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. Football season is barely three weeks away! Let's get started.
Addison (Traverse City)
Can we expect a dominant defense this year from MSU? Having two 6 ft 7 280 lb DEs in Gholston and Hoover in between a top ten pick in Worthy and a big spring standout in Anthony Rashad White, that makes its case for the best Dline the Spartans have had. Also Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson patrolling the secondary is a great combo. If not this year, with only Robinson the senior of the starters leaving( if Worthy doesnt go to the draft), is next year more likely the year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
There are high hopes for the Spartans' defensive line, and the starting four could be great. Worthy is already a big-time player, and if White can build off of a solid spring, Michigan State will be tough on the interior. A big key is getting Hoover or Gholston to become an elite pass rusher. Michigan State hasn't generated enough pressure from its line in recent years, but the potential is there. Very excited to see what Gholston does. Not sure about your last question, but Michigan State needs to have a big year in 2011.
So I just read your chat from last week and I guess you are not one of the media who is overlooking the Illini....but I think many are and its a mistake. Also, is it just me or does Luke Fickell look strikingly similar to Jay Bilas? Thanks for the chat.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Ha, not sure about the Fickell-Bilas comparison. As for Illinois, I've actually been pretty complimentary of the Illini in recent weeks, calling them a sleeper team and pointing to factors like Nathan Scheelhaase's development and a favorable schedule as reasons for optimism. There are some legit question marks on defense, and history shows Illinois struggles to string together good seasons, but the Illini shouldn't be dismissed in the Leaders division.
Chris Lowe (At the buffet)
Adam, do you really think that your B1G football teams are any match for my SEC teams? All that time your players are in class, my guys are practicing. We take our football seriously. Plus, how important is literacy to a first round pick?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
C-Low! Always great to hear from you, man. And it's great to see they've got computers down in Tennessee these days. ... You'll keep talking big about the SEC, but at some point the tide has to turn.
AR, do you expect PSU's QB to be named before 8/20?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
If he's not, Jeong, I would expect a decision shortly thereafter. Penn State had all spring to evaluate Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin. It shouldn't take weeks and weeks of training camp to figure out who should be the starter. Also, I think it benefits the team to know its starting QB earlier rather than later.
Bro Pelini (New York, NY)
Lavonte David bears a striking resemblance to Kanye West. Do you think David retains his title as the conference's leading tackler? or should we watch the throne for others?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
I'm sure he'll appreciate that, Bro. Tackles are a hard statistic to predict, and they don't always indicate the best players, although David was a beast in 2010. He should once again make a bunch of plays for Nebraska, but I'd be surprised if he approaches 150 tackles again.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (@CheeseheadSN)
Barry Alvarez put the Wisconsin football program back on the map and Bret Bielema picked up right where Alvarez left off. Traditionally Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State are considered the powerhouse football programs in the Big "Ten" along with newbie Nebraska. Is it time that Wisconsin gets thrown in that group?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
It is time, Cheesehead, and you can argue that both Wisconsin and Iowa have been better programs that Penn State and Nebraska in recent years. This is a huge season for the Badgers, who can truly put themselves among the nation's elite by winning another Big Ten championship and getting back to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State has been the only Big Ten team to consistently win at an elite level during the past decade, but Wisconsin hasn't been too far off. Another spectacular season in Madison really goes a long way toward changing perceptions.
Pipeline (Salem, OR)
Hi Adam, has the B1G officially stated that they're done with expansion? What do you make of all the aTm to SEC noise?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
The Big Ten has stated that its most recent expansion study, which started in December 2009, is no longer taking place. But the league isn't going to sit on its hands if movement happens elsewhere. The A&M-SEC stuff is interesting, but it seems like mostly noise for now.
Kurt E. (Chesapeake, Virginia)
Hey Adam,What do you see more of this season in the Big Ten - shootouts with the scores in the 42-35 range or hard hitting slugfests with scores in the 20-17 range?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Interesting question, Kurt. The Big Ten loses quite a few elite defenders, and several typically strong defensive teams, including Ohio State, are replacing a lot of production from 2010. Meanwhile, the Big Ten returns several elite quarterbacks and welcomes in a new one in Russell Wilson. You could see more shootout-type scores, although the weather change likely will bring scores down later in the season.
joe (Ann Arbor)
Do you think that Michigan Nation will turn on shoelace if he struggles in the new offense? Also, Brady Hoke has brought the swagger back to UofM, but how optimistic is too optimistic. I don't want to get excited for just an average season.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Joe, I think it's important to keep expectations in check for both Denard and Hoke. Michigan should be a better team, but it's probably not a 10-win team. How excited can you get about an 8-4 or maybe 9-3 Michigan team? As for Robinson, it's hard to gauge how Michigan fans really feel. There's a lot of love for Devin Gardner out there, and some early struggles by Robinson will bring calls for change. I would hope people are patient as Robinson likely will have some growing pains in a new system.
Frank (Beaver City, NE)
Adam, Theres a lot of attention torward the Husker RB position. We know Burkhead is the #1, but who is going to get more time among the others. Heard? Green? Abdullah? All stuDDs, can't wait to see.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
They were all studs in recruiting, Frank, but it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be studs at the college level. That said, I'm very excited to see how players like Green and Abdullah fare this season. Burkhead will be the featured guy, but Nebraska likes to mix things up in the run game, and the Huskers will give young players opportunities to shine. Should be a lot of fun to watch.
sorry AR, but I just can't believe you said Iowa have been better program in recent years. yes Iowa beats PSU, but let's see who has more 10 win seasons and B1G championship in last 6 years? answer - PSU
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
True, but Iowa has a better Big Ten record (50-30) than Penn State (45-35) in the past 10 years. While I think my argument is stronger for Wisconsin than Iowa when it comes to Penn State, you can't dismiss the Big Ten marks and the head-to-head success.
Have you seen a game in Nebraska yet? How will Lincoln fit in as a Big Ten city and campus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
I haven't seen a game in Lincoln but look forward to being there a lot this fall. Lincoln doesn't have the same college-town feel as many Big Ten locales, but Big Ten fans will like the central location of Memorial Stadium, near the downtown bars and restaurants. I've heard mixed things about the tailgating scene there, so I'll have to assess it for myself this fall.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Adam, Minnesota question: Did you notice how much bigger Marqueis Gray has gotten - I believe he has gone from 225 to 245. Any thoughts about that?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Craig, I noticed it in Chicago when we did our video interview. I mean, every non-kicker in the Big Ten towers over me, but Gray was HUGE. I typically would prefer a quarterback to weigh less than 245, but Gray will be tough to bring down. The big thing is whether his speed and athleticism will be compromised at all with the added mass.
Hey Adam, What do you think of the badgers this year? Are you more of a NC believer or are you a 2nd in the leaders believer?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Brooks, we should find out in October, but I'd favor Wisconsin to win the Leaders division entering the season. It's tough to see Wisconsin sweeping Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State, especially with those last two being night road games, so I don't think the Badgers will be in the NC mix. We'll see.
You, Brian and others keep talking about how one of Nebraska's biggest issues is going to be dealing with the more stout defenses of the B1G. While the overall level of play may be slightly better, remember that Nebraska went up against very good defenses in UT, OU, A&M and MU last year. And its not as if some of their new opponents, i.e. Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern are top notch on the defensive side of the ball.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
You mean the Texas team that allowed 34 to UCLA? Or 30 to Baylor? Or 39 to Kansas State? C'mon, Ashley. That wasn't a great defense. Nebraska simply soiled itself in that game. And after watching Iowa run all over Missouri in the Insight Bowl with a freshman RB (Marcus Coker), I'm calling the Tigers' D overrated. I'll give you Oklahoma as a stout defense, but the Big 12 was overall soft on that side of the ball. People can keep bringing up Michigan, Minnesota, etc., but the Big Ten plays better overall defense than the Big 12.
ASU has been getting a lot of hype so far. Can the Illini beat the Sundevils this year? Would it be a huge win for them if they can pull it off?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Great question, Greg. Arizona State will provide an excellent early barometer for Illinois. Vontaze Burfict is one of college football's scariest players, and he could do some damage in Champaign. ASU impressed me last year in Madison, but I'm leery to buy into the Sun Devil hype too much. This will be a big win for Illinois, and a key game to build confidence at home.
Adam do you think we have a "real" Heisman candidate in the B1G? I think DRob will fail to replicate last season if he's under center, Persa won't win enough games, White and Ball cancel each other out and Tmart is a crybaby. What are Kirk Cousins' chances? I think he's the best shot (for now) to bring the trophy to the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Kirk definitely helped his cause with the national media last month in Chicago. He's one of the most engaging players I've ever covered, and many media members agree after talking with him in Chicago. That type of attention helps, and if Cousins were to say, light up Notre Dame in South Bend in Week 3, he'd start getting some Heisman hype.
Where do you see the Ohio State QB competition right now? Do you think that will change after the first two games of the season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Anything is possible, Jonathan, although I'm sure the Buckeyes coaches would prefer to stick with one player for a little longer than two weeks. I see this coming down to Joe Bauserman vs. Braxton Miller, experience vs. youth, the present vs. the future. I'm coming around to the Miller camp, but we'll see how things shake out this month in Columbus.
Herky (Kinnick Stadium)
I've been hearing a lot about A.J. Derby being projected as #2 behind Vandenberg for QB this fall. Do you think there's a chance we'll see Iowa rotate 2 QBs this fall, using A.J. as a dual threat option?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Interesting, Herky. That wouldn't be good news for John Wienke. You won't see a true two-QB rotation at Iowa, but Derby provides a change-up for the Hawkeyes offense and if he's ready, Iowa should use him. Iowa tends to play things conservatively on offense, but Derby could be a real weapon in certain situations, particularly in the red zone.
James (San Diego)
Will you be out West for the USC-Minnesota game to start the season? Beaches are nice this time of year!
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Ha, I wish, James! Can't tell you where I'll be Week 1 just yet, but it won't be at the Coliseum. Great opportunity for Jerry Kill in his Minnesota coaching debut.
JC (Buckeye Nation)
Adam, as tough as the Buckeyes schedule appears I think it plays in our favor. I don't see us losing to MSU or Penn State at the Shoe and Miami just doesn't scare me (should they?). If we can beat Nebraska in Lincoln at night what does that do for our perception and season? That would set up quite a showdown with Wisconsin coming to the Shoe for a rare night game in Ohio Stadium in a game that could have NC implications
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
It would be huge, JC. The Miami game will be interesting because it's the first road contest for the new starting quarterback and Miami always has talent. Although whatever they call Miami's stadium these days isn't the most intimidating place to play, the Hurricanes fans will be fired up for Al Golden's debut. The Michigan State game is absolutely huge for Ohio State because of the trip to Nebraska the following week. If the Buckeyes can sweep those two contests, they become the favorite to win the Big Ten again because of the home schedule.
Adam, if Purdue wins say, 13 games, would they have a shot at the national title game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
I would think so, Bob.
Adam, PSU's 'Recent' record (2005-) against Wisconsin is 3-1. The last victory includes a 48-7 route in Madison. How again have they been the better 'recent' team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Wisconsin avoided the drop-off Penn State endured in the first half of the last decade. Both teams have been to the Rose Bowl in the past three seasons, and while Penn State went to another BCS bowl in 2005, Wisconsin certainly had a team worthy of an at-large spot in 2006. It's very close between them, but Wisconsin has been a little more consistent in my view.
Ted (Mustache Country)
Adam, how are my boilers looking? We have a talented skill position players, and much improved lines. If we can stay healthy and avoid injury, do you see the possibility of a nine win team? Our schedule is tough, but nothing we can't handle. I gotta have Hope.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Love Mustache Country. ... The big keys for Purdue are staying healthy, developing a pass rush following Ryan Kerrigan's departure and finding a clear identity on offense. Purdue should be able to rush the football this year with a veteran offensive line and Ralph Bolden back in the mix. The other thing is avoiding the major breakdowns we've seen too often in Hope's tenure, plays like the blocked punt against Michigan State that helped the Spartans escape last year in East Lansing.
Michigan seems to be doing very well on the recruiting front. Is this the result of what happened at "Ohio" or the Michigan Man salesman skills of Hoke?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
It's a combination of several things, Matt. Any coaching change creates some renewed enthusiasm for a program, and Brady Hoke has capitalized on it. He also has had a clear vision for what types of players he wants, and he has targeted them early and landed them. Bringing on Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator was a genius move on several fronts, including recruiting. And yes, the Ohio State situation has benefited Michigan, as you might expect.
JC (Buckeye Nation)
Whats the word on Jamaal Berry? He was a top recruit back in 09 and with his florida roots/gamebreaking speed there was a lot of hype back then. After sitting behind Beanie Wells and Boom Herron do you think he's ready to burst onto the national scene?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
I hear Berry is in line to be Ohio State's No. 1 running back entering the season. Wouldn't be surprised if Jordan Hall is used in several roles, including as a split end to help the unproven receivers in the passing game. Other players are in the mix, but I think Berry's time has arrived.
Tom (Lincoln Park)
Can you tell Bennett to stop taking Notre Dame questions in his chat? They aren't part of the Big 10!
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Here's the deal, guys, and I'm only going to address this once. Brian covers Notre Dame in addition to the Big Ten, so his chat will include some Fighting Irish questions. If that annoys you, too bad. I would point out that many ND questions are relevant to the Big Ten because of the annual matchups with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. You also have upcoming ND matchups with Northwestern.
Who gets in for a championship appearance, a 2-loss SEC team (a la LSU a few years back), or a 1-loss B1G team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Dan, I'd hope a 1-loss Big Ten team gets in ahead of a 2-loss SEC team. The 2007 season was truly wacky, and I'll be surprised if we see something like it again soon. While the SEC will have an easier time than the Big Ten in getting a 1-loss team in the title game, a 2-loss team typically has no business being there.
Ben Ingersoll (California)
Does Northwestern realistically think Dan Persa has a Heisman shot? Can they even win their division, nonetheless?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Ben, I think five of the six Legends division teams can win the division, including Northwestern. And the Wildcats will need to win at least nine games to put Persa in the conversation for the Heisman. Even then, it'll be tough for him to enter the mix with players like Luck, James and Moore.
Adam, don't you feel that Derek Moye is potentially the best WR this year in the B1G? Last year he put up great numbers with no real QB.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Steve, while we ranked Jeremy Ebert one spot ahead of Moye in our preseason countdown, I could definitely see Moye emerging as a national star this fall. He seems to have all the tools and will be working with a more experienced QB, whether it's Bolden or McGloin. In terms of NFL potential, Moye and Iowa's Marvin McNutt are most likely the Big Ten's top two prospects.
Sweater_Vest (Country Club)
Good point Adam re Wisky in 2006 as an at large BCS team. By that same logic, MSU should have been an at large team in 2010 if I hadn't covered up for ineligible players in the Sugar Bowl. My bad.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Actually, Michigan State would have received an automatic BCS berth because of the head-to-head win against Wisconsin. I'm sure the folks in East Lansing accept your apology, Vest.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
If Penn State manages to beat Alabama, how huge does the Iowa game become just from a psychological hurdle?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Huge, Brett, but Penn State will be a much more confident team heading into the Iowa game than it was before last year's contest in Iowa City. A win against Alabama raises the ceiling for Penn State's season and puts the Lions in the Big Ten title mix. That's how good Alabama should be this season. I can't emphasize how big that win would be for PSU.
In your opinion, how much of the talk that Bauserman is legitimately part of OSU's QB competition is due to him being an upperclassman? While he has had limited game exposure due to Pryor being the starter the last three seasons, he hasn't looked that good when he has gotten in. He (reportedly) hasn't looked very good during practices either. I understand teams don't usually want to start freshmen, but from what I've heard/read about practices thus far, shouldn't Fickell just pick Graham or Miller and roll the dice?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Chris, I understand this argument, and you're certainly not alone in this belief. From what I can tell, most Ohio State fans don't want to see Bausemrman as the starter. But it ultimately comes down to which player gives this Buckeyes team the best chance to win. Having a guy with potentially less upside who makes fewer mistakes might be the answer, especially early on. Ohio State isn't going to win many games 42-35 this year. The Buckeyes have to rely on their defense and their running game, and these coaches, all but two of whom worked for Jim Tressel, know how to win with TresselBell and how important it is to have a QB who limits major errors.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Whats your take on Michigan State LB Lawrence Thomas weighing in at 265-275? Does he still have a shot at becoming the next Greg Jones?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Alden, he'll be a different type of player than Jones, who was nowhere near 275 when he played. I wonder if Thomas can make it at LB long term at that size, or if he'll go the Will Gholston route and eventually move to the D-line. Right now, it seems like the coaches like having Thomas at LB.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Let's do it again next week!