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. Quick note: I probably have to hop off for a few minutes for a quick interview. I'll give you a head's up. Fire away!
Phillip (a stadium near you)
Adam,Taylor Martinez says"he just wants the world off his back". Sounds like the pressure is on him. Who is putting the most pressure on him: himself, the coaches and playcalling,the fans or the media?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Media and some fans, Phillip. It's the same at many high-profile programs like Nebraska. I was reading today how even Martinez's girlfriend is hearing about the criticism of T-Magic, which is unfortunate. The guy has been under fire for a while, but playing QB at Nebraska, that's also part of the deal. Husker fans should hope it fuels Taylor to play better, starting this week.
Tony (Framingham, Ma)
Adam, What are your thoughts on the year that Illinois is having? Nathan Scheelhaase is very underrated in my opnion. Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Great start, and I liked what I saw from Nathan last week. He can do it all. Must get more consistent.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
OK, hold on for just a sec, everyone ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
OK, guys, thanks for your patience.
rob (cedar rapids)
Adam, Wisconsin appears to me to be the only really good team in the B10 this year. There are 3 really bad teams with Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana. Which of the other 8 teams is most likely to get to 10 wins in your opinion
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Rob, Illinois has an extremely favorable schedule and a very real chance to get to 10 wins. Nebraska and Michigan also could get there, although both teams have some tough games left. Iowa is another team, if it gets past Penn State again, which could make a run.
Adam,With Joe Paterno approaching the end of his contract and his 85th birthday, and the offense coaching staff in complete disarray, have you heard rumblings about what PSU intends to do going forward? Renew or not renew?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Neil, it'll be a tough decision for the Penn State brass, and so much still depends on Joe and what he says and how he wants to proceed. A lot of fans aren't satisfied with the program's current position, but Joe built this program and still has a lot of influence over what happens in 2012 and beyond.
Adam, Michigan D has been flying to the ball through the first five games, increasing the takeaways and sacks compared to last year. Do you see anything changing this weekend with Persa (who is nicked up) and Northwestern?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Kevin, Persa doesn't turn the ball over, so I wouldn't expect the takeaways to spike, but he is limited with his mobility, so I'm sure Greg Mattison will pressure him with the front seven and Jordan Kovacs. But Persa also will be the most effective passer Michigan has seen all season. No one has consistently challenged that secondary, and Persa will do so. We'll get a better view of Michigan after this week and next (at MSU).
Justin (Chicago, IL)
Adam, everyone seems to be talking about how awful and anemic Ohio States offense was against Michigan State, saying it was just a disaster. But I havent seen anyone give a whole lot of credit to the MSU defense. Nine sacks AT a place they havent won in 13 years and under 200 yards of total offense, which should have been less save the final drive. Can we get a little credit here?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Justin, I know my man Bennett gave the Spartans' D a lot of love. They look legitimate to both of us. The most encouraging sign for Michigan State wasn't flustering Braxton Miller, who is still very young. It was the way the Spartans imposed their will at the line of scrimmage against a good Buckeyes line. I haven't see Ohio State look so weak on the offensive line for some time, and Michigan State was a big reason why.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Do you think the injuries from last year are still plauging Purdue this year in other ways? Hope isn't having the team practicing tackeling in order to keep the team healthier and you could see the result last saturday.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Ted, that's an interesting point. Coaches have different views on how much hitting to do during the season. Some want to keep their players fresh for games; others think you can't hit on Saturdays unless you hit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Staying healthy certainly is a concern for Purdue, but the defense should still execute better than it did against Notre Dame.
What's the hold up? Any big news to share?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Nope, just a player interview. Check the blog around 2 ET for a post about it.
Bottomfeeders (Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota)
Adam, aren't we three AWFUL football programs actually HELPING the Big Ten in a way? We're almost guaranteed wins for the rest of the conference, helping them pad their resume for the bowls and the rankings. It's impressive what the programs have done at, say, Northwestern and Illinois lately, but isn't it better for the top programs if they can all rack up 8 to 12 wins, instead of a bunch of teams finishing with 7 like last year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Really interesting point, feeders. Every league has some really bad teams (yes, even the SEC), and it's important, from a perception standpoint, to have more teams winning 8-10 games. The Big Ten's depth showed last year as only three teams won more than seven regular-season contests. We'll definitely see that change a bit this year. But it's also important for certain teams to keep winning to strengthen the league's overall perception.
Adam, something that I think is overlooked when it comes to Wisconsin's defense is how much it benefits from an explosive offense. It's very difficult for opposing teams to match Wisconsin's efficiency, even when they're doing well, as was the case with Nebraska in the first quarter and a half last Saturday. Do you see another offense in the Big Ten, or nationally, that can match Wisconsin's efficiency?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
I don't, Patrick, but Nebraska also got away from a plan that seemed to be working against the Badgers. The Huskers were gaining good yards on first down and avoiding obvious passing situations. When they started to air it out, the problems began.
Time to weigh in on the QB battle in Happy Valley: Has McGloin earned the starting job yet in your opinion? Stats say yes, but JayPa seems to says no.
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
I think McGloin should be the guy. Bolden might have more talent, but he hasn't developed as fast as we all thought he would. Yes, he's still young, but he now has a lot of games under his belt. The offense clearly runs better with McGloin in the game. Can McGloin beat the Big Ten's best teams? He didn't last year, but he's giving Penn State its best chance right now.
JV (New York)
Will Iowa actually be blitzing with their defense this year? Year after year, they get burned by pass-heavy teams, and this year they have even less guns than normal on D. Sometime has to give.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
JV, it will be interesting to see how much Iowa blitzes against Penn State. The Lions have struggled to consistently run the ball, and their QBs have been very inconsistent. Does Iowa even need to blitz against a so-so Lions front? But going forward against spread teams like Northwestern and Michigan, we'll probably see more blitzing from Iowa, which lacks the star power it had the past few seasons.
Adam - You know I love the blog so hate to have to bring a critique, but I think you guys are giving JoePa a free pass on his refusal to choose a QB. If any other B1G coach was going into week 6 with this kind of controversy, and delivering these kind of mind boggling contradictory laden quotes, I feel like you and Brian would be criticizing the coach directly more than you are now with Paterno. Just an observation.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Drew, you haven't been reading. I've been pointing this out since my Week 2 post-game column from Penn State-Alabama. We're not blind. Everyone knows they need to make a decision. Even JoePa admitted this week he's not that sure why he's waiting so long.
Adam what are R-Dub's Heisman chances? If Illinois and MSU remain ranked and WI takes care of business like it should, is he a serious contender?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
He's definitely a serious contender, Bucky. Performing the way he did before a bunch of national media members helps a lot. And you're right: if Michigan State and Illinois keep winning and Russell shreds both defenses on the road -- especially Michigan State's D -- he'll be among the nation's top candidates to strike a pose.
So Adam, if I understand you correctly, you do not think Michigan will really do much as far as creating turnovers this week? If you remember correctly, when UM played SDSU, Hillman had not fumbled the ball since his first carry of his freshman year. UM then got him to do it twice. Persa is not a guy that is going to throw picks on Saturday IMO, but with their leading RB out, I would assume that running load is going to be transferred to Persa to a decent extent. He appeared to not be as comfortable running around last week as he has in the past. I bet Bennett would agree with me......haha
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
He might, Justin, but you didn't understand me. All I'm saying is to assume the turnovers will continue without really studying the opponent doesn't make much sense. Northwestern hasn't turned it over much this season (two giveaways in four games). Persa had only four interceptions all of last season. Could Michigan get a turnover or two? Sure, it's always possible. But to base your defense on hoping for turnovers isn't a sustainable model. The more important elements, which Michigan is improving on, are tackling, being in the right spot, not missing assignments, etc.
Marvin McNutt (Iowa City)
Am I the best receiver in the B1G? Please tell Espn to start using my nickname "Busta" thanks Adam.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Ha, Marvin, we're a family show, so I'm not sure about that nickname. But you are definitely among the Big Ten's top receivers, if not the best. Would also include A.J. Jenkins, B.J. Cunningham and Derek Moye in the lead group with Jeremy Ebert not far behind.
Who would be the ideal OC for Ohio State if Fickell stepped up and fired Bollman? Keep in mind that the guy would have to come in and work with theexisting playbook.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Yeah, Dan, that's not going to happen. As you said, the playbook is what it is, Bollman has been there forever and Ohio State remains extremely young on offense. A change in direction at this point in the season, while appeasing fans, doesn't make sense.
Montee Ball seems to be seperating himself from James White in terms of overall carries, and effectivness. Do you think we will see that balance even out over the course of the season or has Ball really seperated himself as the every down back? No one seems to have the ability to keep him out of the endzone.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Bryant, there's definitely some separation between Ball and White. I don't think White has taken a step back as much as Ball has taken several steps forward. He looks like a totally different back from the one we saw last season. And he has been terrific in the red zone for quite some time.
David (Iowa City)
If Iowa finds some way to win the Legends, what are the chances that Kirk Ferentz could win BT Coach of the Year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
David, he'd have to be considered, after all Iowa lost from the 2010 team. The Legends race is really wide open, though. I see a 2-loss team winning the division crown.
Id say Toon deserves to be on that list
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Yes, you're right. Nick Toon has been fabulous. Definitely helping his NFL stock after a disappointing 2010 season.
I'm an Iowa alumn and love the Hawks. My fiance is a Husker student. I'm telling her this new Iowa offense can put up a good game against Nebraska this Black Friday. And Iowa's D is young and they can improve. She is just overlooking Iowa completely.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Ha, quite the dilemma you have, Shawn. What are your plans for Black Friday? Watching the game together? Nebraska shouldn't overlook Iowa, which could have one of the league's best offenses. We'll see how the Huskers rebound from the Wisconsin debacle these next few weeks, and it will be tough for Iowa to win in Lincoln. But I think that'll be a close game.
Should I buy my tickets now for Michigan @ Illinois Nov 12? Even though it is a crossover, I *could* see both teams at 9-0 or 8-1 (Illinois gets osu at home and has to beat Penn St on the road, UM has @MSU and @Iowa) ... With both teams hitting the road for the first time this year, which team do you see struggling more? Which team can least afford a slow start?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Chris, that could be a huge matchup in Champaign as both teams have favorable schedules. If you're unsure about buying tix, I would wait a few more weeks to see how the teams perform going forward. Michigan has a tougher test this week against Northwestern QB Dan Persa, although Illinois can't sleep on Indiana, which gave Penn State all it could handle last week.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
If you had to pick right now, who is your favorite in the Legends division after last Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Ryan, that might be the toughest question in the league right now. It's too soon to tell, and I'll have a much better answer for your after this week. I still wouldn't be surprised one bit if Nebraska wins the division. The defense can't be this bad with all the talent in Lincoln, and there are playmakers on offense.
Drew (Beast Mode)
Have you been impressed with the job Chris Ash has done in replacing Dave Doeren. Hasn't been any drop off in this defense and some units like the defensive backs actually look significantly improved.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Well, Drew, the defensive backs are the group Ash coached last year, and he has continued to make the secondary into a playmaking unit. I liked what I've seen since Week 2, as Wisconsin responded nicely from a subpar performance on defense against UNLV. This is not a dominant defense, but it can get the job done and make plays.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City, IA)
Adam - Tell me how lucky I am that Wisconsin fell off our schedule. How would you see an Iowa/Wisconsin game playing out this year? Wouldn't Russell Wilson just shred our defense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Kirk, I'd personally love to see Iowa-Wisconsin because it's typically a good game and a great rivalry. But I can understand why you're glad you miss the Badgers this year. It would be fun to see Wilson and James Vandenberg go up against one another.
Jim (india (no, seriously))
Adam, love ur blog. I only learned football in 2006 when I attended school at Ann arbor and since then therecwas no looking back. A lot has been said about michigans 5-0 start being similar to the previous seasons. I feel thar the team is more composed and at ease since the previous seasons. The offense does not seem to a quick strike offense unlike in RR tenure. We have been getting time of possessions in the game. Our defense, call it untested, has been a complete turn around. There was a time when we talked about Jake Long and co and I think we are returning to that status and performance. I feel the team is much better than the last seasons and given good road performances our rankings shouldn't be unreasonable? What do you forsee?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Some good thoughts, Jim. Always great to hear from my readers in India. The defense has really impressed me, particularly the front seven. We've talked a bit about the takeaways, but the most important thing is the lack of total breakdowns (other than a few against Notre Dame). Michigan was a disaster to watch on defense the past few seasons, and the new staff has cleaned up a lot of the problems. I still want to see the offense get it done on the road against good defensive opponents, but so far, so good.
Adam, Do you think that losing the stellar Secondary coach Marvin Sanders has directly impacted the performance of Nebraska's secondary. Or is there just too much youth at those positions.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Interesting point, Ringo. Sanders did a heck of a job in Lincoln, although the Pelini Bros. have a lot to do with the success in the secondary. Keep in mind Nebraska lost Prince, Hagg, Gomes, etc. And like you say, there's a lot of youth. Some players have underperformed no doubt, but it's a secondary I still think can improve as the season goes along.
Jim Tressel (In the Colts box)
Adam, are you finally going to admit that it wasn't all my fault? Do you realize that sometimes, it could be a simple mistake when you thought you forwarded a message and really didn't? I mean, who in their right mind would do what I did intentionally? Also, doesn't Gee remind you of Orville Redenbacher? He hated it when I would ask him to make popcorn for me, but he always did for fear that I would fire him.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Haha. Jim, it's great to hear from you! Now, fetch me some popcorn (go light on the butter).
MaxSouth (Outside Bangldesh (India))
If we don't end up getting Al Golden, do you think it's a possibility that Leach, takes the HC job after Joe Pa steps aside?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Max, I'd be pretty surprised to see Mike Leach in State College. Just doesn't seem to fit there. Al Golden certainly would, as would another offensive-minded coach who entered the media world this season.
Bret Bielema (Madison)
If you don't answer one of my questions I'll have one of my O Linemen sit on you... Why do you think LSU and Bama are on another level than everyone else, We're better than Oregon and I wouldn't consider 10 points better on another level.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
OK, Bret, you win. I will ask if you've watched LSU and Alabama play this season. LSU destroyed Oregon in that game, which wasn't as close as the final score. Both those teams have defenses that just abuse their opponents. The speed and strength of those two units is a sight to behold. That said, I'd love to see RussellMania and the Wisconsin offense go up against the LSU or Alabama D.
Where will Luke Fickell be next year? An assistant somewhere? Possibly coaching a MAC school?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Hard to predict, Ryan. I would hope if Fickell doesn't get the Ohio State gig (unlikely), someone will give him a shot as a HC. He got a very tough deal this year and hasn't caught a break since he got the job. Luke Fickell will be an excellent head coach, and someone should grab him if they have the chance.
Adam Rittenberg's Dad (Chicago?)
Adam,What are you doing in your room on the computer all day long?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Leave me alone, Dad! Get back to California, too.
I know alot of people are making fun of Gee's best compliance department quote. But in reality he is right. It's not the compliance department's job to hand hold the players, but their job to catch them when they break the rules.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Phil, that's part of the job, but not all of it. It's also to provide rules education and monitor potential problems -- and problematic individuals -- both inside and outside the program. There are certain issues with Ohio State, namely memorabilia sales involving players, that are hardly new. It didn't start when Terrelle Pryor signed his letter of intent. The inability to effectively get a handle on these problems and these individuals is why Ohio State's compliance crew is taking so much heat.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Is Nate Scheelhaase more dangerous as a runner or a passer?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Mike, still think he's more dangerous as a runner. He looked great against Northwestern, and credit Nate and the coaches for capitalizing on a huge weakness for the Wildcats. But against better secondaries, Scheelhaase will have to make tougher decisions in the pass game. I still like Illinois' chances with the ball in his hands.
who has the best D in B1G? best O ?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Michigan State defense; Wisconsin offense. Pretty clear cut at this point in the season, but there's a long way to go.
James V #16 (Iowa city)
Adam, am I the best pure passer in the conference? And do you think we will fare in Happy Valley Saturday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
James, you can sling it pretty well, and you have some help at the receiver position as Davis and Martin-Manley both have come on strong. Saturday will be an excellent test, though, as Penn State ranks sixth nationally in pass defense. Even without CB D'Anton Lynn, the Lions are tough against the pass.
Bret Bielema (Madison)
@Vandenburg, no you're not even the best number 16 in the conference, you did choose a good school though
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Ouch, trash talk from BB. Thought he was going to enjoy the bye week and some peace and quiet.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Dont you think a playing 8 men in the box against Michigan would be the best way to defend them? Forcing Robinson to throw the ball without a doubt is the way to go..
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
I agree, Ryan, but Robinson can beat teams through the air, although not nearly as consistently as he can on the ground. You have to spy Robinson and prevent him from hitting the home-run play, but you also need to get Michigan in third-and-long.
Pierre (Rochester, NY)
What is the latest with Kill?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Seems to be doing OK, Pierre. I always enjoy reading the transcripts from his Tuesday news conference, and he had a good one yesterday, diagramming several plays on the whiteboard for media members. Good stuff. But he's got a lot of work ahead of him with this team.
N'western and Illinois both want to be Chicago's team so why don't they play annually at Soldier Field when the B1G goes to 9 conference games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Ryan, that would be a lot of fun, and both athletic directors have discussed playing more games in Chicago. It has to work out with # of true home games, revenue, etc., but it would be great to see.
Pete (Motel 6)
Why does Heather do a much better job answering questions in her chats? It seems like she answers 3 times as many questions and seems to have more fun with the questions. I know you ripped the ACC last week, any thoughts on them overachieving this the blog/chat department?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Heather is a machine. I'll never be able to catch up with her. So yes, the ACC overachieves in chats. Just like it dominates National Signing Day. We're happy for you, ACC. Just call us when you, I don't know, win a BCS bowl.
Waffles (Southern California)
sorry Adam, a lot of us cheat on you with HD's ACC chat!
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
I'll never forgive you, Waffles.
Drew (East Lansing)
I know I'm looking ahead, but we're in a bye week. MSU's D has been solid, and Dennard has been Dennard. Who has the bigger game next week?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Are you talking about Denard Robinson or Darqueze Dennard? I'm a little confused. But UM-MSU should be a great one next week at Spartan Stadium. I give Michigan State's defense the edge being at home, but Denard can always go off for big plays.
I like being in Minnesota. They're nice to me. Do you think I'll have to move back to Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Sorry, Floyd. Unless something changes in the next few weeks, you're probably changing addresses.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Jake (Lincoln, NE)
As a new fan of the BIG, I can't say I'm all that impressed with the level of competition in the league compared to where we were last year (Big 12) and what that league is doing now (3 teams in top 10, 6 in top 25). To me it seems like it's Wisconsin and 11 others. Do you think I'm way off base there or right on? I'm not sure an undefeated Wisconsin would get in a NC game over a 1 loss SEC or Big 12 team, what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Jake, while the early returns on the Big Ten haven't been favorable, let's see what happens in the next few weeks. I think Michigan State is a good team. Iowa could be a much-improved team by November. Michigan and Illinois both look good so far. Wisconsin could be fighting an uphill battle to get to the title game, but there's so much football to be played and time for the Big Ten to improve its depth before the bowl season.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, that's all for now. Thanks for your participation and enjoy Week 6!