Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
Doug (Quad Cities)
Adam, love the blog. Michigan State is a lot like Iowa was last year. Winning close games, playing well in the 4th quarter. The spead is Iowa by 6.5 right now (which seems way high for a top tier big 10 game). Iowa might get Parker back so does Iowa play spoiler this weekend and cause MSU's luck to run out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Doug, you can't be a spoiler when you're favored by 6.5 points. Most folks expect Iowa to win this game, and the Hawkeyes have to if they want to remain in the Big Ten race. You can bet Michigan State will use the underdog thing to its advantage. The teams certainly have similarities from the last two years, and the last three games have been very close. I'd expect another nailbiter Saturday.
Greg (La Crosse, WI)
First, love the blog. Minnesota's Interim coach Horton wants to keep Adam Weber leading the team, but it seems as though much of the Gopher fan base wants to get MarQueis Gray. Now that the Golden Gophers are officially out of bowl contention, what should happen at the quarterback position? Stay with Weber or get Gray some live reps?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Greg, I'm surprised they're not giving Gray more of a chance at quarterback, as the next coach likely will put him under center. If Weber remains the best quarterback in practice by a good margin, he should remain the guy. I also think the loyalty factor is in play here, and Weber has made some plays this year (still too many mistakes, though).
Brad (Boise, Idaho)
Adam, it seems like the last two weeks, Illinois and Northwestern have taken away MSU's running game by stacking the middle and forced Cousins to beat them (which he did). Does Iowa employ the same strategy or can they get away with rushing four?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Iowa's linebacker play will be huge in this game. If the Hawkeyes' LBs can help contain the run like Northwestern's LBs did last week, it will allow Clayborn and crew to heat up Cousins, who has handled pressure better this year but still isn't very mobile. It's imperative that MSU run the ball better this week on the road.
Adam -- after three years, it seems like RichRod's style of play (the offense) really is not suited for the Big Ten. If you purely look at wins and losses, that would be true. Do you agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Shawn, Michigan isn't losing games because of Rich Rodriguez's offense. The system works, and if the Wolverines can cut down turnovers a bit, they'll keep putting up points. Michigan is losing games because of defense and special teams, period. You can't be one-third of a team and expect to win.
Josh (Madison, WI)
Being a life time Badger fan and a current UW student I never thought I would say this, but GO IOWA!!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Haha, Josh, and you're not alone there. Wisconsin should root for Iowa the rest of the way and hope Michigan State stumbles again down the stretch. The big thing for Wisconsin is to have Ohio State lose once more.
Jonathan (Fullerton, CA)
What do you think of the situation with Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino? To remove his redshirt now, isn't that doing a discredit to the kid? He could've helped in the first eight games and it was the OSU coaches who suggested the plan, right? Is depth that bad?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
The depth really is an issue for Ohio State, but this whole situation with Sabino has been weird. I remember being there in spring ball and LBs coach Luke Fickell raving about Sabino, saying he'd basically locked down the third starting spot alongside Rolle and Homan. Then he gets redshirted and now this. Ohio State has to do what's best to win games, but this seems like an odd move to me.
Scott (New York)
Who's the best College Football Blogger on ESPN.com?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
You should know the answer, Scott. Second to none.
With losses only against Missouri, Michigan St. and Ohio St, all top ten teams, is Illinois possibly the most under-rated big ten team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Definitely, JP. I'm surprised the Illini aren't receiving any Top 25 votes. It would probably take wins against Purdue and next week at Michigan to get Ron Zook's team some Top 25 love. Illinois certainly has been the Big Ten's biggest surprise, and it has a chance to be one of the nation's biggest surprises this season.
Marc (Madison, WI)
Where does John Clay rank in your Heisman vote right now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Marc, he's still hanging around, but his numbers just aren't as eye-popping as some of the other contenders, namely Cam Newton and, earlier this season, Denard Robinson. Clay has been remarkably consistent, but he'll need a 180-yard performance or two to really attract attention. It reminds me a bit of Shonn Greene in 2008, who got no Heisman love, and Greene was more dominating than Clay has been.
Tate (ANn Arbor)
you really think illinois will beat Mich?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
They've done it twice in a row, last year with a truly bad football team. Illinois is much improved and matches up well with Michigan. Right now, I'd definitely pick Ilinois.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City)
Adam, We are pretty thin at Linebacker this weekend so do you think my offense can score enough against a great MSU team to offset our poor defensive play?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Kirk, it will be important for Adam Robinson to get going and loosen up Michigan State for the over-the-top play-action passes from Stanzi to DJK. Northwestern didn't really attack Michigan State on the home-run passes, which Stanzi throws extremely well. I'd expect Iowa to take quite a few shots this week, but it also needs continued good play from A-Rob.
Is there a situation where Iowa goes to the Rose Bowl - they win out and Wisconsin stumbles against, say, a strong Northwestern team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Yep, but I'd strongly encourage Iowa fans to focus on winning a big game Saturday against Michigan State. Prove that you haven't lost your big-game mojo, and then we can talk. Iowa also must prove it can beat Ohio State in a big game.
It's been rumored that Minnesota won't turn to Mike Leach due to his brushes with Texas Tech and perhaps Minnesota doesn't want to deal with that. They said they want the Tubby Smith of football. Is there really even a named-coach out there for Minnesota or was that just a sell job?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
There are some big-name coaches out there, but whether they'll listen to Minnesota remains to be seen. Some of the talk about Chris Petersen or even Gary Patterson, who was in the mix last time, seems wishful thinking to me. Those guys are in better spots right now. If Minnesota truly wants to avoid controversy, you can scratch Leach and Gary Barnett off the list. The Tubby Smith thing was a unique situation because of all the pressure he faced at Kentucky. I'm not sure there's a parallel coach in football for Minnesota to pursue.
Drew (Evanston, IL )
Hey Adam, What were your thoughts on Northwestern's Adonis Smith on Saturday? He seems to have the confidence, and the name of a good running back, but can he help establish a somewhat consistent running game for the Wildcats?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Drew, I think Smith deserves more opportunities after what he did against Michigan State. He executed some plays like the misdirection that Northwestern seemingly hasn't used effectively since 2008 or earlier. The older running backs clearly aren't getting it done, so I'd give Smith and Mike Trumpy the bulk of the carries load against Indiana.
You asked for other names Mark Dantonio can use for his trick plays. How about "Clue?" As in, the opponent won't have one.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Nice. I'll pass it along to him.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Adam, it's great to see you talking more about Illinois. It always seems that when predicting their games they are underestimated a bit. Games where they should get blown out they play close. Games where they have a slight edge, they win by a few touchdowns.Care to give an unofficial, wild, overestimated prediction for this weekend against Purdue? Feel free to go wild!
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Official predictions don't come until Thursday at 9 a.m., but if the Illinois defense keeps performing like this, I don't see the Illini losing much more the rest of the season. Really love what Vic Koenning has done to get guys like Martez and Liuget to play to their potential.
Adam, if the Illini end up 8-4 or 9-3 do you see Liguet, LeShoure, and Wilson all making the jump to the next level next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Will, I'd be surprised if all three decide to stay, but I'd also be surprised if all three left. Illinois still will have some good pieces in 2011, along with a more experienced QB in Nathan Scheelhaase.
Richard (Pewamo-Westphalia, MI)
Hey Adam, with all your pull with the Big Ten, My boy's High School team is in the playoffs this weekend and for some reason our opponents scheduled the game for 2:00 Saturday. Any chance you can move the MSU - Iowa to 8:00 PM?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Richard, I'd love to help you out, my friend, but you're grossly overestimating how much power I have with kickoff times. And all the primetime games are determined way back in April. Sorry, man.
Bottom Feeder Fan (Below Sea Level)
Can I get some Wildcat/Hoosier love? Persa ripped apart MSU's defense for a good part of that game. Indiana took an above average UofM team to the brink. IU has the home crowd, NU has the better team. Are you as excited as I am? and what key factors do you see playing into this matchup?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Ha, it should be an exciting game, Bottom Feeder. Recent history shows that Northwestern-Indiana games feature a lot of points and go down to the wire. Last year's game was no exception, and I doubt if either team wins by more than a touchdown on Saturday. The Dan Persa-Ben Chappell matchup is fascinating because both QBs don't get much respect despite great play this season.
Chris (East Lansing)
Adam, what can you say about Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff? The Spartans haven't had a top 20 recruiting class in years and yet there they are in the top 5. How does a coach turn an average recruiting class and make it elite?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Chris, to be fair, Michigan State has recruited a lot better the last two years. It's not like they're working with nothing. But Dantonio and the staff have done an outstanding job. A big part of it is how Dantonio delegates responsibility to his coordinators. Those guys are treated like co-head coaches. I love the way they always meet with the media after games, which will prepare them for when they're head coaches themselves. But it's a well-organized staff from the top down, and the results are showing.
Adam: A couple of weeks ago you said in your chat that the Big 10 hoped that Nebraska wouldn't win an NC this year. Unfortunately, you didn't expand on the reasons, so please do so now. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Ben, several folks asked if it would be good to have Nebraska beat a Big Ten team in the BCS title game. My response is that it would not. The Big 12 still would get credit for the national title, while the Big Ten would get criticized for never winning the big one. The best outcome for the Big Ten is to have one of its current 11 teams win the title.
Hopeful Purdue Fan (Indiana)
If Purdue wins out and Ohio State and Iowa both lose again, the Boilers will be going to the Rose Bowl. I just wanted to point out that this situation is still with in the realm of possibility... It can happen, right?!
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Yes, it can happen. Thanks for pointing this out :-)
Dan (Iowa City)
A quick glimpse to next year. Who's the favorite in the Big Ten? Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Dan, the Huskers might be. Teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State lose quite a few key pieces. At least one of those teams will be right in the mix, too, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Nebraska picked to win the league, especially if the defense doesn't lose too many key parts.
Spartan Girl (East Lansing)
Ok Adam - here's a math question for you since Doug stole my initial question. What's the probability of MSU going to the Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
I was terrible at math all through school, Spartan Girl. A lot hinges on whether Michigan State wins Saturday. If the Spartans improve to 9-0, we should start doing probabilities for the BCS title game, not the Rose Bowl.
Adam, would you agree that the Big10 race is way more fun this year with the favorities (OSU, Iowa) stumbling - every game for every team matters so much now, i don't know about you, but I love it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Rob, I agree that the race has been more interesting, and it could get even more interesting if Michigan State loses Saturday. But if the Spartans win, all eyes will be on the Green and White in the final three games.
Illinois Fan (Champaign)
You said you don't expect Liguet, LeShoure, and Wilson to all stay. Are any of them that high on the draft boards to consider leaving early?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
I'd have to check with some scouts, but all three project well to the next level. You also have to consider that Wilson is in his fourth-year, and his physical skills were always out of this world. I spoke to Tez yesterday and he's loving life in Champaign, but he's also a guy who I believe will consider turning pro if he keeps playing like this.
Greg (Houston, TX)
Refreshing to see Florida and TU stumble while Ohio State pushes on. I was sick of arrogant, fluffy-haired frat kids with their hair combed to the side and polos tucked in to jeans that are tight, having their arrogance reinforced. There isn't a question here, just wanted to get that out. But if there's a lesson, I guess it is that their fans are just as stupid for going at their coaches as some Ohio State fans are for going after Tressel.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Greg, I'm certainly not one to provide fashion advice to anyone, but your note is absolutely hilarious. Totally agree on all fronts.
Marc (Richmond, Va)
So tired of hearing the fire richrod critics come out, yes its frustrating but the team put up points. If you fire rich rod and bring in some one else dont we have to wait another 3 or 4 years to get his guys in. Do you feel they should fire greg robinson or wait a year or two until these players mature and understand where they need to be on the field and hope it gets better?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
This is always a concern when you're thinking about a coaching change, especially one that likely would bring in a dramatically different system. Rodriguez must prove that his teams can make progress throughout the season, rather than backslide. That's why Saturday's game -- coming off of a bye week, against a banged-up team -- is so critical for Michigan/Rodriguez. I would add, though, that it would be hard to fire Rodriguez if Denard Robinson finishes strong, earns national awards, etc. Rodriguez and Robinson are strongly linked.
John (Southfield, MI)
In your opinion Adam...the best place to see a Big Ten night game is....Ohio Stadium? Camp Randall? or Beaver Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
All three are great for different reasons. Ohio Stadium is the most intimidating, Wisconsin has the most buzz and greatest single tradition ("Jump Around"), while Penn State has the best overall game atmosphere. I'd go with Beaver Stadium or Camp Randall, although my perception is a little skewed after being at Wisconsin less than two weeks ago.
Steve (Bloomsburg, PA)
Any word on Bolden's status against Michigan and do you think PSU can win with McGloin or Newsome as the QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Steve, I wouldn't expect to see Bolden out there Saturday night. You just don't take chances with concussions, or concussion symptoms, which he clearly had. Can PSU win without him? Sure, but the run game with Royster needs to be huge and the coaches have to get creative with the play calls. It can happen, though.
Brett B. (Madison)
Hey, Adam, look at that, no more monkey covering up the back of my pullover!
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Absolutely, Bret. Congrats to you. Now go win a game in the state of Michigan and the critics will have nothing left.
Adam, love the blog. Can you explain why the Manzi hasn't received more recognition for Heisman consideration? His stats rank much higher then othes being considered,
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
His team is 5-2, which doesn't help. More people nationally watched Iowa against Arizona than any other game, and Stanzi obviously wasn't at his best. By the numbers, he's a Heisman candidate, but he needs a big game against MSU on Saturday -- and an Iowa win -- to really get on the radar.
Which players in the Big Ten do you feel are of first round NFL draft caliber?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue is absolutely a first-round pick, mark it down. Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi should be as well, especially after the last two weeks. Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn will be, and maybe Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward, although he needs a strong finish to the year.
The talent and skill of Wisconsin, Iowa and MSU seem equal. The risks the coaches take, particularly in the kicking game seem to be the primary difference in W-L. How would you rank these 3 in coaching and kicking?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Grant, you make an excellent point, and I might steal it for a post. Michigan State has been by far the most polished squad on special teams of the three. Wisconsin had its issues early with the coverage breakdowns against Arizona State and MSU, but the Badgers really turned things around the last two weeks. Iowa has been by far the worst of the three. Special teams have really let down the Hawkeyes this season.
Brandon Saine (Piqua, Ohio)
Adam didn't I used to be relevant to the Ohio State Offense and what can I do to be relevant again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Brandon, all you can do is accept your role as a receiver and try to stretch the field that way. It seems like Dan Herron has cemented himself as the top running back, and the team wants to get you in open space whatever way it can. It's not easy, I'm sure, but you're a team player.
Adam, do you think Clay makes the jump to the NFL after this season or sticks around for a final year? After all, Badger running backs have not seen much success in the NFL over the years (Davis, Hill, Calhoun, etc).
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Mike, I'd be surprised if John Clay returns next year, especially if he finishes strong. He's a fourth-year player already, and if he gets a good review from the draft board, I think he's gone after the season.
Brett (King of Prussia, PA)
You said RichRod had to win one of his marquee matchups to keep his job (i.e. Iowa, Michigan State, PSU, OSU). Do you see this Saturday as his last stand? Notre Dame is mediocre at best so does that really count for anything? And I don't think anybody realistically can see Michigan beating Ohio State.Fight on State.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Not sure if Penn State qualifies as marquee because of the struggles this year, but it's one Rodriguez certainly needs to win. You also left out the Wisconsin game on Nov. 20. That would be big for Rodriguez and the Wolverines.
Matt (Cambridge, MA)
Why do you think Tolzien didn't make it to the semifinal round of the O'Brien Award?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Overall stats just weren't as good as those who made it. Northwestern's Dan Persa probably deserved the nod ahead of Tolzien, and he got left out, too. The Big Ten still represented well with four selections.
Peter (Austin Tx)
Rate these 4 times with the % chance of winning the Big 10. The total must add up to 100Ohio StateWisconsinIowaMichigan State
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Wow, Peter, you're really challenging my terrible math skills today. Let's go Michigan State (35 percent), Ohio State (25 percent), Wisconsin (20 percent), Iowa (20 percent).
Does Don Treadwell stay with the Spartans next year? Treadwell's son is on the team and Dantonio is his god-father. I hope that the Spartans give Tread a raise and he continues to build the Spartans O in 2011!
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
I'm sure MSU will try to keep Treadwell, but he wants to become a head coach, and if there's a good opportunity out there, I think he'll take it. The fact that his son is on the team is great, but he knows Blake is in good hands with Dantonio.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Bo Schembechler (Heaven)
Sparty winnning the Big Ten? Are you serious?!?!?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Hate to break it to you, Bo, but it could happen. The world down here is changing, even in the Big Ten. Hope you and Woody enjoy the rest of the season.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, now I'm talking to the dead. Chat over. Enjoy Week 9!