans last year in East Lansing. Nebraska is loose with the ball and will provide opportunities for takeaways, an area Michigan State has improved significantly this season. The Spartans offense must limit its own mistakes on the road and control the line of scrimmage against Nebraska's young front seven. Running back Jeremy Langford will be key in this game.
Bernie (Columbus, OH)
True or false: by 2017 the B1G East Division will have a claim as the toughest division in college football?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
It could be, Bernie, especially if Penn State makes strides, which is likely as the program restores its scholarships and will once again be eligible for postseason play. Michigan State has established itself as an elite program under Mark Dantonio. Then you have Ohio State and Michigan. That's pretty strong.
Steven (Madison, WI)
If the coaching hires were reversed for Purdue and Wisconsin, how do you see this season shaping up for each team? (i.e. is Wisconsin doing better because of better players in the system, or is Anderson a better coach?)
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Interesting question, Steven. Gary Andersen certainly deserves credit for Wisconsin's success, and for keeping the team on track after the Arizona State debacle. But let's be honest here. Andersen inherited a great situation in Madison, one you almost never see for a new coach. Wisconsin has 25 seniors, a defensive superstar in Chris Borland, two exceptional running backs and other standouts. Hazell stepped into a much shakier situation at Purdue. Does that absolve him of blame for a team that might be the worst in recent Big Ten history? No. But the situations are very different and the coach can only do so much.
Do you think A-Rob leaves for the NFL after this season or does he stick around to get his degree/become even more of a polished product?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
I think Robinson is ready to go pro. Another year with Bill O'Brien and Christian Hackenberg certainly could help Robinson even more, but I wouldn't blame him one bit for making the jump after this season. He doesn't have a whole lot left to prove at the college level.
I know what Rock bottom is for Iowa...losing at Purdue and then losing our last 2 to miss the postseason at 5-7. If the offense shapes up can we win out and find ourselves in a new years day bowl game against an SEC opponent?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
The Gator Bowl would be the only realistic scenario for the Hawkeyes to face the SEC on New Year's Day. Remember that Gator picks after Buffalo Wild Wings this year, so it's possible, especially with Iowa's large fan base. It could come down to Iowa or Minnesota for the Gator Bowl spot, although Nebraska and Michigan are also possibilities there. A lot depends on whether the Big Ten sends a second team to the BCS games.
This has been a LONG season already for Purdue Boilermakers. Do you see coach Hazell making any coaching staff changes after the disaster that this season has turned out to be? Or do you think he will weather the storm with his current staff? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I see Hazell as a guy who will stay the course with this group of assistants. If there are changes, I'd expect them to be on the offensive side of the ball as Purdue has generated next to nothing there. But I'd be surprised if Hazell reacts dramatically to his first season, no matter how badly it turns out.
Andrew (MI )
Is Venric Mark going to get a 6th year of eligibility?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
It actually would be just a redshirt season as Mark never used his redshirt season. So it would be his fifth year in 2013, not his sixth. Coach Pat Fitzgerald says he still needs to talk things over with Mark, but the sense I get from Fitzgerald is that Mark will return in 2014, as there are so few games left this season and he's still not healthy. I don't see great value in him returning for the final game or two of a lost season.
Do you think we will see a rematch of Wisconsin versus michigian st in the big ten championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Highly unlikely, Victor. Ohio State would have to lose twice for it to happen, as the Buckeyes hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Wisconsin. So Ohio State would have to lose to Illinois or Indiana. Not gonna happen.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Rich Rod struggled his first year at UM and the excuse was that Lloyd Carr left the cupboard bare. Rich Rod's teams gradually got better when "his" recruits arrived. Brady Hoke went 11-2 with seemingly all of Rich Rod's recruits. Now UM seems to be getting gradually worse on the field as more of Brady Hoke's recruits come in and Rich Rod's graduate or leave. Does that not seem like there may be a coaching issue at Schembechler Hall?
Adam Rittenberg (1:03 PM)
There could be, Mike, but let's keep in mind that Hoke is still on track to win more games this season than Rodriguez ever did at Michigan. He has opportunities still to beat some of the Big Ten's better teams, which Rodriguez never did. Is his tenure a failure so far? By his own standards, yes. But three years isn't enough time, especially when the recruiting seemingly has been so strong. Like I said before, if we're still sitting here in 2015 and Michigan isn't winning the Big Ten, a change may be in order.
Adam Rittenberg (1:03 PM)
Thanks again for your questions, everyone. Enjoy Week 11!