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)
Hey everyone, I'm here, let's chat!
Mike P (Greater Kc)
I am concerned that the overall production that the Huskers have had on both sides of the ball since Taylor Martinez went down will go down once he is back in the huddle and the Offense goes 3 & out repeatedly... I like the future that the team has in Kellogg and Armstrong... Are my concerns legit or Coach Pelini continue to play the best QB when T-Magic comes back
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Mike, I'm not sure if the production will go down, but the competition level certainly will go up for Nebraska when November rolls around. I still think at 100 percent, Martinez is one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the country. Armstrong looked like a freshman last week at Purdue, and while both he and Kellogg have done some good things, look at the teams they're facing. I think Martinez is the clear choice.
Wisconsins only loss was to the number 3 team in the country, due to breakdowns in coverage, the other loss was due to referees mistake, aren't they better then number 25?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Both Brian Bennett and I think so, Harry, but too many voters just look at the overall record and the fact Wisconsin has only one good win (Northwestern) so far. But the Badgers, to me, are the second best team in the league and a good candidate to finish 10-2. If they keep winning, they'll rise in the rankings.
I love Urban Meyer's coaching style but I am concerned about how his public admission he considered benching Miller @ NW has impacted Miller's confidence. Miller hasn't lost a start since being a true freshman, has one rouh outing in a hostile environment, and now he has to look over his shoulder?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
You could look at it that way, Bernard, but I agree with most coaches that competition brings out the best in players. Miller should know that there's accountability for mistakes. The great players will let that push them even harder. And to his credit, he played well in the second half and particularly the fourth quarter. I don't see this as a huge issue, unless Miller struggles this week against Iowa.
Ted (Johnson City, TN)
Purdue fans are starting to gripe about Hazell, can you please help explain that Danny Hope did not recruit enough talent to win at this level right now? Most of our team is made up of freshmen, that does not bode well for this season but no coach should be expected to win with Freshmen leading the way.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
It's way too soon for Purdue fans to gripe about Hazell, and you're right that he didn't inherit the best squad from Hope. Then again, Purdue should be showing progress at some point in the season, and right now there's little for the Boilers to hang their hats on. It's important for Purdue to find some building blocks before Year 2, when Hazell can put his stamp on the program even more.
Reese (Downers Grove, IL)
Adam, what are the chances of my Illini winning 2 of their next 5 games against Wisconsin, MSU, PSU, IU and OSU? I think they can surprise MSU or PSU and beat IU, but it won't be easy. IF they can get 2 of those 5, then they need 1 win to be bowl eligible...
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
It will be a challenge, Reese, and I think it's imperative that Illinois wins one of the next two at home against Wisconsin or Michigan State. Both opponents are challenging, but Illinois already has had two open weeks and should be prepared for Wisconsin's powerful offense on Saturday night. The problem for Illinois is that its more winnable games (Indiana, Purdue, even Penn State) are on the road.
Congrats Adam on the birth of your son!!!! Do you see a heisman finalist for the B1G this year? we have a little streak.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Thanks, Badger! It's a great feeling! Melvin Gordon would be the only realistic candidate for the Big Ten, and even he might be a stretch unless he starts getting more carries and puts up some 200+ yard performances. There are just too many premier QBs this year, and the Heisman is typically a QB award.
Lavar A (Terp Country)
As a PSU fan, I'm becoming more encouraged by the performance of the Terps and Scarlet Knights. How are you feeling on their mid-point resumes for coming to the B1G boy league next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
I've also been encouraged for the most part, Lavar, although Maryland's performance at Florida State decreased the excitement a bit. Rutgers has been competitive in all of its games this season, and Maryland clearly is improved from 2012. A Terps win this week at Wake Forest makes them bowl-eligible before the home showdown against Clemson.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
With SOS appearing to be more critical as we transition to a post-BCS format, why would teams like UofM/UCLA schedule Home/Home series 9 years out when no one will know how good they will be at that time???
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
The real question here is whether teams should avoid scheduling game so far in the future, as they have done for years. When Ohio State scheduled Cal, Cal was a nationally elite team. When the series rolled around, Cal was rebuilding. That could be the case for Michigan and UCLA, too. But there's a lot of pressure to get games on the schedule as soon as possible, especially with the 5-4 home-road split with the nine-game Big Ten schedule. So I'm not surprised to see this, now that the Big Ten schedule is set through 2019. But it could come back to hurt Michigan.
Mel Kiper has MGIII as the #3 running back in this year's draft. If he stays at the level, does he come back for his Junior year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
As much as I'd love to see what he could do as a true featured back next season for Wisconsin, Zac, I think Gordon is gone after this season. Too much talent at a position where the shelf-life is relatively short. I could be wrong, but if Melvin keeps this up, I expect him to turn pro.
Dave (Oklahoma City)
Al Borges has had enough evidence to prove that this Michigan team is not ready to move the ball on the ground the way he and Brady Hoke had hoped.. but they continue to attempt the same offensive attack and philosophy. Do you think they will change the offensive gameplan this year, or are we going to see more of the same?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
There's definitely frustration building for Hoke and his assistants, as they've tried several offensive line combinations but haven't achieved the result they want. I can't see them abandoning the power run game, and they will not allow Devin Gardner to run the ball 20+ times per game. But if the run game continues to sputter, I expect Michigan's run-pass ratio to go more toward the pass, especially with Devin Funchess emerging alongside Jeremy Gallon.
Chances the buckeyes drop two before the B1G championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It's wishful thinking for Badger fans at this point. Maybe Penn State stuns the Buckeyes next week, but Ohio State's toughest games before Michigan are at home. I really don't see this team losing twice before the end of the season.
Jeff (State College)
Who gets the bulk of the carries going forward, Belton or Zwinak?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
It will be interesting, Jeff, as Zwinak didn't see the field much after his fumble against Michigan. I know Bill O'Brien likes what Zwinak brings to the table, but Belton might have more natural ability. Belton has had his ups and downs both on and off the field, but if all of that is behind him, I would expect to see more and more of him in the backfield.
Steven Wright (Ohio)
Do you think Devin Funchess has ever had fun playing chess?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Not sure, but I will ask him!
Since the Gophers are showing no progress in year 3 of the Kill regime and Gopher fans selling their tickets to Nebraska and Wisconsin fans, do you think a change will be made after the season if the Gophs go 0-8 in conference play which is what is likely to happen? Or do you think Kill would retire and the Gophers would turn it over to Tracy Claeys etc. to keep the continuity?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
I don't see a change being made because of performance, Goldy. Minnesota has stuck with Jerry Kill this long, and they're not going to dump him after only three seasons. You need some continuity to grow a program, and firing coaches after less than four years isn't the answer. Could Kill step down if his condition doesn't improve? Perhaps. But in that case, I'd expect Minnesota to conduct a full coaching search rather than giving the job to Claeys or another one of Kill's assistants. I still expect Kill to coach Minnesota later this year and next season.
Florida State or Clemson?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Should be a great one. I like Clemson at home, as Famous Jameis likely will show his youth late in that one.
You gave the advantage to MSU over Nebraska when in reality, for a variety of reasons MSU struggles with Nebraska, and Nebraska can move the football on them, while Nebraska's D should be able to stop this MSU team, as they usually do well against qb's that don't move much
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
You could be right, I from NY, as Nebraska has beaten Michigan State in each of the past two seasons. But Michigan State's offense is making strides at the right time, and I still don't buy Nebraska's defense until it performs well against better offenses like Northwestern and Michigan. It's very close between the two, and the great thing is we'll find out so much more about both teams in November.
Hank (Washington DC)
How many yards for D-Funch against that weak IU defense? This kid is a stud!
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Well, I picked him up for my struggling fantasy team, The Trombone Shorties, who are quickly turning into The Sad Trombones. He certainly has stood out the past two weeks and has another chance for a big game against Indiana's D.
Penn State have a chance to upset the Buckeyes next week? Hackenburg to Robinson has been a deadly combo.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
They do, Neil, and Penn State has been one of the few teams to have success at Ohio Stadium in recent years. Hackenberg will need to have his best game for Penn State to have a chance, but the Lions defense is the unit I'll be watching as it faces another explosive offense that can attack in so many ways.
Hey Adam...I know it's fun to go up and down on Michigan, with good reason. Michigan/Neb/OSU/PSU move the needle for ESPN. But let's face facts...Michigan just absolutely gave that game away. Everything broke right for PSU, from Lewan, to the 3 missed fgs, to the last PSU drive where 2 out of the 3 passes probably could have as easily been picks. One of those games...it happens. To suggest otherwise is simply lazy at best, fan trolling for hits at worst.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Penn State also handed Michigan an easy touchdown on the fumble, so the breaks go both ways, Jason. It was a sloppy game, albeit an exciting one, and I agree that Michigan in some ways gave it away in overtime and at the end of regulation. But to dismiss it as "just one of those games," weeks after Michigan nearly lost to Akron and Connecticut, is kind of silly to me. Michigan isn't that good right now. Things could get better and a division title isn't out of the question, but Michigan has plenty of issues.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
The B1G seem so concerned about "rivalry" week in November, but they actually won't name any "rivals" for the newbies (PSU, UMD, Rutgers) and MSU. Ugly trophy or not, at least there's some history with PSU-MSU. What gives?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
It's not a real rivalry, Lou, despite the ugliest trophy in college sports. I think the Big Ten wants to feel things out with those four teams and see if anything builds. It will take Rutgers and Maryland beating Penn State and Michigan State to build any sort of rivalry, but I don't mind the rotation as the league is seeing what develops. The other teams have more natural rivals for that weekend.
ILL can make it interesting vs Wisconsin...you agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
We'll see, Jay. Wisconsin isn't the same team outside of Camp Randall Stadium, and Illinois has has two weeks to prepare for the Badgers. You know Illini OC Bill Cubit will have some tricks ready for Wisconsin. Very interested to see the chess match between Cubit and Badgers DC Dave Aranda. But if Illinois doesn't improve its rush defense from the Nebraska game, nothing else will matter as Gordon and White will run wild.
Assuming Iowa can take care of business against Purdue, what do you think their chances are of upsetting one of the remaining teams on their brutal schedule and becoming bowl eligible.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It's a tough road for the Hawkeyes, beginning this week against Ohio State. If Northwestern continues to struggle, Iowa has a good shot next week at home, although the Hawkeyes have really struggled against the Wildcats in recent years. Wisconsin and Nebraska both will be tough games, although both are rivalries, which can go either way. And Iowa has had a lot of success against Michigan. Depending on where the Wolverines are, I could see the Hawkeyes winning on Nov. 23.
Brent (Silver Spring, MD)
Adam, you let the "newbie" comment go by? So PSU is in its 21st season in the league and they are a "newbie?" What about Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
My bad, Brent, Penn State obviously isn't a newbie. Penn State's problem is that its two most obvious end-of-year rivals, Michigan and Ohio State, have a much bigger rivalry with one another. Some would love to see Penn State and Nebraska meet on rivalry weekend, which could be good and might be an option down the line. But the Big Ten really wants to grow Nebraska-Iowa and keep Wisconsin-Minnesota because of the history there.
jim trevethan (solon ohio)
Think this gets buckeyes in title game against SEC champ. Florida state loses to eithe clemson, miami, or florida. Clemson loses either to florida state or south carolina. Oregon loses to stanford. Leaves Buckeyes as only undefeated team. Against 1-loss SEC. A realistic scenario. WHat do you think about this Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Yes, that would do it. Ohio State's first rooting interest is Oregon's opponents, as the undefeated Ducks would get in ahead of the undefeated Buckeyes in my opinion. The next rooting interest is for the winner of Florida State-Clemson to lose somewhere down the line in ACC play. If Ohio State is the only unbeaten team, it will get in, no doubt.
Any idea if Colter and/or Mark play for Northwestern this weekend? If both are out, how much does that equalize things for Minnesota?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Both haven't been practicing this week, Jay, but I'd expect to see Colter play Saturday, as his ankle injury doesn't appear as serious as Mark's. Mark has been banged up all season, so I'd be a little surprised if he does much. If both are out, Minnesota's upset chances go way up, although the Gophers will have to be sound in the secondary against Trevor Siemian, who I expect to be better after struggling so much at Wisconsin.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Is Christian Hackenberg First Team B1G QB at the midway point? I don't see any other QB putting up his numbers, Braxton, Colter and T-Mac have been hurt and I can't think of any other B1G QB who has carried his team to victory like Hack has (please don't tell me that Kenny Guiton's 6 TD performance against FA&M puts him in the discussion)...
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
No, I wouldn't put Guiton in there, and Hackenberg might be the pick, but Nathan Scheelhaase also is in the mix. He has put up big numbers as well and shown obvious improvement for Illinois. Scheelhaase has one more touchdown pass and two fewer interceptions in one fewer game. Right now, I'd give Scheelhaase a slight edge.
Rob (Dayton, Ohio)
What does the B1G have to do other than win big non-conference games to return to prominence? I guess what I am getting at is what is it going to take from a marketing perspective to have recruits re-gain interest in the B1G brand to return it to prominence? I think there is a disconnect between the younger generation and appeal to the B1G. The recruits are too young to remember the B1G being the premier conference in the 1990's and early 2000's. They only relate to the B1G bashing that has been going on for the past 5 to 10 years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Really good question, Rob, as I'm fascinated by this topic. The Big Ten has to assess its branding approach, as I don't think the cold weather, black-and-blue, three-yards-and-cloud-of-dust image works well for the league. The Big Ten clearly is at a geographical disadvantage when so many elite recruits are from the South and West. The league needs to sell its incredible stadiums (more night games), its bowl agreements, its scheduling opportunities, its facilities and its coaches. There's also a coolness factor the Big Ten struggles with at times in its marketing efforts.
With Borland, Abrederris, White and likely Gordon moving on, how do you think the Badgers are built for the future? Love that Anderson comes from the defensive side but can he attract playmakers on offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
That's the big question, Sean, but the good news is Andersen knows what Wisconsin needs -- more elite perimeter players. I think you'll see the offense change a bit next year, and it will be interesting to see how the coaches develop the receivers they have and the ones they'll bring in. Wisconsin could be rebuilding a bit next year as it loses so many stars -- especially if Gordon goes -- but I think the future there is bright under Andersen.
Chris (St. Paul)
Can Nebraska get through November undefeated?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Only if the defense makes significant strides, Chris. I just don't like the fact that Nebraska's competition level goes up so much and the Huskers face strong opponents week after week during that month. At some point, a young defense will let down. So no, I don't see Nebraska sweeping its November slate.
In your opinion if Quincy Enunwa continues to perform as he is for the remainder of the season will he be drafted this year? The league loves big physical receivers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
I think there's a chance, Ben. Enunwa will need to perform well the rest of the season and in the predraft events, but his size and his blocking ability won't go unnoticed in the evaluation process.
Steven (Madtown, WI)
Before we get ahead of ourselves, do we (B1G fans) even want OSU in the title game? They've hardly been dominant and they stand a much better chance against a #2 PAC-12 team with 'Bama vs. Oregon in the title game (Oregon also is the anti-SEC's best shot).
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
That's a fair question, Steven. The Big Ten won't get its due nationally until one of its teams hoists the crystal football, and you have to be in that game to win it. Then again, another double-digit loss by Ohio State in the title game will only hurt the Big Ten's reputation and Ohio State's. So is Ohio State ready to beat Alabama/Clemson/FSU/Oregon on Jan. 7? Right now, I don't think so, but Ohio State will be a better team following bowl practices and could rise up. We'll see. But if it's between a blowout loss to Alabama or Oregon, and a Rose Bowl victory against Stanford or UCLA, you'd take the latter for Big Ten perception.
Tom (Central PA)
Thoughts on Christian Hackenburg? As long as he doesn't get injured - where do you see him after a year or two playing for B'OB.I am amazed at his poise for a Freshman....
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
His future is extremely bright, Tom. It will be interesting to see how he responds if Allen Robinson goes pro after this season, as Robinson has been his main target. But Penn State has so much talent at tight end and should be able to upgrade the receiver position over time. Hackenberg certainly has been as advertised, although it will be interesting to see how he performs on the road as Penn State visits Ohio State and Wisconsin in the second half.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Is this Northwestern's make it or break it year? Colter and Mark are both seniors...they pretty much are that offense...and i'm not sold on NW defense...what happens next year and thereafter?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I don't think so, Rob. Northwestern has a very small senior class (13) and has upgraded recruiting, especially with the 2014 class. The offense there has been good for some time, so while Colter and Mark will be key losses, Northwestern will continue to move the ball after they're gone. I actually think Northwestern's defense will be better next year as the depth improves. Next year, Northwestern should contend for a West division title. The key positions to develop will be defensive tackle, running back and cornerback (Northwestern gets Daniel Jones back in 2014).
Coming off a loss to Penn State and shaky victories over Akron and Connecticut, is this the same Michigan team that went into three bowl games in the past three years and almost knocked off Ohio State last year, or is this simply a mere facade of a team that could have been? I know Indiana has its problems defensively and isn't perfect offensively, but I believe they have a shot this Saturday. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Right now, Michigan looks like a team that's a year or two away from a breakthrough. Where are the defensive stars? Clark and Countess are solid and Ryan is back in the mix, but I expected Michigan to have more breakout players on that side of the ball. We knew the offensive line was young but the group hasn't progressed as fast as Brady Hoke wants it to. We'll learn a lot more about Michigan in the second half, especially in November, but the Wolverines, while 5-1, have been a little disappointing so far.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
lites (Taco Bell)
B1G DPOY? Shazier or Borland?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
It's a great, great debate, lites. Right now, I like Borland because of all the things he does for Wisconsin, even beyond the stat sheet. But Shazier puts up huge numbers and has led a young defensive front seven that seems to be improving each week, especially against the run. Both are great players so you can't go wrong, but Borland is my pick at the moment.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, everyone, some great questions today. I enjoyed it and hope you did, too. Talk to you again soon and enjoy Week 8!