Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hey guys, heading to State College for Iowa-Penn State this weekend. Let's get started.
Riley (Norfolk, VA)
What are the Badgers biggest weaknesses so far this season, and what do they have to do to correct them?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Well, they can't put the ball on the ground six times like they did against Wofford and expect to win a Big Ten game. I think they'll get that concerned, but a bigger issue is third-down defense. Looked extremely soft on third-and-long against Fresno. Got to get that fixed.
Heather (Omaha, NE)
Hey, Awesome...I mean Adam,I found Terrelle Pryor's bad interceptions vs. Toledo particularly troubling despite his otherwise solid numbers. Seems he is dead set on establishing himself as a passing QB. Any ideas as to why tOSU staff seems so reluctant to let Terrelle be Terrelle? Does it have anything to do with Troy Smith's lack of success (thus far) in the NFL?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
No, you're awesome, Heather. ... I think the question here is whether Pryor wants to be a pocket passer or Ohio State wants him to be a pocket passer. My sense is the Buckeyes coaches recognize his abilities as a runner, but for some reason he doesn't maximize them all the time. If he starts to play to his strengths like he did in the Toledo game, look out. Will be interesting to see how he attacks an Illinois defense playing its first FBS game without Martez Wilson.
I heard Zug has a concussion and will not play for Penn State this weekend, is it true?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Joe Paterno said Zug will be OK for the game. The bigger concern is obviously Sean Lee, who looks doubtful for the game. But getting Navorro Bowman back at OLB is huge for the Nittany Lions.
Purdue Alum (Sumter, SC)
Adam, if Purdue pulls off the win against ND (I say if, because if they play like they did against NIU, they'll get smoked), how big of a springboard do you think that win would be for them going into conference play?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
I think it would make them the most confusing team in America, to be honest. They had Oregon beat at Autzen, which isn't easy to do, and then they got totally shut down by NIU's defensive pressure. Obviously, beating Notre Dame at night would be a huge boost for Danny Hope, but they've got to get that defense right, especially against the run.
Gotta have a Gopher question in there. Were you more impressed with the way Minnesota hung around for about 52 minutes against Cal or disappointed with the way they ran out of gas and lost by 14? Do you see a bowl for Brewster's crew this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
I do see a bowl game for the Gophers, J, but they've got to get the run game going. You can't talk about "Pound the Rock" and a pro-style offense and struggle to run as badly as the Gophers have so far. Impressive to see the defense limit Cal in the third quarter, but your offense has to consist of more than Eric Decker.
Garett (Forest City, IA)
What matchup are you most looking forward to in the Iowa Penn State game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
I'm really interested to see what happens in the trenches. Both defensive lines, in my opinion, have major advantages in this game. Penn State's O-line is still very unproven and only generated a decent run game last week. Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff has fared well in Bulaga's place, but he'll truly be tested by Jack Crawford and the Penn State front four this weekend. Should be good stuff.
Jeff (State College)
Adam, it's 2:30 am and you need a slice of pizza on Saturday night...do you go to Canyon or College Pizza? If you don't know what I'm talking about, I HIGHLY suggest you make it out in downtown state college after the PSU victory. Just follow the crowds after the bars close...
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Well, I do have to do this work thing ... aw, forget it. I'm there, Jeff.
Jon (Grand Blanc, MI)
Do you expect the small frame of Tate Forcier to make it through a 12-game schedule running Rodriguez's offense (where he has to run a lot)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Great question, Jon. I was just talking about this today with a buddy of mine who went to Tate's high school. Forcier is fast enough that he avoids a lot of big hits, but you just have to wonder how much punishment he can take. He needs to be careful on some of those runs, especially as he faces better linebackers like Greg Jones, Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds in the coming weeks.
Ryan (Dubuque, IA)
Is Tyler Sash the best safety in the Big Ten - or the possibly the nation? He came up with the huge pic in last years game - if he can do it again do the hawks stand a chance?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Sash has been awfully impressive in a year and three games, Ryan. I'm always a little leery of safeties who get a lot of picks (i.e. Shane Carter for Wisconsin) because it could mean they struggle in other areas. But Sash looks like the total package. It helps to be working with a shutdown corner like Amari Spievey.
Going into the October 3rd match up, Michigan will be ?-? and MSU will be ?-? and who wins?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
Michigan will be 4-0, and I predicted the Spartans will be 2-2 after this weekend. Too soon to make a prediction for Oct. 3. Check the blog next Thursday to find out.
Which is hardest this year? Going undefeated in the Big 10, Pac 10, or ACC?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
I would say the Pac-10 because some of the supposed bad teams like Washington are proving to be tough. Aside from Washington State, there aren't many easy wins in that league. USC knows how tough it is to play at Oregon State.
When Devin Gardner arrives at Michigan how do you see Denard Robinson;s role on the team changing.
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
It will be interesting to see what happens, Mitchell. Rich Rodriguez hasn't given up on Denard as a quarterback, but they need to put him on the field in one way or another. If Tate Forcier keeps progressing and Gardner is the real deal, which it looks like he is, I wouldn't be surprised if Robinson moves.
Has the Big Ten always handed out suspensions? Or if this is the first year, do you know why they started?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
I talked to Jim Delany the night after the LeGarrette Blount punch, and it was clear that what happened in Boise got the attention of everyone in college football. Sportsmanship and conduct are major points of emphasis, and you're seeing it play out with these suspensions. What seems a little different is the Big Ten is coming down harder than the teams are. Michigan wasn't even going to suspend Jonas Mouton. Purdue was going to suspend Zach Reckman for a quarter. The Big Ten suspended both for a full game.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Consensus seems to be that an undefeated Big Ten school (lets say my Lions) would get jumped a 4-loss SEC school (let's say my wife's Gators) for the NC game. Should PSU just stay home since apparently there's no point in playing any actual games?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Wow, Lou, married to a Florida fan? That must be tough these days. I wouldn't go that far, but Penn State needs to hope it is the only undefeated team to get to the national title game. There will be some 1-loss team that gets more love than the Lions, especially when the computer numbers start coming out.
Nick (History Class)
Adam, we've seen some great matchups on Thursday night college football. What are the chances the Big10 is showcased? And why aren't there more night games!
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
How's history class, Nick? Man, I don't miss school. ... The Big Ten doesn't want to play regular Thursday night games. The only thing you'll see is a season opener or two on a Thursday, like Indiana-Eastern Kentucky this year. I wish the Big Ten would be a bit more flexible on this, especially for its lesser-name teams (Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana), but we'll see what happens.
Acee Watt (KS)
I disagree with your OSU and OU article the "two" biggest games that we can compare OU has done much better than OSU in.. 41-14 38-24 vs 24-14 21-14...
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
A loss is a loss, Acee. And Oklahoma lost to Boise State. And Oklahoma lost badly to a West Virginia team that had just lost its head coach. I'm not saying one program is worse than the other, but both deserve the same blame.
Will Purdue (Fargo, ND)
How big do you see Penn State winning?
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
Not too big, Will. I have Penn State winning 21-17, but the more I look at the individual matchups, the more I like Iowa's chances because of its defense.
Ryan (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Just because some UC players are saying Cincinnati is the best team in Ohio, how much longer do you expect Brian Kelly to stay at UC?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Brian Kelly is so gone after this season. He has to be, right? No head coach has impressed me more than Kelly this season. Maybe he wants to set up roots in Cincinnati, which is a pretty decent setup, but I've got to think he's going elsewhere. South Bend, perhaps?
Any chance Michigan is 7-0 when the Nittany Lions visit the Big House?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
I don't think the Wolverines beat both Michigan State and Iowa on the road. Very young team in two tough environments will equal one loss, maybe two.
Who's injury has had the biggest impact in the Big Ten thusfar?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Good question, Joe. I would have said Jewel Hampton before the season but Adam Robinson has held down the fort nicely for Iowa. Obviously, Illinois looked shell-shocked after Arrelious Benn went down in the opener. Northwestern probably wins last week if cornerback Sherrick McManis plays. ... The real answer might come this weekend in the Iowa-Penn State game.
Lucas (Huntsville, AL)
What do you think the Big 10's bowl record will look like this year assuming they only have one BCS game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Much better, Lucas. I would venture to say the Big Ten goes .500 or better, maybe even 5-2 in bowls, with only one BCS team. No league plays up as much as the Big Ten in these games. It'd help not to face USC, either.
Hey Adam, obviously the offense has Michigan fans very optimistic, but shouldn?t we be more worried about the defense or the lack there of? EMU had their way with our defensive line.
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
There are three issues with Michigan's defense: size, depth and youth. Obviously, youth will go away with time, but the depth is the big issue, particularly at D-line and in the secondary. Michigan can't afford to lose guys like B-Graham and Donovan Warren.
Any thoughts why the MSU secondary has looked so suspect past few games? Tough schedule (back-to-back great QBs)? No pass-rush? Over-hyped? Not focused?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Definitely over-hyped, by yours truly and others. I was really convinced the secondary would be Michigan State's deepest unit. Now I see they're already shuffling the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how the Spartans fare against Wisconsin, which isn't known for its passing attack but boasts two great tight ends, a better wide receiving corps and a steady quarterback. If the Badgers light up the Spartans' back four, be very worried.
if i pretend to be a michigan fan will you actually answer my questions???? your love of michigan is very obvious and once again most football fans take michigan's resurgence with a grain of salt as they have played overrated and nobody teams so far......
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Jeremy, please substitute the 10 other Big Ten teams for Michigan and re-send your question 400 times. Now you know what my inbox looks like. ... There are no favorites here, but Michigan has been the best story in the Big Ten so far.
Bill (Columbus, OH)
Is Terelle Pryor playing below the level that he was expected to play in his 2nd year? and how do you expect him to in confrence?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
It's important to recognize that Pryor is ahead of where Vince Young was at this stage, and Young is the player he usually gets compared to. But I want to see him maximize his gifts, run harder and really be that dual threat. He'll get better with time, though.
Is Northwestern in for a truly terrible year? I didn't see the game on Saturday, but losing to a Paulus led Syracuse team can't be a good omen
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
There's definitely some panic right now among Wildcats fans, and the defense hasn't looked good at all. I would reserve judgment until Sherrick McManis, the team's top CB, gets back on the field Saturday against Minnesota. If the unit still struggles and doesn't improve its tackling, it could be a tough year for Pat Fitzgerald's crew.
Charlie (Iowa City)
As I look at the Iowa schedule I feel like we have an opportunity to be 6-1 or 7-1 and not even ranked if we lose to Penn State, isnt that a bit ridiculous?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
That would include a win against Michigan and possibly Michigan State (on the road). My sense is Iowa would be ranked at that point, especially if it plays Penn State close, but it's hard to tell. The performance in the opener against Northern Iowa seemed to turn off a lot of folks.
What about Indiana's chances? Haven't seen them either, but are they still running the pistol? How does it look in action? Will it confuse teams who haven't seen it?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
The Hoosiers are running the pistol, with some mixed results. The run game has been there at times and other times it fades away. The biggest difference at IU is the defense, which has come up big in three games. But Indiana hasn't faced a real test yet and gets one in Michigan.
Justin (Upper Arlington, OH)
How come Illinois has had so much success inside Ohio Stadium (two wins against Jim Tressel in the Shoe)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
It's one of those crazy things, Justin. I was talking with Austin Spitler this week and he reminded me how the road team has dominated this rivalry both ways for most of the last three decades. Illinois always seems to make it tough on the Buckeyes, even in 2006 when Ohio State was No. 1 and the Illini were awful. Illinois needs a similar performance Saturday.
Where do you think is the best Big 10 campus to tailgate at?
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
I'm going there this weekend -- State College. Madison is a close second.
The Verizon Wireless Guy/The Subway guy (on this chat)
Did you know you stole my look? And will the big eleven ever add a 12th team for a championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
I'll take the Verizon Guy's look over Jarred. ... And not any time soon on the 12th team.
Will Tressel become Llyod Carr if OSU starts losing to UM? Or do you see him with the ability to adjust?
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
Let's take a step back now, Brian. Ohio State hasn't lost to Michigan in eons. Tressel might be Lloyd Carr in big games, but not when it comes to beating his archrival.
Steph (Columbus, Ohio)
Adam, do you know that adding a 12th team didn't really do anything for the ACC? Wouldn't Delaney argue that it would be another mouth to split money and perhaps take money from a second BCS bid?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
Delany has argued and will continue to argue that the ACC championship game hasn't helped the league one bit (tend to agree there), though a Big Ten title game would be a huge money-maker for the league. ... Again, if the 12th school fits the Big Ten and it makes sense academically and from a marketing standpoint, they'll try to do it. But Notre Dame ain't coming, and that's the problem.
Hey Adam, I need a concise breakdown of the Humboldt State and Dixie State game this weekend. Who you taking in this D2 prolifice showdown?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
As a native Californian, I can say Humboldt State is known for one thing, and it isn't football.
As a graduate of UC and a member of a family who has always had season tickets at Ohio Stadium, I've been frustrated by the recent "who's the best in Ohio" questions. UC always seems to play Ohio State tough, but I still can't see UC being able to handle the size and strength of OSU's offensive and defensive lines. You get paid to know more than me, and you certainly do! If this hypothetical game played out, what would be the factors in your mind?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
Mitch, aside from Miami, I don't think a team has impressed me more this year than Cincinnati. Brian Kelly is a genius and they can plug almost any QB into that system and have major success. I agree the Bearcats could struggle man for man with Ohio State, but if that offense gets cooking, they can hang with almost anybody.
Brock (Iowa City)
Does Bryan Bulaga ever have a chance of playing this week? He could possibly be the best O lineman in the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
Kirk Ferentz last night ruled Bulaga out for the third straight week. It's really a shame. Bryan is one of the nicest guys in the league and one of the best players. Hope he gets back soon.
Jim Tressel (Columbus, Ohio)
I must say Adam I enjoy your Blogs, and continue to update my game plans based on what you have to say daily. Should I go with the masses and change my offensive play calling, or just stick to my Div-II philosophy? Keep up the great work and God bless.
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Jim, great to hear from you, as always. And if you're game-planning based on what I have to say, God help you, sir.
Graham has been a beast at TE this year, both receiving and blocking (you see his double block on the Clay TD run vs. FSU?). Tops at the position in the league?
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
I would say so, Justin, but there are several good ones in the Big Ten. Really like Koger at Michigan, Drake Dunsmore at Northwestern, Adams at Purdue, Gantt at Michigan State and Quarless and Shuler at Penn State. If Iowa gets Moeaki back, he could be a real weapon.
please help me why is iowa not in the top 25 what do they have to do
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
BEAT. PENN. STATE. Sorry, Jason, but I've heard the complaints all week from Iowa fans. Please just look at your schedule. You play the toughest road slate in the Big Ten and one of the toughest in the country. You will have plenty of opportunities to be ranked. Just go out and win.
Adam , love your work. Notre Dame: BSC or bust?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
The BSC a new bowl. If so, yes! If you meant the BCS, no!
Michigan is starting to get pretty dinged up...are all of these people calling 9 wins after the Notre Dame win going to be disappointed?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
The Wolverines aren't the deepest team around, especially on the defensive side. Molk being out 4-6 weeks also hurts at center. I really like the number of playmakers on offense, but you need people to block and stop the run. Still, I think 8-9 wins is realistic, given this schedule.
If USC had won last week, would the Buckeyes have moved up in the rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
They certainly would be ranked ahead of Oklahoma.
They'd lose a ton of money from TV (a TON), but for other sports such as baseball, wrestling, tennis and soccer (i.e. Olympic sports), wouldn't it make more sense for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten? But they'd lose a ton of money.
Adam Rittenberg (4:51 PM)
You kind of make your own point there, Tim. It's all about the cash, and Notre Dame has the sweetest deal in college sports.
Charlie Weis (South Bend, IN)
i wanna hear your prediction for our game this weekend adam
Adam Rittenberg (4:51 PM)
Sorry, Charlie, I have you guys going down 35-31. But feel free to prove me wrong!
Cramer (Wilmington NC)
The conditions for the Iowa Vs Penn State is going to be wet and rainy. Does one team have an advantage in this weather?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
I'm glad you brought this up, Cramer. For the first time this season, the weather could be a factor throughout the Big Ten. As far as Iowa and Penn State, both teams play stout defense and both have a few questions in the run game. I don't see one team having the obvious edge unless Evan Royster gets going for the Nittany Lions.
Adam, given what we know so far, do you see any conference games that have suddenly become more interesting?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
A lot of them, Michael. Michigan at Iowa on Oct. 10 for sure. Also think the Michigan State-Wisconsin game this weekend is really interesting, especially given the intangibles. How is Michigan State's morale after two tough losses? Has Wisconsin really turned the corner? It'll also be interesting to see how Illinois responds with three tough games to open the Big Ten (at Ohio State, vs. Penn State. vs. Michigan State).
How much of a loss is Jim Cordle to the OSU O-Line, because it's god awful to begin with?
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
Good call, Manny. I didn't include Cordle in my list of impact injuries earlier but should have. His experience certainly would help out, but I'm interested to see how Shugarts and possibly Adams perform in games. Those guys were such studs coming out of high school, but then again, Ohio State has wasted some talent on the O-line in recent years.
Jay Smith (Alabama)
Why is it alot of people are saying Alabama may be the best team in the nation but the polls don't reflect it? are alot of the polls based on last season even though they are not suppose to be?
Adam Rittenberg (4:57 PM)
Bama might not be the best team, but they're the toughest team in my view. The Tide aren't afraid of anybody and beat you up on defense. Very impressed with what Nick Saban has done there.
UW Med (Madison)
The Badgers non-conference schedule is constantly under scrutiny (and for good reason), but after 3 games would you say that it answered some questions coming into the Big 10 season? The team played to the wire and beat two decent non-BCS teams (NIU, FSU) and had a chance to work against a non-traditional offense that required defensive discipline (okay, it was Wofford). Both of those areas were severely lacking last year. And, do you think there was value gained from beating FSU/NIU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
The Fresno State win was very solid, especially since so many players had been dealing with the flu. Northern Illinois has proven to be a decent team. So there was some value there. Still, Wisconsin will face a much bigger test in Michigan State, which has moved the ball well on offense despite two losses.
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Adam Rittenberg (ESPN)
I am the man and know the Big Ten like the back of my hand!
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
Couldn't have said it better myself. Had a blast, guys. Enjoy the games this weekend!