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 for the next hour. Let's get started.
John S. (Wausau, WI)
Would you say it's safe to say Gopher fans should look forward to the hopeful return of MarQueis Gray next week?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
John, high-ankle sprains are really tricky injuries, and they typically take more than a month to fully heal. While it wouldn't surprise me if Gray returns, it would surprise me if he's 100 percent against Northwestern.
Do you think Nebraska will be able to contain Miller and Ohio State this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
John, it's tough for any defense to contain Braxton Miller for four quarters. He'll make his share of plays. But I liked what I saw from the Huskers' front seven in the second half against Wisconsin. They did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage. How they fare against an Ohio State offensive line coming off of his best game could determine Saturday's winner.
Kirk Herbstreit on Mike and Mike this morning said Purdue and Northwestern in the championship game this year! Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
Did he really? Wow, bold prediction from Herbie. Love Herbie, but his recent Big Ten title game predictions haven't exactly worked out. I definitely could see Purdue getting there in such a wide-open division. It'll be tougher for Northwestern, which is still a very young team and plays in a tougher division.
Dennis (Airville, PA)
Adam: Aside from building better facilities, expanding stadiums, etc., does an AD ever influence recruits in any sport to come to a given university? For example, would a top collegiate football player such as Pat Haden influence recrutis to come to USC?
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
That's an interesting question, Dennis. It certainly doesn't hurt to have ADs like Haden -- or Nebraska's Tom Osborne and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez -- who have recognizable names and faces to football recruits and their families. I think it still comes down to the coaching staff, the facilities, the university itself, the location, etc., but having a famous AD can't hurt.
Uncle Buck (1980s)
Will Michigan continue forcing Robinson to do what's impossible for him and be a drop back passer, or will they start using the run spread like last year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
Buck, at times, Michigan has run the old offense and had some success. It makes sense for the Wolverines to run a good amount of zone read with Robinson, even if the injury risk is higher. He clearly thrives in those situations. I don't anticipate Al Borges running 100 percent spread, but he could lean in that direction more in the coming weeks. It wouldn't surprise me to see Michigan go very spread-y at Purdue, which struggled to stop Marshall's spread last week.
Bill O'Fits (State Evanston)
Adam, I can assure you our handshake will be far more cordial after Saturdays game in State College.Has Northwestern faced a defense yet this season that is playing as well as Penn State's is right now?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Ha, looking forward to the handshake, Bill. Northwestern faced a pretty solid defense in Vanderbilt in Week 2. Commodores had a lot of speed, especially at linebacker. Penn State's defense might be the best Northwestern has faced to date, but the Wildcats also can attack Penn State's weakness (cornerback) better than previous opponents because of its offense. Northwestern's offense is much more like Ohio's than any of the offenses Penn State has seen lately.
I know the Big Ten is terrible this year and we're looking for any glimmer of hope. But really, Nebraska has done what? Beat some terrible teams, lost to UCLA, and barely beat Wisconsin, a team we've spent all of September bashing for being surprisingly terrible. Yeah, Neb played well at points in the game, but they've been consistently inconsistent as long as they've been in the Big Ten, so I'm not sure why this is seen as some "turning the corner."Go Bucks.
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Adam, some fair points. You can make the same claim about a lot of Big Ten teams. Ohio State has the best win between the two squads (at MSU), although the Buckeyes haven't been overly impressive either and certainly could have a loss by now. I agree that Nebraska needs to win a game like this to show that it's truly turning a corner. Another blowout loss for the Huskers -- like Wisconsin or Michigan last year -- will basically confirm nothing has changed.
Andrew (Bristol, Ct)
I am Penn State Alum and I can't be more proud of this years football team. With that being said, do you think O'Brien can still land top 25 recruiting classes going forward?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Highly unlikely, Andrew, only because O'Brien will be bringing in smaller classes because of NCAA scholarship sanctions, and smaller classes rarely get nationally ranked. I think O'Brien can bring in some elite national recruits, but his overall classes likely won't be strong enough to earn national rankings.
Love the blog. In your opinion, what will Purdue have to do to beat Michigan? I'm sure Allen and Johnson are going to be agressive trying to get another pick-6.
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Takeaways will be key, Gregg, as Denard Robinson comes off of a 5-turnover disaster at Notre Dame. It's very important for Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston to neutralize Fitz Toussaint and the Michigan run game (including Robinson). Despite the pass-game struggles last week, Purdue wants Robinson to win the game with his arm. On offense, Purdue has to establish the run better than it did against Marshall and challenge Notre Dame's secondary with Edison, Ross and Bush. The biggest thing is limiting the major mistakes, especially disciplinary problems, that have surfaced too often for Purdue under Danny Hope.
How is Braxton Miller on your Heisman ballots? He carries the ball a lot for average yards and isn't a heralded passer. He's done very little besides being overrated by ESPN because of Urban. Taylor Martinez deserves more credit.
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
You clearly haven't watched much or any football this year. He's averaging 6.4 yards a carry and ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing (577 yards). Last I checked, that's pretty good. He's also making big plays in the pass game despite having a very green receiving corps (weaker than Nebraska's). Martinez is doing some good things, but Miller absolutely should be on the Heisman radar.
Badger Fan (Berkeley)
Hi Adam! Badgers are having success running outside, especially with Gordon. Why are we running it up the gut with Ball when we haven't been so successful in OOC?
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
Interesting point, Badger fan. The up-the-middle runs just aren't there this year like they've been in years past. Wisconsin really has three backs who can get to the edge and make plays, and Melvin Gordon clearly has that ability. I'd like to see more runs to the edge in the coming weeks, beginning Saturday against Illinois. Good call.
What does Ohio State need to do differently this week in order to beat Nebraska? Obviously not commit 3 turnovers but what else do they need to fix?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
The Buckeyes need to get some takeaways of their own. They had none last week, but Nebraska will give Ohio State opportunities because it can't keep the football off of the ground. I know it's partly because of the Huskers' offense, but man, do they fumble a lot. If Ohio State can get some of those fumbles, it'll be in good shape. Another big key is winning up front with the offensive line against the Huskers' front seven, which played really well last week. On defense, I keep harping on it, but it's true: Ohio State doesn't need to make the highlight hit or the interception on every play. Just wrap up and prevent the explosion plays.
Is Bo safe with out T.O.? Did you put your application in for the AD position yet?
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
Dan, I get enough criticism doing this job, and I wouldn't want to step in for a guy like Osborne. Any time a coach loses the AD who hired him, he loses some security. You saw this last year with Illinois after Ron Guenther retired and Ron Zook was fired. Pelini needs to show he can take Nebraska to the next level and win a league title. While I don't think Nebraska wants to shuffle through coaches, it's important for Pelini to make strides this year and next.
Sam (Central PA)
Adam - After last week's games and your "Big Ten In the Latest Polls" post, you mentioned that Penn State didn't receive any AP votes but could start receiving some votes if they beat Northwestern this coming weekend. I am aware that it doesn't matter, really, wheter "we're" ranked or not, but my question is this: with everything that happened and is continuing to be headline news about PSU, would the press actually consider voting for PSU at all? I mean I think that this team would absolutely deserve it, but don't know if the Press would feel the same way.
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
Sam, it would be shameful if AP voters didn't vote for Penn State because of something that had nothing to do with these players or coaches. If AP voters believe Penn State is a Top 25 team, they should vote for the Lions. And I think they would.
Goldie Gopher (Minneapolis)
Am I the best looking mascot in the conference? I am golden after all
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
You are, Goldy, but Sparty is a pretty handsome man. He's very popular with the ladies.
Want to get this out there. I am NOT surprised that Northwestern actually has a good 2 QB system. I mean if there was anyone in the nation who could make it happen its Mick McCall. He's probably the best qb coach in the nation and one of the most underrated offensive coordinators in the nation
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Greg, I agree 100 percent. McCall is the best quarterbacks coach in the Big Ten in my view (not necessarily coordinator, but QBs coach). He does a fabulous job developing quarterbacks and has created a really nice pipeline at Northwestern. Although the two-quarterback system has its inherent challenges, and could backfire at times, it certainly worked really well last week.
Kyle (Davenport, IA)
After multiple injuries to start the season, Iowa has found their answer at running back behind the "Hebrew Hammer" Mark Weisman. My question is, when players (Bullock) return from injury, does the Hammer shift back to fullback or stay at RB?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Yeah, I don't see that happening, Kyle. Iowa has to stick with Weisman until he starts slowing down. While the Hawkeyes certainly could feature more of a rotation at RB, it'd be crazy to go away from a guy who has steamrolled everything in his path these past three weeks. Can't wait to see him go against the Michigan State defense.
Danny O'Brien (Madison)
One is the loneliest number, it's also the number of full series I played yesterday. How much do I play against the Illini?
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
Danny, I think it depends on Joel Stave. If he plays like he did in the first half against Illinois, I don't see you getting on the field too much Saturday. But if he struggles or gets banged up, you'll see time.
What Herbie said was that he thinks Purdue will win the Big Ten. Then he followed it up saying, "Wouldn't it be something if Purdue and Northwestern played in the Big Ten Championship Game?" Not really a prediction on Northwestern, but he did think Purdue would win the Big Ten- which is still a stretch I think.
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Ah, OK, that makes sense. It could happen, but I doubt it -- and I doubt Purdue wins the Big Ten.
Terbush was suppose to be the less turnover proned QB, so far he has shown he's still good for an int or two a game and completes nothing but 8 to 10 yard outs, why not Marve on one leg this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (3:32 PM)
Man, TerBush just can't win with some Purdue fans. He also had four touchdown passes last week and looked pretty good. Is he an elite quarterback? No. Does he have some flaws? Yes. But he gives Purdue the best chance to win right now. I just can't imagine Marve will be too effective this week. Maybe a few weeks down the road, but not now. Maybe I'm wrong, but TerBush should be the QB against Michigan.
Nick (Dayton Ohio)
Ohio State is playing two big games on back to back weekends. Is that an advantage or disadvantage for the players and coaching staff?
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
It's only a disadvantage from an injury standpoint, Nick, as guys tend to get banged up in tough, physical games like Michigan State. But this is life in the Big Ten. Ohio State also finishes with Wisconsin (road) and Michigan (home). From a motivational standpoint, it's an advantage as the players will be geared up for a big game at night.
Le'Veon Bell (East Lansing)
I don't know if I could take another game like the one on Saturday. Tell me it's going to get easier!
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
It should get easier, Le'Veon. You face an Indiana team on Saturday that allowed nearly 400 rush yards last week at Northwestern. If you can't get going against the Hoosiers, there are some serious problems with your offense.
Who is your favorite in the Legends Division at this point? Michigan? Nebraska? Michigan State? Or do you believe in Iowa or Northwestern?
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
John, right now it's Nebraska, but if Michigan wins at Purdue, I might go with the Maize and Blue. And if Northwestern wins at Penn State, I'll have to start giving the Wildcats more credit as a legitimate contender. Michigan State isn't out of the mix either. I'm not sold yet on Iowa, but last Saturday was a nice step. Bottom line: the division is a muddled mess, but we should get a clearer picture soon.
Is there any reason why it seems Rob Henry has taken a step back? Think he is still having problems with the knee?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Has to be, Gregg. Henry was so reliant on his mobility in 2010, and he really had taken steps in the offseason before his knee injury weeks before the 2011 season.
What do you think of the Belton-Zwinak two-headed monster running for PSU for 2 more seasons?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Ryan, let's pump the brakes on "two-headed monster." They had a nice game against Illinois. The offensive line played well. They're not a monster yet.
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tiger's Country)
I'm days away from winning the first Triple Cown since 1967. I know this is a college football blog, but I think I've earned a shout out.
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
As a White Sox guy, I tip my cap to you, Miggie. You're outstanding. And you deserve the MVP.
Kenny Guiton (Columbus)
If Braxton goes down two years in a row against Nebraska I have to be able to do a better job than Bauserman did last year. Right?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Yes. And it won't be very hard.
Robert (Way Down South)
Adam, The Big Ten is falling behind. Do you think the Big Ten should expand to the deep south to help get to the richer recruiting areas? Even Notre Dame will be traveling more to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas every year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
Robert, I hear ya, but I don't believe in expanding just to enter a new region. Who do you want to add? Does the school fit the Big Ten? What does the school bring to the league besides location?
Chances the Big Ten champ wins the Rose Bowl??
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
John, it doesn't look particularly promising right now. Maybe USC or Stanford tanks and Oregon goes to the national title game. But right now, a Big Ten team facing Oregon, USC or even Stanford would be a sizable underdog. Best chance for a win would be Stanford, in my view.
Nate (Grand Rapids)
Given the catches Abbredaris was making, and the penalty yards he was drawing, why was he only targeted once downfield in the second half at Lincoln? Is he going to get more chances against the Illini?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
Good point, Nate. Not sure if Nebraska changed its coverage to give Abby more attention, but he wasn't as big a factor later in the game. Matt Canada also went more conservative with his play calls. Abbrederis absolutely should challenge Illinois in the pass game. Wisconsin has looked a lot better since he returned from his concussion.
B1G Manifest Destiny (East or West?)
Do you see the B1G expanding eastward to take UConn and Rutgers or Westward to take Kansas and K-State, maybe Iowa State? Slim pickins' either way?
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
No way on Iowa State, Kansas State or KU. Probably not on UConn. Rutgers is the interesting one. The school fits the Big Ten profile, and the location is a big plus. It's not a sexy addition from an athletics standpoint (not great historically), but it could be a smart one if the Big Ten has to expand again.
Modern Family is on tonight. You excited?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Very. Got it on DVR. Taking wife out for her birthday. So don't tell me what happens.
How does Rutgers fit the Big Ten's profile? Not a midwestern school, not strong academically, not a good football school. Might as well as add Temple too.
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Not strong academically? I beg to differ. It's an AAU school and football team regularly ranks with Northwestern among the nation's best as far as APR. While it doesn't have great football tradition, things have been a lot better lately. And it helps the Big Ten have a greater presence in New York/New Jersey area.
Fact or Fiction - Michigan will lose 4-5 games each of the next two years (this year due to turnovers and next year due to breaking in a new QB).
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Paul, it wouldn't surprise me. Michigan's roster won't be where Brady Hoke needs it to be until the 2014 season. That's when Hoke will have most of his recruits in the key roles, and have the type of depth needed to compete for maybe a national title. The Michigan rebuild is still going on from the RichRod era, and it likely will take another season. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if Michigan wins the Big Ten this year as a 3-loss team.
Would Colter be starting at QB right now if he stayed committed to Stanford?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
Interesting question, Kevin. Would Stanford have kept him as a quarterback throughout his career, and would he have been willing to make a position switch? I don't know if Colter would fit nearly as well in Stanford's pro-style offense as he does at Northwestern, where he can run the spread and the zone read play.
Joe (Cornhusker Nation)
Who get's more carries this weekend? Rex or Abdullah?
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
Joe, interesting question. I think Rex is pretty much back to 100 percent, so I'd expect him to get more carries than Abdullah. But Abdullah's speed could be a big asset against Ohio State. Not saying Rex isn't fast, too, but Abdullah is at another level.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Hey Adam. Long time no questions. How long til Tim Beckman gets to 10 total wins? 2014?
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
Ouch. Illini Mike coming out swinging. I can't understand your frustration, Mike. Things don't look good now. I still think Illinois can be good defensively -- certainly better than it has been. But the offense is really lacking in playmakers and depth. When you add in a new staff, new systems, etc., and it's a tough situation in Champaign.
Is Michael Mauti the best LB in the nation? He has shown greatness in prior seasons before getting hurt. If he stays healthy, does he get some hardware at season's end?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
Todd, he's playing at an All-America caliber level right now. I'd give the edge to Notre Dame's Manti Te'o because of how he's played against better teams than Mauti, but if Mauti keeps this up when the competition improves, he'll be right in the mix for national awards.
Gordon Gee (Columbus)
Little Sisters of the Poor changed their name to TCU and got a real football team, so why is everyone making fun of me? It's the bow tie isn't it...
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Yeah, Gordo. Expensive bow ties, too.
Honey Boo Boo Child (Trailor Park)
Mama told me that excuses are made up in the losers locker room, is that what happened to MSU last week?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Man, Honey Boo Boo with the MSU burn! I can understand Pat Narduzzi's frustration about the game tapes, but Michigan State did get the complete tapes late last week. And the Spartans didn't lose the game because of the tapes. They had chances and couldn't convert. They also were hurt by that whistle that killed the fumble play.
Lunch Links Crew (Celebrity Guests)
Adam,Can you hook us up with a celebrity chat guest during Lunch Links? We'll be on our best behavior! John Clayton maybe?
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
I'll head to his mom's basement and ask about his availability.
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Adam, serious question, why would anyone give tape?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Tape exchange has been going on, at least in the Big Ten, for more than 60 years. If both sides are exchanging tape, it's viewed as a fair way to prepare for the games.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
OK guys, fun chat. Talk to you next week. Enjoy Week 6!