Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 1 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Let's get started.
Heath (Sioux Falls, SD)
Hey, Adam! Okay, the talk from Husker country of replacing Bo has died down significantly the last two weeks, only to pick back up after the next loss. If the Nebraska of the last seven quarters shows up the rest of the season, when do you see the next loss? (The last three games of the regular season are against teams that have also been questionable on one side of the ball or the other....)
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
Nebraska definitely has a great opportunity to get back to Indy, beginning this week against Michigan State. I think MSU is the better team and playing better football than the Huskers, but Nebraska has the game at home, and its recent defensive surge could be big against a Spartans team that doesn't light the world on fire offensively. Penn State and Iowa also are winnable games, although Nebraska could lose both, too. I agree Pelini's seat isn't as warm as it was a few weeks ago, and a 2-1 finish should keep him safe for another year, especially with such a young team.
Sid Schwartz (Chicago)
Adam I remain baffled by the perceived gap between the ACC and the B1G. FSU's non conference resume is terrible, and after the Seminoles and Clemson, the conference is weak. Miami is turing out to be the ACC version of Michigan this year. I also believe the B1G has a much better win percentage against BCS non conference competition this year. What gives? How is this being measured?
Adam Rittenberg (1:04 PM)
Sid, some good points here. Clemson's win against a Georgia team that could be 6-4 after this weekend still carries way too much weight in my opinion. Florida State has looked really good, though, all season long, more dominant than any Big Ten team. But the way the two leagues are being viewed seems off base to me. It's something we'll explore further on the blog.
Adam, do you think that Devin Gardner's INT against ND that was caught in the end zone changed the trajectory of Michigan's season? Before that, Al Borges called what I thought was his best game in 3 years, but since then he has gone ultra conservative. I also can't figure out how Michigan was able to handle ND's two 1st round draft picks on the DL, but can't stop anyone else.
Adam Rittenberg (1:05 PM)
Great point, GBK. My big key to that game was how Michigan's young line would handle Nix and Tuitt. The Wolverines more than held their own. I don't know if the play-calling has been altered significantly since Notre Dame, as Michigan continued to turn the ball over for a while and now can't run the ball. In between it all, Michigan had a record-setting day against Indiana. The youth certainly is hurting Michigan along the line, and that restricts what Borges can do as a play-caller. But everyone deserves some criticism for the offensive struggles.
3 questions: Abdullah has been a stud so far, but do you seem him keeping his century-mark streak alive against MSU? Is Nebraska's O-line too banged up to get holes opened up for him against MSU's vaunted defense? Can he cement his spot as top B1G RB with a 75-100 yards and 2 TDs performance?
Adam Rittenberg (1:06 PM)
It will be tough for any back to approach 100 rush yards against Michigan State. Abdullah probably will need a big chunk play or two to get near 100. But he's the best back in the Big Ten right now and one of the best in the country. He's playing phenomenal football.
Adam, as a Badgers and Packers fan, I'm trying to convince myself that Scott Tolzien can tread water for a couple weeks as the Packers starting QB. Any thoughts on Tolzien's ability to play in the NFL based on what you saw while he was at Wisconsin? What did you see as his biggest strengths and weaknesses from his college days?
Adam Rittenberg (1:08 PM)
Scott's biggest strength definitely is from the neck up. He's one of the smartest quarterbacks I've covered, and he prepared extremely well for games. I didn't think he had the skills to be a full-time NFL starter, but he can make up for what he lacks physically with his approach to the game. It will be interesting to see how he fares leading the Packers until Rodgers returns.
Curt (Des Moines, IA)
Corey Clement will win the Doak Walker by the time he leaves Madison. Agree? Why isn't he getting more carries? Besides experience, what do James White and MGIII bring to the offense that Corey Clement can't?
Adam Rittenberg (1:09 PM)
He might, Curt, but why should he get carries? What are Melvin Gordon and James White not doing for that run game? Those guys have been around longer, and they're producing at an extremely high level. Clement will get his chance in due time, but I don't understand the need to play him over White and Gordon right now.
I've asked around a little bit, but wanted to get your take on this.Should I be worried that my Buckeyes have a common opponent with Baylor? We beat Buffalo with our starters in the whole game and only led by 10 in the 4th quarter. Baylor, the very next week, beat them 70-13 and pulled their starters at halftime. Plus we've had other issues along the way. I fear the voters will look at this and think they should vote Baylor in front of us. What do you think will happen?
Adam Rittenberg (1:10 PM)
Interesting point, Jack. Ultimately, Ohio State's bigger concerns are Alabama and Florida State. If those two teams win out, who cares about Baylor? I tend to think Baylor will lose at Oklahoma State and won't be a factor when all is said and done. The results against Buffalo could come into play, but as an Ohio State fan, you have bigger concerns right now.
LouKyHusker (Louisville, KY)
Nebraska's type defense is more affective against Pro Style offenses than the Spread offenses. Why do you and every other pundit thinks MSU will run all over the Huskers? What has MSU's offense done that warrants your stated outcome?
Alot of people talk about how good of a coach tom herman is and rightfully so. But I think that ed warriner has done a great job with ohio state's off line the last two years. I hope that urban locks him up for years to come, either thro a pay raise or promotion. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:15 PM)
Huge fan of Warinner's, Jay. He's one of the best line coaches in the country and has had a major role in Ohio State's line reaching its potential after years of underachievement. Warinner certainly seems happy in Columbus, and maybe he would replace Herman as the sole OC if and when Herman becomes a head coach. For assistants, it's all about whether they want to be head coaches or whether they're happy in certain spots. I'd expect Warinner to be at Ohio State for a while.
Dan (New Jersey)
Why does ranking at the time of the game seem to carry so much weight? As you said, Clemson's win over Georgia is now a tight win over a 3 (most likely soon to be 4) loss team, and Miami now has 2 losses, with their only win over a ranked team being again, a tight win over current 5 loss Florida which most likely won?t make a bowl game. I just don't see how Clemson and Miami look that much better than MSU and Wisconsin, especially given the botched ASU game and iffy ND calls. Granted OSU hasn't played MSU yet, but by the end of the season should they win out, their best wins shouldn't be too different imo. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:17 PM)
Dan, it's definitely closer than it has been portrayed. The desert debacle isn't affecting Wisconsin's place in the polls at all, and I don't know what the Badgers need to do to convince people that they're a good team. MSU's loss at Notre Dame -- PI calls and all -- doesn't look great now that the Irish have lost for a third time. But I would take MSU or Wisconsin against Miami, and I think they could give Clemson a good game. It just underscores how non-league wins -- even overvalued ones -- can really affect how teams are viewed for the rest of the season.
I'm sure either you or Brian will be covering the battle for the Axe in a week and a half. This is probably the best matchup between the two teams in recent years. Let me recommend getting a Jucy Lucy from Matt's bar or 5-8 Club while you are in town. You won't be disappointed. I know it's early, but what will be the keys to that game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
Zach, thanks for the recs! I'm cautiously optimistic that one of us (probably Brian) will finally get up to Minneapolis for a game. That's a big one for sure. Both teams want to control the clock, and both have been pretty salty along the line of scrimmage. It comes down to which run game shows up, and which QB (Stave or Nelson) makes enough plays with his arm to mix up the play selection. I see a very close game, coming down to turnover margin or which offensive line has a better fourth quarter. Should be a blast.
Neil [via mobile]
When will game times be announced for week 13?
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
Most likely Saturday night, Neil, as soon as the Week 12 games are over. It'll be Sunday morning at the latest, and we'll be sure to post them on the blog.
I'd make the same argument that Dan is making, but against Wisconsin. A couple weeks ago people were touting their win over Northwestern (which is winless in the Big 10), and staying close to OSU. There's no way they're the 2nd best team in the Big 10 ahead of MSU.
Adam Rittenberg (1:22 PM)
That's fair, Tom, but I'll counter by saying Michigan State's win against Michigan doesn't look nearly as good now that the Wolverines are in a tailspin. You can use certain wins any way you want, but I don't think anyone can definitively say there's "no way" one team is better than another without the teams meeting up on the field. Unfortunately, we likely won't see Spartans-Badgers this season. But Michigan State has a chance to show it's the best team in the league by winning out and going to the Rose Bowl.
Who will lose, in your opinion, first? FSU or Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (1:23 PM)
Florida State isn't losing, Todd, until the national title game perhaps. Bama has a tougher road to Pasadena, but it's hard to see Nick Saban's crew stumbling. So solid in all three phases.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Adam, I heard the other day there were some media members on sports radio, suggesting that BO'B should be on the "hot" seat. Personally I think those media members have lost any credibility they may have had. Am I wrong to see the positive in this very AVERAGE PSU season as that perhaps the BO'B to the NFL talk might quiet down a bit and this could help future recruiting and coaching stability?
Adam Rittenberg (1:25 PM)
Rob, I don't get into media criticism here, but I agree with you. I guess you're finding a silver lining in a mediocre season, although I think if O'Brien really wants to go to the NFL, he could find a job after this season. My sense is he wants to see things through at Penn State, compete for Big Ten titles with Christian Hackenberg, and then head to the NFL in 2-3 years. I'd be surprised if he's not back in 2014.
Depending whether the B1G puts a second team in the BCS, I feel better about the league's bowl matchups with the SEC than I have in a long time. Am I drinking too much kool-aid?
Adam Rittenberg (1:28 PM)
Gary, it's a little too soon to tell without seeing the individual matchups. I agree that after Alabama, there seems to be a drop-off in the SEC, although Auburn and Missouri are both having terrific seasons. The Big Ten seems to have three marquee teams in Ohio State, MSU and Wisconsin. Two of those teams would go against the SEC in the Capital One and Outback bowls. I'm not sure I'd want to see Texas A&M, but I could see the Big Ten's best taking down Auburn, Missouri, South Carolina, etc.
How come when people talk about OSU this season no one mentions that Hyde and Miller missed a number of games this year. Take the top 2 offensive weapons from Ala and Fsu and see how they look.
Adam Rittenberg (1:29 PM)
Tim, as I wrote earlier today, Ohio State's on-field performance hasn't been the issue. The schedule is killing the Buckeyes' BCS title hopes. They've looked good enough, especially lately, but the perceived weakness of the competition hurts their chances.
Does Minnesota need to beat Wisconsin to get a Jan. 1 Bowl game?
Adam Rittenberg (1:31 PM)
It would help to win one of the last two, Tom. The Gator Bowl would be the likeliest Jan. 1 bowl for Jerry Kill's team, and Minnesota will need to sell itself, as the school has a poor reputation for traveling to bowls. But at 9-3 -- with a great national story -- Minnesota would be an appealing choice.
Adam what are your thoughts on Jake Rudock this year? He seems to be getting better and better as the season moves on, could be Iowa's next Ricky Stanzi mold for the next 2 years
Adam Rittenberg (1:33 PM)
I think he's a solid player, Adam. He might not have as much upside as Stanzi, although Stanzi had an excellent supporting cast as well (McNutt, DJK, Moeaki). Iowa has to upgrade its recruiting at wide receiver going forward. I like Rudock's potential, and this will be a big offseason for him to build on his first year as the starting QB.
fact or fiction... Does any head coach in the big ten lose their job after this season?
Adam Rittenberg (1:34 PM)
I'll have a better answer for you in a week or two, but my sense is no. Tim Beckman needs to beat Purdue next week to show that some progress, even incremental progress, is being made in Champaign. Bo Pelini can't afford a collapse down the stretch, although I think he's probably safe. And even if Michigan completely falls apart and goes 6-6, Brady Hoke isn't going anywhere.
Jucy Lucy's are way overrated...don't bother, there's plenty of better food to try.
Adam Rittenberg (1:35 PM)
OK, Dave. Make a recommendation then!
Narduzzi has once again fielded a great defensive group. Should MSU be concerned he might leave after this season or is he waiting for only one or two specific openings? Money out there is huge these days. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (1:36 PM)
At some point, he's going to become a head coach or maybe an NFL defensive coordinator. But he also loves being at Michigan State and building that program into what it is today. It depends what jobs are open this season, but I think Narduzzi can hold out for a major-conference position if he wants one. It's a good position to be in, but MSU fans have to come to terms with him eventually going elsewhere.
Do you think Michigan's problems are a result of them not "being there" yet? Or do you see them needing to make some coaching changes in the future?
Adam Rittenberg (1:37 PM)
I think there's something to that, Justin. The Notre Dame game teased us a bit that Michigan is truly back, sort of like the Sugar Bowl championship in 2011. The truth is Michigan remains at least a year away from contending for Big Ten championships, and that's disappointing. Brady Hoke is pretty loyal to his assistants, but if things go south here, he might be pressured to make some changes on the offensive side.
Have you warned the Big 12 blogger that a noon kickoff against the worst team in the Big Ten might not be the best representation of Happy Valley? As a PSU fan, I've attended many games and know how awesome it can be, but I've also experienced plenty of noon snoozefests as well!
Adam Rittenberg (1:39 PM)
Yeah, it's not an ideal situation, Gary. The same holds true for Edward Aschoff going to Wisconsin-Indiana. We wanted to do this all on the same weekend, so some games are better than others. But I think Jake still will have a good experience in State College. A lot to see and do there!
Russell (Cincinnati, Ohio)
How much blame do you put on the PSU D-coordinator for the utterly embarrassing performance of the Penn State defense this year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:41 PM)
I actually liked the John Butler hire and still think he's a good coach. He has to take some of the blame for the unit's struggles, but I see a unit with very little depth at key positions like linebacker and cornerback. Some players have taken steps backward in their development, which is on both them and the coaches. Ultimately, I don't think Butler had nearly as much to work with as Ted Roof did last season.
Danny (Saint Paul)
What are the chances that Iowa's Brandon Scherff leaves early for the draft next year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:42 PM)
Interesting question, Danny. Scherff certainly has an NFL future. There might be a few questions about his athleticism, but he's extremely powerful. A lot depends on his draft grade, but he'll be one to watch after the season.
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
Iowa has had a history of tackles going pro early when they received strong grades (Bulaga, Reiff).
Ha...Hell's Kitchen. Nearby, delicious, great atmosphere (tunes much of the time).
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
OK, sounds good!
ben from the F-A-R [via mobile]
If you want a recommendation for something to eat in the twin cities, check out the Rusty Taco, and don't forget to fill up on plenty of Surely while you're in town. SKI-U-MAH
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
Love it. Will try to go (or pass along to Brian).
Andrew (Fremont, Indiana)
Despite the serious struggles Purdue has had this season, I can't help but look at these last few weeks and not see a W somewhere. Penn State hasn't beaten anyone of value in Happy Valley outside of Michigan (and thats even debatable), Illinois seems to being doing all it can to maintain its long losing streak, and last I checked IU was still IU. Which one seems like the most likely win for Purdue?
Adam Rittenberg (1:45 PM)
Love the optimism, Andrew, but Purdue hasn't even been competitive in a Big Ten game this season. Tough to see a win, even against weaker competition. Penn State has been much better at home than on the road. Illinois would be the one to watch as the Illini likely will have a 20-game Big Ten losing streak and a lot of pressure on their shoulders. I don't think Purdue can stop Indiana's offense, especially on the road. So it'd be the Illinois game.
Dan (New Jersey)
Do you know how split PSU's scholarship players are between offense and defense? It seems to me that the defense is working with significantly less scholarships than the offense, but I have no numbers to back that up.
Adam Rittenberg (1:46 PM)
Dan, I'll look into it, but I can't imagine there's a huge discrepancy. That would be really dumb, don't you think? Penn State certainly had bigger losses on defense from the 2012 team (Mauti, Hill, Hodges) than on offense. That's where the uni is really struggling, in my view.
Mike (Paris, OH)
How much of Ohio State's schedule strength is attributed to them being stuck in the Leaders Division? It seems as though the Legends is a pretty good division (top 3 in CFB?) and we were debating on the Buckeye message boards how much being in the Legends would help our Strength of Schedule.
Adam Rittenberg (1:48 PM)
Mike, being in the Legends would have helped Ohio State this year, but the Buckeyes also were hurt by a crossover schedule that featured Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa. Ohio State won't face 8-1 Michigan State, 8-2 Minnesota or 7-2 Nebraska during the regular season. It will play one in the Big Ten title game, but for BCS standings purposes, it would have helped to play all three during the regular season.
blake (Fort Wayne,IN)
What chance if any does Indiana have against Wisc or OSU? I feel like their offense will keep them in the game for about 3Q then the lack of defense will really show come the 4Q.. Also, do you think there will be a new DC in Bloomington next fall?
Adam Rittenberg (1:50 PM)
Indiana has to win both games with its offense, which really tested Ohio State last year in Bloomington (not so much with Wisconsin). The problem is, IU scores so fast that it leaves a weak defense on the field too much. Wisconsin and Ohio State have so much firepower, and both teams are pretty solid on defense (especially Wisconsin). I can't see IU keeping pace on the scoreboard. ... As for your second question, I think Wilson needs to consider a change as the defense has been a problem for such a long time. Maybe a shakeup is in order.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Could Kill in the press box become the regular fare?
Adam Rittenberg (1:51 PM)
I think he'll eventually return to the sideline, but as long as Minnesota keeps winning, he's not going anywhere.
OSU should me #2, Michigan State should be in the top 10, Wisn should be in the top 15 and Minn should be ranked as well. The media bias towards the Big Ten is way out of hand.
Adam Rittenberg (1:52 PM)
David, the bias might be excessive, but what has the Big Ten done to change the perception? It falls on its face every year in non-league play, and struggles in most of the bowls, despite tough matchups. As Urban Meyer, Brady Hoke and others have said, the only way you change perception is to go out and win bowl games.
What percentage shot would you give the following teams to win the Legends? MSU, Minn, Neb?
Adam Rittenberg (1:54 PM)
I'd go Michigan State at 55 percent, Nebraska at 35 percent and Minnesota at 10 percent. With two losses, the Gophers need a lot to go right from here on out.
After each Michigan game Hoke says he likes the game plan, but not the execution. So it seems he is going to keep running the ball, even though they can't, because that is the plan and where he is taking them. Therefore, it seems wins might not be his concern this year. Possible?
Adam Rittenberg (1:55 PM)
C'mon, Glenn, do you really believe he doesn't want to win? I agree Michigan has been a bit too stubborn in wanting to be the Michigan teams of old with the power run game. The personnel clearly isn't there right now. But to suggest Hoke doesn't want to win is off base.
I've asked this question every week and never get an answer. If Ohio State is overlooked for the NCG, it would practically require them to be 38-0 by the next opportunity. Does that seem ridiculous to anyone else?
Adam Rittenberg (1:56 PM)
It's an unfortunate situation, Ryan. Ohio State might have made the title game last year with no bowl ban. This year's situation is unusual because so many teams could go undefeated. But yes, you could be right that Ohio State would have to win 38 straight just to make one title game. Crazy.
Greg (Lincoln Park)
Do you think overigning would help the big ten?
Adam Rittenberg (1:57 PM)
I think having official visits in a prospect's junior year would. The Big Ten is hurt by not being able to host prospects on official visits until most have already made their decisions. I also think the league must make a more concerted effort to recruit the south with assistant coach hires.
Mike (Bolivar, OH)
If the only way to change perception is to win bowl games then explain how the ACC is getting any respect with their 3-13 BCS record?And how is Ohio State not getting respect considering their 6-3 (or 5-3) BCS record?
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Mike, I've been one of the biggest ACC critics out there. I've noticed that the college football media seems to warm up easier to the ACC than it does the Big Ten. There could be several reasons for this, but I think it's recruiting. The ACC almost always ranks higher than the Big Ten in recruiting. I joke that the biggest day on the ACC calendar is National Signing Day. The ACC has been dreadful in major bowls, while the Big Ten has been slightly less dreadful. A lot of the love this year is a Florida State team that has finally translated great recruiting to great results on the field. But it's an interesting topic that I'll explore more on the blog.
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Last one ...
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
I haven't seen any Illinois questions today, so here is one...Illinois is really bad this year...and they lose arguably their best player/athlete next year in Scheelhaase...does it possibly get worse next year? Can it get worse?
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Rob, they do lose Scheelhaase, but they've established a better structure on offense with Bill Cubit and will have Oklahoma State QB transfer Wes Lunt eligible. I can't imagine it gets much worse on defense, but that unit must start showing improvement soon. Illinois' schedule also improves a bit as it moves to the West division.
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
OK, everyone, time's up. Great questions today. Enjoy Week 12!