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)
I'm here and so is Big Ten play! Let's get started.
Mike (Alexandria, VA)
So far McGloin, in my opinion, has been the better of the two QBs at PSU. Do you think JoePa continues to not name a starter because of the fear of Bolden transferring if McGloin is named starter or possibly because they think Bolden has long-term potential?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Mike, good question. Just listened to a conference call with McGloin and he was asked about this. His response was he didn't think Bolden's situation has prevented the coaches from naming a starter. He added that if it did, it would really upset him. I think the race is pretty close, but Bolden's past situation and long-term potential both are factors, no doubt. I definitely get the sense both Bolden and McGloin want a resolution, and who can blame them?
If Denard shuts down Toon one on one, what does that do for the Nebraska Defense and Wisconsin Offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Well, it takes away one of Russell Wilson's top weapons. He then likely would look to Jared Abbrederis, who is having a very good year, and tight end Jacob Pedersen, who is a threat to score touchdowns. But Wisconsin has been and will be a running team, so for the Blackshirts, it all starts up front.
Aaron (St. Louis)
Do you think Nebraska has been holding something back? Will they pull out a surprise or two for Wisconsin, either on offense or defense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Wouldn't be surprised, Aaron, if both teams had some special plays ready for this game. But I think the Nebraska offense is dangerous because of the big-play ability we've seen so far. The Huskers can look awful on 2-3 series and then hit you with a 60-yard TD.
Brady Hoke (Ann Arbor)
Adam--what are the chances my team is 6-0 heading into the Michigan State game in East Lansing?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Pretty decent chance, Brady. Can't see Michigan faltering this week against Minnesota at home. The Northwestern game will be tougher because it's Michigan's first road game of the year. Dan Persa will be playing in his second game for the Wildcats, and he's the type of quarterback that will capitalize on weaknesses I still see in Michigan's secondary. But Michigan will be favored to be 6-0 entering the MSU game.
Ben Church (Ottawa, ON)
WIth the MSU O-Line a mess and OSU not great vs the pass, Coach D will change it up and go pass first, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Not so sure, Ben. Dantonio still trumpets the "pound green pound" motto and always wants to establish the run first. But Michigan State has shown a willingness to pass in the past, especially during the 2009 season. I'm interested to see what the Spartans do play-action-wise, whether they move the pocket to buy Cousins some time, etc.
Wilson for Offensive MVP? He shouldn't even be in the conversation. It's a two man race (thus far), Robinson and Scheelhaase. An MVP makes a big difference for his team in the W/L column's, Wilson and Martinez haven't made 1 bit of difference for their teams yet (in that regard). Will it change? Definitely, but thus far, RW and TM aren't MVP worthy.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Nate, I see what you're saying about Wilson. Wisconsin is 4-0 with or without him. But Scheelhaase shouldn't be in the conversation, in my opinion. He's been pretty inconsistent the past two weeks, and Illinois' defense has repeatedly bailed out the offense. That's why Whitney Mercilus is my Defensive MVP so far. Denard Robinson is a strong candidate b/c of his performance against Notre Dame, but I'd throw Iowa QB James Vandenberg in the mix, too. His performance late in the Pitt game could be huge depending on what Iowa does from here on out.
I cannot figure out the 2011 Michigan team. It feels like 2009 all over again, but it also feels like they have confidence they didn't have under Rich Rod. I can't tell if this is a good team that hasn't yet put together an A+ game (offense,defense), or a mediocre team that's overachieving because of some fortune (Notre Dame) and a softer schedule ... HELP!
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Chris, you're not the only one. I think Michigan falls somwhere in between the 2009-10 teams and a squad that is beginning to make strides on defense. We simply don't know enough about this team at this point, but we'll learn a lot in the Northwestern and Michigan State games. The offense seems a lot like last year's, although Denard has been worse as a passer. The defense definitely has been better, aside from stretches in the Notre Dame game.
Ibrahim (East Lansing)
Hey Adam, big fan.I remember in the preseason, Howard from the Big ten network said that James Vanderberg was the best pure passer in the big ten. With 4 games gone, do you agree with him. How about Kirk Cousins?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Vandenberg looks really good to me, Ibrahim, although let's see how he fares against a really good defense (Penn State, Oct. 8 in State College). I like Kirk Cousins, but at times he looks too hesitant and a little robotic to me. He's a guy who gets a lot out of his abilities, but whether he can be effective against truly elite defenses remains to be seen.
Colby (Lincoln, NE)
With all the hype surrounding the Nebraska-Wisconsin game. I think it's more of a do or die situation for Nebraska. Taylor Martinez will have a big game and i think Nebraska throws everything at Wisconsin. But i remember how about 4 or 5 years ago we were suppose to return to national prominence. Since then we have witnessed about 3 or 4 other programs do it but not us. We are desperate for this win. It may be bad timing, but the huskers need to get it done. Otherwise i think its going to be a long season again in Lincoln. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Colby, I understand what you're saying, but it's not the end of the world if Nebraska loses. Now if the Huskers get blown out, that's another story. But we still have division play to come, and if Nebraska takes care of business in the Legends, it gets to Indy with a chance to do something it hasn't done since 1999. So while Nebraska has a lot to gain in Madison, it's not the end of the world if Big Red falls short.
Tom (God's Country (i.e. WI))
After losing JJ Watt to the NFL, I haven't seen a disruptive player on the Badger defense this year. Would you agree? And will the Badger D have play more conservative because they don't have that dynamic player?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Tom, you probably won't see a player like JJ Watt in Madison for quite some time. He really was that special. Wisconsin hopes that greater depth along the defensive line will help account for the absence of No. 99, who could do it all. And so far, the group has performed well. Chris Borland is Wisconsin's defensive star, and he's all over the field. But to this point, I don't see a dominant defensive lineman.
Speaking of Denard Robinson's passing, Adam, what do you think the real issue is? Is it a matter of changing to a pro style offense? He's missed some wide open receivers by a mile and thrown some terrible interceptions. Is it something he's likely to improve on this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Adam, it has surprised me. I really thought Robinson got a raw deal about his passing after making significant strides last year. But he seems out of sorts on any throw longer than 10 yards this year. Michigan says the problem goes beyond Robinson, and I'm sure adjusting to the offense has something to do with it, but the current formula for winning on offense likely won't last in the Big Ten. I know Michigan won't be able to get away with these interceptions too much longer.
Bennett (West Lafayette)
Notre Dame is last in the nation in turnover margin. Can you see Purdue's defense steeping it up or Notre Dame's offense faltering again allowing the Boilermaker's to sneak a win.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Bennett, Purdue will have to force some takeaways because I don't think the Boilers are strong enough to stop the Irish for four quarters. Purdue's biggest keys to this game will be takeaways on defense and establishing the run with Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers on offense. The Boilers don't want to put the game squarely on their QBs' shoulders.
Pavlov's Dog (Russia)
It is very clear at Minnesota that Kill needs to resign. The constant medical problems have become a distraction to the team and coaching staff. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
This is a tough question, Pavlov. It all depends on the severity of Kill's health issues. He absolutely made the right call to return to the hospital and see what's going on. I would hope at that point, he'll make a determination about what he can and can't do. I know I'd love to see him coaching Minnesota and staying healthy, but his situation adds to what has been a tough first month for Minnesota.
Adam who u think is the "X factor" in the Nebrask and Wisconsin game
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
For Nebraska, it's a guy I'm writing about later today, Rex Burkhead. Everyone talks about Taylor Martinez, but Burkhead is having a really nice season with nearly identical numbers to Martinez. For Wisconsin, it could be James White. He has been fairly quiet so far this season, but he had a great performance last year against Ohio State. He's also a guy who will test Nebraska's speed on defense.
Can you speak to the weaknesses you continue to see in Michigan's secondary? To this point, the safeties and CBs look like they know what they're doing and they've only given up one of the busts that characterized their play all last year, ie the late TD against ND, and Mattison took the blame for getting caught in a bad defense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Andrew, my concern is that when Mattison isn't dialing up crazy blitzes and changing the formations, the defensive backs are still vulnerable. I saw a lot of soft coverage early in the Western Michigan game, and Notre Dame found gaps as well. You bring up a great point about the lack of major breakdowns. That's HUGE. But I just want to see Michigan a few more weeks against a few more competent QBs before going nuts. Just be patient.
Chris (Columbus, OH)
Hi Adam, love the blog great job! I keep hearing that tOSU's defense is not what is has been the past few years and most point to the Miami game as the measuring stick. Personally I think the defense looks solid again this year and the Buckeyes typically start a little slow. The Miami game I put on the offense because they could not stay on the field. Very few defenses, no matter how good, can hold a team down if they are on the field most of the game. I would however like to see more of a pass rush. Also a side note I think starting Miller was the only logical choice for a team that doesn't have much to lose this season. He opens up much more and also he needs to get the game experience in now. We knew going in that Bauserman was not the guy in Columbus. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Chris, although the defense helped put Ohio State in an early hole at Miami, I'm not worried about the unit. It's a group stocked with talent that, like you said, typically improves as the season goes along. I liked some of the adjustments against Colorado, namely using Christian Bryant in the starting lineup. He provided a nice boost. ... I agree on playing Miller ahead of Bauserman. While Ohio State fans are pretty tough on Joe B, it's clear Miller has greater upside and big-play ability.
How do you think Persa will come out this first week back? That is a tough injury to come back from. Do you think he will be a little hesitant? Despite what Fitzgerald said about his attitude.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Drew, I think he'll be a little hesitant to run the football, but keep in mind Persa completed 73.5 percent of his passes. He's still throwing the ball really well in practice, and I don't expect him to hold back at all in that area. Persa's passing is what will boost the Northwestern offense, which, to this point, has mostly wasted its talent at wide receiver/tight end. Persa has to be a different type of QB than he was in 2010, but if he can capitalize on the talent at WR/TE, Northwestern will be in good shape.
AZBadger (Madison via Flagstaff, AZ)
As much as I am looking forward to seeing this game, I believe the Hype Train is missing one car. Except for keeping in the National championship picture, the respective divisions will not be decided with this game between the Badgers and Huskers. Yes, the winner/ loser will be at an advantage/ disadvantage in division play, but a little perspective may be in order.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Great point, Badger. There are a lot of exciting crossover games these next few weeks -- UW-Neb, OSU-Neb, PSU-Iowa -- but none matter as much as the division games that will take place later. If Nebraska beats Wisconsin but loses to Michigan State, the MSU loss will really sting. And if Wisconsin beat Nebraska but loses to Ohio State, that loss will hurt.
"More competent qb's?" Seriously? Give me one big ten team that has faced better qb's so far. Seriously. Illinois...maybe. And that's it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
What do the other Big Ten teams have to do with anything? We're all making sweeping statements about teams that have played four nonconference games. Alex Carder is a good quarterback. I was thoroughly unimpressed with Ryan Lindley. Tommy Rees is what he is. Let's just be a little patient, and see how Michigan fares against two proven QBs in Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins.
If Welch is healthy, could he be WI's "x-factor" if it's a close game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Good point, Bucky. He could get back to practice this week. We'll have to see how ready he'll be to kick in a game, but in any close contest, the kicking game will be big.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
Adam, love the blog...even the closet ginger. I have not seen any reports. Is Nate Williams going to be back soon? OSU's pass rush is pretty weak. And against the good QB's coming up starting this week, we are going to need him. I never thought Solomon Thomas' return would matter as much as the offensive players of the Tat-4, but he does matter. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Jason, really good point about Solomon Thomas. He's the forgotten member of the Tat-5, and he could provide a big boost for the D-line. Luke Fickell said he'd know later this week about Nathan Williams, but Ohio State certainly could use Nathan in the lineup. I love John Simon, but he's surrounded by a lot of youth right now.
Are you and Brian hitching a ride on the gameday bus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
We were thinking Brian can just run behind the bus while I sip champagne.
Zachary Lindau (State Colleg, PA)
What is your take on the QB situation at Penn State.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
It needs to get resolved. Been saying that since the Alabama game. You can tell, hearing Bolden and McGloin, that it's draining them a bit. They want a resolution. The other players want a resolution. No one really sees a benefit in continuing the 2-QB system. Penn State can still beat bad and mediocre teams like this, but to beat the best, you need to know who you are on offense.
Daniel (RidgeFarm, Illinois)
Adam, does Illinois have what it takes to make it to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis this year or have they set themselves up for failure with their remaining schedule? I so far have been extremely impressed with the games they have played but I know 3 out of the 4 of the teams they have played have been sub-Bowl Division teams (Arkansas State, San Diego State, and Western Michigan). They did have an impressive game against Arizona State granted but I am just worried they had it too easy against the other 3 teams.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Daniel, I think you mean South Dakota State, not San Diego State. But I see your point. The schedule has been pretty cushy with so many home games, but the good thing is Illinois has built some confidence on the defensive side. A playmaking defenses with young, talented guys who believe in themselves can take you a long way. I'm really interested to see how Illinois performs against teams like Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State this month.
Adam, do you think the bye week will help or hurt the hawks going into happy valley?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Interesting question, Lane. Vandenberg was on fire, so you'd like to see him keep playing without a break. On the other hand, the bye week should help a guy like Marcus Coker, who hasn't looked 100 percent to me. And the additional rest and prep time before a big road game rarely hurts.
Brian (new jersey)
If the Big 10 expands, do you see Rutgers being an option after they consider Notre Dame?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Only if the Big Ten feels the need to expand beyond 13. If the Big Ten absolutely has to add four more teams, Rutgers certainly makes sense to be one of the four. But it would go against the expanding-for-the-sake-of-expanding philosophy the Big Ten has opposed. I know this: if the Big Ten could take Notre Dame and no one else, it would do so.
Michigan State tends to struggle away from Spartan Stadium in bigger games under Dantonio. Do you think this trend continues in Columbus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Aaron, I've gone back and forth on that game all week. This is the perfect time for Michigan State to win in Columbus, as Ohio State has struggled offensively and has some youth on D. But can the Spartans get it done on the road? They'll need to run the ball decently, avoid special teams miscues and make Braxton Miller's life miserable. I think they can do it, but we'll see.
AR, very disappointed you didn't answer my second question, but I'll give you a chance at redemption. Better movie, Office Space, Old School, or Wedding Crashers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Great question, Nate. Can't really go wrong with those three, but I love Office Space. Always will.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
The fax machine scene will go down as one of the greatest ever.
Paul Bunyan (Minnesota)
The gophers have the talent, they just need to put it together.... do you think some players will have breakout games, specifically Troy Stoudermire and our QB Q? Any chance we get the Little Brown Jug?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Minnesota will have to play MUCH better on defense to get the Jug. Denard Robinson has shredded teams with superior defenses to what we've seen from Minnesota. It'll be interesting to see what happens at quarterback. Definitely see both Q and Shortell playing, but Minnesota likely needs a big game from Q to have a chance.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
Your comment about the divisional games mattering more still has me disappointed with the divisional alignments. Though it isn't on the radar yet (and shouldn't be given the big games on tap) I think the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry is really going to struggle being in opposite divisions when push comes to shove. Is there any way they'll ever reconsider these alignments? Especially if Notre Dame were to be added.
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Everything can be reconsidered, Chris, but the Big Ten will let this setup breathe for a while. The one difference with Ohio State-Michigan and most of the other crossover games is that it takes place at the end of the season rather than in October. So even though the teams are in opposite divisions, the result could have an impact on who goes to Indy. Not a guarantee, of course, but a possibility.
Do you see Iowa running this High Octane Offense the rest of the year? If so, what do you think this would do in regards to recruiting? I would think it would attract more 4+ Star players on the offensive side of the ball. Two weeks in I know, but still excited about this potential change!
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Shane, Ken O'Keefe didn't become Guz Malzahn overnight, so let's just see what they do at Penn State before putting the "high-octane" label on things. Iowa still will try to establish the run first and foremost. The encouraging element has been the development of receivers around McNutt. Vandenberg has more options than we thought he would. But I could still see Iowa being run-oriented for many games.
Bo Pelini (Lincoln)
I've been working on anger management Mr. Rittenberg, but between Oprah's book club and Dr. Phil's wonderful TV show, I still seem to have issues. What are my options here? Any chance I make it through this Wisconsin game without another blow up?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Bo, you have to be yourself, and coaches always talk about how they can't be someone they're not. But you know the cameras are on you always, and, more important, your team looks to you to set the mood on the sideline. While I don't think we'll see another A&M blowup, I don't expect you to bite your tongue all season, either.
H G Wells (The time machine)
Just got back from 2015. Big Ten is still at 12 teams, Michigan still hasn't beat Ohio State, Joe Pa is still at PSU and Minnesota and Indiana are still Minnesota and Indiana. Nice to know some things never change.
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Ha, thanks for letting us know!
Elroy (Mustache Country)
I've been patient and I've also expected a level slightly above mediocrity. After losing to Rice I have no Hope. We need Coach Change and Coach Yes We Can. What are your thoughts on our coaching situation? Do you expect a lot of hot seat talk and serious replacement talk heading into this off season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Always good to hear from Mustache Country, Elroy. I understand your frustration. Purdue shouldn't go this long without a bowl appearance. The program has generated very little buzz during the Danny Hope era. But a few big wins, like this week against Notre Dame, could do wonders for Purdue. I do think there's talent in West Lafayette. Is Hope the coach to get it done? Time will tell. I think it's important to get back to a bowl game and start building something again. If he doesn't, the hot-seat talk will heat up.
Luke F. (Columbus)
What do I need to do at this point in the season to keep my job? Is Saturday a must win?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
It might be, Luke, especially because trips to Nebraska and Illinois follow this game. If Ohio State wins, it heads to Lincoln with confidence and regains the services of four key players (three offensive starters). If the Buckeyes lose, we could be looking at a slide that would seal your fate as Buckeyes coach. So it's a huge game for both sides.
Do you see Illinois being able to run effectively on northwestern this weekend or will Steelhase have to throw more?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Well, it's Scheelhaase, and I do think the Illini will find room to run. They won't be as dominant as they were last year at Wrigley Field, but Northwestern's defensive front seven isn't anything special. Scheelhaase and his backs will find some holes.
Sammy (Australian Spartan)
I still don't understand how recruiting works. MSU always has recruits from Ohio and Michigan, but after losing to Alabama and Georgia, it's time we try to recruit players from the south, with speed. After all we've become a fairly good team to attract recruits from that area.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
I agree, Sammy. Big Ten teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska recruit a lot outside the Midwest. Nebraska will focus more in the Midwest now, but I think it's important for Michigan State to expand and become more of a national recruiting force.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Do you buy Luke fickell's comment that he had no idea Wisconsin and Nebraska were playing this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
It's hard to believe him, but coaches really do live in bubbles.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed the chat. Talk to you next week!