Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, back again to chat after a lengthy break. Did you miss me? Didn't think so. Let's get started!
Dave (Salt Lake City)
What chance do you give Purdue to pick up a win @ Cinci this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Purdue has a chance, Dave, and it should be one of the more exciting Week 1 Big Ten games. Cincinnati has a bit of a QB controversy, while Purdue has settled on senior Rob Henry. Purdue has to win the turnover battle and stay on the field offensively. Will be tough against a good Cincinnati squad.
Jon (Augusta, GA)
As OSU's front seven on defense lacks depth (recently exacerbated with the injury to Tommy Schutt), do you think it may be a good idea for the offense to actually slow down a bit to keep the D rested and/or healthy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Interesting point, Jon. Urban Meyer said last year was the first time in a while that he has really gone up-tempo at times. I could see him slowing things down, especially if the offensive line is overpowering the opponent. Ohio State isn't Oregon and tempo isn't at the core of Meyer's spread, so I could see a slower rhythm at times.
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
IU obviously has 3 great QBs. Do you think Wilson might take advantage of that this season, and introduce some trickery by putting 2 QBs in the game, with one of them as a "RB" or something?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
I think it's likelier he uses two quarterbacks in a game -- both at QB -- than putting a guy like Tre Roberson, the fastest of the three, at RB. Indiana has so much depth at RB, WR and TE. It needs to figure out who is the best option under center, and it might be a good idea to use at least two signal callers tonight against Indiana St.
Am I missing something? Is the AIRBHG on an extended vacation? For Iowa's sake (not an Iowa fan), hope I didn't awake the sleeping giant!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Ugh, Daniel. Now we know who to blame when He strikes.
Steve (Des Moines)
Does this stadium replay business really mean anything? Its not like Nebraska would have kept playing the replay where PSU scored that touchdown? The stadium officials are not going to create a hostile environment for the refs.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
You sure about that, Steve? Remember who the stadium operators work for. If that call had gone against Nebraska, I'd expect it to be replayed quite a few times. The stadium officials work for the schools/fans, not the officials.
Who has a better 1st game. Andrew Maxwell or Connor Cook?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
I actually expect a good first effort from Maxwell, who has heard all offseason how he shouldn't be the starter. The receiving corps should be less droppy this year. Maxwell needs to settle down, not throw every pass like it's a 100 mile-an-hour fastball and find a rhythm. I think he'll play well against Western.
Do you see PSU sanctions getting reduced a year or two? I think after the lunch mob got their way most people now realize it wasn't right what they did to the football program...thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
The lunch mob? Mmmm, lunch. I could see a year shaved off of the sanctions, and there seems to be some momentum building toward it. I know this: there's not much support for NCAA president Mark Emmert, even among top officials at Big Ten schools. Don't listen to what they say publicly. They're not happy at all with Emmert's leadership.
Outside of the NIU vs Iowa possible upset (would it really be an upset?), what other team should be on upset alert going into week 1?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Northwestern has to be a bit concerned as it makes a very long trip to play a night game against a young but talented Cal team with a very good coach. If the Wildcats let Cal get going early, they'll be in for a dogfight. Penn State also has to be wary of Syracuse, which is a bit of a mystery team entering the season. The Lions need their defense and offensive skill to step up and help the young QB (probably Hackenberg). Other than those two, I can't see a Big Ten team getting "upset" in Week 1. Really weak slate overall.
Luke (South Bend)
If IU starts out 4-0 do you think they will crack the top 25
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Uh, no. Sorry. Decent non-league slate, but IU must do MUCH more to get into the Top 25. Beating Penn State in the Big Ten opener should help.
Ashley [via mobile]
Just a quick note: Wyoming was 117th in rushing defense last year. Should Nebraska even bother with the whole forward pass thing?
RJ (Michigan) [via mobile]
What's your reaction to seeing red shirt freshman Drake Johnson being 2nd on the depth chart behind Fitz at Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
A little surprised, RJ, but you can't take Brady Hoke's depth charts at face value. Devin Funchess was listed as a fourth-stringer all of last season. I think the Derrick Green hype turned out to be premature, and that after Fitz Toussaint, it's pretty wide open as to who steps up as the No. 2 RB.
Mike (Lincoln )
Adam, I've noticed that the B1G ESPN articles have had lots of different people posting them recently, ie Chantel, Josh Moyer, etc. Why aren't you and Brian just handling the B1G posts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Glad you asked, Mike. We've expanded our staff a bit this year as we go with a bit of a new model on the blogs. We're glad that Chantel Jennings, Josh Moyer and Austin Ward will be contributing much more for the Big Ten blog, not only on the teams that they cover but on the league as well. Brian and I still will have a presence, but we'll be focusing a little more on longer, big-picture type stories.
Who has a tougher game this week, MSU vs western Michigan or UM vs central Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Michigan by a hair. CMU won three more games than Western last year and didn't go through a coaching change. But both Michigan schools should win their openers fairly easily.
Dave (Chesterfield, VA)
Give me your gut feeling for the Iowa/Northern Illinois tilt and how does Rudock fend under center? Any chance he gets an early hook if he is ineffective?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Dave, I expect a very competitive game that could go either way. I went with Iowa because of its size and power on both sides of the ball, but NIU is certainly capable of winning. I think Greg Davis keeps it simple for Rudock and relies heavily on the run game with Weisman, Bullock and co. Rudock would really have to struggle to get the early hook. After inexplicably not playing Rudock at all last season, Ferentz owes it to him to give an extended opportunity in the opener.
Do you think an undefeated Big Ten team not named Ohio State will overtake a one-loss SEC team (Ala., LSU, S. Cal., UF, or UGA) for a spot in the BCS Championship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Good question, Chuck. Unfortunately, the preseason polls do matter if the situation you present comes about. Ohio State is the only Big Ten team in the top 15, so could an undefeated Michigan/Nebraska/Northwestern/Wisconsin/MSU rise up so much in a league perceived to be pretty weak? Probably not. It depends on what happens around the sport and obviously in the SEC, but Ohio State likely would be the only Big Ten team that could leapfrog a 1-loss SEC champ.
Blake (Cedar Rapids, IA)
I can't help but admire how much Pat Fitzgerald has transformed Northwestern. I'm not a Wildcats fan, but I wouldn't be able to resist a smile if they end up winning their division. Out of the lower half of the Big Ten (i.e. Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, etc.), which team is best primed to follow in Northwestern's footsteps?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
All three teams have a chance to make a jump, but I look at Minnesota as a program that could turn the corner in the next year or so. My only concern is recruiting and whether Jerry Kill and his staff can bring in enough top-level Big Ten talent. I know they can coach and turn around programs. Indiana and Purdue also have a chance to rise up. I like both coaches at those schools.
How does the Michigan D-line look? They seem to have a little more depth than last year, will Pipkins make this his breakout year!
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Shawn, I'm very interested to see how Michigan's front four develops, especially the younger players like Pipkins and Taco Charlton, who is an absolute beast physically. They should be fine at DE as long as Clark stays healthy, but they need a boost from the interior line. Will Pipkins become another Will Campbell or a guy who backs up his hype (and size)? We'll find out soon.
In past years, OSU fell in the rankings after "winning ugly", or poor performances in wins early in the season. Given lofty expectations this year (more than usual), do you see the pollsters dropping them from two if they don't blow out their home non-conference opponents?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
It's possible, Nick, depending on what other Top 10 teams do. I really dislike the polls in the first six weeks of the season, but I believe teams that play strong competition and win should be rewarded. I'd rather move a team up for beating somebody than dropping a team for not blowing out a cupcake opponent, but sometimes one goes with the other.
Chas (red kool-aid land) [via mobile]
Best college football 2013 scenario: Huskers get through the season unscathed, pull out a nail-biter against the Buckeyes in Indy, destroy Bama in championship game to prevent them from besting the 90's streak. Got a better one?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
That's certainly the best-case scenario in Big Red country. But I think most of college football would be thrilled if any team outside the SEC beat Bama to end the SEC's streak of titles.
Do you think Kyle Prater will finally show something this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I have my doubts, Kyle. He just isn't healthy and lacks strength in his lower body. I was at Northwestern's practice on Wednesday and he wasn't participating. He obviously has some talent, but his body isn't cooperating.
Craig (Stockholm Sweden)
Hey Adam,Hur mor du? ( how are you) how effective do you think Jake Ryan will be if he comes back for big ten play?? Is 10 wins for the maize and blue a resonable expectation?/ Tack!
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Ha, if I could respond in Swedish, I would. Thanks for reading from so far away. I expect big things from Ryan, who appears to be healing very quickly from the ACL injury. He might need a game or two to get acclimated, but if he's back for the Penn State trip, it'd be huge. A 10-win season certainly is possible for Michigan, but the Wolverines likely can't lose to both Notre Dame and Penn State for it to happen.
Adam, do you guys get on-field access for the games you go to or are you in the stands? Specifically I would like to know where Brian will be sitting for the PSU game, what he will be wearing, and what car he is driving. Thx.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Ha, I'm not going to give my guy up that easily (or should I?)! We get on-field access at some stadiums but watch games from the press box, not the stands. We eat a lot of junk food up there, but it's free, so that's good.
Brett (White Bear Lake)
Why can't KF ever keep a consistent winning program on the field?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It's tough when recruiting is always an uphill climb. Ferentz perhaps is too honest about the recruiting challenges Iowa faces, but they're there. I still go back to the 2010 season, when Iowa had a roster full of future pros and momentum from the Orange Bowl championship. And it all fell apart. Iowa simply couldn't have a season like that one. Since then, things have steadily declined.
Hey Adam, quick realignment question... haha gotcha! What do you think will be the surprise of the season? and are you doing the best\ worst case scenarios this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Sneaky, Drew, sneaky. We didn't have time to do best case-worst case this season with all the preseason stuff. As for the surprise, I don't see any huge ones in the Big Ten, but Michigan State could rise up and win the Legends and Indiana could make some noise as a bowl team.
Adam, since you scheduled your chat at 11:00 directly before Keith Law's chat you've put me in a tough spot. Hard to stay on the computer for two straight hours for both chats, so sell yourself on why I should catch your chat live over Keith's chat.
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Because college football is superior to baseball. Their season is winding down, and if you live in Chicago like me, you've tuned out a long time ago. Seriously, get tough, Patrick! Stay on for both chats!
Damian (California )
What conference has a better chance at ending the SEC's title streak Big Ten or Pac 12?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
This question really is whether Ohio State or Stanford/Oregon has a better chance? I think if Ohio State and Oregon or Stanford both go undefeated, Oregon/Stanford could have the edge because of the Pac-12's superior perception to the Big Ten. But Ohio State probably has an easier road to an undefeated season than the Cardinal or Ducks.
The media and the fans have very high expectations for Ohio State. Given what you've seen, are those expectations reasonable?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
The expectations are somewhat reasonable, Andy, because Ohio State went 12-0 last year and Urban Meyer's track record shows very strong teams in Year 2. But people also have to remember that the Buckeyes were far from a dominant team last season. They easily could have lost 2-3 games. To expect them to steamroll the Big Ten is probably shortsighted.
A lot of hype coming out of Tempe about ASU this year, do you think Wisconsin drops one there?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
I do, Dave. I'm not a Badger hater, but there's a lot working against Wisconsin in that game. Big Ten teams are terrible in true road games against the Pac-12. Whether it's the long flight, the time change or the heat, Big Ten teams tend to struggle big time on the West Coast. Arizona State also excels in the pass game, while pass defense might be Wisconsin's biggest weakness. We'll see what happens, but I'll probably pick ASU.
A lot of ppl are picking Michigan over Nebraska mainly becuase of the shaky Husker defense. If Michigan performs as expected and Nebraska comes out with at least an average defense (which would be an improvement over last year), do you think ppl will switch their votes to Nebraska to win the division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Herbie, I think people are picking Michigan more because the game will be played at the Big House. Nebraska has really struggled in many of its biggest Big Ten road games (Wisconsin, Michigan in 2011, Ohio State last year). The Huskers certainly can win, and if they limit turnovers and play a smart game, they'll have a great chance to come out of Ann Arbor with a win (and a division title).
For the first time, we're dealing with the possibility of Michigan & Ohio St. playing in back-to-back games if they both make the B1G title game. How do you think this would play out with fans and media? Would it trivialize the regular season game in Ann Arbor if both have clinched and know they're meeting up again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
It could, Jason, and that would be a shame, but the likelihood of both teams clinching before The Game seems pretty unlikely. Ohio State still could be aiming for an undefeated season and a spot in the national title game, while Michigan likely will be in a competitive division race with Nebraska, Northwestern and MSU. I know this: and Ohio State-Michigan matchup in the Big Ten title game would be a MUCH bigger deal regionally and nationally than each of the first two matchups in Indy.
What are the odds of the Gophers climbing out of the basement of the division and passing... I don't know... Let's say... Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
I actually have Minnesota finishing ahead of Iowa, but both teams appear to be behind the top four (Neb, Mich, Northwestern, MSU) in the Legends. Minnesota needs to identify some playmakers around QB Philip Nelson on offense and exhibit more physical play on both lines. Jerry Kill liked the physical play in the bowl against Texas Tech and hopes it carries over into this season. Gophers have to stay healthy, too.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
I would be very surprised if John Urschel did not win the Campbell Trophy this year (illicit payments to the voting committee notwithstanding). If he does, what do you think the blast radius would be of Emmert's head exploding? (Keep in mind, he has a HUGE head).
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
I can't think of a better candidate for the award than Urschel, Lou. He's an exceptional guy. Emmert's "culture" comment is one he may come to regret, as Penn State obviously does a lot of good things both on and off the field.
Blast to the future: who backs up Trevor Siemian in 2014: Zack Oliver or Matt Alviti?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
We're talking Northwestern QBs here, for those who don't know. I'd lean toward Alviti, who reminds me a lot of Dan Persa (even wears the same No. 7), but Oliver has improved in practice after struggling early in his career.
Whoever wins the starting job at PSU, does the other guy transfer?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
The question really is whether Tyler Ferguson transfers if/when Christian Hackenberg is named the starter. Hackenberg isn't going anywhere, but would Ferguson stick around to play behind a freshman? I think it's important for Bill O'Brien to keep both QBs in the mix because any departure would leave Penn State incredibly thin under center.
Sam (Iowa City)
Adam, if KF is able to do it, how long does it take Iowa to rebuild and get back to where it was three years ago?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Sam, I think it's a two- to three-year process for Iowa. The good news is the Hawkeyes are heading to seemingly the easier West division and have favorable schedules the next few seasons. So there's an opportunity there, but Ferentz and his staff have to do better on the recruiting trail. There has been a talent drop-off.
Mochila (Grand Rapids)
Will Damion Terry see the field on Friday?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
I don't think so, 'Chila. I actually expect a good outing from Maxwell, and Cook will get some time in the second half. It sounds like Maxwell solidified himself a bit after Terry's breakout scrimmage. Dantonio won't play Terry unless he's really worried about the other three.
So is the moral of the story with NCAA officials something like this ... "If you are going to trade your autograph make sure you receive cash that cannot be traced back instead of a tattoo that is on your body."
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Yep, and don't do business with those under federal investigation. And don't repeatedly lie to the NCAA (like Tressel did). As long as you do that, you can do whatever you want. The NCAA is pathetic.
Afro Thunder (Lincoln, NE)
Do I get 1000 yards this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
It could happen, K-Bell, but I think Taylor spreads the ball around to Enunwa, Turner and some of the other wideouts.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
I have my expectations in check for Iowa and fully anticipate them barely sneaking into a bowl game maybe, but isn't there a CHANCE that they could make a nice run and win 9 games with surprise performances from Rudock and maybe some playmakers on defense? Iowa has come from out of nowhere before...
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
It's true, Mark, that Iowa can be most dangerous when expectations are low. I just don't see nine wins this year. The schedule is too tough, especially in the Big Ten. Iowa would need to beat both NIU and Iowa State, and pull off some upsets along the way to get to nine wins. Could happen, but I don't see it in the loaded Legends division.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Time's up, everyone, but strong first chat! Enjoy the games tonight and check the blog late as Brian and I recap UNLV-Minnesota and Indiana State-Indiana.