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 2 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Hey guys, glad to be with you. Just watched the first episode of "Hard Knocks." If that doesn't get you fired up for football, there's something seriously wrong. Let's get started!
kevin (Rio de Janiero Brasil)
I've heard that Wisconsin's offense is boring. But to me it is so much more interesting than these three yard passes that come from the spread. I like a power running game with a tight end and play action. What about you?
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Kevin, I totally agree with you. But Wisconsin needs a QB like Scott Tolzien who can execute those play-action passes efficiently. I love the use of the tight end, and Wisconsin takes a decent amount of shots down the field. When that offense is running like it did at times last year, it's a thing of beauty.
Love your work, Adam. Michigan's defensive issues in 2009 were in the defensive backfield, specifically LB/safety play. I can think of at least one 20+ yard play in every game, Delaware St. not included, directly related to this. If they can scheme better, and properly leverage talent (Marvin Robinson, Cam Gordon, Cullen Christian), the defense can improve significantly. Will it? Who knows, but the potential is there. It has to be there or my sanity will be severely tested!
Adam Rittenberg (2:02 PM)
Blair, this is the big question for Michigan and Rich Rodriguez. A lot of the breakdowns took place in the middle of the defense, middle linebacker and safety. Those two positions must perform a lot better this fall. Obi Ezeh needs a bounce-back year, and the Wolverines are looking for a spark at safety from guys like Gordon. It won't be easy, but the talent is still there.
King James (The City Beautiful, FL)
Why did you fail to include The _ on your top25? Still upset over me taking my talents to South Beach? I'll be there on 9/11 (on The _'s side) to give you a wedgie after the 'Canes expose your conference's crown jewel.
Adam Rittenberg (2:03 PM)
I thought you were an Ohio State fan. Guess you're a traitor to the Scarlet and Gray, too. As for the real Miami fans, I apologize. Total mistake on my part, as I meant to include the Canes around No. 14. Won't happen again.
Adam, I just watched some tape on MSU's fall camp and Gholston, Bullough, Bell, and the rest of the freshman look studly. Who do you think gets some quality PT this year, and will the defense step it up a notch to finally win the close games this year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:04 PM)
Corey, Bullough and Gholston are locks to play, especially in a defense trending toward the 3-4. As for Bell and Nick Hill, a lot depends on how the two sophomore backs, Larry Caper and Edwin Baker, perform. But you'll definitely see a few freshmen on the field for the Spartans in 2010.
Craig (St. Paul, MN)
Any updates on Wegher's status? I don't give much credence to all the rumors, but it can't be disputed that he isn't practicing and that concerns me.
Adam Rittenberg (2:06 PM)
Craig, I'm hearing the same rumors you are, including the possibility of Wegher needing to go back home for a personal issue. But let's wait and see what head coach Kirk Ferentz has to say on this. It's by no means settled at this stage, and Wegher could very well be back.
Blue Royster Cult (State College)
Which game do you see as the most winnable for my Nits this season: Bama, Iowa, or THE Ohio State University? Which do you see as their hardest game?
Adam Rittenberg (2:07 PM)
Bama is going to be awfully tough, Blue. First road start for a young starting quarterback, and it comes against the reigning national champs. The most winnable game probably comes at Iowa, but only because Penn State will be in the underdog role this year, with Iowa likely needing to protect a top 10 ranking.
How much improvement do you see scott tolzien having from last year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:08 PM)
We'll find out Oct. 16 against Ohio State. That was one of the few times where Tolzien didn't look like himself. His next step is clear: perform against the Big Ten's best defenses. He struggled against Ohio St. and Iowa last year, just like the rest of the team.
Ryne (Bloomington, IN)
Adam, although I may drink a ton of Cream and Crimson kool-aid on hot summer days like today, I really do believe the Hoosiers are an 8-4 team this year. Argue the best and worst case scenarios for the Hoosiers this year and let me know if I've had too much kool-aid.
Adam Rittenberg (2:10 PM)
You can never have too much Kool-Aid, Ryne! I think 8-4 is certainly reasonable for Indiana, given the schedule. IU should go 4-0 in non-league play without a doubt, and the Hoosiers easily could have won three more Big Ten contests last year. Anything less than six wins would be a disappointment, but Indiana has disappointed you a few times during the last two decades. Best case is probably 9-3, worst case 2-10 or 3-9.
Nate (Dinkytown, MN)
What are your thoughts on the Gophers LBs this year? I know they don't have a lot of experience, but think they will surprise some people.
Adam Rittenberg (2:11 PM)
Nate, I'm excited to see what Mike Rallis can do. He had a really solid spring. There's talent there with guys like Keanon Cooper and Gary Tinsley. Tim Brewster and his staff need to get the most out of their recruits, and LB is one position where we should see quite a bit. I was bummed out to hear about Sam Maresh.
Charlie Weis (KC)
Just curious...how do you see the Irish doing against Purdue, Michigan, MSU?
Adam Rittenberg (2:13 PM)
Hey Charlie! I see 2-1 or 1-2 for ND against the Big Ten, leaning toward 1-2. The most interesting matchup could be the first one against Purdue and Robert Marve.
Adam, my Wildcats are all pumped up for some sweet desert revenge against Iowa this year. Is that game as important to showing how good (or not so good) Iowa and the Big-10 are in the early season as it is to showing how good (or bad) Arizona is? What are the chances that a hot desert sun, a heated Zona Zoo student section, and a fiery Nick Foles pull off the upset?
Adam Rittenberg (2:14 PM)
I know there's plenty of anxiety about this game in Hawkeye land, and Kirk Ferentz talked about the late start time at Big Ten media days. People know Iowa is pretty good after winning the Orange Bowl last year. I think it's a big test for Arizona in a Pac-10 that seems more wide open without USC as king. Foles and his weapons need to be on their game, as Iowa's defense will once again be one of the nation's best.
Eric Decker (Denver)
What are the chances that my boy Adam Weber has a bounce back year and gets back to his 2nd Team Big Ten status that he enjoyed in 2008? If he does bounce back where do you think that puts Minnesota in the Big Ten this year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:15 PM)
Eric! Great to hear from you, as always. Your Twins are going down to the Sox tonight, by the way. ... Weber has the ability to do big things. He showed us in 2007 and 2008. He's got to limit interceptions and find multiple targets he can trust. He never seemed right after you got hurt last year. A strong year from Weber could put Minnesota in the mid to upper tier of the league, but that schedule is brutal.
The tweet you posted earlier stated Bolden looking good for PSU. Do you foresee a possibility for a true freshman QB to start at PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (2:17 PM)
Wow, Jason, this will be interesting. Everything we know about Joe Paterno suggests he'll never start a true freshman QB, especially with Alabama lurking in Week 2. But don't you have to play the best guy? I'd love to be in those offensive meeting rooms as they discuss the situation. If Bolden or Jones is the best guy, JoePa might need to pull the trigger.
It is a little frustrating hearing Wisconsin and Iowa talking how they think it is a good idea for OSU, UM, and PSU to be in the same division. Of course they do, since that would give them the easiest road to the conference championship game. I sure hope they throw geography out the window. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:18 PM)
Nah, I don't think that's it, Brian. Fans from Iowa and Wisconsin make the argument because they feel their programs have performed just as well or better than Penn State and Michigan from 1993 to now. And they have a point. But my main argument is that these divisions should consider the big brands and divide them equally. Iowa and Wisconsin are regional brands, not national brands. The Big Ten has four national brands: OSU, Mich, PSU, Neb.
Adam Rittenberg (2:19 PM)
I forgot the air show is this weekend in Chicago. They're practicing outside my window. Will be hard to get work done this afternoon.
Jdoll (Los Angeles)
So far I haven't heard much hype about the Miami-OSU game as a rematch of the NC game from earlier in the decade. Is there even a story there or has Miami being a non-issue of late dampen the excitement? In other words, when will you start the Trash Talk?
Adam Rittenberg (2:21 PM)
Well, I might have started it by accidentally leaving Miami off my preseason power rankings ballot, but I'm sure we'll hear more about the title game and the controversy as the game gets closer. Clearly, Miami isn't the same program as we saw in Tempe that night, although things are looking up for the U. Ohio State, meanwhile, has become a national power since winning it all.
I don't know if you saw the other tweet by Dave Revsine that said PSU will be "fine" at QB with whoever they choose and that the O-line looked "solid." That really surprised me cause I thought those were the two biggest issues on the team.
Adam Rittenberg (2:23 PM)
Yeah, the Revver seemed to like what he saw in State College yesterday. I actually agree with his thoughts on the O-line. You'll see a more consistent group there this year. As for the QBs, I just hope they're a lot better than what we saw in the Blue-White Game.
division A- Neb. Wisc. Iowa, Minn. IU PUdivision B- OSU, Mich. MSU, NU, PSU, ILL.Keeps rivalries, balance (unless michigan proves that they can start to compete again), and geography remains not too bad. thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:25 PM)
Don't like it. Michigan will be back (too much history and resources not to succeed). I think everyone overestimates how much fans travel to road games. It doesn't happen as much as you think, especially with the down economy. My main concern with your division is that when Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are all good in the same year, which will happen, no one nationally will care about Division A.
John (West LaLa)
What are your expectation this season for Marve at Purde? And will they spoil brian kelleys opener at ND and follow it with a strong season?
Adam Rittenberg (2:26 PM)
There isn't a Big Ten player I'm more excited to see than Marve in that first game. Will he put it all together after growing up away from the field? Or will we see similar problems that he had at Miami? If Marve is on his game, with that receiving corps, Purdue could definitely pull off the upset.
Adam, I know what you mean about the air show. Thought we were being invaded this morning. My question is this: Are people crazy? Michigan has struggled for 2-3 years. What makes them think they are going to remain down for years to come?
Adam Rittenberg (2:27 PM)
Yeah, Tom, I might need to invest in earplugs. I'm totally with you about Michigan. I know we live in a here-and-now world, but it's comical how college football fans forget the decades of success in Ann Arbor and think it's all over for good. It's totally illogical.
What's your assessment of the badger's D?
Adam Rittenberg (2:29 PM)
Really like guys like J.J. Watt, Chris Borland and Jay Valai. The defense will allow yards and points at times, but it comes down to playmaking, and Wisconsin has playmakers on that side. I think we'll see a hard-hitting unit that forces a decent amount of takeaways. Not as dominating as Ohio State or Iowa on D, but Wisconsin will get the job done.
Tim Brewster (Dinkytown USA)
The national media seems to think my seat is hot. I'll admit it is warm in Minneapolis today but my seat doesn't feel any hotter than the rest of my office. Mason got 10 years of doing what I've done for 3 years now. Do I have more time to rebuild the program or do I have to win now?
Adam Rittenberg (2:31 PM)
Hey Brew, interesting point about Mason, but he didn't immediately talk a lot about Big Ten championships and national championships like you did. And to your credit, you've scheduled a lot harder than he did. Can you survive another 7-5 season? Sure, if the team shows progress. But you've got to win a rivalry game and do better in November. Otherwise, hot seat time.
Adam, I fully expect Iowa to have a very sucessful season but my question is do you think they will be able to keep the winning coming and continually challenge for BCS bowls? Or do you think they will eventually slip back to being 7-5/8-4 every year again?
Adam Rittenberg (2:34 PM)
It's tough for any team to make BCS bowls every year, much less one with some of the recruiting challenges Iowa faces. Kirk Ferentz and his staff do a great job molding average recruits into great college players, but you have to think a dip to 8-4 or 7-5 will happen again. Not a knock against Iowa, but very few programs can expect 11 wins every fall.
Could the linebacking core at Ohio State actually be an upgrade from last year with Sabino, Sweat, Bell and others stepping in?
Adam Rittenberg (2:35 PM)
Tim, it definitely could be an upgrade. Ross Homan was one of the Big Ten's most underrated defenders last year, and Brian Rolle could have a breakout performance this fall. And as you point out, there's more depth now, especially if Sabino can build off of a strong spring.
Adam, what is the view of the Illinois program? Are they viewed as a decent program or a middling program, similar to Indiana?
Adam Rittenberg (2:37 PM)
John, Illinois is viewed as an underachiever, especially after losing all the momentum from a breakthrough year in 2007 (Rose Bowl). The talent is clearly there in Champaign, but Ron Zook hasn't seen the results the last two seasons. Zook overhauled his coaching staff during the offseason, and this year, the team looks like a big mystery. Things certainly could work out, but few are optimistic about the Illini.
If Indiana does actually achieved the hoped for 8-4/9-3 record this year, will we finally get some respect from anybody about our football program?
Adam Rittenberg (2:39 PM)
You have to put together multiple winning seasons, Eric, but a 9-3 year this fall certainly helps. Indiana needs to reach the point where Northwestern is right now or where Purdue was a few years ago, where bowl games are expected, not surprising.
Mark Dantonio (East Lansing)
Adam, you usually do a great job, and I like talking to you, but you have me scratching my head about one thing. How the hell can you list Stanzi above my boy Cousins? I agree that Tolzen is good, and I don't have beef with you giving him the slight nod, but Stanzi? Are you serious? Iowa won despite of Stanzi. You throw Cousins on Iowa and Stanzi on my squad, Iowa will be better and I will have constant heart attacks!
Adam Rittenberg (2:41 PM)
Wow, Mark, you're fired up today! Like it! Kirk Cousins might end up being a better college quarterback than Ricky Stanzi, but if you look at how both guys performed in crunch time, it's not really close. That's not a knock on my guy Kirk, but he made some pretty bad mistakes late in games last fall. Stanzi, while putting his team in a tough position, always made plays when it mattered. His record speaks for itself. Let's see how both guys perform this fall. They both have some great receivers at their disposal.
Dave (Los Angeles)
Do you think Denard Robinson will be the next Pat White or the next Juice Williams? He looked really good in the spring.
Adam Rittenberg (2:43 PM)
Dave, from a physical standpoint, Denard won't be Juice Williams, who was a really big dude. The Pat White comparison could come true eventually, but Robinson has a long way to go. I'll say this: he's a really fun player to watch, and if he improves his passing, look out.
Dave (Los Angeles)
What makes people think Pryor is going to be that special this year. Oregon he was strong, but against Mich he was awful and the only successful play they could run was the read option. I still don't trust his arm and decision making.
Adam Rittenberg (2:45 PM)
That's a fair position to have, Dave, but Pryor clearly made some strides between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. He's still only halfway through his career, and this is the time when certain QBs -- ahem, Vince Young -- make a big jump.
Bill (Steamboat Springs)
Do you think USC's bowl ban will help to increase the B10's reputation (seeing as how they are the only Pac10 team, save Washington, that has beaten a B10 team in the Rose Bowl in the past 2 decades)?
Adam Rittenberg (2:47 PM)
Bill, I know the Big Ten will be thrilled not to see USC in a bowl game for a while. I've said it before but it's worth repeating: no single team has done more damage to the Big Ten's reputation than the Trojans. If other leagues had to face USC every year in bowl games, their reputation probably would have taken a beating, too.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
I know expansion is over and done with regardless of how poor of an idea I think it is. But don't you think this has to water down the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry? I know with Michigan down recently it hasn't been great but that game is never going to be for the Big 10 championship or a chance to go to the Rose Bowl again. So, just to get Nebraska and more $ in house, they're going to water down one of the best rivalries in football. Did that ever cross the Big 10's minds?
Adam Rittenberg (2:49 PM)
Chris, I see what you're saying, but hasn't the Big Ten always been way too vague about crowning its champion? Most of us hate the co-champs thing, and there have been times when the Ohio State-Michigan game doesn't decide who goes to the Rose Bowl (i.e. 1973). At least now, there will be a clear conference champion. Will it water down the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry? I seriously doubt it. And if you're really that upset, maybe you should start pushing for Ohio State and Michigan to be in opposite divisions.
Is it just me or has there so much (positive) attention on JoePa lately. For some reason, it feels like this year might be a curtain call before he hangs it up with 400+ wins. I would love to have him forever and so would he. but he said many time, he will step down if he feels like he can't anymore.
Adam Rittenberg (2:51 PM)
Jason, I'm getting that feeling, too, about Paterno, but some people close to him think he can go on 3-4 more years. I think he's one more health setback from calling it a career, but he loves coaching. It'll be hard for him to walk away, even if he's not feeling 100 percent.
Few questions about Purdue: Do you think McBurse can adequately replace Bolden? Any true freshman that you think may an impact on either side of the ball? Can the secondary be adequate this season? How much can Kerrigan/Gooden help the secondary with their pass rush?
Adam Rittenberg (2:53 PM)
McBurse needs to get more physical, but he's capable. Watch out for freshman defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. The secondary could be adequate, but opposing teams will go right after those new starters and Purdue can't afford many injuries there. Kerrigan and Gooden certainly can help out by rushing the passer, but it's more important that Purdue improves against the run.
Scott (St Louis Husker Fan)
Adam,Can I just come and hang out here for a few months? I'm tired of seeing the letters T-E-X-A-S in Ubben's chat all of the time.
Adam Rittenberg (2:54 PM)
Don't blame Ubben. His boss makes him do it.
Christopher Nolan (Chicago)
Adam just trying to plant a few thoughts here...if Zook gets cooked after this fall, how would you feel about Mike Leach stepping in? Imagine his creativity flowing unrestricted in champaign. *Blam, Inception!*
Adam Rittenberg (2:55 PM)
Christopher, Leach is a name that could be mentioned for several Big Ten openings after the season. He'd be an interesting fit in Champaign. Could they pay him what he'd want? Not sure about that.
patrick (ann arbor)
is this the year wisconsin finally wins in ann arbor?
Adam Rittenberg (2:56 PM)
That should be a good one, Patrick, especially given where the Michigan program is on Nov. 20. The state of Michigan has been a bad, bad place for Wisconsin in recent years, and the Badgers need to break through soon if they want to get back to the Rose Bowl.
Mike (Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower))
Adam do you think there is any chance for a divisional alignment plan that involves changing divisions every few years? With so much history between all the teams it would be nice to have new divisonal rivals every 8-10 years
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
Mike, I'm sure the Big Ten will be open to reassessing things, but this isn't a league that likes to make big decisions and then change them every few years. Whatever they decide, we're going to have to live with it for a while.
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
Got time for one more ...
I have seen some crazy predictions for IU, from 5-7 to 10-2...what do you think? AND Is Willis's injury (history and current) a issue to be worried about?
Adam Rittenberg (2:59 PM)
I think Indiana is in the five- to eight-win range. The Hoosiers should sweep through the non-league, but their struggles in Big Ten play are well documented. As for Willis, I'd definitely be concerned because the hamstring is a recurring thing now. He just can't seem to stay healthy for long stretches.
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Talk to you next week. Season is getting closer!