Aug. 26, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, an authority on Big Ten Conference football, says the University of Iowa has the best defensive line in the nation. Rittenberg stopped in Iowa City on Thursday to visit with a few student-athletes and head coach Kirk Ferentz.
"There's a lot of hype around the Hawkeyes this year," Rittenberg said. "It's a team that returns a lot, certainly on the offensive side, and I think they have the best defensive line in the country with outstanding playmakers in the secondary led by (strong safety) Tyler Sash."
Rittenberg, a journalism major at Northwestern University, is in his third year with ESPN.com after working for the Daily Herald in Chicago and doing freelance work for ESPN. Like most national pundits, Rittenberg likes what he sees in the top 10-rated Hawkeyes.
"Maybe the most important thing is this team knows how to win and knows how to win close games," Rittenberg said. "Iowa recognizes that the margin for error is never going to be huge here and they have a very business-like approach. I do like their chances and also they get most of the key teams at home, at Kinnick Stadium, where they're tough to beat."
The Hawkeyes are nine days from their Sept. 4 season-opener against Eastern Illinois. Last season Iowa was 11-2, winning its first nine games.
If there are areas of concern for this Hawkeye unit, Rittenberg said the running back position is not extremely deep and he thinks the absence of cornerback Amari Spievey could be felt more than people think. On the other side, Rittenberg says the UI offensive line could be a pleasant surprise.
"There is a history of reloading on the offensive line," Rittenberg said. "Even though they did lose some great players from last year I think overall they'll be OK."
The Big Ten Conference will also be a deeper league than most think, Rittenberg said, with the Hawkeyes sitting near the top.
"You have four teams who have separated themselves," Rittenberg said. "Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin and throw Penn State into that as well. I would say the league could be deeper than people think on the outside."
Rittenberg will not be in Iowa City covering the Hawkeyes on either Sept. 4 or Sept. 11 (Iowa State). He hopes to be here Oct. 2 when Iowa hosts Penn State during a night game televised nationally on ABC/ESPN.
"That will probably be the first time I'll see the Hawkeyes, but I doubt it will be the last time," Rittenberg said.
Iowa returned to Kinnick Stadium on Thursday for its 22nd practice of the preseason.