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!
Kevin (Severn, MD)
Adam, Where are you???
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
I'm here! Let's chat!
Purdue's program is in shambles, with the bad loss last week at Rice yet another example of how they are moving in the wrong direction. Is this finally the season coach No Hope gets his walking papers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Pat, it's still early to close the book on Danny Hope, but Purdue doesn't look like a good team early on. The defense must tighten up, especially as the offense goes through a transition with the quarterbacks. I do like Purdue's potential to run the football with Bolden and Shavers. But the defense seems to be reeling without Ryan Kerrigan.
Brian (Council Bluffs)
Adam, is Kirk Ferentz scared of late game situations? It seems like he waits for the other team to make a mistake instead of taking things into his own hands. 1:19 two time outs and your kicker has been clutch all game, yet you run the ball and opt for overtime? You know your defense has been shaky all day, why not play for the win? Is he scared or does he just not trust his offense in the 2 minute drill? It's something that's frustrated me for a while as a Hawkeye fan, it's the Ohio State syndrome all over again.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Brian, I understand your concern. But Iowa has a first-year starting quarterback in Vandenberg, the Hawkeyes are playing on the road and Iowa State had all the momentum after scoring the tying TD. And Iowa scored a touchdown in the first overtime, giving its defense another chance to make a stop and win the game. Kirk definitely is conservative in these situations. I remember Ferentz and Jim Tressel both being risk-averse in the 2009 game in Columbus -- a game Vandenberg also played -- and it ended up costing Ferentz. Your concern is legitimate, but with regard to the ISU game, I can't fault Ferentz too much.
How the heck is (0-2) (10 turnovers in 2 games) Notre Dame favored over ranked Michigan State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
That is a surprise, Alex. Notre Dame has played better than its record indicates, but Michigan State should be getting a lot more respect. Before falling in South Bend two years ago, the Spartans won six straight at Notre Dame Stadium. Michigan State has a more experienced QB and comes off of a terrific defensive effort.
Kevin (Fargo, ND)
Has your prediction (Ohio St @ Miami) change since the reinstatement of the 3 Ohio St. players?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Nope. Was picking the Buckeyes even before the reinstatement, although having Hall and especially Howard back on the field helps Ohio State. Howard's presence could be huge in the secondary. Wait until Thursday for my score prediction, but I'm going with Ohio State.
What will it take for PennState to return to elite status and actually occassionally beat a top team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Complicated question, Scott, but one easy answer is to develop a top-flight quarterback. Talked to several folks last week about Penn State's inability to develop QBs who succeed at the NFL level. When you're going against an Alabama defense filled with future NFL players, you need a quarterback who can make the big plays. Offensive line is another area Penn State must upgrade to get back to national power status.
Cam (East Lansing)
Adam: You and Brian do a great job with the blog. Keep it up! Anyhow, do you think Michigan State uses a bigger corner like Darqueze Dennard - who has been playing really well - to cover Michael Floyd instead of the smaller Johnny Adams. Floyd really hurt U-M's smaller corners, especially with one-on-one coverage. I think Narduzzi wants to stop the run, create third-and-long situations and blitz like crazy. Rees looked bad under duress...
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Cam, you bring up a really interesting point. I asked Mark Dantonio specifically about Johnny Adams on Tuesday, and he indicated Adams would be covering Floyd. Dennard is still a young player and Adams has emerged as Michigan State's No. 1 corner. Both CBs are listed at 5-11, but Adams isn't the biggest guy in the world. The more important issue for the Spartans is generating a pass rush with their front four. Agree with you on Rees.
Phillip (a stadium near you)
Adam, Nebraska's defense gave up alot of yards and the players made comments that Dresno State was in looks that they weren't prepared and it seems as if the coaching disagreed with the players.There seems to be tension between the players and the coaches.I know that happens at alot of schools but could this lead to even more public tension down the road in Huskerland?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Phillip, there's always a bit of tension when a unit doesn't play well. If Nebraska's defense struggles Saturday against Washington, I'd start to get worried. Fresno State always gives major-conference teams its best shot, and the Carr kid at QB really showed me a lot Saturday. That said, Nebraska should expect much more from its defense, beginning this week against Washington. I don't see the Huskers' offense being consistent enough to win Big Ten games on its own.
Why again are my Badgers playing at Northern Ill? It just seems like a bad idea. Not that I expect to lose but this game should be in Madtown.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Brandon, Wisconsin has hosted Northern Illinois several times in Madison. This game is in Chicago, and while NIU is the home team, Badgers fans will be well represented at Soldier Field. I know a ton of Wisconsin fans who live here in Chi-town. So it's not a bad situation for Wisconsin, especially because the game takes place in an NFL stadium.
Floor for Michigan has to be 8 wins now........right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Brandon, my first inclination is to say wait a little longer, but Michigan should be 5-0 when it visits Northwestern on Oct. 8. The Wolverines should get to eight wins, but they need to get a lot more consistent on both sides to win in the Big Ten. The formula we saw Saturday night won't work against teams like Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Northwestern and Iowa.
Adam, what's "worse" for league perception: OSU losing @ the U or MSU losing @ the winless Irish?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Good question, Bucky. I think it's Ohio State losing to Miami, even though the Buckeyes are shorthanded. Until Ohio State loses a game and shows it's not the same program, it deserves the benefit of the doubt after a decade of dominance. A Michigan State loss doesn't hurt as much because so many folks think Notre Dame is a decent team and everyone agrees ND will be a desperate team Saturday in South Bend.
Luke (Princeton, New Jersey)
Adam,Does Coach Doeren's intimate knowledge of Wisconsin give Northern Illinois a chance at an upset. Does Solidier Field as a venue play a role?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Luke, Doeren's knowledge of Wisconsin's defenders should help, but keep in mind that Northern Illinois also boasts a very good offense led by a dynamic QB in Chandler Harnish. Wisconsin won't be shutting out this team, and the Badgers' secondary will be tested by Harnish, especially after losing CB Devin Smith. That said, Doeren knows how good Wisconsin's offense is and he also has a young defense that ranks near the bottom of the FBS against the run. The only way NIU wins is in a total shootout. ... Don't think Soldier Field plays a factor unless the surface looks a lot worse than it did for the Bears win last week.
Lucas D. (Texas)
Adam, can Nebraska still have an awesome season with nothing but big plays and three and outs, as long as the defense plays up to their potential and can handle being on the field most of the time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Lucas, Nebraska's defense can win a lot of games if it plays to its potential, but the Huskers won't beat teams like Wisconsin if the offense remains so inconsistent. The power run doesn't seem to be there yet, and it will take time for Nebraska's young offensive line to come together. The offensive line could be the biggest key to the season. If you can't convert third-and-short in the Big Ten, you typically can't win the conference.
How do you envision a dual QB offense at NU working? Do Colter and Persa switch depending on the down or the series. Would NU consider going this route given Penn State's ineptitude using the dual-QB system, or might it work because of NU's uptempo offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Eric, it's an interesting question. Kain Colter has shown he should be part of Northwestern's offense, even if he's not the starting QB. Colter is the best ball-carrier Northwestern has had since Tyrell Sutton. But I need to see more from Colter and the Wildcats in the passing game. Surprised how little they passed the ball against Eastern Illinois, given all the weapons at receiver. Ultimately, if Persa is back to being Persa, he's the quarterback and you work Colter in here and there.
Time for a less serious question. If you were a Big Ten mascot, which one would you be? Also what would Bennett be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Bennett would definitely be Lil' Red from Nebraska. ... I'd be Sparty.
Hey Adam, What is your thought on Brian Kelly's comments towards OSU's schedule and Toledo? Pretty much foot-in-mouth on that one! Shouldn't he just worry about his own 0-2 team and their problems, and not making excusses? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Gregory, it was a dumb comment for a guy who has made a few of them this season. Kelly certainly wouldn't like people talking about Central Michigan that way when he coached the Chips. Toledo looks like a really good team and I'm excited to see the Rockets face Boise State on Friday.
Tim Rosini (Huntington Beach, Ca)
Adam,Psu fan and big ten fan here living on the west coast. Isn't it clear to everyone outside of the Paterno family that, while Rob Bolden may not be the immediate reincarnation of Cam Newton, he is a soph. with a lot of talent and more room to grow than mgloin. No offense to Mgloin, Psu has what 2-3 games to re-shape, get confidence back and any other cliche analogy you can come up with football before the Big 10+2 schedule. What's your thoughts on the lack of leadership from the coaching staff in clearly making a decision that will stop holding the team back, and if they make that decision do they have a chance to improve and challenge for the leaders division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Tim, I totally don't get it. If these were both freshmen, I'd understand. If one player had transferred this summer and wowed the coaches in camp, I'd understand. But these are two guys with starting experience who competed throughout the spring and summer. What more do you need to see to make a decision? It sounds as though the coaches are worried about hurting someone's feelings or confidence by sitting them down. Sorry, that's part of the deal. I also agree that if Bolden is the guy, he should get some leeway and not have to worry about coming out of the game after every mistake. Give him time to grow.
Adam, we are like 20 minutes into the chat and nobody's mentioned conference realigment. What gives?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Shhhh, don't stir the beast!
Kevin (Severn, MD)
Can the B1G have 6-7 teams listed in the top 25 after this weekend? UM, NW, and PSU are waiting to jump in and several teams in the 18-25 spot like West Virginia facing Maryland, Auburn facing Clemson, Arizona St. facing Illinois, Texas facing UCLA and Miss. St. facing LSU have a real possibility of losing their games. Will this help the national respect for the conference overall if we slide 3 teams in the polls next week to bring our total to 6, maybe 7 teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Meh. It's more important to have 6-7 teams in the polls in January, not September. And it's more important to have teams in the top-10 than 20-25. But in the bigger picture, it's good for the Big Ten to beat teams like Miami, Arizona State, Washington and Notre Dame. Getting a team like Illinois some national attention will help because the Illini have a chance to be really good this fall.
Maybe Michigan should just run each offensive series like they did during the 4th quarter of last weeks game against ND? It seems to me that they always performs better in that situation (for the most part). Forget about tempo and sustaining drives, just push the ball, make big plays, and get Denard outside to make things happen. The last 2 games it has seemed to me that they are still trying to feel things out and that is what is getting them in trouble (big deficit to ND in the 4th, etc.) What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Jared, you're basically asking for Michigan to run the spread, as it did last season. I totally get that, but Al Borges needs to be comfortable with the system he's calling. He also needs to begin the transition to what will eventually be more of a pro-style offense. There are times to increase the tempo, but Michigan can't get too far off course. The good news is the next few weeks provide opportunities for Michigan to settle into a better rhythm on offense. While the fourth-quarter heroics against ND were great, what you saw in the third quarter against Western Michigan is what Michigan ultimately wants to achieve.
I have the wedding of a work colleague on Oct. 8th. How much in poor taste would it be to skip, or leave immediately after dinner, to watch my Huskers take on tOSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
A work colleague? Are you good friends? If not, I'd find a way to watch Big Red. Maybe that sounds insensitive, but this isn't a family member or your best friend we're talking about.
Jack (Iowa City)
Here's hoping neither of you have to come into town to cover the game this weekend. I've never seen so much widespread hate for the football program in my 7 years of undergrad and grad school. I've seen a lot of disappointment over the years, but never this much anger. Saturday could get ugly fast.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
C'mon, Jack, I love angry Iowans! Relax, folks, it's only Week 3. Long way to go with a team that should improve as the season goes along.
Devin Smith is out for the year. Cromartie is looking good so far, but how is the depth at cornerback for the Badgers now.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Not good, Richard. The two backup cornerbacks on this week's depth chart both are freshmen. While Wisconsin has some more depth at safety and could get creative with its formations in the secondary, the Badgers likely will have to rely on some young corners at some point this season. And you can bet opposing offensive coordinators will try to capitalize.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Do you think ASU's overtime win helps or hurts their chances against Illinois? I think we are a bit of a trap game for them, but I am concerned their win over Mizzou will give them some much needed momentum. Any word from your blog-o-sphere buddies on ASU's mindset coming into this game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Mike, colleague Ted Miller from the Pac-12 blog talked before the season about how Illinois could be a trap game for ASU whether or not it beat Missouri. There could be a letdown from the Devils on Saturday night. On the other hand, the quarterback has to be coming in with a lot of confidence, and you know Vontaze Burfict will be ready to play. But Illinois will have the home crowd on its side and Pac-12 teams that travel east often have problems.
This is an all or nothing season for coach Fickell and his staff, why is he not playing like it? All I see is Tresselball.
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
William, I'm guessing you're referring to the Toledo game. Sure, Ohio State could have taken a few more risks, but you also have to believe your players will avoid the major mistakes that lose games. TresselBall is a proven formula for Ohio State, but I agree that against better teams Fickell will have to roll the dice a little more.
Hey Adam, are they ever going to get rid of these stupid preseason rankings? The problem with perception is it's hard to keep up with reality later. Example would be TCU is still ranked even after its loss to Baylor and Baylor is now considered a good football team. If they lose tons of games later the voters won't go back and track that to penalize TCU even more in the rankings. This is why everyone says ?if you?re going to lose, then lose early" that should change, do you agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Agree 100 percent, Steve. I really dislike preseason rankings and think the first polls should come out the second week of October, after we have some time to truly evaluate these teams. I get that people love polls and rankings and Brian and I will keep churning out our power rankings each week, but I also urge you guys not to get too worked up about where teams are placed in September. Unfortunately, those preseason rankings often have a strong effect on who plays for national championships or in BCS bowls.
Adam, I was ecstatic about the Jerry Kill era after watching my Gophers nearly upset USC. But after last week's debacle I am incredibly depressed about Minnesota. Talk me off the ledge?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Michael, of all the losses Saturday, Minnesota's was the most shocking. I really expected the Gophers to be able to score more against New Mexico State. The issue with the defense continues to be the pass rush. The run D looks OK, but coordinator Tracy Claeys said Tuesday that he still has to dial up too many blitzes because they're not generating enough pressure with the line. On offense, something needs to shift soon or Minnesota won't win many games this year.
Kevin (Severn, MD)
Mike Hart, who is now coaching at Eastern Mich., said he basically doesnt have any ties to the Michigan program or care if they win. Do you buy this from a guy who was a media hero at Mich for a few years?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Kevin, Hart is saying what he has to say. He's working for Eastern Michigan now and devoting himself to building EMU into a respectable program. I have no doubt his love for Michigan remains, and Mike Hart always will be a Michigan man. But he can't spend time or energy worrying about the Wolverines now.
Kevin (Grand Rapids)
Can you evaluate MSU O-line play after 2 games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Kevin, wasn't overly impressed in the opener, but the group performed better last week against Florida Atlantic. Notre Dame should provide a good test as the Irish contained Michigan's run game for much of last week's contest. With ND and Ohio State both coming up on the schedule, we'll get a good read on Michigan State's new-look line.
John (In lecture (Iowa City))
I'm tuning out my professor for you Adam, reward me with an answer. Everyone in Iowa City seems to be selling out the Hawks because of a rivalry loss. It was heartbreaking(I was in Jack Trice), but my question is; is our defense better than that? Or was Iowa State's offense just a fluke for that day. We all remember the UNI game they played 2 weekends ago....we thought this was an easy game. How wrong we were.... Is our defense salvageable? Micah Hyde is in one of my classes, and on Monday he looked extremely depressed. CAN THEY REBOUND!? Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
John, I think the defense can rebound and that Iowa State will be a pretty solid offense behind Steele Jantz (love that name). In some ways, the Pitt game comes at a good time because Pitt is a high-tempo, spread offense that will test an Iowa defense that has struggled against the spread and struggled to finish games. Here's a perfect opportunity for Hyde and his fellow defenders to rebound and show that they don't have a conditioning issue and can finish games strong. Keep in mind there are a lot of new faces in starting roles on defense.
When will they announce the upcoming gameday locations? I can't imagine it will be anywhere but in Madison on Oct 1st
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Typically, those locations are announced the Sunday morning before the game. Don't worry, as soon as the announcement is made, we'll post it on the blog!
Adam CRITICAL QUESTION: Whats the runningback rotation gonna look like for the Buckeyes vs Miami? Besides that 36 yd Td Carlos Hyde looked uninspiring to me against Toledo and I can't understand why we didn't see more of Jamaal Berry. Does Hyde get the start again? And how do Berry/Jordan Hall fit into this offense if so? I feel like we're starving for explosiveness...
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
JC, Berry is still working his way back from a hamstring issue, but he could play a bigger role Saturday. Jordan Hall adds a key piece to the offense because he can play both RB and WR. I've actually liked Hyde a lot so far, but I agree more backs need to be rotated in there. I would start Hyde and mix in Hall for a change of pace. If Berry is healthy enough, I'd give him 5-8 carries because he has tremendous breakaway ability.
If you were to put a percentage on Persa playing against Army, what would it be? Also, is there a chance that NU might be looking at a medical redshirt for Persa?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Sam, very little chance Northwestern would seek a medical hardship. You've have to prove Persa couldn't play for the whole season, and that's hard to do because I do think he's getting closer. Persa said Tuesday he fully expects to play at Illinois and could see the field this weekend. He had a meeting with his doctor today, so that will be big. I think it'd be good to get Persa some game reps before the Big Ten season.
Kevin (Severn, MD)
I know your not a Big 12 or ACC espn rep, but who ya got in FSU vs OKLA?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Kevin, very excited about that matchup. Florida State is really talented, but Oklahoma has the more experienced QB and a terrific WR in Broyles. Sooners win a close one.
I don't know how much film you've watched on Taylor Martinez from last year, but is it just me or has his passing seemed to have regressed? I know it's early still, but his throwing motion seems much more side armed this year than last.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Josh, I agree he hasn't looked good passing the ball, but his receivers also need to get some separation. I haven't seen much from the Huskers wideouts so far. When you've got a quarterback who is a bit limited as a passer, you need others to help him out.
Bill (Plowville, PA)
JoePa is Penn State Football. If he ever stops being the coach there, what happens to the program in your opinion?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Bill, it will be truly fascinating. A lot obviously depends on who replaces Joe. But being in State College last week, I fully believe Penn State is equipped to be a national power again. You've got tremendous fans, great student support, a lot of money in the program, great facilities. Certainly Paterno casts a huge shadow and there will be challenges for the next coach, but there's no reason why Penn State can't be elite again.
Tino Sunseri (PITT)
Should I be worried about my O-line giving up an exorbitant amount of sacks to the Iowa D-line? They let me down last weekend.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Tino, the 2011 Iowa D-line isn't the 2010 version, which had three NFL draft picks. But you'll need your offensive line to step up on the road. Tempo will be huge in this game and it'll be important for you to get Iowa back on its heels. Hawkeyes defense is a bit shaken right now after the loss in Ames.
Patrick (Wiona Lake)
When will we know when michigan's game vs. san diego st will be played.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
We already know. Will kick off at noon ET on Sept. 24. Game times were announced Monday.
MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF THE CHAT: What do you want on your brat? We'll be in the South Lot. Grill fires up at 10:30. We'll show you our legendary Badger hospitality.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Justin, can I get a rain check, maybe in Madison? I won't be at the NIU game Saturday, but I hope to catch up with the Badgers soon. Mmmmm, brats.
Louis Skolnik (Alpha Omega)
Two weeks in, who would you rate as the top 3 conferences thus far? Mine would be: 1) SEC 2) Big 12 3) BIG, agree/disagree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
I'd agree, Louis. Big 12 has had a pretty nice start, and the Pac-12 and ACC have been disappointing. Big Ten has been so-so. This is a big week for the B1G with games against Miami, Arizona State, Washington and Notre Dame.
Do you see Ferentz taking Coker out of the starting role if he fumbles again this Saturday against Pitt?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Alex, Kirk still has a lot of confidence in Coker, but no back with a fumbling problem will be on the field for the long term. Can't imagine Coker has too long of a leash this week.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
What about Braxton Miller? Bauserman looked good in the opener against a bottom 10 team in Akron. Against Toledo, still an average-at-best defense, he struggled mightily, hearing boos from the Buckeye faithful. Why didnt Miller see any snaps? What should his roll be against the 'canes this Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Eric, think the coaches wanted Bauserman to work through his issues and give Ohio State a comfortable lead. Then they would have played Miller. Luke Fickell says he wants to play Miller this week, and it'll be interesting to see how much leeway Fickell gives Bauserman.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
That's it for the chat, but great questions this week! Enjoy the games on Saturday!