Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here, let's get started.
wishing it was 2006 (Ann Arbor, MI)
Hey Adam,In the beginning of the season, I knew the UofM D would be bad due to injuries, and chalked off the initial poor preformance to youth and atrition...now, 8 games into the season the D seems to be getting worse, making me think Rich Rod (and Greg Robinson) are to solely blame. Is it fair to put blame mostly on RR and Greg? It seems like RR neglected to recruit defensive players so he could have a potent offense and his ignorance may cost him a job.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Wishing, it's hard to assign total blame to one individual, although things do start at the top with any football program. The depth has really been shockingly poor, especially in the secondary, which seems to have suffered another blow in Tuesday's practice. My issue is the lack of progress. Are players getting better? If not, that falls on the coaching.
Dave (Milwaukee, WI)
What do you put the Badgers' odds of winning out at? That game at Michigan has me worried, and Northwestern always plays us tough. Better than Ohio State and Iowa again though I suppose!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Dave, I'd put the odds at 70-75 percent. Trips to Michigan always give Wisconsin trouble, and Northwestern plays well on the road and in November games, but I'd be surprised if the Badgers stumbled with so much on the line.
John (Okemos, MI)
Are the Spartans for real this season, or are they pulling the same old hype-for-a-few-games-then-terrible-letdown MSU trick just later in the season. They got STOMPED by Iowa, hardly a preformance a top 10 team should have on their record. Their win against Wisc was quality, but could have easily gone in favor of Wisconsin.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
John, Michigan State is a solid team in all three phases. A truly elite team? Not sure about that, but the Spartans could have a chance to show it in a bowl. The victories against Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern should look good at the end of the season, but the big thing is to finish strong against weaker opponents. Winning the finale at Penn State is a big test of whether the program can take the next step.
Assuming the Big Ten race ends in a three way tie with WISC, MSU and OSU... is OSU closing schedule strong enough to move them ahead of WISC in the BSC?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
The Iowa game should help, David, but Ohio State also could use more wins from both Michigan and Penn State. The team that really seems to be hurting the Buckeyes is Miami, which looked like a great win in September but doesn't look too good right now. Ohio State also would benefit from Illinois continuing to win.
Does Indiana have a chance in any of the four remaining games? How does a program like Indiana turn around its fortunes?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Recruit better defensive players, to start. Indiana just seems to have a mental block in some of these Big Ten games. Whether it's coaching or talent, the Hoosiers can't seem to get over the hump. Now IU has had some recent success against Iowa, but the Hawkeyes might have things rolling now. The Penn State game will be huge for IU, and the Hoosiers need to have five wins going into the Purdue finale.
Adam, which QB gives PSU the best chance to win now? Which QB has the most potential for the coming years? Based on those answers, who do you start against NW and the rest of the year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Jason, I know what you're getting at here. And it's hard to judge Matt McGloin because Michigan's defense is so bad. But I just like the confidence McGloin brings to the field, and the fact that he has been out there for the last two wins means something. But Rob Bolden certainly is the future, and he did enough in a few weeks of camp to distance himself from McGloin and Kevin Newsome. It'll be interesting to see what happens Saturday.
Adam, does the Big Easts push for expansion affect the Big Ten in any way?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Good question, Ron. I think it shows that the Big East schools really want to make things work in their league, although some would listen if the Big Ten comes calling. I do tend to think this round of expansion is over for the Big Ten. The league is thrilled with Nebraska and happy with the 12-team structure.
Adam Robinson (Iowa City)
Adam, do I have any shot at being First All-Big Ten Team RB and getting any national love? I feel like I have flown under the radar lately after putting up solid performances.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Hey Adam, you get a lot of love on my blog, and I was really impressed with you against Michigan State, especially that block on Stanzi's long run. Right now, my first-team All-Big Ten backs are you and John Clay from Wisconsin. I think you'll get the recognition you deserve.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Guys, just as a disclaimer: That wasn't really Adam Robinson writing in. We had an issue with Matt McGloin in Tuesday's mailblog. Whenever you see these names in chats or mailblogs, it's not really the players or coaches. Everyone's just having a little fun.
Adam, how can delaying the release of the top-25 polls until 4 or 5 weeks in the season help the BCS nightmare we seem to have every year? (see Auburn 2004 for case-in-point).
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Brian, I'd be a huge fan of this. I hate the preseason polls because they're based so much on the previous season. We have enough to talk about in August, and I'd rather wait and see how the teams perform before doing a poll. Would love to see the first polls released in Week 6 or Week 7.
Tim (Toledo, OH)
Adam, you had a link about Big Ten division names in your lunch post the other day. What do you think about Northwest and Southeast for geographical names?? The division with Ohio State is all in the Southeast of Big Ten Country---except for Wisconsin.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Tim, I'm going to open this up to you guys later today, but I would stay away from geographical designations because geography wasn't the deciding factor in determining divisions.
Mike (Columbus, OH)
Is there any update about Ohio State's Tyler Moeller getting his sixth year of eligibility? He's been through so much in the last two years and do you think the NCAA should give him that chance?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
These things typically aren't decided until February or March, but I'd fully expect Tyler to get a sixth year. And I can't wait to see him 100 percent healthy next year. He had been dealing with the pectoral muscle problem for quite some time
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Adam -- at this point, doesn't the Big Ten title/bowl picture pretty much run through Northwestern? Losses by PSU/Illinois to the Cats could seriously impact their bowl prospects/positioning, and both Iowa and Wisconsin have struggled to beat the Cats' in recent years (and both Iowa and UW need to beat Northwestern to have any hope of a Big Ten title/Rose Bowl/BCS berth)....
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Ha, I don't know if I'd go that far, Chris, but the Wildcats will play a big role in shaping the race the rest of the way. Northwestern beat both Iowa and Wisconsin last year, and the Wildcats are 6-1 in November the last two seasons.
Britt (Austin )
Will Nebraska raise the perception of the Big 10 over the SEC?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Britt, an on-the-rise Huskers program certainly will help, and the Big Ten once again should be a league stacked with quarterback stars in 2011, but the perception likely will change only when the Big Ten wins another national title. And I don't see that happening this year barring a truly wild November.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Did you vote for Ricky Stanzi in the ESPN Heisman Watch? If not, who got your vote?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Yep, I voted for Stanzi at No. 4 and Denard Robinson at No. 5 on my ballot.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
How amazing is 400 wins at 1 school? 10 wins/yr for 40 years; 11 wins/yr for 37 years; 12 wins/yr for 34 years. This will never happen again, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
It's unbelievable, Cosmo, and I'd be shocked if it happened again at the FBS level. There's not enough patience among fans, administrators, boosters and the coaches themselves. Joe Paterno is truly one of a kind, and it'll be exciting when he gets No. 400.
I am a Husker fan, but I would have to admit that it would be difficult for them to be 7-1 this year in the Big Ten. Aside from the bottom 4-5 teams, everyone else looks like they can beat anyone in the country on a given week.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Nebraska looks like a pretty complete team to me, Jeff, but it will be an adjustment going to the Big Ten, which boasts better defenses than the Big 12. The Huskers' youth has showed up at times this year, but the combination of Taylor Martinez and that attacking defense would give Nebraska a good shot against any Big Ten squad this year.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Could we see a 10-2 Iowa team going to something like the Gator Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Ted, it depends on whether the Big Ten gets two teams into BCS bowls. If the trend holds true, I can't see Iowa falling any lower than the Outback. But if one one squad makes the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin and Michigan State both finish 11-1 and Iowa games leapfrogged by Ohio State for that fourth slot, the Hawkeyes could fall to Gator. Highly unlikely, but possible.
I think Saturday night was the breaking point for a ton of previously patient Michigan fans. This team's defensive regression far outpaces its offensive progress. It is time for this failed experiment to end. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Blair, I agree that the Penn State loss felt like the final straw. You had to expect Michigan would make strides after a bye week, but instead it was the same old struggles on defense and special teams. And you're right, the defense seems to be regressing, which is inexcusable, regardless of the circumstances. The Illinois game once again is huge, but I don't think it'll be pretty for Michigan.
Brian (Iowa City)
I have a question about Brandon Wegher......just kidding. Tressel is going to once again miss out on COY is your vote for Bielema?Dantonio? Zook??????
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Haha, everyone's favorite No. 3 running back ... If I were to cast a vote right now, I'd probably go with Bielema or Dantonio, but there's a long way to go and these teams need to finish strong.
Joe Pa is worshipped by every one of his players and the entire Penn State fanbase. How much will his pursuit of his 400th victory be a factor in the game against Northwestern this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Steve, I'm sure the atmosphere will be electric, but you don't win strictly because of atmosphere. Penn State has to execute well in all three phases against a team that won't be intimidate on the road. Northwestern has won six straight road games and is 8-2 in Big Ten road contests since the start of the 2008 season.
Special Teamer of the Year in the Big Ten? Who has got your vote?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Stevie, I'd have to go with Illinois punter Anthony Santella. He ranks seventh nationally in punting, and the team ranks in the top 10 in net punting. I'd also consider Michigan State punter Aaron Bates, he of "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap," and Penn State kicker Collin Wagner.
Just curious, do you know the reasoning behind the Big Tens NOT just breaking down the divisions by West versus East? It works out fairly easily.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Yep, it's pretty simple, JD. The Big Ten had to divide Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska into two three-team groups. The league also had to consider fan base and teams that "move the needle" in terms of national attention. As I wrote for months, you put OSU, MICH and PSU in the same division and all three teams are in the top 10, no one will care about the other division.
Any update on the coaching search at The U? I'm thinking that because a decision hasn't been made yet, he is going after a coach that is currently coaching. Is Maturi's window to pick the "Tubby Smith" type hire closing or does that not happen until after bowl season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Eric, the only coaches Minnesota would hire right now are guys like Fulmer, Leach, Bellotti and Barnett, who aren't currently coaching. Minnesota is gauging who's interested and will make its move eventually. Tubby Smith was hired after the season, remember, so Minnesota could still make a big splash by taking its time.
Tim (Essex Fells, NJ)
How much of a difference is there between Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden from Northwestern's perspective? As far as the 'Cats are concerned, does it matter who plays?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Pat Fitzgerald said Monday that in watching both QBs, it seemed like they were operating in more or less the same system. Northwestern doesn't expect a ton of difference between them, although it knows one does certain things better and vice versa. Fitz said it wouldn't be like facing Purdue in Rob Henry's first game at QB, when the Boilers revealed 17 formations they hadn't used with Robert Marve.
Mike (East Lansing)
Follow-up to your special teamer of the year. Just like to point out that Bates is ranked 11th nationally in net punting. Just saying . . .
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Yeah, it would be a close call between Santella and Bates. Bates certainly has the fame factor working for him with the two fake passes.
Come on man...I'm giving up Chick Filet lunch with my staff to get on your CHAT! Is there a scenario where Iowa has the same record as last year by winning out and gets a BCS at large...or should I just cheer for every team playing wisconsin to make it official?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Wow, Mark, that is a major sacrifice. I'd expect Iowa to get a BCS at-large by beating Ohio State and having Michigan State lose once more. Then you'd have a two-team tie at 7-1 with Iowa and Wisconsin. Wisconsin would win the tiebreaker, but I'd expect Iowa to get an at-large berth.
I think Minnesota should hire Dan McCarney. He's a Big Ten guy and wouldn't bolt. He also will work his butt off. They probably won't be a national power but at least they would overachieve with him instead of consistently underachieving year in and year out.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Brodie, I wouldn't mind this hire one bit. McCarney did pretty well with a tough situation at Iowa State. I know he's not the first choice of Gopher fans, but he knows the area and could make that program decent again. Good recruiter, too.
your answer to the question about divisions makes absolutely no sense... do you really think OSU, Mich, PSU are all going to be in the top-10 anytime soon?? the heck with the past, right now, a division with Iowa, Wisc, and Nebraska is stronger at the top than the 3 teams you mentioned... east/west would have made so much sense: Wisc, Minn, Neb, IA, NW, ILL & MSU, UM, PSU, OSU, IN, PU... plenty of competitive balance
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Tim, you're not looking at it from a marketing perspective. You're only looking at it on recent history, which is fine. But I know the Big Ten officials and I also know they care about branding, TV exposure, etc. And they saw having Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in the same division as a mistake.
Hey Adam,Is there something between Kirk Ferentz and Mark Dantonio we dont know about? Iowa using all their timeouts at the end of the half for no real reason, then throwing a wide receiver pass up 37? Doesnt seem like typical Kirk Ferentz
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
John, it seemed a little odd, but I don't think there's any bad blood there. Neither coach is very volatile, and I know there's a lot of mutual respect among the players. I think we're getting a little sensitive overall about how to conduct your team in a blowout situation. You've still got to play the game.
Adam,Assuming Oregon plays Auburn or 'Bama in the title game this year, it would likely mean the Boise State would make the Rose Bowl correct? If this happens, how do you think the 4 teams in contention for the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl birth would fare against the Broncos? Despite all of their hype, I couldn't see the Broncos beating any of the top 4 Big Ten teams because their defenses are all heads and tails above even the Bronco's toughest opponent of the season, Virginia Tech.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Nick, haven't we learned not to dismiss Boise State? The Broncos absolutely could beat any of the top four Big Ten teams. You don't have to believe me now, but I wouldn't want to face a snubbed Boise State squad in the Rose Bowl. All four Big Ten title contenders can win, certainly, but it wouldn't be easy.
I can't believe the Jimmy McMillan didn't win. I know first hand that the rent is TOO damn high. If Chris Borland was with the Badgers all season, is this a National Title contender?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
I'm stunned, too, Drew. I wonder if I can grow a 'stache like Jimmy. Tremendous. ... Borland certainly would have helped against Michigan State, which piled up a lot of rushing yards against the Badgers. But I really felt Wisconsin lost that game on offense and special teams, allowing the Martin return TD and not converting MSU turnovers into enough points. Wisconsin was +3 in turnover margin at halftime and still down 10 points. That's hard to do.
How much do you think Purdue getting blown out the past two games has to do with the defense and how much has to do with the offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Danny Hope referenced this Tuesday, how Purdue is barely running any plays in the first quarter and digging itself some huge holes. He called the team's starts "horrific." I'd put more of it on the defense because injuries haven't been nearly as big of a factor there, but I can't imagine that unit is too confident in the offense right now, either. You need a first down or two to stop the bleeding, and Purdue has struggled to do much at all early in games.
Michael (Springfield, IL)
Adam, two questions regarding Illinois, why are they the underdog in their matchup against Michigan and why can't we get a 2:30 or later game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I have absolutely no clue on the first question. Illinois should be favored in this game, perhaps by a significant number of points. As for the start time, those decisions are made way above my head, but JoePa going for No. 400 is a pretty big deal in my opinion.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Will OSU be the underdog when they visit Iowa City this month?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
If both teams win their games beforehand, I'd expect Iowa to be favored. Ohio State hasn't looked great in its two road games against decent teams, and Iowa might be hitting its stride late in the season. I don't see either team being a huge favorite or underdog, though. It'll be a great one.
Adam you always make it seem that you have no pull in regards to Big 10 decissions, but we all know that you are Jim Delany's right hand man.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Sadly, you are incorrect. Jim has much smarter people working for him.
Iowa hasn't lost a game by more than a TD since 2007. Impressive stat, or meaningless?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Meh. It's good that the Hawkeyes always show up to compete, but losses are losses.
Rich Rodriguez (Schembechler Hall)
Am I going to get fired this season if we squeak by Purdue and finish at 6-6?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Tough to say, Rich. Your team needs to show significant progress in these final four games. I think you're safe with seven wins, but we can't have too many more games like Saturday night's.
Hey Adam! Do you think if PSU wins Saturday, their new-found confidence would give them a realistic shot at playing spoiler against OSU and/or Michigan State. I'm not high on their chances against OSU, but they've had MSU's number for awhile. Thanks and keep up the great work!
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Penn State certainly would be a confident team heading to Columbus, Gary. Still, I'm a little cautious to buy in with the injuries on defense and an offense that hasn't looked good against decent defenses this year. The Ohio State game would be very tough, but Michigan State could be a possibility, depending on the circumstances.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Kid A (Chi)
With 18 starters back next year, you think the Illini will be able to contend for a Big 10 title next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
A lot depends on whether guys like Liuget, Wilson and Leshoure stay for their senior seasons. If they do, Illinois will be awfully tough to beat in 2011.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Talk to you next week.