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 (3:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's chat!
Brian (Washington DC)
With Hope starting Terbush at QB instead of Mavre, I think we might get blown out again by Notre Dame. Mavre at least gives us a chance - what has Hope seen that makes him think he is the better option especially against a really good def line?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Brian, you're not alone in this belief. Hope said this week that for starters, TerBush outplayed both Marve and Henry in camp, and it didn't sound that close. Hope also clearly thinks TerBush makes fewer mistakes and gives Purdue a better chance to get out of the gate and not lose momentum right away. To me, his issue with Marve is the turnovers, even though Marve has better skills overall. It'll be interesting to see how Hope uses both players. If TerBush struggles, I think you'll see Marve.
I know you don't like addressing this, since it would have been more appropriate before Michigan was trounced this weekend, but by the media over rating UM, how much damage was done to the B1G reputation nationwide? If Michigan is slotted in the preseason where it is more reasonable for them to finish (7 or 8 wins) then it wouldn't have appeared like a clash of each conferences best to offer. We'll be hearing about the SEC dominance even more than usual now this season, unless of course Alabama repeats that performance all year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
I have no issue addressing this, Mike. I think Michigan was a little overrated entering the year, and those who really study the Big Ten and some of the personnel losses (and returns) could see some of the depth issues Michigan had. Now Michigan isn't a bad team, and Alabama makes a lot of teams look bad. It's too simplistic to watch that game and make blanket statements about leagues. And I know ESPN is guilty of this a lot. But just because Michigan struggled doesn't mean the Big Ten is a terrible conference. And just because Alabama looked great doesn't mean all SEC teams are world beaters. It's about the teams, not always the leagues.
Should NU be happy to have beaten Syracuse on the road, or worried they almost blew it?
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Alex, any win should be cherished, especially a road win against a major-conference foe. But Northwestern has to be concerned about its complete inability to play with a lead and its continued breakdowns on defense. Pat Fitzgerald said this defense would be better. I don't see it. Now there's a long way to go and room to improve beginning this week against Vandy, but if this is the same team we saw in 2011 and most of 2010, there's no reason to believe Northwestern will win more than 6 games. That's not really progress in my view.
Mark (Hawaii (Originally Nebraska))
Love your Big 10 coverage Adam! Think the Huskers will be able to move the ball against UCLA as easily as they did against Southern Miss? And if Taylor Martinez continues his torrid offensive pace, will he get more notice in the Heisman discussion?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
Thanks, Mark. UCLA's defense isn't anything special, although Nebraska could find some challenges on the road. I expect Taylor to have another big day as he returns home to California. I know he's fired up for the game. It'll take a few more big games from Martinez to get on the Heisman radar, and he absolutely has to play well against both Wisconsin and Ohio State in the first two Big Ten games to have any shot.
Ryan (Midland, MI)
Why is everyone already writing off Denard Robinson as a Heisman contender? Can he get back in the race with big showings against Nebraska, Michigan State, and OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
It'll be awfully tough, Ryan, because the Alabama performance will be used to discredit anything he does the rest of the way. That's what happens when you face an elite defense and struggle as much as Denard did. The Heisman race, in many ways, is about having a profile that can't be discredited. Unfortunately for Robinson, he has a big mark on his resume that will hurt him the rest of the way.
Daniel (Washington, DC)
There was some talk during the preseason about a 3 back set for Wisconsin consisting of Ball, White and Gordon. Do you think the Badgers are holding out on this and plan to show it before the Nebraska game, hoping it gives an extra element to Nebraska's preparation for the B1G opener?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
Wow, I'd love to see that at some point, but this would be a pretty big departure from what Wisconsin has done for years with a 1-back set. I expect Montee Ball to get fewer overall carries this season and for both White and Gordon to be used more, but I don't know how often they'll be on the field together. White could start for most Big Ten teams, and Gordon is an absolute stud and could turn out to be the best of the three. He looked amazing when I watched practice last month.
Dan SB (Wash, DC)
MSU played pretty well on the defensive side which will certainly keep them in a lot of games this year. What is the #1 biggest question for you with MSU's offense?
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
Right now, it's Maxwell and his ability to create better timing with his receivers and tight ends. I liked the way Michigan State got both Dion Sims and Le'Veon Bell involved in the pass game. But Maxwell has to put better touch on his passes and establish a couple of reliable options on the outside. I actually think the Boise State game could turn out great for him, because he was able to build off some struggled in a game MSU still won.
Matt (St. Paul)
Your resident Gopher fan on the blog here...was in the stands at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas and couldn't have been more underwhelmed by Minnesota's play or the level of competition (seriously...you, me, Bennett, and eight of our friends would've given UNLV a run for their money...). I know as a Gopher fan, I need to take any non-conference victory on the road that I can..but help me feel better about my squad!
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
We should put Bennett at left tackle. That'd be hilarious! ... I understand your disappointment, Matt, and the Gophers certainly didn't play a clean game. Those types of mistakes -- penalties, overthrows -- will cost Minnesota when the competition improves. But I did see improvement from the defense, especially up front, and some life out of the running backs (Kirkwood and Gillum). If MarQueis doesn't make strides, it's hard to see Minnesota winning many more games, but the defense and the RBs provide some nice building blocks.
UCF's defense has faced similar QB's to Braxton Miller. How do you think he will do against a defense that has been consistently in the top 25 of the FBS?
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Mike, that's an interesting point. I know Dave Huxtable, who was linebackers coach at Wisconsin last year, used to be UCF's defensive coordinator. Those players can handle speedy quarterbacks, although there aren't too many with Miller's explosiveness. This should be a nice test for Ohio State on both sides of the ball, certainliy a better challenge than Miami (Ohio) was in the opener.
Any expert evry tallied up the colsest margin of games decided over a 10-15 year period for every college football team? If they did, I bet Iowa is up there on the list due to thier numerous nailbitters week in week out (last week).
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
Iowa is certainly up there, Nate. Until last year's loss to Michigan State, Iowa hadn't dropped a game by a wide margin for a while. The Hawkeyes always seem to be in close games, and their performance in those determines what type of season they have. Northwestern is another team that plays a bunch of nailbiters and has a pretty good record in winning them.
shazor (Findlay, OH)
adam, there was some talk about the possiblity of using braxton and kenny g on the field at the same time, what do you think of this idea? how bout jordan hall taking the shotgun snap flanked by braxton on one side and kenny on the other, imagine the possibilities!
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
I imagine Miller getting hurt while throwing a block or trying to catch a pass over the middle. While I understand your excitement about the idea, Ohio State shouldn't take too many chances with Miller's health. The spread offense inherently carries more injury risk for a quarterback, and Miller is now in charge of a true spread offense. Ohio State has to manage that risk, and I'm not sure a gimmick formation is the answer.
Waffles (Southern California)
I'm not concerned about Wisconsin. With the exception of 2011, our team, especially the OLine, has always started off slow. Not to mention we do play down to the competition. I was predicting us being a 9 win team this season and still believe it to be true. I know most people who don't follow the Badgers aren't aware of our typical slow starts, but did this game lower your expectations of our season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Good point, Waffles. I was looking through the Badgers' seasons in recent seasons and saw the nailbiters against teams like Fresno State and Arizona State. I expect another fairly close game this week at Oregon State. I don't make too many judgments off of one game, but I entered the season with some concerns about Wisconsin's defense, and I still have them. The offense put up historic numbers the past two seasons. I don't think it's realistic to expect that again. So for Wisconsin to take that next step, it needs a real pass rush and some improvement from the secondary. Wisconsin should win nine games no matter what because of the schedule, but those areas will determine whether the Badgers get to 10 wins or more.
Ronald (Kennett Square PA)
Adam, I know it's only been a game, but did you see an improvement in the Illini offense (the D is for real) or do you think we're up for a repeat of last years lack luster finish?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
Ronald, too soon to tell. Illinois didn't have a ton of production against Western Michigan (13 first downs, 248 total yards). Nathan Scheelhaase's injury certainly factored into things, but the jury's still out on who will make plays for the unit. I liked what Jon Davis did in the game. He's a big, physical weapon. But at this stage, I still see Illinois as a team that will go as far as its defense takes it.
Mr. T (Columbus)
I more than anyone have been on the T-Mart sucks bandwagon. Although his mechanics didn't look much better his footwork was impressive. Do you think he can keep it up? I've already formally apologized to the Husker fans but did I do it too soon?
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
He definitely looked more comfortable as a passer, Mr. T. He's never going to be Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers with his mechanics, but I don't think he has to be perfect for that offense to surge. We need to see how he fares against a top defense, which might not come until Week 6 against Ohio State. But it's safe to say Martinez's passing isn't as big of a liability as it was last season.
Rashede Hageman and D.L. Wilhite (Dinkytown)
The Gopher pass rush is back. We had 2 sacks and 15 QB hurries. How good do you think the Gopher defense can be?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Hey guys! Really nice start against UNLV, and it was encouraging to see multiple linemen make plays. The key going forward is to sustain pressure for an entire game, as it seemed to fall off a bit in the second half. The other thing is to limit dumb penalties, which nearly cost you the UNLV game and most certainly will cost you against better teams.
Ken O'Keefe (South Beach)
Iowa's new look offense was pretty much the same ol' when it comes to play calling. So, big deal if they called a run play on a third and long situation to win the game. Isn't that exactly the same play I would have called? Or are gutsy plays like that the main difference between Greg Davis and me?
Adam Rittenberg (3:27 PM)
Hey Ken! I just finished watching "Hard Knocks" and, well, I think you have bigger issues to worry about than what's going on with Iowa. That Dolphins team looks just horrendous. ... Anyway, I know some Iowa fans felt this same way after watching Davis' debut. Again, it's just one game, and I think Iowa was more creative than it appeared but simply didn't execute well enough. Let's watch Davis' game plan this week against ISU before drawing any potential conclusions.
Does the final score of 17-13 underrate how much MSU dominated the stats against Boise? They outgained Boise 461 to 206 and would have won by double digits, despite 4 turnovers, if they didn't take a knee at the end.
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
James, I agree. Although Michigan State had to come from behind to win, it clearly had the better team and should have been at least 14 points clear of Boise. The Spartans have to cut down turnovers and do a better job of finishing drives, but they clearly have the best unit in the Big Ten in the defense.
John (La Jolla, California)
With a new regime at PSU, I expected their to be bumps in the road. After watching them play on Saturday I am still optimistic about this team. McGloin missed some wide open receivers and a couple of long passes that could have changed the out come of the game. My question is this, Do you see a change in the strength of PSU. Their defense did not perform up to standard, but the offense looked like they could really move the ball (no 3 and outs). Once the team can get a firm grasp of the playbook, I see the offense carrying the team, what are your thoughts.
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
I think Penn State will be a more exciting, dynamic offense under Bill O'Brien. But if that results in the Lions taking significant steps back on defense, the program is in trouble. You can't win many games allowing 500 yards of offense. I was encouraged by the way Penn State moved the ball in the first half, and the lack of long passes didn't bother me as much as the run-pass balance. You have to run the ball more efficiently than PSU did. But the line looked good and so did Robinson and McGloin. It wasn't a game that lacked positives despite the final score. But I still think Penn State has to play great defense, and we didn't see enough of that Saturday.
Ryan (Mountain Brook, AL)
Do you think Brady Hoke was wrong to keep key players in for so late in the game? I know he lost a tackle for a bit. I just don't know why he took the risk, but im not a coach at michigan. What im asking is he going to possibly be criticized heavily if things go bad and he doesn't have that tackle?
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
I didn't understand it at all, Ryan. I know coaches want their players to face great competition, even in a losing effort, because it can help them down the line. But there are two players Michigan can't afford to lose -- Denard Robinson and Taylor Lewan. Why both were in the game so late makes no sense, and Michigan nearly paid the price when Lewan went down. Fortunately, he appears to be OK.
When will we hear the results of yours and Brians fantasy match up? I'm waiting on pins and needles!
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
Thursday is our day for fantasy team recap and adjustments, but I'll save you the suspense. I absolutely crushed him. Thanks Le'Veon, Taylor and Jared! Bennett had better buckle up because this will happen all season.
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Indiana got a big win in a night game against Indiana State - do you see that win giving IU some momentum this season, or do we still have a ways to go to winning a few conference games each year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
Any win is good for Indiana and a reason to celebrate. But the Hoosiers will have to play a lot better to win in the Big Ten. They'll need to translate yards into points, limit penalties and make some better decisions. I liked what I saw from Roberson in the opener, and I'm interested to see how they fare at UMass. But things get a lot tougher when Big Ten play gets under way.
What do think will be Notre Dame's record against the B1G this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
I have the Irish at 2-1 or 1-2 (beat Purdue, lose to MSU, undecided on the Michigan game). While ND looked impressive in Dublin, Purdue should provide a better test this week, even though the game is in South Bend.
B1G 3-0 against the Pac out west this week or will the Illini let us down? ASU put up some big numbers agains those hippies from Flagstaff last week.
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Ha, I love the trash talk about Northern Arizona of all teams! And easy on the hippies (I grew up in Berkeley). ... All three games will be challenging, although both Wisconsin and Nebraska should prevail. I'd like Illinois' chances a lot more if Nathan Scheelhaase were playing. It sounds as if O'Toole and Osei will lead the offense in Tempe. Should be really interesting.
What do you think of the QB situation at Northwestern? Should they rethink starting Colter?
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
I don't think they should rethink starting him, but Siemian must continue to be part of the plan. Northwestern should get him a few series each game, especially given the injury risk for a player like Colter. I love Colter's toughness, but he's not a big guy and is pretty reckless with the way he runs. Siemian showed last week he can make big throws in the clutch. Should be interesting to see how both men are used against Vandy.
Ashley (JC, MO)
Can you explain how OSU, who beats a below average MAC team, jumps Nebraska, who beats a 12-win, defending C-USA champs, in the AP poll?
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Yeah, that doesn't make much sense to me, Ashley. Ohio State looked good, but Nebraska played a better team and has more retruning starters. Right now, we have Nebraska a few spots ahead in our power rankings, although I'll admit not a whole lot separates the teams. Should know more about both after Saturday.
I know it was already somewhat asked, but I will add to it. I thought Ted Roof was a terrible hire at Penn State at the time he was hired. He has had minimal success on defense everywhere he has been. Was this a case of everyone fearing what the NCAA was going to do and he was the only guy willing to come to Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
No, I don't think that was it at all. O'Brien and Roof go way back from their days in the ACC. O'Brien could have brought in another DC, or simply promoted Larry Johnson or Ron Vanderlinden, who were willing to remain on staff. I will say the Roof hire raised some eyebrows, and things certainly didn't end well for him at Auburn. Roof did have a lot of success with Minnesota's D in 2008. It's too soon to make a judgment on him, but PSU needs a better performance if it wants to beat Virginia on the road.
Bill Bobagins (Lain City)
What your prediction on the final score between Ohio State and UCF?
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
You have to wait until 9 a.m. Thursday for that and the rest of the predictions. Sorry.
Do you have any issue with Brady Hoke reinstating Frank Clark even though he's facing felony charges?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Steve, I'm a little surprised Clark served the same length of suspension as Toussaint. Their offenses seemed very different in nature, and I didn't think they'd be grouped together like they were. Hoke said Clark did what he needed to do within the program to get back on the field. It'll be interesting to see what happens in Clark's legal case.
Disgruntled Farmer Family (Somewhere in Storage)
Hey Adam. My family and I are really disappointed that we won't be on display at the winner's school of the upcoming ISU/IA game. Do you think Iowa's D-line has what it takes to stop Jantz from making them look like the slow poke John Deere tractor my grandpa used to drive? (Oh, and if the hawks lose, do you think we could come out of storage to give them at least one trophy for that empty case?)
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Ha, I think you're the only one who wants to see you and your fam on display in IC. Iowa's defensive line looked better than expected against NIU, and Joe Gaglione and Dom Alvis in particular played well. Iowa really needs a big year out of Alvis, who has the most experience of the returning linemen. Containing Jantz is a huge key to the game, but at least Iowa knows who it's going up against. Hawks had no answer for Jantz last year.
Adam should Burkhead sit out against UCLA? I don't they need him to beat the Bruins, and Abdullah, Heard and Cross looked good in the opener and should be able to run the ball very well. Should Burkhead sit out til next week or longer so he's 100% for Wisconsin?
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Mike, I tend to agree. Nebraska is loaded at running back, and Abdullah looks more than capable of being the top guy. I'd also like to see what Cross looks like on a big stage. Really liked him in the recruiting process. Although it's probably unrealistic for Martinez and the pass game to replicate the performance from the Southern Miss game, Nebraska should be able to rush the football well enough without Rex. And you really don't want to take any chances with No. 22.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Following on the Roof comments, isn't one half of sub-par football a tad to little to make judgments on the guy? Personally I liked the press coverages PSU showed - as much as I respect Tom Bradley, the corners always played 10 yards off the receivers. Once the guys get used to the schemes, I think they'll be okay.
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
Lou, I think that's a fair point. I did talk to several Big Ten coaches this summer who said Roof's scheme would be a dramatic departure from what Penn State did in the past, and there could be an adjustment period. Penn State doesn't have much depth in the secondary, and you can bet teams will attack the DBs with quick passes to the perimeter. Penn State must show it can handle those or opponents will simply follow Ohio's game plan from the second half.
MarQueis Gray (Dinkytown)
Am I gonna pull it together Adam? I think this is a bowl team with 1 to 2 rivalry wins if I do, and a 2-10 team if I don't. What say you?
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
Ha, I think there's more to it than that. Again, Minnesota didn't play a smart football game at UNLV. If the competition were better, those penalties would have cost the Gophers the game. And while the offensive line looked better at times, there's still a long way to go. Are you a huge key for Minnesota this year? No doubt. But to say you're the difference between beating Iowa/Wisconsin/Michigan and losing those games is going too far.
Tougher game for the Buckeyes, UCF or UCB?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
As much as it kills me to say -- grew up a Cal fan -- it's UCF. Cal's program is on the downswing big time, and the Buckeyes will have no trouble with the Golden Bears next week.
I know it is only one week old, but do you think the Big Ten (12) are closer this season or further away from the National Title picture? Penn State will fade for a decade, so that weakens the overall "brand", but what about actually what matters to fans, winning?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Todd, again, it's too soon to tell. Right now, the Big Ten doesn't have any nationally elite teams. That's been the case for a while. The Big Ten will be closer in 2013, and most likely a lot closer in 2014 when Michigan fields a team that should contend for the title. I expect Ohio State to be in the title mix next year, and Michigan to follow soon thereafter. We'll see if teams like MSU, Wisconsin and Nebraska can take that next step as well. I know Bret Bielema is extremely optimistic about the 2013 season.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Ramsey (Livonia, MI)
Does Alabama crushing Michigan change your long-term outlook on their season? Or did it play out as you expected.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
The game made me more concerned about Michigan's trouble spots -- defensive line, offensive line, receiver -- and the Wolverines' lack of depth. Again, it'll take a bit more time for Brady Hoke to get this roster where he needs it to be. A team lacking depth combined with a tough schedule usually doesn't translate to a ton of wins. While it wouldn't surprise me at all if Michigan matched my prediction of 9-3, I know Bennett's feeling a bit better about his prediction of 8-4.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
OK, time's up. Enjoyed the chat. Let's do it again next week.