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 everyone, I'm here. Let's get started.
What is the status of MarQueis Gray's health?
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
He's fine. Just had some cramping in the second half against USC. Expected to start this week against NM State.
Hey Adam...good to finally get the season started! So...I saw something saturday that blew my mind. Michigan started in a soft zone and got picked apart (same as last year). But then...they made adjustments! Having watched the last three years, I had totally forgotten that a team could do that! Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Ha, it did look familiar, Jason. Credit to Greg Mattison and the staff for turning up the heat and getting creative with blitzes in the second half. Safety Jordan Kovacs a big factor for sure. Michigan covered up a lot of yards allowed with three takeaway, including two for points. Now you can't expect the same thing every week, so Michigan will need to tighten up in the secondary.
Hey Adam. Love the blog. Keep up the good work! My question is, with the emergence of AJ Derby as the back-up QB...where does that leave Jake Rudock? He seems like he could be really good and I would hate to lose a talented QB because he decided he would get more playing time elswhere. Wouldn't it make more sense to try to move Derby to a different position?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Ryan, if Derby is Iowa's best option at QB for 2013 and beyond, they shouldn't go away from him just because he has the potential to play other positions. Rudock will have a chance to compete, but no one should be guaranteed starting job. If Rudock can't beat out Derby and he wants to leave, so be it. But if Derby plays his way into the top QB spot, he deserves to stay there.
With the probable A&M move and the likely disbanding of the Big 12, do you think that the Big 10 will be able to force ND's hand. I think that after ND, Rutgers and Syracuse make the most sense, both academically and regionally to bring NY into the fold.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
David, if the landscape changes to a point where ND has to join a conference, the Big Ten should do everything it can to add the Fighting Irish. I don't think it makes sense to add both Rutgers and Syracuse. One is fine, but neither program really moves the needle nationally (Syracuse more than Rutgers). I'd prefer to see Rutgers/Syracuse and a team like Maryland, which puts the Big Ten in another market.
Adam, two AP voters didn't even have Michigan State ranked in the latest poll. As a member of the media, don't you think voters should be held a little more accountable for things like that?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Why? If they don't believe Michigan State is a Top 25 team, that's their opinion. Michigan State honestly didn't look like a Top 25 team in its opener. These rankings are based so much on last season, returning starters, etc. It's why I really don't like polls in the first 4-5 weeks of the season. You can't tell much.
Lets get the big question out of the way first. The Big Ten doesn't *have* to expand if 16-team conferences start forming, right? What makes a 16-team super-conference better than a 12-team conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Brian, I agree that bigger isn't always better, but if a league like the Pac-12, which has a relevance problem, adds teams like Oklahoma, it becomes more relevant. My big point with the Big Ten is that the league doesn't have a relevancy problem. There aren't many realistic additions for the Big Ten that truly enhance the league's profile. Notre Dame is one of them, but who else?
Odds that Persa doesn't play until Northwestern's Oct. 1 B1G opener at Illinois? With EIU, Army and a bye week right in front of B1G play this seems like a no-brainer.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Tom, I think it's important Persa plays against Army. That could be a tricky game for Northwestern, and the Wildcats want to get Persa accustomed to game speed before Big Ten play begins. I don't think he needs to play most of the game, but to have him get his feet wet before the Big Ten opens is a good idea, as long as he's healthy enough.k
Both Alabama and PSU seem to have the same strengths and weaknesses on offense. If this comes down to a defensive struggle, wouldn't McGloin be the worst option as the PSU QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Moose, limiting mistakes is a top priority for whomever plays QB for Penn State. McGloin had a really bad day in the bowl game, and he's more of a risk taker, but he supposedly has become better with his decision-making. Bolden also is a young player and he was the one turning it over last year against Alabama, He, too, is another year older.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Adam. Quick question. I know its too early to get too worked up with the Rankings...but this is what I'm wondering. Iowa's schedule is a big part of how this could potentially be a great year for us. What I'm wondering is...are we too far down in the rankings to become a factor late in the season if we keep on winning? I couldn't remember how low in the polls we were when we started our climb during 09. THANKS...and GO HAWKS!
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Mark, unless Iowa has a chance to go undefeated, don't worry about where you're ranked in a September poll. I don't think the Hawkeyes are a national title contender, but they have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten and win 9-10 games. Any Big Ten team that starts 9-0 or 10-0 will be rewarded in the rankings, but I wouldn't get too caught up in this if I were an Iowa fan.
Rick (Adel, Ga.)
Hey Adam. I like the current 12 team format in the B1G. I really do not want it to change. My question is will the standards of the B1G cause the conference to paint itself into a corner in terms of not exploring the idea of a great and traditional program like Oklahoma. If the B1G ever expands I just dont see how adding Maryland, Syracuse, and Rutgers would help the B1G product. In fact I think it will dillute it. Sure they are great academic schools and in great media markets but compare that to Oklahoma which is rich in tradition, okay academically, and a great product to promote on TV. I just rather watch Oklahoma vs. Michigan, OSU, Penn St. Neb. etc. over Syracuse vs the same teams I mentioned.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Rick, you bring up some really good points here, and I think Brian and I will explore Oklahoma more in the blog. There are some programs the Big Ten certainly could add and other programs the league never would add. Oklahoma falls somewhere in the middle. I know this is hard for some fans to understand, but Oklahoma would be an academic stretch for the Big Ten. No AAU membership, and while OU has a decent academic reputation, it would lag behind the others in the Big Ten. I know I'll take some heat for this, but Nebraska was a bit of a reach, too. I agree OU brings a lot to the table and could be a great addition in a lot of ways, but I just don't think the Big Ten presidents are willing to overlook the school's shortcomings.
Wisconsin's defense: cause for concern, or played vanilla and will make adjustments as the season goes along?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Justin, I just did a post on this issue. Wisconsin DT Patrick Butrym said it came down to poor tackling, which has been the No. 1 focal point in practice this week. Butrym and coach Bret Bielema also said UNLV ran some formations (pistol) that it didn't feature all of last season, which thew off the Badgers. I think this can still be a solid defense. Will it be a lock-down unit? Probably not. But if Wisconsin can identify some playmakers to help with the loss of JJ Watt, it should be OK.
I know Nebraska always has high expectations, but I'm not sure I've ever heard people around Lincoln show so much disappointment in a 40-7 win. Warranted concern or overreaction?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Ashley, I think the concern is with the offense, which didn't execute as well as it could have in Week 1. You can expect some growing pains there, but Nebraska wants to see greater efficiency in the coming weeks, beginning Saturday against Fresno State. The Huskers appear to have a championship-level defense again, but their offense could cost them in the Big Ten.
Will (Columbus, OH)
If Denard passes for 200 yds and runs for 50 more, can Fitz or Shaw carry the load and give Michigan a victory or is Denard going to have to carry the load like he did in last years ND game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Great question, Will. It has taken heroic performances by QBs for Michigan to win its past two games against ND (Tate Forcier in 2009, Denard last year). I think it's imperative for Michigan to establish a rushing attack outside of Robinson. I liked what I saw from Fitz Toussaint last week. Now can he stay healthy? Time will tell. But if the Michigan line performs well and the RBs take the load off of Robinson, it makes the Wolverines' offense really dangerous. That said, I expect a much better performance from Notre Dame this week.
Craig (St. Paul, MN)
Adam - With the horrid weather and lousy opposition did we learn anything about the 2011 Hawkeyes this week?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
We didn't learn a ton about a lot of Big Ten teams in Week 1, Craig. But I think we learned James Vandenberg brings a nice presence to the offensive backfield, and he has a real weapon in WR Marvin McNutt. I really think McNutt will be an All-Big Ten player by the end of the season. Also, I liked the way Iowa's defense continued to make big plays.
Adam (Dayton, OH)
What would the overall affect be for the perception of PSU and the Big Ten be if my Nittany Lions win these weekend? Do you think Penn State can pull of the upset?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Adam, I think Penn State can win, but it needs to play a clean game and maximize on its scoring opportunities. The defense also needs to deliver a huge performance. A win would do wonders for Penn State's national reputation and also the Big Ten's because the win would come against an elite SEC opponent.
Michael (Oak Park)
Did Illinois make you feel confident that they are a 8-4 team or 4-8? I know it was week 1, but they didn't show as much flash as they should to be a team on the rise.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Michael, you should be pleased to see two 100-yard receiving performances in Week 1. That tells me Illinois has a chance to be more multi-dimensional on offense this season. The defense will have its ups and downs as young players get comfortable, but the offense could really be dynamic. With this schedule, there's no reason why the Illini shouldn't win at least 6-7 games.
Joe (Columbus, OH)
Hi Adam. Do you think Bauserman will be the starting QB for OSU all year long? I didn't really get the the 'big play' vibe from him in their last game. Don't you think Braxton Miller provides that to the Buckeye offense? Also, after how well Carlos Hyde looked in the opener, do you think he is the starter for the rest of the year? Last question, with Miami getting all of it's starters back for the OSU game, what do you think OSU's chances are?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Joe, before getting to the QBs, let me say I really liked what Carlos Hyde did Saturday. He's a load with the ball in his hands. Ohio State hasn't had a true power back since Beanie Wells left after the 2008 season. Bauserman might not be a big-play QB, but he did a lot of good things Saturday and threw the ball well in the red zone. Can he be the difference maker? Not sure about that, but Ohio State should be able to win a lot of games with Bauserman at the helm. Miller is more of a risk-reward player, mainly because of his youth. Ohio State should continue to get him in games.
Hey adam- what are your thoughts on top flight players like James white playing special teams? Seems to me that ST is a great way to let up and coming players shine, and save the Heisman candidates from injury. Isn't the badgers kick return team of a starting wideout (Jared abbredaris) and white too risky?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Jackie, that's a good question and it comes up quite a lot with star players on both sides of the ball. Abbrederis looks like an excellent return man, and if he continues to surge and Wisconsin has another good option, I'd be careful using White on returns. Then again, Wisconsin has some insurance at RB with Montee Ball, and White's speed on returns could make the difference in some games.
Rick M (Louisville, KY)
Concerning the conference realignment activity, the B1G has plenty of options. I think they should go after Oklahoma and Missouri from the Big 12. This will only strengthen the B1G with pprograms that fit. We all know it is about money. Academics doesn't really matter all that much. If the B1G is going to continue to be relevant, then these two moves are required to stay ahead of the other conferences.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Rick, you're simply wrong. While money certainly matters, the Big Ten cares a lot about its academic reputation. The AAU thing is a big deal. That's not an issue with Missouri, but there would be some tough discussions about Oklahoma, which brings more to the table athletically and from a branding standpoint. I also disagree with your "continue to be relevant" comment. The Pac-12 has a relevancy problem. The Big Ten does not. So whether or not the Big Ten gets bigger, it will be a nationally relevant conference.
Waffles (Southern California)
If there's a Texas school that joins the B1G, I'd be for Rice. We can make them good at football, and the academics are too good to pass up.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
I'm guessing this is a joke, right?
Mike (Washington, DC)
Adam, do you think Le'Veon Bell should get the majority of the carries for Michigan State? Baker and Caper are good, don't get me wrong, but I think Bell might be the best if he can stay healthy this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Mike, I'd like to see Bell remain part of the carries mix, and he could very well be Michigan State's running back of the future. I love his size-speed combination. But Edwin Baker is a pretty solid back, and he brings experience to the backfield. I think Michigan State really can mix it up with those three backs and give defenses different looks.
Jason (Madison, VA)
Adam, I know that expansion talk is rampant, so that's where I'll go too. It seems like there are three major things the B1G is looking at for expansion teams: Academics, TV Markets, Athletic Prowess (in that order). Do you think the B1G would be willing to call up an FCS school? For example: Villanova. Strong academics. Philly TV market (into NJ and NY as well), and very strong athletics, especially basketball in football (FCS National Champ. just a couple years ago.) Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Jason, you were sounding so smart about this whole thing until I saw your suggestion. No, the Big Ten will not be adding Villanova. The Big East might, but the Big Ten is looking for bigger fish. But you are taking the right approach on how to look at expansion candidates, unlike a lot of fans, who simply look at the Top 25 and throw out silly suggestions.
Jim (BIG TEN Nation)
When do you think we can expect to see Indiana and minnisota to be competing teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Jim, I think Minnesota showed Saturday that it's not far away. The defense looked a lot better than I thought, particularly in the second half against USC. While I don't think Minnesota wins a bunch of games this season, the Gophers aren't far away from a breakthrough. Indiana has more issues, namely getting better players along both lines.
What are your thoughts on players using Twitter? I imagine it's helpful as a blogger or no?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Steve, I like it, but if I were coaching a team, I'd probably have a different opinion. It gives us some insight into the players and their lives, especially during the season. Some guys use it really well.
I know Notre Dame has many Big Ten rivalries already, but don't you think an annual Illinois-Notre Dame game in Chicago makes a lot of sense? Tons of alumni/fans for both schools are in Chicago, I think it would become a great tradition...also the new Illini AD has a relationship with Brian Kelly so that could help make this happen
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Jake, that's a really good call. I don't know how willing Notre Dame would be to play another Big Ten school, but an Illinois game in Chicago makes a lot of sense. The Mike Thomas-Brian Kelly connection certainly could help. I doubt we'd see more than a two-game series -- especially with ND playing Northwestern in 2014 and 2018 -- but it would be a good starting point.
Nebraska's offense reminded me a lot of their offense last year. They'll be fine against the softer schedule, but once league play starts they might be in trouble. Should the Huskers be worried?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Not yet, Josh. It's still very, very early, and I'd expect to see better performances from the Nebraska offense in the coming weeks. It's important for Taylor Martinez to complete a higher percentage of his passes, and Nebraska needs a better effort from its young offensive line, which has been a bit banged up. I really think the O-line could make or break the season for Big Red.
BeauDog Millionaire (Mumbai)
How does the B1G fare this weekend? I see 9 or 10 wins as most likely, loss to Bama and likely at least one loss between ND/Mich and Indiana/Virginia.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Sounds about right, BeauDog. All the other Big Ten teams are pretty big favorites, although Iowa must take care of business in Ames, which hasn't been an easy place to play over the years. Purdue also needs a better performance on the road, although Rice shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
DonPardo (Dyer, IN)
If AAU membership is so important, why did two B1G presidents reportedly cast a 'No' vote this last year for continuation of Nebraska's AAU membership? Conspiracy Theory Time: Could it be some in the B1G did that intentionally so this AAU requirement might not be a 'must-have' if expansion talks resumed as they appear to be doing now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
That's reading into it WAY too much, Don. Those votes were cast because of Nebraska's specific AAU situation, not with an eye on future expansion. It know this is so incredibly hard for people to grasp, but the Big Ten presidents aren't dying to expand again. They actually like the current setup. And if they must expand again, it will be a reluctant expansion.
CFB fan (America)
Do you get the perception more people are interested in the ND-Mich game under the lights, or the PSU-Bama game that looks to be much more competitive than last year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Notre Dame-Michigan has the novelty factor, along with the throwback uniforms and some other things. But Notre Dame's Week 1 loss really takes the luster off of that game. Penn State-Alabama to me is much more intriguing, and much more significant for the Big Ten if Penn State were to pull of the upset. Plus, you have all the great history between the Nittany Lions and the Tide.
Chas (Ames, IA)
Since you have been dismissive of everyone else's selections [and I don't recall you picking Nebby as the Big Ten's 12th team], name the next 2-4 expansion candidates for the Big Ten ....
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
OK, Chas. Notre Dame remains the No. 1 expansion candidate for the league. How realistic is this? Hard to say, but if the landscape keep changing, Notre Dame might be forced to join a league. After Notre Dame, I'd look to Maryland, Rutgers and maybe even Georgia Tech to push closer toward the South.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Texas would be great, obviously, but the Longhorns would have to adjust their approach to revenue sharing. There's no way the Big Ten adjusts its policies to accommodate anyone -- nor should it.
Are you a fan of the special uniforms everybody seems to be breaking out? Part of me thinks they are cool but tradition has to matter, don't you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
I think it's getting a little out of hand, Darnell. Those Maryland threads were hideous. I have less of an issue with Notre Dame and Michigan wearing throwback uniforms for one game, as the teams will Saturday night at the Big House. But I'd hope we don't get too carried away, especially in the Big Ten, where traditional uniforms mean so much.
Adam, academics is one of a number of variables for expansion but let's be honest about academics when it comes to football. Exclusive of Northwestern, most Big Ten schools are admitting kids per NCAA minimum requirements which are not close to the average requirements for the rest of the incoming students.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
That's true, John, but academics matter to the university presidents regardless of the standards for athletes. They want to be associated with highly rated institutions, especially as the Big Ten also has an internal academic group -- Committee on Institutional Cooperation -- that shares resources. Why is it so hard for football fans to accept that when it comes to the Big Ten and potential realignment, academics actually matter?
John (Happy Valley)
Sup Adam. Are you going to be in State College this weekend? If so, come to Paternoville friday night and check out the 111 tents in the rain. I have a tent in a tent.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
A tent in a tent? I'll have to check that out. That is, if I'm in State College this weekend ...
Mr. Wilson (Bloomington, IN)
How good is Virginia this year? Should I be scared of starting the season 0-2 or do you think we can pull this one out? Didn't we get trounced by a terrible Virginia team a couple years back? I don't remember, I was doing something else at the time...
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Yeah, do yourself a favor and don't watch that game tape, coach. Virginia isn't a great team, but Indiana will need a much better effort to beat the Cavs on Saturday night. You can't get pushed around by Ball State and expect to beat Virginia. While I could see Indiana winning this game, it needs to do a better job on front on both sides of the ball.
adam we are wondering on your thought of baylor to the big ten? They have been competetive in football and basketball. top 25 in bball recently. what do you think? its a texas school
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Don't see it, David. While you're right about the two major programs making strides, Baylor athletics still doesn't move the needle nationally very much. The location is interesting, though, and could help the Big Ten extend its footprint.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day
Rick M (Louisville, KY)
Adam, your excuse for having only AAU schools is failing. The B1G will have nothing to pick from, if expansion really takes off. We will be left with leftover and the non-relevant teams that are AAU accredited.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Perhaps, Rick, but besides Oklahoma, which teams really make the other leagues that much stronger. Texas A&M? Nope. Virginia Tech? In football, sure, but they can't win BCS bowl games. There are some nice programs out there that could be moving conferences, but how many truly great ones? Unless Texas moves, I don't see that many.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, our Big Ten expansion, er, Big Ten football chat is over. Talk to you next week.