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.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
One quick programming note. I'm waiting for a call from Michigan State star LB Greg Jones, so I might have to take a quick break sometime during the chat. Fire away!
Brandon (Grand Rapids, MI)
Hey Adam, love the blog. At what point do you think the crowd calling for RichRod's job will be happy? Michigan is 7-3 with nothing to lose considering where they're coming from the last two seasons. I know 7-5 isn't where you want your program year in, year out, but it's getting difficult to see the negativity remain even after obvious progress has been made. It almost seems like there's a faction that wants him to fail... Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
There's definitely a faction, Brandon. I think as long as Michigan hangs with Wisconsin and/or Ohio State, Rodriguez will be OK. The big thing is for the offense, and particularly Denard Robinson, to keep showing progress down the stretch. Robinson has committed too many turnovers recently, but he's still the biggest reason for keeping Rodriguez in 2011.
Mark Dantonio (East Lansing)
Adam any chance I can get the chance to play my former mentor in the Rose Bowl? An MSU OSU matchup would be unique and give the nation a preview of a big ten title game, but what are the chances?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Zero. Not happening.
clevelandboi (cleveland oh)
Adam, is it me or does it seem that terrelle pryor is just not getting better as a quarterback? Yea he looks good against Minnesota and eastern Michigan etc, but when he faces elite competition he seems to digress forcing tressel to return to the ground game which is something a coach shouldn't have to worry about when your star player is a 3 year starting quarterback.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
There's an interesting story in The Plain Dealer about this very subject today. Aside from the Rose Bowl, Pryor hasn't had huge games against elite opponents. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against Iowa, which, despite its record, still has the ingredients of an elite team. The Penn State game certainly reminded me of how Ohio State finished the 2009 season, with a lot of running and relying on the O-line.
Is Greg Jones calling to ask about Kerrigan being the Big Ten DPOY? How much money did Kerrigan make Saturday (ie, how much did he help his draft status)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Knowing Greg, I'm sure he's a huge fan of Kerrigan's. How could you not be? The guy is an absolute beast. And no Big Ten player has helped his draft status more than No. 94. The Michigan game was one of many huge performances the last two years.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
So sad to see Dan Persa lost for the season on Saturday....but I'm hopeful for 2011. Not to look ahead, but where do you see Northwestern in 2011? Seems like everyone else loses a lot of pieces....but not NU. And can Persa be a legit Heisman candidate in 2011 if he comes back healthy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Northwestern has always seen 2011 as The Year, given all it returns. Persa's status coming off of a serious injury is a question mark, but Northwestern really doesn't lose much. Several teams in NU's division suffer significant personnel losses, but Northwestern's schedule will be much harder. If things fall right, the Wildcats can challenge Nebraska for the division title. Persa certainly could be in the Heisman mix, especially now that people know who he is.
Adam as a Badger fan is it a bad thing to be worried about this trip to Michigan? Michigan has a very good offense and Denard Robinson can be a very strong weapon and the Badgers have not played well in Michigan in the past. One thing the Badgers got going for them is a very very good offense going against a very bad defense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Not a bad thing to be worried at all, Josh. Too many fans get chesty and lose sight of reality, and then they seem so stunned when their team loses. Wisconsin can definitely lose Saturday. The Badgers aren't nearly as dominant away from Madison, and they've had a ton of problems in Ann Arbor. Michigan has no pressure and can put up points. Big key will be whether Michigan can avoid turnovers.
Rich Rodriguez (Ann Arbor, MI)
Seriously Adam, do you think that I have shown actual "progress" over three years? Despite a 7-5 (likely) record which gets me to a low-tier bowl game, has my team really made progress? I guess I do have Denard, but as I reflect back I am seeing some extra wins this year, mostly against teams that are not very good? Need your professional opinion on this one.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
The offense has made progress each year, Rich. Now it's important to finish strong and not look grossly inferior against both Wisconsin and Ohio State. It's important for Denard to show progress down the stretch as he faces two good defenses. While it's true that Michigan hasn't beaten an elite team, it has some decent wins. Again, the finish will matter, especially with Shoelace.
Are you really giving Nebraska the division title next year? Even though it's a weaker division a lot of people could surprise, and if you watch Nebraska against Iowa State, they're not as scary as you seem to make them out to be. The Big 12 is just horrible this year...
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Connor, I actually think Nebraska's division will be the stronger one in 2011. But Iowa and Michigan State both lose a lot, and Michigan still has some major issues on defense and special teams. Minnesota is in rebuilding mode. I don't expect both Iowa and MSU to slip too far, and Northwestern will be a better team. While Nebraska has been inconsistent at times, it also can be dominant, too.
Ryan (Fort Knox)
Hey Adam. With all the speculation on season awards, do you think Mark Dantionio is a leading contender for Coach of the Year? Would MSU have to win out for him to be considered. It has been impressive what he has done at MSU. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Ryan, it'll be interesting. I don't think Bret Bielema did himself any favors with the Indiana game, although he would be my pick for Coach of the Year if the season ended today. I'd expect Dantonio to win it if Michigan State wins out. The Spartans weren't considered a title contender entering the season, and to win at least a share of the championship would mean something.
Stevie G (Chicago)
Michigan not in the mix for the 2011 division title? Defense will be so much improved with people back from injuries, almost no losses. Agreed re special teams but I think we're top tier...
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
The Wolverines certainly could be there, Stevie, but I'll believe it when I see it on defense. I don't have a ton of confidence in the current defensive staff to get it done. Maybe they can, maybe they can't. The personnel situation should be much improved with Woolfolk and others back in the fold. But I'm not going to make any proclamations about Michigan until I see more on the field.
Drew (Evanston, IL )
Illinois' Defense made so many headlines in the beginning of the season (rightfully, so) but then they gave up 67 and 38 points. Were those just crazy games, or is the unit slipping? What are the chances that Northwestern's offense can be relatively productive on Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Ron Zook mentioned Tuesday that he hasn't seen the same intensity level from the defense the last two weeks, and Michigan WR Darryl Stonum told me Michigan saw some things to exploit on film. Illinois clearly has some talent on defense and has made numerous big plays, but the Illini seem to let down at times. It's important for Northwestern to get new QB Evan Watkins some early confidence Saturday. I really think from an mental toughness standpoint, Northwestern has a huge edge Saturday. But if Watkins makes mistakes, Illinois' D could regain its swagger.
Jacob (Cottage Grove, MN )
Norm Parker is an integral part of the Iowa Hawkeye football team as their defensive coordinator. However, this year he has had continuing health problems that seems to have played a big part in the performance of the Iowa D. Do you see Norm sticking around for years to come, or should Captain Kirk start looking for some new blood?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
I really don't expect Kirk Ferentz to make any staff changes, unless there's a health issue involving Norm or another assistant. Norm is a coaching lifer, and Ferentz is extremely loyal to him. Barring a health setback, Norm should be back in 2009.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
in 2011, I meant. Sorry.
Bill Lynch lost a commit to Nebraska during the 63 point loss this weekend. The young man stated he didn't want to be part of a coaching change at the next level, a sign that local Hoosier fans aren't the only ones skeptical of AD Fred Glass' commitment to Lynch. Is this a one time thing, or is there a chance of IU's program snowballing back down to pre-Terry Hoeppner levels.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Kalvis, if Indiana loses out, I'd expect to see more players decommit. Indiana did a great job of securing early verbals, but you have to expect some attrition if you're losing on the field. We'll see what happens in the final two games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
OK, guys, quick break for Greg Jones. Hold on a few minutes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
OK, back to you. Greg sounds excited about the final two games.
Tom Peiffer (Gettysburg PA)
Adam, living in nittany lion world, I continually get the Buckeyes are overrated. How can a squad that has been to more bcs bowls than anyone else in the nation, and have been to 3 title games be considered overrated? Also, do the Buckeyes seriously have enough to beat Iowa? I think so, but there are manymany doubters who love to see Ohio State lose
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Ohio State is still fighting the backlash from the losses in the BCS title game, which is getting a little ridiculous at this point. But everyone loves to hate the best, and the Buckeyes have been the Big Ten's best under Jim Tressel. Ohio State will need to play its best game on the road this season to beat Iowa, and you'd like to think the team got a wake-up call at halftime in the Penn State game.
Matt R (Michigan)
I understand why people may be mad about the Badgers running the score up but if they had their second string in shouldn't Indiana be able to stop that. It's not like Wisconsin can just take a knee on every possession in the second half. Shouldn't the question be why Indiana couldn't stop them?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
I agree that the focus should be more on Indiana. I'm surprised how much attention this has received, but Bielema established a little pattern with the 2-point try against Minnesota, which was a totally different situation in my view. Maybe things would be different if Wisconsin didn't attempt the one third-down pass, but if you actually watch the game, you shouldn't have a major issue with what happened.
What are your thoughts of Stanzi making it in the NFL? He seems very accurate, efficient, and mature this year. Also, he seems to have the size at 6'5" that people are looking for at the next level. Still, he seems to be well under the radar, from what I can tell.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Dallas, I certainly think Stanzi has the ingredients to make it as an NFL quarterback. Playing in a pro-style system for four years will help his cause. I'd still like to see more arm strength from him at times. I think he has it, but he throws a lot of floating passes, some of which have nice touch, others not so much.
Wayne Woodrow Hayes (Heaven)
"The Penn State game certainly reminded me of how Ohio State finished the 2009 season, with a lot of running and relying on the O-line." Dag Nabbit, whats so wrong with that Adam? I used that to win 6 Big Ten Championships in a row? Shouldn't this work against Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
It absolutely could, Woody, but the question was about Terrelle Pryor and his diminished role in some games. Ohio State will do whatever it takes to win these final two games. The big question: How much will Pryor be involved?
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Adam, if it were up to you, would you start McGloin or Bolden these last couple games? McGloin's mojo is certainly compelling, but if Rob's the future, and he didn't play himself out of the job (which he didn't), doesn't it make sense to go back to him?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
It's a tough call, Lou. I really liked what McGloin brought to the offense, but you can't throw two pick-sixes in a half and not suffer some consequences. I'd plan on playing both against Indiana. No matter how the final three games turn out, the QB race has to be reopened next spring. I'd see what both players have in a game setting the rest of the way.
Doug (Somewhere over Idaho)
Adam, what are the keys to success in the OSU/Iowa game this Saturday? BTW, I'm in a airplane. Isn't wi-fi onboard great!
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Ha, very cool! Can you see Kellen Moore? Biggest key for Ohio State is to avoid a slow start, which crippled the Buckeyes in Madison. Ohio State also must protect Pryor in the pocket. Big key for Iowa is avoiding the turnover and finishing drives.
How many more years do you think Lynch has a Indiana?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
I really believe Fred Glass wants to bring back Bill Lynch in 2011. But Lynch has to give him a reason to do so. Going 0-8 in Big Ten play after back-to-back 1-7 records isn't a reason. So it really comes down to these last two games.
Kimbo Slice (The Boneyard)
How far has Adrian Clayborn fallen in the draft. He looked winded (along with other Hawkeyes Saturday). Alos, seems like running backs are slipping of him this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
I'd still be surprised if AC isn't a first-round pick in April. He still brings so much to the table. I was surprised to see Iowa's defenders so gassed at the end of Saturday's game. It's tough to go against such an up-tempo offense, but it's not as if Northwestern held the ball for 40 minutes.
Pete (San Diego, CA)
Have you always been in love with Michigan, or just this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I really don't know where this perception comes from, but it's there among many of you. I've ripped the defense and the special teams over and over, but I'm not going to criticize the offense. That unit has done its part. I think people assume anyone who doesn't write Fire RichRod every two minutes is a Michigan homer. Give it a rest.
Adam, Deep down in your gut do you think these are JoePa's last couple of games at the helm? I feel he'll stick around for a few more years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Max, I've always believed that barring another health setback, Joe will return in 2011. I know there are some issues at Penn State, namely recruiting for 2011, but the team should be better next fall and Joe still enjoys doing this. Nothing should surprise us with him, but if I had to bet on it, I'd say he's coming back.
Any comments on safety concerns at Wrigley? It seems like this issue arose in the last week and I have to think they have had the field layout in the works for... Longer than last week?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
The field size and safety was a major concern from the start, Tom. There are definitely some risks there, but I don't think as many plays go out of the back of the end zone than you might think. I'd be more concerned about sideline space because that's where many injuries occur. But this is probably the only layout that could work for this game.
Zach (Columbus, OH)
Given the last few games between Ohio State and Wisconsin, plus the fact that they move into the same division starting next year, it seems like the Badgers and Buckeyes might have a budding rivalry on their hands. Can you use your considerable clout with the Big Ten higher-ups to make this official? I for one know I would LOVE to see the annual clash between W and O be for the Scarlet Letter Trophy!
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Considerable clout? Ha! And it has nothing to do with the higher-ups. It's all about whether the schools want to start a rivalry trophy. They'll be playing every year, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.
MIke (LV, NV)
Is there a scenario which gets 3 Big Ten teams into BCS? (I know, losses by non-AQ and other top conf would have to be plentiful). But is it even possible?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Nope. Maximum is two teams. Otherwise, the Big Ten would have gotten three in 2006 (Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin).
What are the chances of IA performing Sat. like they did after their last 2 losses this year. Ball state and MSU
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Jeff, I don't think the Hawkeyes will dominate Ohio State like they did Ball State and MSU, but it wouldn't surprise me if Iowa wins. It's Senior Day and you know those players don't want to go out with an 8-4 season, which would truly be a disappointment. These seniors also haven't beaten Ohio State, and you know Stanzi wants a shot at the Buckeyes after what happened last year.
You and others say Iowa is a disappointment this year. Can't you say that the disappointment is based on the expectations you and others in the press placed on Iowa? As a fan I would have liked them to be 12-0 but realize that with the competition this year they could be 7-5.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Cole, that's fair to a point, but many of your fellow Hawkeyes fans placed the same expectations on this team. And for good reason with all the seniors back. While I thought 9-3 or 8-4 was possible, let's also remember that Iowa had supposedly all of its toughest games at home.
Duber1 (Cottage Grove, OR)
I read an article on Fox Sports stating that Oregon's offense does not work against real defenses and that any team in the SEC, Big Ten, ACC or Boise and TCU that play solid defense could beat the Ducks. Do you agree with that article? I do.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I don't know about any team, but some Big Ten defenses could contain Oregon. Ohio State did last year in Pasadena. Watching the Cal-Oregon game last week, it was all about tackling in space. Standard stuff against the spread offense. If you have good individual tacklers and defenders who fly to the ball, you can contain Oregon. But not many teams around the country can truly say that.
What was MSU able to do in beating Wisconsin (pretty soundly too) that no one else has been able to do? Maybe talk a little x and o's or personnel?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Derek, Michigan State did a nice job of pressuring Scott Tolzien and getting him out of sync. The Spartans also have experienced, fast linebackers in Greg Jones and Eric Gordon who could swarm the Badgers' running backs. John Clay didn't have a great day in East Lansing. Perhaps most important, Michigan State didn't let Wisconsin capitalize off of the Spartans' early mistakes. Michigan State was minus-3 in turnover margin at halftime and still led Wisconsin by 10 points. That's hard to do.
Adam, do you really think that the intensity radiating from Beaver Stadium next week will be enough to carry the Lions past MSU? I try to stay positive but other than the second half against NW, I have yet to see them play well against anybody worth a damn. (First half vs. OSU = fluke)
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
We'll see, Lance. Michigan State hasn't really been light's out on the road this year, either. A lot depends on whether Penn State can regain some confidence this week against Indiana. If McGloin and/or Bolden has a strong game and the run get performs well, that will help.
Stevie G (Chicago)
So MSU fans have to root for Michigan the next 2 weeks. Is that even possible for them to do?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Looks like it, Stevie. Spartans fans will have to suck it up and pull for the Maize and Blue. Don't you love the league title race?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
What would it take for Purdue to upset MSU this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Ryan Kerrigan to camp out in the Spartans backfield and Rob Henry to rush for 250 years. In other words, I don't see it happening.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Thanks again for the chat, and for being patient with the Greg Jones interview. Enjoy Week 12!