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 1 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Let's get started.
Minnesota has been a nice surprise this season. They have a tough slate left: hosting Wisconsin and at Michigan State. Which match-up serves Minnesota better?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Both are tough matchups for everyone right now. I'd say Michigan State would be better on a neutral field as Minnesota defends pretty well, but I'd probably go with Wisconsin here since the game is at home and the fans will be fired up.
Lyle Nussbaum (Eugene Oregon)
With a loss by either Alabama or FSU do the buckeyes have a chance of making it to the BCS Championship game if all the other teams around us win as well?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
The problem is Baylor, Lyle. The Bears will leapfrog the Buckeyes in the BCS standings if they win at Oklahoma State on Saturday night. Ohio State might be able to reclaim the 3 spot by beating MSU in the Big Ten title game, but things will be a lot easier for the Buckeyes if Baylor loses to Okie State.
Zach (Waterloo, IA)
Adam, I think it's pretty obvious what the keys are for the Hawkeyes to beat Michigan on Saturday -- the same as they are every week when Iowa plays -- run the ball effectively and make timely completions on offense and limit the big plays on defense. But what are the x-factors going to be in this game? Do you see some weaknesses on Michigan's offensive line that Iowa's defensive line can exploit? And do you think Iowa's awesome linebacking trio will give the fans a proper swan song at Kinnick?
Adam Rittenberg (1:04 PM)
There are some major weaknesses on Michigan's line, Zach, both guards and the center are very young. I expect a huge game from Morris, Kirksey and Hitchens, as well as a defensive line that Kirk Ferentz says is the team's most improved unit. Iowa should win that game.
Luke Fickell (Buckeye Nation)
My defensive unit is extremely young and has been hit with some key injuries. They've taken a bit of a beating but have steadily improved throughout the season. Should I be worried about my job?
Adam Rittenberg (1:05 PM)
Nope. You're too good of a recruiter and a huge part of the Ohio State program. The question will be whether you seek a head coaching position that might pay you less than what you're making as Ohio State's DC.
Northwestern: Unlucky team or unluckiest team?But seriously, a question: What are your thoughts on the call at the end of the NU/UM game? It seemed pretty obvious that Michigan's right line wasn't set before the FG attempt. And also, there's the whole substitution controversy. Was Northwestern robbed or are they just unlucky?
Adam Rittenberg (1:07 PM)
Those end-of-game plays are really chaotic and the officials usually aren't as locked in on presnap movement as they would be for a random play in the middle of the second quarter. But yes, there was movement and Michigan should have been flagged for a game-ending false start penalty. Northwestern has been really unlucky, but the Wildcats also don't play or coach to win a lot of the time. Very conservative approach by Fitz, who hasn't had a good year, and players failing to make plays down the stretch. Northwestern easily could have 3-4 Big Ten wins.
How wrong would it be, if the B1G does NOT get a second BCS team, but the PAC12 does, given the ref'ing debacle (PAC refs) that would have directly caused this result (as a likely-made-FG-1-loss WI would very likely get a BCS invite)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:08 PM)
It would be wrong for Wisconsin, not so much the Big Ten, which has had plenty of BCS at-large teams over the years. Who knows if Wisconsin makes that field goal, but not having the chance to attempt it is just plain wrong. Stanford's second loss decreases the chances of the Pac-12 sending two to the BCS as Stanford doesn't travel well. Wouldn't it be something if Wisconsin was picked ahead of Stanford for the final spot?
I'm really surprised Coach Anderson is up for BIG coach of the year. He really hasn't won a statement game due to easy schedule and losses at osu and asu. If Bielema was coaching he wouldn't be in the running. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:10 PM)
Andersen has done a nice job keeping the success going at Wisconsin, and I like a lot of what he has brought to the program. But I agree with you: he shouldn't be a leading candidate for B1G coach of the year, not with a team full of seniors that many pegged to win 9-10 games. Meyer should win that award if Ohio State wins out. There's really no debate in my mind.
Joseph (New Hampshire )
The big ten has been down the past few years. Do you see the big ten improving in 5 years or becoming the new big east in football?
Adam Rittenberg (1:11 PM)
There are too many resources and too much fan support for the Big Ten to become the Big East, but teams have to evaluate their recruiting strategies, their staff hires and other areas to try and improve the product. Ohio State is the only truly elite program in the league; Michigan and Penn State need to get back to that level. Wisconsin is pretty close.
Ben Yebernetsky (Washington DC)
I know Penn State hasn't won two games in a row since starting 2-0, do you think they can win against Nebraska This weekend. Also what do you think the prospects are for Allen Robinson? do you think he leaves early for the NFL or does he hang around 1 more year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:12 PM)
Penn State has been strong at home this year, but I picked Nebraska on Saturday. I like the Huskers' defensive improvement, and Ameer Abdullah has been fabulous and faces a mediocre Lions defense. Robinson looks draft-ready to me, but wide receivers always can stick around for another year to improve. It's not like running backs, who have to go when they can.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Carlos Hyde was suspended for 3 games for something that he was cleared of all charges. With DNA samples matching Jameis, don't you think it is time for the media to pressure FSU into a little bit of accountability?
Adam Rittenberg (1:14 PM)
Different situations, Bren, and we had video evidence of Hyde striking a woman, who didn't end up pressing charges. When you're dealing with sexual assault allegations, you can't really hand down discipline until charges are filed in my view.
Mike (State college)
what's your take on the New Big versus pre division BIG? I enjoyed pre division so much more. Bigger isn't always better is my take.
Adam Rittenberg (1:15 PM)
The division races can be fun, Mike, but I don't like the longer gaps between when certain teams play. There were a lot of potentially good matchups -- MSU-Wisconsin -- that didn't take place this year, which is unfortunate.
Eric (Los Angeles, CA)
Who has been the biggest offensive and defensive surprises this year? On defense I would say Calhoun. As for offense...Hackenberg? Langford? Armstrong?
Adam Rittenberg (1:17 PM)
Good question, Eric, and a topic for a future blog debate I'm sure. We knew about Calhoun after the bowl game, but he has surprised a lot of folks with how good he has been. Randy Gregory might be up there, too, on the defensive side. Offensively, it might be Nathan Scheelhaase -- huge numbers this year after really struggling as a junior.
Pat Fitzgerald (Wildcat Nation)
Having GameDay come to town was huge for my recruiting. Has the collapse of my team's season this year cost me in recruiting down the line? If I don't fix the fourth quarter woes and lose out, should I be worried about my job?
Adam Rittenberg (1:18 PM)
You have nothing to worry about, Fitz, although I think some tough evaluations need to be made for you and your offensive staff after this season, despite all the injuries. Recruiting hasn't been hurt too much by the struggles, as you got so many early commits. But there's a long way until signing day, so we'll see what happens.
Hey Adam...as an outsider what are your thoughts on USC coaching situation? Big Name or go with what's working?
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
I've been really surprised but why Ed Orgeron has done, Jim. He deserves a lot of credit for getting a supremely talented team without much depth to start believing and playing hard. His Ole Miss struggles, however, concern me when you look at him as a long-term answer. I would see who is interested and available, but Orgeron should be in the discussion.
Vernon (Visiting Berkeley, Ca.)
Do you think if Michigan were having the season that Michigan St. is having, the national perception of the Big Ten would be different. It seems to me the Big Ten as a conference is actually not having too bad a year, but there is a perception that this is a down year, and i cannot understand why.
Adam Rittenberg (1:21 PM)
Great to hear from my hometown, Vernon (and Bren earlier)! I think there's something to this, even though Michigan State is getting more respect nationally now. It just seems that for the casual observers in the media, the Big Ten is viewed in a better light when Michigan and Penn State are up there with Ohio State. That's not the case right now. It seems harder for outsiders to embrace a league where MSU and Wisconsin are really good and Michigan and PSU are average.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
do you and Ivan (Stanford Guy) have any annual wagers on The Big Game? BTW, yesterday was the 31st anniversary of "the play".
Adam Rittenberg (1:23 PM)
Uh, have you seen Cal play this year? I'm going to save my money. But I have a sweet T-shirt that shows "The Play" in Xs and Os form. Good stuff.
Does Jerry Kill stay on the box until we lose?
Adam Rittenberg (1:24 PM)
Yes, he should. And he will. Jerry isn't going to mess with a good thing. And I do think it's better for his health to be up there rather than the sideline right now.
Do you think with all the ranked vs ranked battles or upsets to fringe top 10 that UW can make a run at top 10 by Selection Sunday? This weekend alone ASU/UCLA,LSU/TAMU,Baylor/OSU
Adam Rittenberg (1:25 PM)
Badger, I think Wisconsin can reach the top 14 by Selection Sunday if it wins out because of all these games you outline. Other teams will start losing, while the Badgers keep winning. The Top 10 might be a stretch, as Wisconsin is No. 19 right now, but you only need to be in the top 14 to be eligible for at-large selection.
Eric (Dallas, TX)
Do you think it's time we put away the "Big 2 little 10" talk for good? Yes, OSU has staying power. But I think it's becoming more and more clear that so do Wisconsin and MSU. PSU will eventually get back on track, and Nebraska is Nebraska. UofM has shown NOTHING in the past 5 years or so to lead us to believe they will become a power again.
Adam Rittenberg (1:27 PM)
Yeah, other than winning in recruiting rankings, Michigan doesn't look like a team close to being nationally elite, Eric. Perhaps that changes next year as the team gets a little bit older, but the Wolverines have some issues right now with developing players. Where are the stars on this team?
What are the odds that Michigan State will once again miss out on a BCS bowl because they will play an extra game(and lose), while Wisconsin sits at home?
Adam Rittenberg (1:29 PM)
It could happen, Mike, but remember, Michigan State would have to qualify to be eligible. The thing people gloss over about 2011 is that the Spartans weren't even eligible for at-large selection after the Big Ten championship game loss. Michigan State would have to stay in the top 14 after losing to Ohio State. Could happen. One thing that would benefit MSU is having Ohio State go on to the national title game, as the Rose Bowl would rather have MSU than Wisconsin for the 4th straight year.
Mike (Canton, OH)
In games vs. BCS conferences, ND, and BYU the Big Ten is 10-8 this year. The ACC is 6-6 and the Big 12 is 2-5.Can you explain to me again why the Big Ten is constantly hammered while the Big 12 and ACC get a pass?
Adam Rittenberg (1:32 PM)
the problem is that in those 10 wins, how many really stand out? Cal doesn't help Ohio State or Northwestern. No one gets too excited about wins against the likes of Syracuse or even Cincinnati. The Big Ten still failed in its highest-profile games like Nebraska-UCLA. But yes, the ACC and Big 12 get more credit than they probably should.
I've always thought that one of the most overlooked issues with expansion is the possibility of horrific home B1G schedules. A team in the East this year could have played Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, and Illinois/Purdue at home and five others on the road. Long time season ticket holders are probably locked in, but people looking at first time buyers would likely skip a year. Will be interested to see how AD's handle this.
Adam Rittenberg (1:34 PM)
Good point, Jordan. It already has happened to a certain degree. Nebraska's home schedule this year wasn't too exciting other than UCLA. There have been other examples around the league, and attendance overall is a challenge around the country right now. Even the student sections aren't as full as they used to be. A lot of ADs have told me how concerned they are about improving the game-day experience.
Where are the stars at UM? You, as a person that's supposed to have knowledge of the teams you're covering, should know. Rich Rod...not great recruiting classes. Combine that with the turmoil of practice-gate, Free Press witch hunt, and the transition to Hoke...you would have to be pretty dumb to even ask the question. Or uninformed. I'm not sure which you are...
Adam Rittenberg (1:36 PM)
In three years, Jason, you should develop some stars. Stop blaming Rich Rod. It's like Florida fans still blaming Urban Meyer all these years later. You're Michigan. Figure it out. Develop some of those five stars into better players. Figure out schemes to shape a better identity on offense. There are some really good players there (Lewan, Ryan, Countess), but I don't see enough great ones.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Let's say Wisconsin is guaranteed a spot in the Orange Bowl. Who would you rather be, MSU and have a chance to take down the Buckeyes, win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl, but with the risk of losing and missing out on the BCS or Wisconsin, no shot at the conference, but guaranteed BCS spot? I think conference titles matter and I think I'd prefer MSU's situation even with the risk
Adam Rittenberg (1:38 PM)
Ah, hypotheticals are fun, aren't they? It would be interesting to see what Michigan State fans would say, as they really want to go to a BCS bowl after winning so many games in 2010 and 2011. But yes, you want a chance to play great teams for championships, and Wisconsin probably won't have that opportunity this year. Michigan State really wants to get back to the Rose Bowl, and the only way that happens is to beat Ohio State in Indy.
Todd (Roxana, IL)
When will Illinois admit they hired the wrong coach and who would be a good replacemnet to turn the program around.
Adam Rittenberg (1:39 PM)
Big game for Tim Beckman on Saturday. He can't go through two Big Ten seasons without a single victory. It would be tough to retain him at that point, even though he has only been there two years and the offense clearly has made strides.
Who gets a head coating position first, Fickell or Herman?
Adam Rittenberg (1:40 PM)
Hey Gary, just spent some time in your city. One factor to consider is that both men might have to take a pay cut to become a head coach. It depends on the job, but if you go to a BCS non-AQ, you're probably making less than what you do as an Ohio State coordinator. It's still worth it to make the jump. I think Fickell does first, but we'll see.
Is Anderson sold on Stave, or just content this year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:42 PM)
He definitely preferred Stave over Phillips despite a close competition this summer. Andy Ludwig might have gone with Phillips, but Andersen liked Stave's upside. That said, I don't think the competitions stops in the offseason, as Bart Houston and others could push Stave. It's Wisconsin, so you have to expect a QB competition every year, right?
Adam (Orange Co. NY)
Imagine Devin Gardner at PSU. With O'Brien's ability of making very good passers out of his QB's don't you think it would help PSU to recruit a dual threat QB such as Mariota or Gardner? I feel with his ability to teach QB throwing mechanics and his knowledge of teaching the passing game he could develop an unstoppable college dual threat QB
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
I think the quarterback you have at Penn State is just fine, Adam, and will develop into one of the nation's best before he's through there.
MSU's defense didn't play as advertised against the huskers. Do they have a shot to take down the Buckeyes?
Adam Rittenberg (1:45 PM)
They definitely have a shot, Shawn, but they'll need their offense to show up, control the clock with the run game and hit on some timely passes from Connor Cook. A big key will be taking that first punch from Ohio State, which loves to start fast. Although that matchup isn't quite set in stone, I'm already getting excited for it.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
I read that Minnesota has a very slow tempo on offense. Can they pick it up if they need to?
Adam Rittenberg (1:46 PM)
I think the Kill/Limegrover offense has the potential to go a little faster, but Minnesota has been effective in shortening games with its rushing attack. Wisconsin has a similar approach, although the Badgers make a ton of big plays. Minnesota definitely is molding itself in Wisconsin's image, which is a good thing for the Gophers.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Will Engel play on Saturday? If not, how does that impact the game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:47 PM)
Jerry Kill just said the team will be cautious with Engel on Saturday. I think he'll play sparingly but not his normal amount of snaps.
Why did you guys say White and Gordon would cancel each other out, but not Hyde and Miller? Just Curious?
Adam Rittenberg (1:48 PM)
Because they play the same position. It's a little easier to differentiate when it's a QB and a RB, although Miller and Hyde could run into the same issue.
What is Iowa's most likely bowl destination, factoring in their remaining schedule? Does the bowl scenario clear up at all after this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (1:50 PM)
Winning out would change things for the Hawkeyes a bit, Aaron, but assuming Iowa goes 1-1, I see Kirk Ferentz's crew in either Gator or Texas. It could be Iowa or Minnesota for Gator if the Gophers lose out to finish 8-4.
Uhh...any 5 star on Michigan is a true freshman. And an offensive lineman. You want them to be stars already? Cool. Also...you know they play four or five years, right? So...anyone that would be developed enough to be an upperclassmen would come from? You guessed it! Good call though. I'm going half dumb, half uninformed. About football in general though, not just the teams you cover.
Adam Rittenberg (1:51 PM)
Appreciate the kind words. Not every star player is a five-star. Look up the road at Michigan State and where Dennard, Calhoun and others ranked as recruits. If you're OK with the direction of the program, I'm happy for you. I think Michigan fans should expect more than this in Year 3. Brady Hoke sets high standards, a refreshing approach. His teams aren't meeting them so far. They could next year. But I'm a little tired of Michigan talking about history so much and not making any.
Bruce (Columbus, Georgia)
If Nebraska looses one or both of its remaining games, is Pelini gone?
Adam Rittenberg (1:53 PM)
Bruce, big difference between 1-1 and 0-2 to finish out. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst doesn't say much and it's hard to get a read on him, but if Nebraska goes 8-4 with a young team and an improving defense, I think Pelini is back in 2014. A three-game losing streak to end the regular season could be another story.
Sam (Chula Vista, CA)
Adam, what's the perception of Wisconsin if Ohio State doesn't step off the gas, leading 31-14 going into the fourth quarter, and Wisconsin loses that game 45-21?
Adam Rittenberg (1:54 PM)
It's probably not as strong, Sam, but maybe Wisconsin had something to do with how the game ended and not just Ohio State backing off. Wisconsin doesn't exactly get blown out very often.
Do you think that Jason, in Wisconsin, is reading word for word from his University of Michigan Narrative Handbook?
Adam Rittenberg (1:54 PM)
Think he's in the "excuses" section. It's a big one.
Illinois finally get a win this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (1:55 PM)
I think so, Aaron. Both teams struggle defensively, and while Purdue's offense has improved behind young QB Danny Etling, Illinois' offense is much better. The Illini should end The Streak on Saturday.
Watching Gardner QB UM this year not too sure the NFL would see him as a prospect. Any chance he gets wind of a nice paycheck as an WR in the NFL and he bolts. He's already graduated. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (1:57 PM)
I can't see it, Glenn. Gardner loves Michigan and was really excited to get the extra year of eligibility. I also think he wants to develop his game more and not go out on a potentially down note. I'd be surprised if he's not back in 2014.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
If you had to go back to school as a student, what Big Ten school would you choose and Northwestern is off the table? You were accepted at all the other Big Ten schools, but Northwestern said 4 years was enough.
Adam Rittenberg (1:58 PM)
Wisconsin. Absolutely love the town. Good sports to see, a lot to do, really good school. There are a lot of good choices around the league, but I'd be heading for Madison.
Sam (Chula Vista, CA)
Is Fitz "untouchable" at NW? Does he, or BOB, have the best job security of B1G coaches?
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
He's up there, Sam, and so is O'Brien. I'd say Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio are pretty safe, too.
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Last one ..
You'd be hard pressed to convince me that Melvin Gordon doesn't leave for the NFL after this season? Reasonable assumption?
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
A few weeks ago, I'd say no doubt. I'm not as certain now, but the scouts have a lot to like with No. 25. He plays a position with a short NFL lifespan. Let's see how he finishes the season, but I'd say the chances are still fairly strong that he goes. Then again, I thought Montee Ball would bolt after 2011.
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
OK, guys, thanks for the questions. Enjoy Week 13!