Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 at 2 p.m. ET on Friday!
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Hey guys, let's talk Big Ten football. Talked to Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Minnesota's Tim Brewster earlier today, so I'm fired up to get the season going.
FightForIowa (Des Moines, IA)
Hi Adam. Iowa just released its depth chart today for the game against UNI. What do you think of the absence of Jewel Hampton? Also, DJK is still sitting at #2, Murray and Mossbrucker are still tied at kicker, and there are no true freshman to be found. Any other thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:02 PM)
Injuries have really hurt the Hawkeyes in camp. Check out my news story on the running backs in just a bit (not good). As far as the wideouts, DJK has missed part of camp with an injury, though he's back out there. Kirk mentioned that Colin Sandeman probably won't play in the opener due to injury. He did say 3-4 true freshmen will play but declined to specify.
Jan (Falls Church, VA)
Do you think it is possible that the Spartans named Cousins captain because of his locker room/off-the-field dedication and leadership, and that the team would be ok with Nichol starting? Or is the captaincy/starter issue a potential powderkeg that could ruin team chemistry?
Adam Rittenberg (2:03 PM)
Great question, Jan. From being around that team and the two quarterbacks, I don't think the locker room would be divided if Nichol is named the starter. Kirk is such a class act, and he would stress to the guys to support Keith. But it would be weird having a quarterback co-captain on the bench. Oh, wait. It happened at Ohio State last year.
jeremy (ann arbor, mi)
adam, as a buckeye fan how worried should I be about ohio state's inability to find someone to take hold of the left tackle position?
Adam Rittenberg (2:04 PM)
It is a concern, Jeremy. Ohio State was clearly hoping Mike Adams would reach his potential and claim that job, which hasn't happened. My sense is Andrew Miller will be the guy, though J.B. Shugarts has a ton of talent and could win the job eventually. But Adams' play is troubling, especially for a group that must be better this fall.
Brandon (Cedar Falls, IA)
Do you really see Nick Sheridan as an option in the Michigan quarterback competition or do you think the "3 QBs" is coachspeak?
Adam Rittenberg (2:06 PM)
I think Sheridan is in the mix, but only as a short-term solution until either Forcier or Robinson settles in. Sheridan clearly knows the system well since he's been there longer, and all reports say he's done OK in practice. It might not be the best p.r. move for Rich Rodriguez to trot him out there first, but if he gives Michigan's offense the best chance to move the ball downfield early on, you've got to do it.
Dave (Columbus, OH)
Hey Adam, I am not sold on Boom and Zoom at all. I am fearing an underachieving running game this year for OSU, unless Jaamal Berry is in the mix. Do you see Tressel playing Berry early in the season, or do you think he will emerge later on? I feel Berry will surpass Herron and Saine this season.
Adam Rittenberg (2:07 PM)
Could happen, Dave, but I wouldn't count out Herron or Saine. Both have looked good in the offseason, especially Herron. Tressel likes to play a lot of guys early in the season, so if Berry is healthy, he should get a shot. But I wouldn't be too worried about that spot.
Who takes over as Minnesota's premier RB this year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:09 PM)
Just talked to coach Brewster this morning and he's planning to go with three running backs in the opener -- Duane Bennett, DeLeon Eskridge and Kevin Whaley. He was really, really pleased with the way Bennett has come back from the knee injury, so my sense is Bennett will be the guy before long. Eskridge could start at Syracuse, but bank on Bennett being the featured back.
I'm so excited for the season. My wife usually threatens divorce five times during the season, but such is life. Anyways, I really like this Northwestern team and think Kafka will surprise many with his arm, your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:10 PM)
Haha. Doing this blog, my wife threatens divorce five times a day, so we have that in common. ... Kafka looked a lot more poised when I saw him in camp. He's cut down on his throwing motion, which is more compact and effective. My big concern with him are the bad interceptions, the obvious pick-sixes. He throws too many (even in the Minny game last year) and can't afford to do that as a senior QB.
How warm is Bielema's seat going into the season? Will he be given a longer leash because his boss hand-picked him amid some criticism?
Adam Rittenberg (2:11 PM)
The fact that Barry Alvarez is Bielema's boss makes a huge difference in my opinion. Wisconsin isn't one of those programs where the Board of Trustees or big-time boosters have all the say. Barry Alvarez made that program, and Barry hired Bret as his own successor at coach. Now if the team goes 4-8, I can't imagine Bret will be back. But Wisconsin should be better, especially with a soft schedule.
Will Evan Royster be as efective as last year due to his inexperienced line?
Adam Rittenberg (2:13 PM)
Excellent question, Travis. I'll tell you this. Royster will give the line a chance on every play. He's one of the more patient running backs I've seen in recent years, and he'll wait for the blocks to develop (or not develop). He won't hurt his linemen by hitting a hole too soon. But I'm a bit concerned about several positions up front for PSU.
FightForIowa (Des Moines, IA)
Thanks Adam. Sounds like you're hinting at Hampton missing the season. The rumor has been floating around a while now. I guess I'll wait for your story to come out. I think Paki will surprise some people. And Adam Robinson is not a name anyone outside of Iowa has heard of probably, but he has been making a good impression in practice.
Adam Rittenberg (2:14 PM)
Here's the story.http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=4429403Unrealistic Hampton will play against UNI, and Kirk isn't sure whether the injury will affect Jewel for the whole season (or cost him the season). Also, Jeff Brinson has been battling an ankle injury and might miss the UNI game (though he's back at practice).
Brandon (Buffalo, NY)
What is your take on the Penn State/Indiana game being moved to D.C. for next year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:16 PM)
I can see Indiana's reasoning in moving the game, but I hope it's not a trend. The Big Ten fan experience is rarely matched, even at Memorial Stadium. But as Fred Glass told me earlier this week, the financial payoff was too good to pass up for a program that doesn't generate much revenue and needs $$$. Indiana could do something similar every few years, but I hope for Hoosiers fans that it's not a huge trend.
Why is Illini so high on people's surprise lists? Just because of Juice? This team struggled mightily last year.
Adam Rittenberg (2:18 PM)
Juice really was two different quarterbacks last year: amazing in the first six weeks, pretty lousy in the last six. But he has what I believe to be a top 5 receiving corps at his disposal, led by Arrelious Benn and Jarred Fayson. The run game should also be much improved. There's absolutely no reason for Illinois to struggle on offense, so that generates some hype in a league that lacks many explosive offenses.
David (Canton, OH)
Adam, I am absolutely devoted to appearing on this chat board. I've sent many questions to you for your mailbag and never made it, which crushes my spirit pretty much everytime you post one... Over Under for Ohio State -- 11 wins.
Adam Rittenberg (2:19 PM)
Sorry, David. There's a lot of you on here. ... I'm going to go over. Ohio State will lose once during the regular season, but I see the Bucks winning their bowl game to wind up 12-1.
Spencer (Northborough, MA)
When Michigan takes on OSU who will be their starting quarterback?
Adam Rittenberg (2:20 PM)
Good question, Spencer. Denard Robinson could be the man in Ann Arbor at that point, but I'll go with Tate Forcier. There could be some struggles for all three guys at first, but Forcier knows the system and brings a good mix of speed and passing ability.
Any insight on Terrelle Pryor's improvement to date (I do not assign any weight to Spring games)? Or will we have to wait and see v. Navy?
Adam Rittenberg (2:22 PM)
One thing you'll notice immediately is improved footwork. Everyone raves about Pryor's ability to make plays with his feet, but his footwork on passes last year left much to be desired. He'll be able to get more mustard on certain throws and just generally look much more comfortable in the pocket.
Bob (South Bend)
How do you think Notre Dame will do against the Big Ten teams? I see easy victories against Michigan and Purdue and a tough one against Sparty.
Adam Rittenberg (2:23 PM)
I could definitely see the same outcome, Bob. We just don't know what to expect from Michigan, and the opener against Western will do a lot to boost or ruin the Wolverines' confidence before the Notre Dame game. I have a feeling beating Michigan in Ann Arbor won't be easy for ND no matter what, and we all know how the Irish struggle against MSU at home.
Brian (Portland, OR)
Adam - love the blog. great work. What's your take on the penn state secondary and do you think Hodges will be in the mix sooner than later?
Adam Rittenberg (2:25 PM)
Definitely could see Hodges in the mix in a totally wide-open secondary (aside from Drew Astorino). Cedric Jeffries is another guy who could see a lot of time.
How long before Danny Hope gets Purdue back to a bowl game? Next year? The year after that?
Adam Rittenberg (2:26 PM)
I'm fascinated by what we'll see out of Purdue this year. It could totally crash and burn, or the Boilers could surprise everyone with improved speed and many more playmakers, as Hope told me there will be. Purdue looks to be at least a year away from a bowl, but you only need 6-7 wins, so anything can happen.
Your thoughts on the Big Ten/Gator Bowl deal?
Adam Rittenberg (2:28 PM)
It gives Jim Delany three Florida bowl games that feed into the Rose Bowl, making the Big Ten the featured conference on New Year's Day. I hate to see the Alamo Bowl go because fans, players, coaches and media love the experience there -- and it's usually a great game, too. As far as matchups go, I like it because the Big Ten needs to make things a bit easier on itself in the postseason. Playing the ACC in Florida isn't as tough as playing the Big 12 in Texas.
Duran ( (Indianapolis, IN))
As good as the O-line, and constant great QB's that come from USC are! Do you think the D-LINE will cause major havoc on the 12th. I believe this is where the game will be won, stopping usc expolsive offense. We can chip in field goals with the best of them.
Adam Rittenberg (2:29 PM)
Totally agree with you, Duran. Ohio State's D-line will make the difference in this game, especially with Barkley being named the starter. If Thad Gibson and co. can rattle Barkley early on and contain the run, I like Ohio State's chances. Terrelle Pryor obviously needs a big night, too, but the D-line is the strength of Ohio State's team and needs to perform like it.
billy the kid (somewhere in texas)
Hey so since you live in chicago, do you ever go to McGee to watch ostate? (i should hope not)
Adam Rittenberg (2:30 PM)
I used to go to McGee's in my younger days, but not so much any more. My Saturday afternoons are almost always spent in a press box cranking out content for you fine people to read.
Shaun (Oakfield, NY)
Do you see any team in the Big 10 besides maybe Illinois in week one having trouble on opening day?
Adam Rittenberg (2:31 PM)
Western Michigan is hardly a pushover for Michigan, which has dropped its last two openers. Northern Illinois could be a nice test for Wisconsin, and though I think Minnesota should beat Syracuse easily, the atmosphere in the Carrier Dome and the hype around that game could hurt the visiting Golden Gophers.
How long before the Big Ten finally wins another major college bowl game?? or actually, just a big regular season win would be huge at this point.
Adam Rittenberg (2:33 PM)
I think this will be the year, Homer. Obviously, an Ohio State win against USC would be big for the Big Ten, no matter how it's perceived nationally. But even if the Buckeyes stumble, I think the Big Ten breaks through in one of the BCS games this year.
Michael (Sherman Oaks, CA)
Hey Adam! Traditionally, championship caliber teams from the Big Ten have stout defenses. Which program has the best defense this year? Something tells me the answer is the same answer to the question "Who will win the Big Ten?" Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (2:35 PM)
The question might be a little more complex than normal this year, Michael. I really like Iowa's defense -- very few holes there. I also like what Michigan State and Northwestern bring back. As for the obvious league title contenders, Penn State and Ohio State, both have some holes on D but both historically lock down on that side of the ball. Right now, I'd rank Iowa as the league's best overall defense, ahead of Penn State, Ohio State, MSU and Northwestern
Joe (Fairfield, CT)
Do you think an udefeated PSU is an automatic BCS Championship bid?
Adam Rittenberg (2:36 PM)
It's only automatic if Penn State is the only undefeated team from a BCS conference. If there's another undefeated team (USC, Texas, Florida, Va Tech) plus a dynamic one-loss team from the SEC or Big 12, I could see the Lions getting snubbed yet again.
Brian (Springfield, Ohio)
Adam, I have been on other conference blogs. I really like your articles, but sometimes I feel the other writers are more fiery. Can you pick it up a notch to get the Big10 fans "riled up"?
Adam Rittenberg (2:38 PM)
I'll do my best, Brian. I bring you content and analysis on the Big Ten, but my job isn't to tell you how great your team or league will be. I love covering the Big Ten and traveling around the league, but we all know the teams need to get better results on the field where it matters to truly fire up the fans.
Joe Paterno (Happy Valley)
I'm getting pretty old, Adam. Do you think that I should call it quits after this year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:39 PM)
Never, Joe! Coach forever! But it might be wise to put a succession plan in place and reward Tom Bradley for his decades of service.
Andy (Raleigh NC)
So everyone says how bad michigan might be if they have a true freshmen start at qb. let me see usc has a freshmen starting ..ohio st pryor last year ..whats the big deal no faith in RR...
Adam Rittenberg (2:40 PM)
That's a good point, Andy. Let's wait and see how Forcier and Robinson perform. I think the difference is the Rodriguez system and how much Michigan struggled to run the offense last year. But both of these freshmen are better suited to run the offense, so let's see if they get better results.
Surely you're joking about the "hype" surrounding Minnesota/Syracuse. Please tell me you are.
Adam Rittenberg (2:41 PM)
Maybe hype was the wrong word, but it is the first game for a new coach (Doug Marrone), a guy coming back to his alma mater to rescue a miserable program. Plus, you've got the Greg Paulus thing. There will be a lot of interesting factors heading into that game. Minnesota is a much better team and should win easily, but it wouldn't surprise me if at least early on it's a ballgame.
When Iowa plays Penn st. and Ohio st., who do you think they have a better chance at upstetting this year.
Adam Rittenberg (2:43 PM)
I think Penn State for several reasons. Iowa has a much better recent track record against Penn State than Ohio State. Plus, the Hawkeyes will be tested more than the Nittany Lions in those first three games. Iowa will have played Arizona, a bowl team in 2008, while Penn State's first three games are total cupcakes. The other thing is if Iowa doesn't beat Penn State, it might lack the confidence to go into an equally tough venue like Ohio Stadium late in the year and pull the upset.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
If Notre Dame were in the Big Ten, where would they finish?
Adam Rittenberg (2:44 PM)
This season? I'd say anywhere from third to sixth. Teams that have shown no ability to rush the ball usually struggle in the Big Ten. Notre Dame's defense should be decent, but if the Fighting Irish played a strong Big Ten schedule, including OSU and PSU, they'd probably be middle of the pack.
jimenez iii (los angeles)
being a west coast guy (pac-10), besides ohio state and penn state being the cream of the conference, where do you rank this conference?
Adam Rittenberg (2:45 PM)
The middle is really muddled right now. Hearing Iowa's injury situation from Ferentz this morning, I'm less confident in my pick of Iowa at No. 3. Michigan State, Illinois and Northwestern are all right there in the middle, and Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan could move up. Right now, I'd pick Michigan State or Illinois to challenge the top two.
Tough being a Big Ten fan in the heart of SEC country. I thought Forde was accurate in his piece on the Big Ten. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:47 PM)
I agreed as well, though Penn State might give Ohio State the support it needs. The Lions have an excellent bowl record and could rebound this year in a BCS game. But Pat is definitely right in that Ohio State needs more help from around the league to elevate the national reputation.
Adam Rittenberg (2:48 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time I have today. Really enjoyed the chat! I can see you're fired up for the season, and so am I.