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September 26, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Adam Rittenberg

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:00 PM)

I'm here. Let's chat.

Tim (Guam)

So cut to the chase, NU or The Badgers and why?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:01 PM)

You'll have to wait until Thursday morning for my official prediction, but I like the Huskers in this one. Too many weapons on offense, and Taylor Martinez won't give it away like he did last year in Madison. Wisconsin's defense could make things interesting, but hard not to go with Nebraska in that one.

Jeramaiah (Mustache Country)

Would you rate Hope's defense top 3 in the league so far this season?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:02 PM)

I'd like to see Purdue go up against a few more quality opponents, but right now, I'd say yes. Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota are looking like the league's top three defenses. Penn State isn't far behind, and Michigan's defense stepped up nicely against Notre Dame. But I love what Purdue has up front with Short and Gaston in the middle.

M. Gray (Dinkytown, MN)

Mr.Shortell has done a good job taking care of the ball. The problem is for a "pure passer" he's been less than accurate. He's going to get a receiver killed over the middle. Does he correct this against the Hawkeyes or is he back to the bench Mr.Gray gets healthy?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:03 PM)

Good point, M. Gray. You'd like to see a guy like Shortell at least around the 63-65 percent completions mark. Central Michigan showed last week you can move the ball against Iowa, and Shortell will have some opportunities Saturday. It's a big game for him and the Gophers, who can go into the open week at 5-0 with a win.

Fred (Tampa)

Read your column about BIG woes. Did the six assistants that Bielema lost simply leave for the $$. Most of those had to be lateral moves, but it?s hard to imagine that Pitt could pay more than Wisconsin. Doesn?t show much loyalty to the Bielema. Does the BIG or NCAA have a rule about poaching another team?s coaches without offering them an upgrade in position?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:05 PM)

No such rule exists in the Big Ten or any league. Paul Chryst left for a head-coaching job, and Dave Huxtable and Joe Rudolph left for higher-profile positions. Bob Bostad eventually went to the NFL. So for the most part, they moved onto better jobs. It's still unusual to see such an exodus from a team that had reached consecutive Rose Bowls and won so many games in recent years.

Dan (The mountains)

I really think the whole WL record vs the MAC is getting blown out of proportion. Big Ten is 7-3 against the MAC. SEC is 6-2 against the Sun Belt. Is the Sun Belt really that much better than the MAC???

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:07 PM)

Yeah, a little, Dan. Ball State beating Indiana isn't a huge deal in my book. Ohio is a heck of a football team that should be getting more respect nationally. The one that really stings is Central Michigan-Iowa, as the Chippewas aren't the program they were under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. Iowa has to win that game.

State of Indiana (God Blessed America)

What are the chances of Notre Dame continuing their series with Purdue?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:08 PM)

There's a lot of history there, but the series means more for Purdue from a national exposure/branding standpoint than it does for Notre Dame. I think there's no chance the series continues every single year. It'll happen from time to time, but not annually.

Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)

Do you think Robinson will have a monster day against the Illini secondary and give your fantasy team the win in the first week of B1G play?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:09 PM)

Man, I hope so, Kelley. I thought the Shorties were going to win last week, and of course, my luck, Montee Ball leaves the game with a concussion. Ugh. Bennett was very fortunate last week, but he has the magic touch in this game. Illinois will have its top two safeties in the fold (Hull and Sanni), and Terry Hawthorne is a talented CB. But Robinson certainly should have opportunities to make plays against a defense questioning itself right now.

Craig (Braintree, MA)

Enjoyed you picking up on the three little pigs theme. I think Minnesota if they stay healthy will have a good chance to make a bowl game. Do you think they are deeper on offense or defense?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:11 PM)

Defense, definitely. While some of the wide receivers (A.J. Barker) have impressed me, the Gophers are flush with offensive weapons. They have good depth on the defensive line and a lot of experience at linebacker. They're not overly deep in the secondary but have enough there right now. I think the Gophers have a great shot to end their bowl drought.

Chris (New York)

Is this Michigan team under the Hoke regime following the same path the Badgers took when Bielema took over in 2006? Stellar first year record with a bowl victory. Lackluster 2nd year that started with high hopes...

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:13 PM)

Not so sure about that, Chris, although the next step would be a really bad year (Wisconsin in 2008). Despite Michigan's loss to ND, I saw signs in that game that the Wolverines could win the Big Ten. The defense played great, and the offensive line started taking control in the second half. Michigan lost the game because of Denard's turnovers, and he has to be more careful with the ball going forward. But I still think Michigan could have a good year. Purdue game is huge next week.

Nick (Iowa City)

Weisman has had some huge numbers in his first two starts, do you think he'll be able to perform as well once the Hawkeyes enter Big Ten play?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:14 PM)

Nick, I don't expect him to have too many more 200-yard rush games, but Weisman isn't a fluky player. He's a powerful, no-nonsense runner who can get extra yards. He'll be solid in the Big Ten, but Iowa has to complement him with a better passing attack going forward. There are a lot of problems in Iowa City right now. Mark Weisman isn't one of them.

Bucky669 (Phoenix)

Who gives UW a better shot to win in a tough road environment - DOB or Stave? Stave has never played a road/night game and DOB has a LOT more experience.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:16 PM)

That's a good point, Bucky669. Memorial Stadium is a tough place for Stave to make his first career road start. Then again, you have to wonder where O'Brien's confidence level is right now after being benched so early in the season. Stave did a nice job last week, and he can head to Lincoln feeling good about himself. You can't make a change now, but I see your point about O'Brien's experience helping Wisconsin in this game.

Tracy Morgan (Playing Satchmo in the biopic)

Who are the most likely candidates to replace Notre Dame on Michigan's schedule?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:17 PM)

Always good to hear from you, Tracy. Big fan. ... Dave Brandon will be creative with his scheduling approach. I can see him looking at some marquee teams from the SEC, Big 12, ACC or Pac-12. It'd be a shame if he replaced Notre Dame with NC State, Washington State or Pitt. It'd be great to see Michigan take on USC or Oregon, LSU or Georgia, Florida State or Virginia Tech. Arizona? Can a guy dream?

AAWolv (Ann Arbor)

Adam, do you have any insight as to why the Irish would be more willing to remove Michigan from their schedule, and not Michigan State or Purdue? Was it mainly due to the fact that that was the easiest contract to get out of, or other reasons?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:19 PM)

I think that's part of it, AA. Notre Dame had to make a decision quickly to get out of the 2015-17 games, and that's why Jack Swarbrick informed Dave Brandon before Saturday's game.

Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)

A lot is being made in Cbus about the tackling woes in Columbus. Do you think the players don't respect a guy who was a puppet intern coach last year who had no control and was demoted to DC the very next year?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:20 PM)

Don't know why they wouldn't, Pavlov. It's not like Luke Fickell is a new coach at Ohio State. He was co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for years before moving into the top job last year. While Ohio State's tackling issues are surprising and disappointing, I don't think it has to do with players not respecting Fickell.

Ibrahim (East Lansing)

Do you see Dion Sims getting on the shortlist for the Mackey award (or possibly declaring pro) if he keeps his current form. He has 22 receptions for 277 yards which projects to 66 receptions and 831 yards after 12 games. Then again, he's been the only reliable receiver so he may even account for more than from now on.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:21 PM)

Good timing, Ibrahim, as I just got an email that Sims is the Mackey Award Tight End of the Week after his performance against Eastern Michigan. He's clearly Andrew Maxwell's top target in the passing game. Ideally, his numbers wouldn't be so big as other receivers would be getting more involved, but he's a very talented guy who projects well to the next level.

Lou Holtz Kelly (South Bend)

Adam, we have gone 3-0 against the mighty Big Ten. How come when the SEC does it, they are the greatest, but when we do it, it means the Big Ten is down.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:22 PM)

The SEC is the greatest no matter what they do, and the Big Ten is down because of more than three losses to Notre Dame.

Yooper (Minneapolis, MN)

This stuff about the B1G woes seems a bit much, I don't think it's that bad. Lot of transition this year, which is obviously bringing the microscope, but on the national level games have been decided within a score for the most part. Don't you think it's a bit blown outta proportion based on no "elite" team coupled with this year's OOC? Heck, even the last two years WI may have beaten the best of the SEC given the chance...just saying, there's not that big of a difference.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:24 PM)

Maybe, Yooper, but the lack of an elite team really underscores the league's struggles. The Big Ten has had a team in the national title hunt well into conference play the last few seasons. The league is already out of the mix this year, and it's not even October. Sure, the Big Ten hasn't exactly been great in non-league play the past few years, but as I wrote, this year seems different as a perfect storm of factors have hurt the league (coaching changes, key player departures, Week 2 schedule).

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:24 PM)

Maybe, Yooper, but the lack of an elite team really underscores the league's struggles. The Big Ten has had a team in the national title hunt well into conference play the last few seasons. The league is already out of the mix this year, and it's not even October. Sure, the Big Ten hasn't exactly been great in non-league play the past few years, but as I wrote, this year seems different as a perfect storm of factors have hurt the league (coaching changes, key player departures, Week 2 schedule).

HunterPSU (Chicago)

Illinois coach sending 8 assistants to PSU campus has created plenty of blog talk. Many say it was a classless action from a new coach that was really not used to big 10 type scrutiny...what do you say?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:26 PM)

I understand Illinois has a roster issue (80 scholarship players) and needed to address it. But sending eight coaches to State College definitely was overkill. Why not be a little more subtle about it? Especially for a new head coach like Beckman, it didn't send a good message to the other coaches in the league. I've talked to several who have said it was a small-time, bush league move. So while I don't have an issue with recruiting a player who has expressed interest in your team, you don't need to send your entire staff to another team's town.

Jimmy Q (Afghanistan)

Phil Steele says Wisconsin is one of the most underrated teams in the country. You continue to berate the Coaches Poll voters for keeping the Badgers in the top 25. What do you see that Phil doesn't...or vice versa?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:29 PM)

I haven't seen Steele's comments, but Wisconsin is "underrated"? You kidding me? Everyone picked Wisconsin to win the Leaders division. Andy Staples had the Badgers at No. 6 in his preseason power rankings. Underrated? Based on wins against Northern Iowa, UTEP and Utah State? Not buying the underrated line, and Wisconsin has no business being ranked right now.

Mudflap (Virginia)

I wonder why the Universty of Michigan's Learjet has been parked here at the airport in Dallas which also happens to be the headquarters of the BIG 12? Am. I crazy?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:29 PM)

Yes. If Michigan joins the Big 12, I'll shave my eyebrows.

dizzill (CHicago)

Adam, i still understand why everyone is up counting MSU out this early...last year they were awful through 4 games until OSU and then the domination started. Do you think thats plausible?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:31 PM)

I don't think anyone's counting out MSU (they shouldn't be, at least). You can't count out anyone in the Legends division. But there should be concern about the Spartans offense after last week's game. It was the perfect opportunity to get well against a terrible defense, and Michigan State still needed three plus quarters to reach the end zone. That's bad. You have to score, and it's a real struggle for the Spartans right now.

Jared (Work)

OSU's defense vs Bell or MSU's defense vs Miller? Who's got the advantage?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:33 PM)

Two great matchups, Jared. Ohio State will have its hands full with Bell, and Michigan State hasn't faced a quarterback nearly as talented as Miller. I guess I'd take the better defense (MSU), but Miller plays a direct-impact position that can change the game. Bell has had good games, but if the other pieces on the offense struggle, Michigan State still struggles to score.

Boilerdmac (Lansing)

Purdue needs to go _ - _ in their first three conference games before I buy a ticket for Indianapolis in December?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:35 PM)

I'd say 3-0, but if the Boilers go 2-0 against Wisconsin and Ohio State (with a loss to Michigan), I'd start thinking about it. Getting two division wins against two of the better teams in the division would really put Purdue on a good course to reach Indy.

Drew (Michigan)

Adam, do you think that Ohio State's slow starts this year could cost them any games? They didn't look too good in the 1st quarters in any of their games, and it took them a while to start to get things clicking.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:36 PM)

They could, Drew, and Ohio State also has struggled early in the third quarter of some games. Slow starts can be particularly damaging on the road, where Ohio State has yet to play this season. It's crucial the Buckeyes avoid a poor start Saturday at Michigan State.

Erik (Charleston, SC)

We can only hope that Penn State joins the ACC--where it belongs!

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:37 PM)

Don't understand this mind-set by Penn State fans. Do you like money? Do you like all your varsity sports having money? Do you like your new hockey program being relevant? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you should stay in the Big Ten. If your cherished rivalries with such giants as Maryland, Pitt and Syracuse matter more, then get out.

Kyle (Iowa)

Is James Vandenberg the problem for the slow Iowa start like all the bandwagon Iowa fans think or is it his receivers and OC Greg Davis?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:39 PM)

Like most problems, it's a combination of things, not just one person's fault. Vandenberg hasn't been as sharp as we thought he'd be. The receivers have been so-so at best and somewhat unreliable. Davis' play-calling has, at times, made us remember why Texas fired him. Thank goodness for Mark Weisman, right?

GBK (Lincoln Park)

Adam, let's say there's a situation where Michigan has wrapped up the division before the Ohio game. Obviously every Michigan fan wants to beat Ohio, but couldn't that create a situation where guys sit to avoid a chance of injury before the Big 10 title game?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:40 PM)

First of all, I'd be stunned if this happened. But there's no way Brady Hoke is resting Denard Robinson or Jordan Kovacs or other key seniors for their final game against Ohio State. Understand the thinking there, but it's just not happening. Too big of a rivalry. And as we've seen in the NFL, resting players doesn't exactly help you when then meaningful games roll around.

Chris (Chicago, IL)

Quietly, Northwestern's rush defense has been VERY impressive, currently 12th in FBS allowing just 72 ypg. Will their rush defense's improvement make them a tough B1G opponent given the struggles to pass the ball in the Legends division (TMart's past struggles, MSU & UM's struggles this year, Vandenberg's absence as a passing threat, etc.)

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:43 PM)

Interesting point, Chris. Northwestern's run defense -- along with rushing offense -- is one of the biggest reasons for the 4-0 start. You're right that the Wildcats aren't in a pass-happy division, although they should be tested Saturday by Indiana's pass game. Taylor Martinez looks like a much improved player and, unlike most Big Ten QBs, has the weapons around him to challenge opposing secondaries. We'll see about Michigan and Michigan State, but Michigan has shown some signs of life in the pass game with Gardner, Funchess, etc.

Greg (Naperville)

Adam. Love the blog and love what you bring to my day. One suggestion though.... could you please comb your hair or wear a hat or something?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:44 PM)

Ha, will do my best. This hair is out of control, though. Not much I can do about it (while I still have it, that is).

Nick (Columbus)

Is it just me or did Michigan's defense really step up against a top 10 team last week. Sure the Irish's offense isn't built to put up huge numbers but it seems a little reminiscent of last year (slow start but made big strides mid-season)?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:45 PM)

Nick, you're not the only one who noticed this. Michigan seemed to get it together defensively around this time last year as well. We'll see how the Wolverines respond after the open week at Purdue, but I saw a lot of good signs Saturday night, particularly the play of Jake Ryan. There's a lot of youth on Michigan's defense, but some guys are starting to get it, which is a good sign heading into B1G play.

EJ (Austin, Texas)

Who-in your opinion-is the most impressive player this year in the B1G?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:46 PM)

Right now, I'd go with Ohio State QB Braxton Miller on offense and Penn State LB Michael Mauti on defense. Both are playing at an All-America caliber level so far.

Chris (New York)

Chances you'll be able to dust off and post your "Badgers make it 3 in a row for the Rose Bowl" column you wrote in mid-August???

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:46 PM)

Wish I could, Chris. Except I've predicted the Legends division champion winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl for the past six months or so.

Greg (NY)

Adam, I like your idea of scheduling partners for Michigan. Home and home's with USC, LSU, Florida State, doesn't that get the nation excited??

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:47 PM)

It'd be great, Greg, and with the playoff coming, teams are going to have more incentive to challenge themselves with non-league scheduling. Dave Brandon is a smart guy and he knows branding opportunities. He wants Michigan on big stages, and scheduling these types of games will get it done.

Dustin (Nebraska)

With Nebraskas Tom Osborne announcing his retirement today, do you think that the new A.D. will put Bo on the hotseat of his career. Just seems like Osborne has always been patient with the rebuilding of the football program. We don't want another Peterson for sure.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:50 PM)

You won't get another Steve Pederson, Dustin. At least I hope not. Harvey Perlman seems to understand what Nebraska needs, and Osborne obviously will be involved in this process as well. But any athletic director change can impact a football coach's future, and while I don't think Bo is on the hot seat right now, a weak season this year and next could change things. Nebraska doesn't want to become a program that changes coaches every few years, but the new AD also should have the opportunity to evaluate each coach and make some tough decisions if they need to be made.

Mark (Surprise, Az)

Either you or Brian thinking of taking Weisman now in your fantasy drafts. I know he has had to have put up some monster points

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:51 PM)

Would like to see how he does against a Big Ten defense or two, but he's on my radar. I need Montee Ball to get healthy and start producing like he did last year, or I'll have to make a once-unthinkable change.

Brett (Conshohocken, PA)

I must say Adam, I was a tad disappointed with your article this morning that failed to mention that Illinois was not (capitalized, underlined, bold, italicized) just in town for Ryan Nowicki. While being grilled by the PA media on Monday, Beckman casually flipped from singular to plural mid-answer. Also, I think you're taking him at his word a little too much that they set up shop off campus. Multiple outlets and players have reported that they in fact were on campus. Those notions I think are pretty indicative of how slippery this guy is. Do you see our men playing on an emotional high in the first half and then fading like they did against Ohio, or will they be better suited to sustain their intensity throughout the game?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:54 PM)

Brett, some fair points. I think we all know Illinois was gunning for more players than just Nowicki. I was just referring to Beckman's quote about the situation in my earlier post. As I mentioned earlier, he sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten that probably doesn't serve him well in the coaching fraternity. ... As for Saturday, I don't think Penn State's emotions will be too out of control early in the game. It's not like the season opener or anything, and while durability still is a concern for the Lions after the losses to Ohio and Virginia, I think they'll be OK in this game.

Glenn (Florida)

Could Hoke's obsession with winning the Big10 make the first 4 games a "preseason" testing ground prior to league play. Trials and tribulations. Thus making it hard to see them as a national contetnder?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:56 PM)

While I see where you're going with this, I don't necessarily agree. Let's all remember Michigan is one year removed from one of the worst three-year stretches in its history (just six Big Ten wins). Michigan is not "there" yet, no matter what some silly preseason poll says. It's going to take a few more years for Michigan's roster to be at an elite level. Can the Wolverines still win the Big Ten this year? Sure. But I don't think Hoke's approach in non-league play was off base. Michigan lost to Alabama because it has a far inferior team, not because it was looking forward to Big Ten play.

Mitch (NJ)

Adam, you know Rutgers put up the best TV numbers in NYC (by far). If Rutgers puts up a couple of big seasons, could you see them getting an invite? The idea of Mich, OSU, PSU and Wisc rolling into NJ would be really cool and there's a ton of B1G alums in NYC area.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:57 PM)

Mitch, I know Rutgers was very much on Jim Delany's radar during the last expansion study. It's a good academic school located in a major market. There is a bit of a stigma about Rutgers -- does that name really excite anyone in Big Ten territory -- but there are some advantages there that shouldn't be dismissed if the Big Ten reconsiders expanding. Right now, however, the league is not looking to get bigger than 12.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:58 PM)

Time for one more ...

pat (detroit)

let's say the B1G absolutely goes off (undefeated/one loss) in the bowls, after sending only one team to the BCS. what is the national narrative? That the B1G turned it around or that we're still a weak league who happened to get lucky? Would the B1G getting one BCS bid overshadow their hypothetical success? Or would the conference rise like a phoenix from the ashes and dominate the news cycle?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:59 PM)

Good question, Pat. I'm a believer that the strength of your bowl lineup doesn't matter in receiving credit or criticism. Leagues that play garbage bowl lineups still get credit when they go 7-1, while the Big Ten gets zero credit for going 3-5 with by far the toughest bowl lineup. So my view is a good bowl record would bring praise to the league, regardless of the lineup. A Rose Bowl win certainly would help, though.

Adam Rittenberg
  (4:00 PM)

OK, guys, time is up. Thanks for the questions, and let's do it again next week.