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April 11, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Adam Rittenberg

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:00 PM)

Hey guys, I'm here. Let's chat!

Bob (California)

From what you were able to see, will Nebraska have an offense that can compete, or will this be a transitional year all around?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:01 PM)

Well, Bob, I didn't see practice in Lincoln (they're closed to the media), but I think the Huskers will be fine eventually. There will be some growing pains early on as Nebraska adjusts to its new system, but there's enough talent there, especially at the skill positions, for the unit to take a jump and become more consistent. I'm interested to see how Nebraska's offensive line stacks up in a league that generally has better defensive ends than the Big 12.

ScarletNGrey01 (Columbus OH)

Your thoughts on whether the bucks can win at Miami (FL) and at home against MSU without their stars (the suspended players)?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:03 PM)

Ohio State can win both games, but it will need to minimize mistakes in all three areas. You can't see the kick and punt coverage breakdowns that happened last year against Miami in The Shoe. The offense will operate with a pretty conservative game plan most likely, so Ohio State needs to win with classic TresselBall (ironic since The Vest won't be on the sideline). It's also important for Ohio State's defense to remain opportunistic. Both quarterbacks (Jacory Harris, Kirk Cousins) will make mistakes if pressured.

srqbill (Sarasota, FL)

Adam, You said MSU has a very tough schedule. What are their chances of duplicating last years results? Can they put together a better O line and defensive backfield to be better than last year?You do a great job for ESPN.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:04 PM)

Thanks, srqbill. The offensive line is a huge key to Michigan State's sustained success. While last year's line was good, Michigan State must be consistently great up front to plant itself among the league's elite. It will be very tough to duplicate last year's win total with this schedule. Trips to Notre Dame, Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State and Northwestern. No picnic for the Spartans.

Jordan Bernstine (Kirk Ferentz's Doghouse)

Hey Adam, I was a blue chip recruit for the Hawkeyes out of high school but got injured and have seen very little playing time. Is this year I get my big chance to start in a very thin secondary for the Hawks, or am I taking DJK's place in Kirk Ferentz's Doghouse?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:05 PM)

Jordan, I asked Kirk about you on Friday and he mentioned that you're in the mix at both the corner and safety spots this spring. It looks like Micah Hyde will occupy one of the vacated safety spots, so Iowa needs another cornerback and you boast some experience there. Your opportunity has arrived.

Harris (Chicago)

In your opinion, when/will Michigan be back to the top of the Big10, competing for conference championships? Over/under 8 wins on the 2011 season?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:07 PM)

Harris, a realistic expectation is 2-3 years, although the league race is pretty wide open this year. I want to see how Michigan looks with several Brady Hoke recruiting cycles, as I believe the defense will be significantly upgraded. As for 2011, I see Michigan winning 7-9 games. I can give you a better answer after seeing the Wolverines face Notre Dame in Week 2.

Tyler (Eden Prairie, MN)

What are your thoughts on Nebraska's no huddle offense? I mean anything can be better than the 2nd half of last year. But if it struggles, it could hurt the defense even more than last year by giving them less time to rest on the sidelines.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:09 PM)

Great point, Tyler. I talked to Jim Tressel about this last week, how teams that run up-tempo, spread offenses really do their defenses few favors. Those drives of 45 seconds or less make it tough for your defense to recharge. But Nebraska has to do what it thinks works best on offense, and you certainly have some speed and well-conditioned players on that side of the ball. And if the Huskers catch an opponent off guard, Taylor Martinez could be off to the races.

Dan (Springfield, OH)

Hey Adam, Who do you see emerging as the #1 running back going into the Akron game for OSU. Berry and Hall have been impressive but Rod Smith was quite the buzz in Sugar Bowl practice

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:11 PM)

Dan, this is one of those competitions that should continue through at least the first half of preseason camp. I love the variety Ohio State has at running back. Sure, Rod Smith looks like a featured back, but Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall give you something different that shouldn't be wasted on the sideline. The starter really might not matter if Ohio State's coaches mix things up in the backfield. Should be VERY interesting.

nat (NE OH)

Marve or Henry for Purdue's starter, who ya got?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:12 PM)

Great question, Nat. There's a lot of momentum in West Lafayette to give Henry the job. He showed great toughness playing through pain last year and made a ton of improvement in the offseason and through spring practice. It also says something that the players voted him a captain as only a sophomore. Perhaps Robert Marve works his way back into the mix, but the locker room seems to be behind Henry right now.

Dave (Midlothian, VA)

I like the way Iowa's schedule sets up...I also like the way they are under the radar because of what they lost last year. Gaze into your crystal ball and tell me what the Hawkeyes' record will be this year.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:14 PM)

Dave, totally agree with you. I think the Hawkeyes will exceed their projected win total by a game or two this fall. I can't see them running the table or anything, but aside from Northwestern and Ohio State, Iowa seems to take care of business at home and faces most of its key matchups at Kinnick Stadium before the post-Thanksgiving trip to Lincoln. I'd say Iowa wins 8-9 this year and if things fall right, maybe more.

Dan (Springfield, OH)

Dec 3 in Indy, who are you picks for the first ever Big Ten Championship game?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:15 PM)

Guys, I know you love to ask this question in April, but I can't give you a really informed answer without seeing these teams play several games. Right now, sure, I'll go with Ohio State and Nebraska, but my opinion likely will change. Just too many question marks around the league, especially in Columbus.

Jimmy (Chicago, IL)

Do you think the Illini have any chance to beat ASU this year? A lot of people seem to think pretty highly of ASU this season...

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:17 PM)

Yeah, Jimmy, Arizona State returns quite a lot from a team that finished the 2010 season strong. I really like the Sun Devils running back, Cameron Marshall, who nearly ended up in the Big Ten. But Illinois absolutely can win this game. First off, it's in Champaign, so ASU will be making a long trip. And the Illini offense once again could be very tough to stop on the ground, especially if Nathan Scheelhaase continues to progress. It'll be a tough game for sure, but Illinois can win.

brian (new jersey)

Adam, over/under on Michigan going from the bottom of the barrel in total defense to ranked around the fifties in D-1? Can Mattison really make that big of a difference in year one?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:19 PM)

Brian, I think he can, if Michigan gets better luck on the health front. This would have been a better defense had cornerback Troy Woolfolk been available for the 2010 season, and J.T. Floyd's return also should help the secondary. I think Michigan players will be more comfortable in the 4-3, and they should improve their fundamentals with this coaching staff (essentially three D-line coaches in Mattison, Hoke and Montgomery). Also, a lot of players should benefit from game experience in 2010.

Dan (Springfield, OH)

With the lack of depth at the WR position and the Posey suspension, do you see a possible position change for any of the running backs or tight ends?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:21 PM)

Dan, it's interesting. At practice last week, Ohio State had one period where only the running backs and tight ends lined up against the defense. There were no WRs on the field. Several running backs were placed out wide, and they looked good catching passes. So while a position change could be unlikely, I'd be surprised if Ohio State didn't use its depth at running back to help in the passing game this fall.

Craig (NYC)

Adam, any updates from the NCAA when the investigation into the Ohio State scandals will be wrapped up? Updates on when the COI will meet with the Buckeyes?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:22 PM)

Craig, I believe the COI next meets in June, but several steps must happen before then. The NCAA must send Ohio State a Notice of Allegations, essentially indicating its investigation is complete. But this probe could drag on for a while, which would push back Ohio State's hearing before the COI to a later date.

Will Harmon (Lincoln)

Which team gets upset by the Gophers this year, and why?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:24 PM)

Tough question, Will. Iowa certainly got a wake-up call when it last played at TCF Bank Stadium, and I'd have to expect a better effort from the Hawkeyes this year. I do think Minnesota once again will be a dangerous team in November, and the Gophers' November schedule features Michigan State (road), Wisconsin (home), Northwestern (road) and Illinois (home).

Joe (Hoboken, NJ)

Do you think Rob Bolden will stay at PSU if he is not named starting QB?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:26 PM)

After spending some time in State College, I definitely get the sense Bolden wants to stay at PSU. Now there are other forces around players that can sway them elsewhere, but he seems to be doing all the right things in practice, taking on greater leadership, etc. QBs coach Jay Paterno also brought up a good point with me last week: when you transfer as a QB, you have to earn the new team's trust and respect. Bolden already has that at Penn State despite his near departure. But he's a young guy who could change his mind if Penn State settles on McGloin.

ScarletNGrey01 (Columbus OH)

Will Wisky be anywhere near the powerhouse they were last year?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:28 PM)

It comes down to two positions, quarterback and defensive line. That's where Wisconsin suffered the biggest losses (QB Scott Tolzien and DE J.J. Watt). I really think the Badgers will be fine along the offensive line despite losing Carimi, Moffitt and Nagy, and their run game is exceptional. I also like who's coming back in the defensive back seven. So if Wisconsin can replace most of Watt's production -- not easy -- and find a quarterback who reflects the same values Tolzien did, it could once again challenge for a league title. But it's a tall order.

The Jimmy (Iowa City)

Adam - just curious - how many questions sent to you do you have time to answer? 1 out of 4? 5? 10?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:29 PM)

Ha, Jimmy, if you only knew. The questions come in like rapid fire, so if I don't get to yours, please don't take it personal.

Wayne (West Palm Beach, FL)

How with the Illini defense shape up without their two top draft picks next year. Who will replace them and will they adjust quickly?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:31 PM)

Wayne, good question. Talked with Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning last week, and he sounds more concerned about the LBs than the D-line. Although Corey Liuget leaves a huge void at DT, they like the potential of players like Akeem Spence, who Koenning said would be used a lot like Liuget was in 2010. ... The big question is whether Ian Thomas can take the lead at linebacker. He boasts a ton of experience but seems to be having an up and down spring. Illinois has some promising young talent at LB, but a veteran like Thomas can really help guide the group.

Kevin (Reston, VA)

I know your visit was brief, but what was your impression of Luke Fickell. Head coach material?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:33 PM)

For sure, some day. I know a lot of Ohio State fans see Fickell as their next head coach, but I'd like to see him take a top job elsewhere and prove himself as a HC before returning to Columbus some day. Fickell has all the ingredients to succeed as a leader. Very impressed with him.

Brian (KC,MO)

Adam, what will be harder for Nebraska: Replacing the most accruate kicker in NCAA History (Alex Henry) or preparing for 11 new teams (played Washington twice last year)?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:34 PM)

Wow, great question, Brian. I might go with Henery. He was simply outstanding, especially in the 2009 Big 12 title game. His leg would be really valuable in the Big Ten, a league where weather often factors into games. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and his players sound confident about the transition to the Big Ten. There could be some speed bumps for the Blackshirts, but they bring back a ton of talent.

Homer (Omaha)

Finish the Phrase: The biggest Big 10 nonconference game this year is...

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:35 PM)

Penn State-Alabama. No game can help the Big Ten's national perception more, and arguably no game can hurt the league's rep more. If Penn State can beat a preseason national title contender in Week 2, it will raise the Big Ten's profile immensely.

Aaron (Riverside, CA)

Is there any way Curt Phillips can recover in time to push Jon Budmayr for the starting QB spot at Wisconsin?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:36 PM)

Aaron, it seems like Phillips is recovering at a rapid rate from his knee injury. If Budmayr can't separate himself this spring, I'd expect Phillips to be right there on his heels come August. They are two different types of players, so it creates an interesting competition there.

Craig (Braintree MA)

Kill and his staff aren't getting as much attention as Hoke at Michigan and the coaching staff at Indiana but how much of a difference that Kill has his staff virtually intact?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:38 PM)

Craig, as I'm sure you know, staff continuity has been a hallmark for Jerry Kill at several of his stops. It definitely will help with the transition. Kill and his assistants know what they want and they're not going to compromise. Could this lead to some turbulence? Initially, perhaps, but they will get it right. Several coaches around the Big Ten really like Kill and think Minnesota made a fantastic hire.

Jeff (Lincoln, NE)

Since you were in Lincoln a few weeks ago, I have to ask: which was your favorite place to eat: Lazlo's or Misty's?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:39 PM)

Have to go with Misty's. A lot more memorabilia on the walls, and it had that classic ambiance, one of those places that hasn't changed a lot in the last few decades. Lalzo's was solid, too, but got to go with Misty's. The ribs are fabulous.

Aaron (Riverside, CA)

Adam can you update us on Badger LB Chris Borland's health most notably his shoulder injury? Also, what are the chances he gets a redshirt year out of last year?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:43 PM)

Aaron, I just got off the phone with defensive coordinator Chris Ash, and he said Borland isn't doing much this spring but should be back for the fall. He should be a big part of the plan at linebacker, but Wisconsin is looking at other players in the spring. Mike Taylor and Kevin Claxton are two projected starters, and Ash really likes what Marcus Trotter has done this spring. Borland has a redshirt year available and will use it for last year.

gates (chicago )

Everyone knows how The Pac 10 wanted to get 16 members. Why not the Big 10? We could add Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State. They would come in a heartbeat.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:45 PM)

The Big Ten doesn't need to expand to 16. It lacks the same urgency as the Pac-10, which needs to find ways to be more nationally relevant. The Big Ten already has the national prestige, the TV sets, the alumni bases, the tradition. And while those teams you mention all have strong points, they don't add a ton to the Big Ten.

Chuck (Bloomington, IN)

Will IU's defense take more of a step back this year because of having to adapt to a new scheme, or will it improve, even marginally, because of the emphasis Wilson has had on conditioning?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:46 PM)

Chuck, I'd really be stunned if Indiana's defense didn't improve a bit in Year 1 of the Wilson regime. I like the coordinators (Mike Ekeler, Doug Mallory), and I think not only the conditioning program but the new attitude on defense will help. Bill Lynch would have been well served to shake up his defensive staff after the 2009 season, but he didn't. This shakeup should help because Indiana needs a new personality on that side of the ball.

Andrew (Ann Arbor)

Where do you see J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan landing in the NFL?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:47 PM)

I'd be really surprised if both aren't selected in the first round. Watt, Illinois' Corey Liuget or Nebraska's Prince Amukamara should be the first Big Ten player selected, and Kerrigan won't be far behind them. Both Watt and Kerrigan are dynamic pass rushers who bring other skills to the table.

Ryan (Maryville, MO)

With the lack of an established #2 WR for Iowa will Ken O'Keefe utilize the TE's more in the passing game this season? Fiedorowicz was a big recruit and has the measureables to fill a split end type roll. Or will Herman and Fiedorowicz mainly be safety valves for the Mandenberg?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:49 PM)

Ryan, if other receivers don't emerge, Iowa certainly could go this route. You saw what Iowa did with Tony Moeaki in 2009, and C.J. Fiedorowicz has similar potential. From talking with Brad Herman recently, I know he's excited to take on a bigger role in the pass game. He made some strides there last year and should get more opportunities this fall.

David (Indiana)

You say the PSU-Alabama game is the biggest non-conference game this year, but does PSU even have a realistic shot to beat them? We seem to have a lot more question marks then Alabama. And living in Indiana, What are my chances of watching my Nittany Lions play in Indy this fall? Should i start saving money for tickets now or in a few years?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:51 PM)

David, you're right about the question marks with Penn State. It'll take a tremendous effort on defense for Penn State to beat the Tide, but you never know what can happen in an early season game. Although Penn State was outclassed last year, the Lions had their chances and simply couldn't finish drives. ... As for the Big Ten championship game, it could come down to how Penn State performs in November. The Lions finish with Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Brutal.

Aaron (Lincoln, NE)

As of right now, what's your most anticipated matchup for the 2011 season, both in the Big Ten and nationally?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:53 PM)

My most anticipated matchup in the Big Ten is Ohio State-Nebraska. So many interesting angles there. Most anticipated matchup nationally is LSU-Oregon. The winner could have an early jump in the national title race.

Dan (Springfield, OH)

Any word on if the Bug Ten Championship game is remaining in Indy for a few years or is there still consideration to have it rotate venues?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:54 PM)

Dan, they are definitely considering other venues and will spend part of the spring looking around the other options. A rotation of sites is possible, and we could see some games being played outside.

Jason (Tampa)

Adam, the lines at Penn State seem to be the key to the season. I trust the D-Line with Larry Sr. Why has the O-Line struggled in the past few years even with some pretty good talent coming in? Coaching, Scheming, Developing, talent evaluation?

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:56 PM)

Jason, totally agree with you on the lines. I'm a little concerned about the D-line with such little depth at the end spot. As for the O-line, it could be a combination of those things. Penn State needs to play with an attitude up front because the talent seems to be there. The Lions bring back four seniors with playing experience, and that group must lead the way this fall. PSU can't go through half the season without a viable run game like it did in 2010.

Andy (Easton PA)

Adam- What are the odds that Edwin Baker breaks 1500 yds and 12 td's this year? Is that enough to get Sparty another share of the Title?Great blog

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:58 PM)

Andy, I wouldn't tie Baker's production directly to Michigan State's chances of winning the Big Ten, although he can help. The biggest challenge for Baker could come from Le'Veon Bell, who put up some monster numbers early last season before hitting the proverbial freshman wall. MSU wants to use multiple backs, but Baker has a chance to separate himself after what he did last year. It'll be hard to get to 1,500 yards, but we'll see.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:59 PM)

OK, last question for the day ...

Larry (Beatrice, NE)

Would the Big Ten consider having the conference championship in St. Louis? I recall the Big 12 had the championship game there before.

Adam Rittenberg
  (5:00 PM)

Larry, St. Louis isn't a very centralized location. You want the championship location to resonate with your league. To me, cities like Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland have a more Big Ten flavor to them than St. Louis. Although Illinois and Iowa fans might be pleased, it doesn't really connect with the conference.

Adam Rittenberg
  (5:00 PM)

OK, guys, enjoyed the chat. Talk to you next week!