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 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Game week! Let's get started.
Would a loss by MSU and U of M this weekend be disasterous for the Big 10?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
A loss by both would be bad, yes, but a loss by only Michigan wouldn't be too bad. Few expect the Wolverines to win, while Michigan State is really set up to succeed against Boise State (home game, new-look Boise State lineup, etc). Now a Michigan win against Alabama would be huge for the Big Ten regardless of what happens in East Lansing. But 0-2 would be pretty disappointing.
Ryan (Indy) [via mobile]
Why does the SEC get the free pass for new/young players but the B1G is labeled as weak in those areas? (thinking the criticism in UM's d-line versus AL's defensive backfield)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
That's a fair question, Ryan. I think it's because SEC teams have shown a better ability to reload than some Big Ten teams over time. Remember that Michigan is just two years removed from 7-6 and three years removed from 5-7. Brady Hoke and his staff must show they can replace great players like Martin, Van Bergen, etc. They certainly have the expertise to do so, but Michigan isn't at the level of an Alabama where you can just assume it will reload. You earn that over time.
Kevin Wilson (Bloomington)
I'm going to make IU so good you are going to HAVE talk about us.
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Sounds like a plan, Kevin.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Adam, yesterday on Twitter you asked about the Fitz Touissant situation. Is there going to be an article or something about that? As a Michigan fan, I'm torn. On the one hand, he was well over the legal limit and put himself and others in danger, and should sit as punishment. But given the pressures to win in college football, I can see where a coach might want to play him. Do you think in the end Hoke dresses Fitz but doesn't let him play?
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
GBK, I wanted to get a sense of where Michigan fans were on the Toussaint situation. We'll do more of that going forward on Twitter as it's a good mechanism to gauge how fans are feeling. We'll obviously have blog updates when news emerges regarding his situation. ... I think Fitz will travel to Texas no matter what. I also agree that his situation is serious and merits a serious punishment. Sure, he pleaded guilty to some charge I've never heard of (sounds made up), but his BAC was over the limit. That's serious. I think it's possible he dresses and doesn't play, but I wouldn't be shocked if he did.
I loved the best/worst case scenarios. I waited to read the Bucks' post and skipped the others because of my fandom. After reading the Bucks' post, I had to catch up on the others. Hilarious! Help all of us Buckeye fans if your worst case scenario plays out! Try more humorous writing and less defensive responses to us regarding what you and Brian said. Love the blog.
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Glad you enjoyed that series, Vinnie, and we'll definitely work on some more humor writing going forward. It's fun and lightens the mood. As far as being defensive, you have no idea how much negative feedback we get. At times, we're going to respond. Most of the time, we won't. But that's why the blog is there -- to have some back-and-forth.
Waffles (Southern California)
Adam, I know we have individual stand outs on the Badgers and have had them in the past. However, do you feel a no name defense that works together to actually help teammates would outperform what we've seen in recent years under Bielema? Just looking at some of the best D's in the country, I see half the defense swarm the offense covering them perfectly.
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Interesting point, Waffles. Wisconsin has had its share of defensive stars -- Schofield, Watt, Borland, Taylor. I wouldn't say the Badgers don't play team defense, but their weaknesses show up at times, especially against really athletic receivers and backs like the ones from Oregon and Michigan State last year. I think Wisconsin needs better balance throughout its defense. Identifying a few strong pass rushers would go a long way for that unit, which really, really missed Watt's presence in 2011.
Adam, how do you see Nebraska's WR core doing this year with a "supposedly" mechanically improved Martinez? Do you see any possible Conference 1st Teamers on this years squad?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Joe, Kenny Bell certainly is the first name that comes to mind. He showed last year he can stretch a defense and make big plays. He needs to become a bigger part of the offense, and he'll have a chance to establish himself as Martinez's No. 1 target this year. I also think guys like Enunwa and Turner have chances to take steps as they get more comfortable with the system. There's a lot of love for Tim Marlowe as well. He knows the offense better than anyone. But if I had to pick one potential All-Big Ten WR from Nebraska, it'd be Bell.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
I keep telling you and BB.... Watch out for Northwestern! They will start 6-0, finish 8-4 and win their bowl game.
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
We'll see, Pavlov. Northwestern's first six games all are winnable, but several of them could go the other way as well. The Syracuse and Vandy games are huge. A 2-0 start could easily translate into 6-0, but an 0-2 start would make it really hard for Northwestern to keep its bowl streak alive. So much depends on that defense and whether it can rebound, as well as the offensive line and its ability to protect Colter.
shazor (Findlay, Ohio)
how much do you expect to see nathan williams saturday? and do you think he could be back to full-go by the time B1G play comes around?
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
I doubt the coaches will overdo it with Williams, who hasn't played in a very long time. There's no need to overextend him against Miami (Ohio), but it would be good to get him some reps in a game situation. While I don't think Ohio State needs Williams to have a great defensive line this year, he certainly can help an already talented group.
When will the Purdue Best Case/Worst Case scenario come out?
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
4 pm today. As soon as this chat is done. Hope you enjoy it (pun intended).
Blackhawk (Grand Rapids)
Adam, how important are the Legends division team's games with OSU in terms of a potential tiebreaker? Assuming MSU, UM and Nebby split the round-robin, and each have one more loss to tie at 6-2 in the division, would MSU have a significant advantage getting OSU in EL and right at the beginning of conference play? Those three would seem to be poised to run through the rest of the Legends, and OSU is the only common opponent that can affect the tiebreaker.
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
Really good question, Blackhawk. It certainly helps Michigan State to get the Buckeyes at home, while both Nebraska and Michigan must travel to Columbus. Still, if you look at the division tiebreakers, division games are more important than cross-division games. So a win against Ohio State might not mean as much as a win against Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern for any of these teams. Iowa could have more to do with determining the division winner if this scenario plays out. Michigan State and Michigan both get Iowa at home, while Nebraska must travel to Iowa City.
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
Adam, which of the following B1G teams has the biggest chance of being upset by its Pac-12 opponent: OSU (vs. Cal), Neb (@ UCLA), or Wisconsin (@ Oregon St.)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Wisconsin can't take Oregon State lightly as that's a long trip to a tricky stadium, but I'd have to go with Nebraska. Although UCLA wasn't very good last year, the Bruins have some talent and will be playing at home. While the Huskers should win, they'll need to take control in Pasadena. But quite frankly, I don't see any of the Big Ten teams losing. Maybe if the Ohio State-Cal game was in Berkeley, I'd feel differently, but Cal is on the downswing (saddens me to say having grown up a Bears fan).
Adam, Why do you have OSU ranked 4th on the Power Rankings? I have read and heard so many times this offseason how the Buckeyes have the most talented team in the B1G. I know last year was nothing short of a circus, but that changed with Meyer. I am confused to how the team can have so much talent and now be paired up with such great leadership and coach, and still be considered average?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
Well, we prefaced that by saying not much separates the top four teams, but Ohio State is still a pretty young team, especially on offense. The Buckeyes also aren't very deep in areas like offensive line and wide receiver. Although both the offense and defense should be better this season, it doesn't mean Ohio State will cruise therough this league. Talent certainly will help Ohio State get back among the elite in a hurry, but the Buckeyes lack experience and depth, and that's why we have some questions about them entering the year.
Dillon (OC, CA)
Adam, as a lifelong Husker fan (and therefore a de facto B10 fan) I would love to see Mich beat Alabama and Mich State beat B.State... however, with the likelihood of a close Legends division race each team could benefit from the non-con losses to other teams. So, WHO SHOULD I ROOT FOR?!!?
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Understand your dilemma, Dillon, but the Big Ten really, really needs a win like this. The league isn't looked at favorably nationally, and a win like this would begin to shift the perception a bit. I'd root for Michigan on Saturday night and then for your Huskers to take care of the Wolverines in late October.
Do you think Adam that more Big Ten schools will be upgrading their facilities in response to new facilities at Oregon, Oklahoma State and USC?
Adam Rittenberg (3:27 PM)
Stephanie, I guess we could see more upgrades, but as Bennett wrote the offseason, most Big Ten schools have already upgraded their facilities or will do so in the near future. Iowa is in the middle of a facilities upgrade and has a terrific new indoor facility, and Wisconsin is making a long overdue facilities upgrade. There have been several recent stadium upgrades (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, etc), and a brand-new stadium at Minnesota. So while I don't know whether there will be a second wave, I don't think most Big Ten schools are lagging too much in this area.
Tom (Milwaukee, WI)
In December, what do you think everyone will be saying about Danny O'Brien? Serviceable? All-big ten performer? Mistake?
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
I highly doubt they'll say he was a mistake, Tom. O'Brien is a solid quarterback who provides some steadiness at a position where Wisconsin has virtually no depth. Will he be Russell Wilson? No. But he can throw the ball and run the offense. Wisconsin doesn't need its quarterback to be superman, and while Wilson went above and beyond what we typically see from Wisconsin QBs, the Badgers can have a lot of success offensively with O'Brien at the helm.
Over or under 10.5 wins for the B1G this weekend? You don't need details on who loses as you are probably hoarding that gold for one of your articles.
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Yeah, we've got predictions coming up Thursday morning. But I'll go with the under. Think two Big Ten teams start the season 0-1.
Among the coaches in the B1G, who would most likely have the hottest seat heading into week one? And who would you think may have the hottest seat come December?
Adam Rittenberg (3:32 PM)
Rusty, with all the changes we've seen lately, I don't know if any Big Ten coach has a ton of heat on him right now. Purdue's Danny Hope would be the likeliest choice as a portion of Boilers fans don't think he's the long-term answer. Even though he received a small extension in December, he needs a good fourth season. Other than Hope, I really can't see any other coaches on the hot seat. Some might say Ferentz, but he runs that athletic department and can stay as long as he wants.
Paul Bunyan (Dakotas)
Well I'm finishing up my trip throughout the Dakotas so when I get back to my home in Minnesota, the Gophers will start beating those FCS opponents again. Why is it that B1G teams usually don't go after JUCO transfers? Is it the academic side or the coaches? I feel like we might be getting a bad rep for taking so many JUCOs under Kill, but they seem like great guys. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
It's really up to the indivdiual schools, but academics plays a big role for sure. While each school is different, the Big Ten has stricter academic requirements on the whole than most power conferences. There are several Big Ten programs that will never take jucos. You can't say that about most programs elsewhere. That has to do with the academic component more than anything, as the coaches want to get guys to win. I don't think teams should apologize for going the juco route, as long as they keep those guys eligible and graduate them.
Scratches (D'ham, NC)
Would Brady Hoke come off as too soft if he let's Toussaint play against the Tide? I think he needs to send a message to his team and keep him out of the game. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
I think Hoke would look like just another football coach. Maybe that's OK, but if he wants to be different at Michigan and stress accountability -- the Michigan difference -- I think he needs to sit Toussaint down for this game. This is a serious offense, regardless of the plea agreement, and Toussaint wouldn't be playing at some programs. Michigan likes to consider itself a place where it's not just about winning.
Badger Nation 313 (Madison)
Hey adam,What do you think of Wisconsin's chances of making the Rose Bowl 3 years running and possible the National Championship? I mean, our schedule is not as brutal as years past and our toughest game (MSU and OSU) are both at home. I think the toughest matchup will be Nebraska away, as they seek redemption from getting embarassed last year. If we win that game do you think we can go undefeated?
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Yes, I think if Wisconsin wins in Lincoln, an undefeated season isn't out of the question. But it's very, very hard to run the table, and while you make a good point about the schedule, I don't think this Badgers team is as powerful as its 2011 predecessor. Although the road games aren't overly daunting aside from Nebraska, I could see Wisconsin stumble in West Lafayette or State College.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Adam, maybe this is a question for Ivan, since he's in State College, but with Bench being a co #2 on the depth chart, is that an indication of Bench rising that much or Jones underwhelming? Would they burn Bench's redshirt?
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
Lou, I think it's a combination of Bench impressing and Jones struggling a bit with the system. The coaches really, really liked Bench from the get-go, and I don't think they'll hesitate to play him if things go south with McGloin. In fact, I'd be shocked if Bench redshirts this season, especially with Hackenberg coming in next year. I think it's important for Penn State to get Bench some experience.
Adam, would you agree that Wisconsin's soft non-conference schedule over the past 10-15 years is the reason they haven't been in the national title conversation?
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
It's part of it, Tom, but only one component. Wisconsin hasn't been great on the road, certainly not to the level Ohio State was between 2006-09. The Big Ten's national struggles also have made it harder for 1-loss teams to reach the title game. If the Big Ten won national titles like the SEC, no one would be talking about Wisconsin's weak non-con schedule. No one talks about Florida's.
Phillip (a stadium near you)
Adam,Looks like tropical storm Isaac is going to be in Midwest country come Saturday,which games or teams could be effected the most by wind and rain this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
It's a bit too soon to tell, Phillip, but I think the folks in Columbus could get wet during the Miami (Ohio) game. The same could hold true at Indiana, Purdue and Illinois.
Greg Garmon (In Over My Head)
So I've heard an awful lot about some angry running back hating god that exists in Iowa. Should I be pulling out an insurance policy on my acl? Or do I forget the myth and plow through my first game with 100+ rushing and a TD or two?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Iowa fans certainly hope it's the latter, Greg. Listen, you can't worry about AIRBHG. The moment you do, the moment He'll get you. Break the cycle, Greg. Break the cycle.
Who's the best defensive player in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
It's a tough question, Alex, as I could see at least five players in the race for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Right now, the four at the top of my list are John Simon, Gerald Hodges, William Gholston and Kawann Short. All four are exceptional at their positions, and all four can dominate games at times. I'd lean toward Simon right now, but they're all great players.
How do you think Maxwell will do this season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Better than people think. He's not some true freshman who has never faced a college defense before. Sure, he lacks game exprience, but he has prepared for this moment for more than two years. He also had a great mentor in Cousins and has a similar demeanor. He'll face some adversity, but I don't think he'll crumble under it. Very excited to see how he performs against Boise.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Can you recap who will be at which games with your weekend assignments?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
I'll be in State College this weekend; Brian will be in East Lansing. That's all we know right now. And as I'll remind you 10,000 times this season, those calls come from Bristol. We don't decide where we go.
Evan (Toledo, OH)
Everett Withers is giving his say, but Luke Fickell and the Ohio State defensive scheme seems to be the same as 2011. Should Ohio State fans be alarmed since the defense was so bad in 2011, with a ton of missed tackles? Should've the scheme changed?
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
Evan, I don't think the scheme was the problem last season. It hadn't been the issue for many years before that. Ohio State was younger than normal and thinner than normal on defense. It led to mediocre results. I'd expect a much better unit this year with fewer fundamental errors.
Scratches (D'ham, NC)
Is there regular season game this year bigger than Bama-Michigan? I say that's THE game of the season.
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
There's no nonconference game bigger, if that's what you're asking. But conference games are always more important, and I can list several games that could be more significant in the end. While we're all excited for Michigan-Bama, keep in mind it's a season opener, not a late November showdown.
Adam, why does the Big Ten need to put logos on uniforms and fields this season? These are historic stadiums and arenas (such as Ohio Stadium and Assembly Hall in Bloomington). Do people really not know what schools are in the Big Ten or does the conference really need to market that badly?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
Casey, I'll check in with the league about this, but with so much TV exposure in college football and the Big Ten recently undergoing a branding makeover, I can see why it wants its mark (B1G) out there as much as possible. You see it on basketball courts around the league. Why not football fields? I don't think it's a huge deal.
Michael Jordan (Any where but New Jersey)
What do you think are DRob's chances at challenging Ball for B1G offensive POY?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
He has a great opportunity, beginning Saturday night. As the quarterback, Robinson is assured of having a big role in Michigan's offense, no matter the result. While Ball is a big part of Wisconsin's plans, he's not the team's only running back and could see fewer carries than he did in 2011. James White and Melvin Gordon both could start for most Big Ten teams, and Wisconsin will look to get them involved. Robinson, meanwhile, is the man at Michigan, and if he can combine his dynamic playmaking with fewer turnovers and better decision-making, he'll have a chance to push Ball for offensive player of the year award.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Brian (Bloomington, IN)
Do you think Jim Tressel will ever coach in colleg again and if so, could he come back to the B1G? I think a school like Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois could really increase its potential with a big name like this..(if their current coaches falter that is)
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Interesting question. I think it depends how much Tressel enjoys the next few years outside of the game. He's young enough where he could return to coaching, which has been his life for the past four decades. And a Big Ten team certainly could do worse than Tressel. My sense is he'll come back eventually, but he's also a guy who has interests beyond coaching football.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
OK, time's up. Thanks for participating. Enjoy Week 1!