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 (12:02 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here, let's get started.
Matt (Madison, WI)
Do you think Wisconsin's struggle to move up the BCS computer rankings due to weak strength of schedule will lead to scheduling of better opponents in the future? Based on Coach B's comments earlier this week it doesn't seem like it, but as a fan it sure would be nice!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
No, I think Wisconsin will stick with its formula, although many of us want to see things upgraded. Hopefully, Arizona State gets better and Oregon State turns out to be a good series. It certainly will put the scheduling issue in the spotlight, however, if Ohio State ends up passing Wisconsin to win the tiebreaker.
Kingpin (Grinnell, IA)
Adam - All QB's and RB's on the OPOY list? This is the Big Ten, why no respect for the O linemen? I'm a Hawkeye fan, but I would think Wisky's left tackle Gabe Carimi has to be among the 10 best offensive players in the conference. I would even think he belongs in the MVP conversation.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
He's a great player, but not Offensive Player of the Year. The quarterbacks have been outstanding, and one of them will win the award. I have no issues with it going to a QB, RB or WR every year. Carimi can win the Outland Trophy.
Matthew (Evanston, Illinois)
What is the reason Northwestern has struggled so much late in games this year? Particularly, despite the fact that many parts of our game are excellent, how is it that all of them can not play right at the same time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Part of it is youth. This is a very young Northwestern team with only 12 seniors graduating. The other part is the coaching staff not stressing finishing enough at the end of halves. If you look at opponents' scoring drives against NU, a large percentage have come at the end of the second and fourth quarters. That gets you beat. Allowing Penn State to march 91 yards in less than 50 seconds Saturday was simply inexcusable. Pat Fitzgerald is still evolving as a coach, and he and his assistants need to be better at keeping the pedal down.
J-Mac (Lewis Center, OH)
What will mark the end of the world? Mayan Calendar in 2012? Boise State getting into the BCS Championship game? Or Jim Tressel winning Big Ten Coach of the year? I'll wait for your answer then head back to my bunker!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Ha, I hope the world doesn't end, J-Mac! But I'd be surprised if Tress wins Big Ten Coach of the Year this year. It'll likely go to Mark Dantonio or Bret Bielema. Tressel had a stronger case last year, to be honest, but you never know how things will finish up in the league.
chris (Bloomington, IN)
Adam, any chance one of the Big Ten teams meets Nebraska in the Fiesta bowl this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Chris, it's possible but unlikely. Looking at the selection order, I think it's more likely an at-large Big Ten team ends up in the Orange Bowl than the Fiesta Bowl. It'd be cool to see Nebraska take on one of its future Big Ten foes, though.
Christian (Des Moines, IA)
Hey Adam,I'm not doubting your Freshman of the year list, in fact it is good, I'm just curious where you would put players like Mike Meyers, kicker for Iowa, or true freshman James Morris on your list. Morris hasn't played the entire season, but seems to be making an impact. Thanks man!
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Both are good players having good seasons, but those lists are meant to show realistic candidates, and both Morris and Meyers trail Scheelhaase, White and Bell by sizable margins, in my view. Not a knock against the Iowa guys as much as it is about what the other three have done all season.
Adam, Rich Rod seems like a mixed bag. No doubt his offense is effective. But, the special teams and defense are abhorrent. In other words, he has built a great 1/3 of a team. Can fans feel ok about the future with him staying based upon just having a great offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Paul, changes will need to be made to address Michigan's glaring weaknesses, but fans should feel good about an offense that is making strides every season under Rodriguez. You might never see a dominant defense at U-M because of the nature of the spread offense (quick strike, short drives), but there's no excuse for Michigan to struggle this much on special teams. That area must be fixed completely for 2011.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
After a horrible performance at the Big House, do you think the Illinois Defense will be hung over from a grueling battle or charged up to redeem themselves on Senior Day?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Vic Koenning isn't the type of coach who will allow a hangover, Mike. I'd expect Illinois to come out fired up for a critical game. The final two contests aren't gimmes by any means, so Illinois must secure bowl eligible by taking care of the Gophers.
Josh (east lansing)
Adam, what are the chances MSU and Stanford face-off in the rose bowl game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
There's a decent chance, Josh. You should be rooting for Iowa to beat Ohio State and for Wisconsin to win out, which would create a three-way tie that MSU would win. I have a feeling the Rose Bowl will take Stanford to replace Oregon if it loses the Ducks to the title game.
John (Iowa City, IA)
Do think Ken O'Keefe is to blame for the Hawkeyes red zone troubles last week?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Actually, I think O'Keefe is to blame for all the problems in the world (hunger, disease, war). C'mon, Hawkeyes fans. Make some blocks, avoid penalties and punch the ball in the end zone. Don't blame coaching.
Three weeks ago we were talking about PSU maybe getting a Hawaii Bowl bid (well around here anyway). Three weeks later talk is of a possible New Year's Day bowl. Which do you think is more likely?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
J.B., I have Penn State projected for the Gator Bowl right now, so there's your answer. I don't see the Lions winning this week, but there's a decent chance they claim the last two (Indiana, Michigan State). The MSU game won't be easy, but I like Penn State on its home field if the offense continues to make strides. It'll be interesting to see how McGloin performs against a good defense this week.
Adam, of all the players in the league you've been around, who stands out to you most off the field? Who would you want handling your 401k, or marrying your daughter?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Great question, Josh. I'd have to give it some thought and look closely at players' majors, but here are a few guys who really impress me: Kirk Cousins, J.J. Watt, Ricky Stanzi, Scott Tolzien, Ryan Kerrigan, Ben Chappell.
would you classify the UM-Illini game last Saturday as an exciting or embarrassing game for the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
EXCITING, Dan. Listen, one game isn't a reflection on the league. Let's just take it for what it was, a really entertaining game with some great individual performances. Big Ten fans want to be known as a defense-first conference, and that's fine. But when you're a defense-first conference that can't win a national title game, you get called slow and plodding and all the stuff you hate to hear. That game helps the Big Ten in the eyes of the nation more than a 9-6 game. It just does, period. So enjoy it. Rant over.
Evan (Tacoma WA)
Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, three of College Footballs most elite programs, which one do you see rising back to greatness the soonest?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
All three have the potential to be back to elite status fairly soon, but I'd go with Texas. The recruiting advantages the Longhorns enjoy coupled with the financial clout they wield in that league should prevent the type of dips we've seen for both Michigan and ND.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City)
Do you think we can overcome the Northwestern curse this week?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
You should, Kirk. The matchup really favors you because Northwestern can't stop the play-action pass and has struggled with its offensive line protection for most of the year. Your strengths are NU's weaknesses. If you can't beat the Wildcats this year, you've got some real issues. Next year's game will be a lot tougher.
Matt (New York City)
Assuming Greg Robinson is relieved of his duties as Defensive Coordinator after this year, who do you think Michigan's best option would be? Someone inside the program or a completely new face?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
You've got to go to the outside, no doubt about it. Get someone who wants to run the 3-3-5 and has experience successfully coaching defense for a spread team like Michigan.
Michale (East lansing)
Adam, Do you think Edwin Bakers 4 TD game was a comeback of Michigan State establishing the running game, or would you credit it to Minnesota's lack of defense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
A combination of the two, but it needed to happen for the Spartans. Their decline in the run game had been a concern, especially after the Iowa loss, and it was imperative to get Baker going again. The next step for MSU to revive Le'Veon Bell in these final two games. He seems to be hitting the freshman wall.
Chuck (Orlando, FL)
Ok, the TicketCity Bowl starts at noon, Capital One and Outback at 1 pm and Gator Bowl at 1:30 pm. Why doesn't the conference work the spread these games out? We will have 4 games on at the same time and I want to watch all of them! What gives?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Buy four TVs :-) Sorry, can't really help you there. The Big Ten's strategy is to flood you with Big Ten football for one meaningful day rather than space it out over several days. It's the same thing during the regular season, if you think about it. Not saying I agree or disagree, but that's how Jim Delany and his staff want to present their product.
What is the more realistic path for the Badgers to make the Rose Bowl? Having a 3 way tie with MSU and OSU or having both OSU and MSU lose?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Tough question, Josh. I think it's more likely that both MSU and OSU win out than both lose, but either could happen. I think it's important for Wisconsin to win its final three games in impressive fashion.
Chad (Las Vegas)
Adam-Stanford CANNOT go to the Rose Bowl unless TCU or BSU get to the NC game. Oregon, even if they lose to AZ, will win the Pac-10 and either go to the Champ game or the Rose. The Rose HAS TO take a non-AQ team this year if they don't make the BCS Champ game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Yep, that's correct, Chad. The only way Stanford heads to Pasadena -- or most likely any BCS bowl -- is if Oregon makes the title game against TCU or Boise. Then, the Rose Bowl wouldn't have to take a team from a non-AQ league.
Earlier this week you made a point that Illinois doesn't really win that many close games in the fourth quarter. By any chance can you think of the last time the Illini had a 4th quarter comeback? If not where does one find out that kind of information???
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It has been a while, I think. I just checked the NIU game and Illinois never trailed in the fourth quarter that year. Will check and let you know.
Besides the upside for Homan and Bell - will the bye lead to a fast or flat start for Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Could go either way, but I'd pick fast start. Ohio State has always had its stuff together in the month of November, and I expect this year to be no different. The Buckeyes also have started very quickly in several games this year.
Adam, odds of Nebraska running the Big Ten Gauntlet next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Brian, just looking at who is coming back, Nebraska could be the favorite in its division. Iowa and Wisconsin lose a lot, and so does Michigan State. Northwestern, meanwhile, returns just about everyone. Minnesota is rebuilding.
Crazy? (State College, PA)
I'm not sold on McGloin yet. I mean, Bolden had to face great defenses like Iowa and Alabama both on the road. He even looked great against Minnesota before the injury. McGloin has faced Michigan and Northwestern...if McGloin struggles against Ohio State don't you think it's time to go back to Bolden?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
I don't think Penn State will hesitate to make a change if McGloin is really struggling. But you have to ride this hot streak out with McGloin. He's really playing well, and while it undoubtedly will be tougher for him Saturday, you've got to give him a shot before going to Bolden. From an intangibles standpoint, McGloin is further along. From a talent standpoint, Bolden has more.
Please tell me that your ranking of Stanzi ahead of Denard is due to forecasting Iowa to finish with 2-3 losses, and Michigan to have 5. Because TODAY, with Michigan only 1 game back, the stats aren't even comparable. One guy is a top level QB, sure. The other guy is a top level QB, and THE top level RB. Case closed.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Jason, that has something to do with it, but Stanzi has been brilliant this year, making almost no mistakes. Not to take anything away from Robinson, the most exciting player in the Big Ten, but he has been responsible for quite a few more turnovers than Stanzi has. The other thing is durability. I'm sorry, but that's a factor. Robinson needs to stay in games and win them.
Chris (Downtown Madtown)
Would you rather go to a school for 4 (or 5) years that had a competitive football team all those years, but was never great, or would you rather go to a school that had one spectacular year, but was at the bottom of the conference all other years?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Good question, Chris. I get into this debate a lot with Minnesota Twins fans. Would you rather be a White Sox fan who enjoyed a championship in the last 10 years, or a Twins fan who watches his or her team dominate the regular season before falling apart in October? It's tough to say. In college football, it's a little different because of the bowl system. I'd probably go with the first option you present.
Drew (Evanston, IL)
What fan base do you think had the most depressing loss last week Adam? Indiana, Illinois or Northwestern? In a one game vacuum I think Indiana's loss might have been the worst, but with Illinois and Northwestern looking at potential 9-3 seasons there might have been more on the line (though I do know IU was battling for bowl eligibility). What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Indiana, hands down. Both Northwestern and Illinois are decent teams who will go to decent bowls (provided the Illini win Saturday). Indiana has been dealing with year after year of close losses in league play. That would have been the biggest win in recent team history, and it would have moved IU a step closer to a bowl game, which would secure Bill Lynch's status as head coach. That was a brutal way to lose for the Hoosiers.
Orville (Lubbock, TX)
What are the advantages/disadvantages of firing a coach mid-season as opposed to waiting until after the end of the season as Minnesota and Colorado have done?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
The main advantage is you get a head start on gauging interest among potential candidates, mostly through back-channels. You can really make a methodical and informed decision rather than doing it in a whirlwind. The big disadvantage is having a lame-duck team and a lame-duck coaching staff, which can be very tough on all parties involved.
Joe Smith (Austin)
Of the great QBs this year in the Big Ten, who do you think will have the most success at the next level?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Joe, it's tough to say. None of the guys jump out to me as a can't-miss pro prospect. Ricky Stanzi and Kirk Cousins both have the ingredients to be very good at the next level. I don't think Tolzien and Persa have the arm strength. Weber and Chappell haven't been consistent enough, but we'll see. And then you have Terrelle Pryor and Denard Robinson, both of whom could play different positions in the pros.
Mac (Huntington, WV)
Hey Adam, toss up for ya. If both teams finish 8-4 which is the better turn around - Illinois or Michigan? UM was 1-7 in conference play last year, but at least finished 5-7 overall. Illinois went 2-6 in conference but were terrible (3-9) overall. I know Michigan will get all the attention, but I'm leaning toward the Fighting Zookies. Improving by 5 wins with a freshman qb is no easy task.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Mac, always good to hear from you. It's definitely Illinois in my mind. This program was totally dismissed before the season, and there were a ton of question marks, from all the new coaches to a freshman quarterback in Scheelhaase. If Illinois goes 8-4, it will be one of the nation's biggest surprises and certainly the biggest surprise in the Big Ten.
Adam Robinson (Iowa City, Iowa)
What are the chances that we finish inside the bcs top 10 @ 10-2 and miss out on the bcs party all together? Did you miss me last weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Glad to see you're coming back. ... If both Wisconsin and Michigan State win out, there's a good chance you miss the BCS party, Adam. You've simply lost to the wrong teams, if that makes sense.
Mike (Parts Unknown)
Will JoePa hang it up this year now that he has 400?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Don't think so. It all depends on his health. If he avoids any more setbacks, I expect Joe to be back in 2011.
Brandon (Grand Rapids, MI)
Hey Adam, love the blog! Are the chances good that Tate Forcier will stick around at Michigan at least for next year? I think he's a critical guy to have on the team who can step right in and take the reigns with lots of moxie. Do you think he's feeling the love after his last few performances?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Brandon, it will be an interesting decision for Forcier. Robinson is clearly the No. 1 guy among the coaches and in the locker room, and Devin Gardner also is highly regarded. I'll say this: no one should blame Forcier if he decides to transfer. The guy deserves a lot of credit for sticking it out this season and contributing in key spots (Iowa, Illinois). If he's deemed the No. 3 quarterback, I wouldn't fault him one bit for deciding to pursue other options.
Greg (Pennsburg, PA)
Penn State's 2011 schedule reads a little something like this: at Wisconsin and Ohio State, at home against Alabama, Iowa, and Nebraska... how's that for strength of schedule and a great way for JoePa to possibly go out?!
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
It's certainly a formidable schedule, Greg. Can't wait for that Bama game in State College. Will be electric! And Penn State will have a better team next year. I'm sure Joe wants to stick around to face that type of schedule with a better squad.
Success breeds success (and recruits). Wisconsin has always been a solid 8-4, 9-3 team in recent years. Do you think this year keeps them as more of a consistent 10-2 team going forward? Or will the conference alignments hurt its chances?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
If the Badgers win out, this year certainly raises the bar for the program. The Big Ten is about to get tougher for everyone with Nebraska joining, but I tend to think Wisconsin's division is a little easier to navigate. Being able to beat a team like Ohio State is huge, and Wisconsin proved it this year. I don't expect 10-win seasons every year, but the Badgers could have a nice run coming up.
Dane Sanzenbacher (The Ohio State University)
What do my pro prospects look like right now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
I'd draft you in a heartbeat, Dane. You're tough and reliable, and you fearlessly go over the middle. NFL teams are smart enough to see that, too. I think you'll be rewarded in April.
Norm Parker (Film Room)
Adam, why do my defenses play good until the final drive when the game is on the line. Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, i am pulling my hair out trying to figure this out. Any help would be much appreciated.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Norm, go easy on yourself. It's been a tough year for you. But you're not alone in this respect. Too many defenses sag off at the end of games, and good passing teams like Indiana can do some damage. My advice: keep junking up the fronts and throw some blitzes at teams to force mistakes.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Evan Royster (State College)
Hey man, who do you see takin my place next year, Green or the newbie, Silas Redd?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
I'd go with Redd. Stephfon Green is a good player, but he has had his chances to distinguish himself. Redd is something special.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Enjoy Week 11.