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 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hey guys, back to chat. Lots to celebrate in the Big Ten these days. Let's get started.
David (New York)
How does RIchRod expect to build a program and win if he can't get any of the top players in his state, with the exception of Gardner, to commit to play for him? If you can't win the recruiting war in the state of Michigan, how can you expect to win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Michigan needs to do better within state lines, but coaches go to who they know, and for Rodriguez and many of his assistants, their primary relationships are elsewhere, including Florida. If Michigan starts winning, no one will complain about where the players are from.
Adam- Thanks for your hard work this past year.Do you think the Big Ten title in 2010 will come down to OSU @ Iowa in late November?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
It could, Scott. I'm a little hesitant to say it will, since everyone thought the 2009 Big Ten title would come down to Penn State-Ohio State, when it was really Iowa-Ohio State. But those look like the top two teams heading into the season, so it could very well come down to that game at Kinnick Stadium. Can't wait!
Dustin (Clive, Iowa)
Hey Adam, if the Big 10 really does decide to expand, how long would it take to implement? For football alone, it seems to me that a lot of problems would arise with scheduling since most 2010 schedules are complete and many schools have schedules nearly complete for the next few years.
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Good question, Dustin. Expansion would take several years to fully implement. Remember that Penn State agreed to join the Big Ten in 1989 and didn't start playing football as a league member until 1993. So these things take time.
Nick (W. Lincolnshire)
Adam, Who do you think will be first round draft picks from the Big 10 this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Michigan DE Brandon Graham and Iowa LT Bryan Bulaga jump out to me as likely first-round picks. Even though Arrelious Benn had a disappointing season, I could see him working his way back into first-round consideration.
Does Ohio State really need more exposure with a Thursday game? It's Ohio State? Also, did the university factor in the number of out-of-state alumnus who now cannot attend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
Ohio State isn't one of the team that needs the exposure bump you get from Thursday night games. But it still allows a national audience to see a national title contender. I understand the difficulties for some fans, but something tells me they'll find ways to fill that place. They always do.
Brandon (Buffalo, NY)
With the departure of Lee, Bowman, and Odrick, who do you see stepping up and becoming a leader for the Nittany Lions defense next season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
Good question, Brandon. I think you'll see more leadership from the secondary with guys like Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay. Jack Crawford will take on a more featured role, I'm sure. The big question is which of the young LBs steps up and becomes a true leader.
Who do you think, in your mind will win the night game on Sept. 11? Ohio State-Miami or Penn State-Alabama?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Ohio State obviously has a better shot, with the game at home and the opponent not owning the national championship. One way or another, we're going to learn a lot about Penn State when it travels to Tuscaloosa. It'll be a very tough challenge for a young Lions team, but it should benefit those players in the long run.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
What do you think the Gophers record would be if Decker stayed healthy?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Maybe one win better, but not more. You can't base your offense so much around a wide receiver. Decker was fabulous, don't get me wrong, but Minnesota failed to get other guys to step up after he went down. I thought they would get on track with the Michigan State win, but losing to Illinois at home is simply unacceptable.
Ricky Stanzi (Iowa)
Did you know that I LOVE AMERICA? USA #1. love it or leave it.
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
We all live in the United States of Americanzi
Am I the only one who is very dissapointed in our upcoming bowl line-ups? I wish we would play more conferences instead of just the big12 and SEC. Also, during New Years day the Capitol One Bowl will be on at the same time as the Gator bowl, too many New Years Day bowl games as well as too many Florida bowl games. There needs to be more variety ( vs. conference, location, time/date) Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Your argument is definitely valid, Mike. After thumping the ACC's elite this year, the Big Ten wouldn't mind another crack at those teams. But I think overall, the lineup looks a little more manageable, especially towards the bottom. The Big Ten won't be "playing up" quite as much. I understand fans want to take on the best, and the Big Ten does that in the postseason, but the current structure made a truly great record (6-1, 7-0) next to impossible.
Tom (Waterloo, Iowa)
Hey Adam, do you think Iowa can rebuild it's offensive line after losing so many starters? I'm afraid it might be a repeat of the 2007 season when our line was so ineffective to Jake Christensen and we ended up missing a bowl game? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
Wow, Iowa better hope it doesn't allow 46 sacks again. Stanzi wouldn't make it through the season if that's the case. ... Offensive line certainly is a concern, but it's also normally one of Iowa's biggest strengths. You saw how Riley Reiff stepped up this year after Bulaga went down. Iowa needs a few more guys to do the same in 2010.
Matt (Cleveland, OH)
If I told you I think Pryor will be the best offensive player in the conference next year and Heyward will be the best on defense, what would you say to refute that?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
I would take no issue with your argument for Heyward. Provided he stays healthy, he'll be a top 10 pick in 2011. He's that good. As for Pryor, you certainly could be right. If he continues to build off of the Rose Bowl performance, he'll be in the Heisman mix and possibly leading OSU to a national title. But all of us would like to see more performances like that before branding Pryor the league's best offensive player. Right now, that title goes to Wisconsin's John Clay.
I was quite impressed with how the Big10 did during the bowl seasons - fantastic wins and respectable losses...except for Minnesota: is there really any excuse to lose to Iowa State? a 5-2 bowl record sounds better where the only 2 losses are from a ballsy call in OT and from a team with a dozen players suspended.
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Chris, it wasn't a good loss for Minnesota, but the Gophers were most likely a fumble away from winning that game. They had the ball in the Iowa State red zone when MarQueis Gray lost it. Minnesota had played great defense up to that point, so any points on that drive likely seals a win.
Gene Smith just said on Columbus radio (literally seconds ago) that television had zero factor in changing the game from Saturday to Thursday and it was more about getting more practice for Miami. Do you buy that Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
Interesting that Gene acknowledged the extra practice time, which certainly is a big factor for the move. Television is always a factor, but in this case, it probably wasn't the dominant one.
As a spartan fan, the biggest thing I worry about in 2010 is the state of our defense. Will it be better or worse? It cant get any worse, right?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Greg Jones is back, so it won't get worse, Mike. I really liked what Greg told me yesterday about needing to be better in pass coverage. That's what killed Michigan State this year, as QBs constantly shredded that secondary. Mark Dantonio and his staff need to get the defensive backs on track and, perhaps more important, identify some good pass rushers up front.
Who is going to step up in the Big 10 next year outside the top 4. MSU? Purdue?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Josh, I like Purdue as my sleeper team next year. The Boilers have good skill players on offense, and if Robert Marve steps in well at QB, they'll be dangerous there. The defense concerns me a bit, especially with a new-look secondary, but I really like end Ryan Kerrigan rushing the passer. Other teams to watch would include Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan, the big wild card in the league.
pookybear (Des Moines)
Doesn't it kind of suck that Minnesota always plays in the exact same bowl games? Wouldn't it be nice if there was some type of rotisserie system where we could play in the Cotton, Las Vegas, Peach, etc.?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
This is one of the downsides of the tie-ins and the selection order. Minnesota didn't want to go to the Insight Bowl, and the Insight Bowl probably didn't want the Gophers. I can even remember Tim Brewster campaigning on his Twitter page for the Alamo Bowl. But Alamo chose first and picked Michigan State, so Insight had no choice but to pick Minnesota. As long as there are tie-in lineups, you'll see some teams in the same games.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Adam: Good move by Evan Royster to come back and what does that mean for Stephfon Green?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
Good move for Royster and a great move for Penn State. While Green has been effective in small doses, it's unknown whether he can truly become a featured back. I think he'll have a nice junior season, but Royster could be a monster, especially if the offensive line improves this offseason. The run game will be the focal point of the offense, and Royster really can improve his draft stock with a strong senior year.
Should we really use bowl records as a measuring stick when conferences like the Big East play MAC teams and even the SEC plays CUSA. The Big Ten lines up against only BCS conferences.
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
I'd hope that the competition level is taken into account when evaluating leagues. A 4-3 record by the Big Ten is, in my opinion, equivalent to 6-1 records from other leagues. The Pac-10 went 5-0 in bowls last year, but who did they play? Where were the games? These are all factors that should be considered.
Is Gardner getting in for the spring practices...and if so, is Tate 2nd string in September?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
Nope. Devin Gardner was unable to enroll early, so he won't be practicing until preseason camp. Forcier will be your starter this spring, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't walk out there first Sept. 4 against UConn.
dfresh (houston (tx))
Is Tim Davis staying at Minnesota or going to USC ? Is Jedd Fisch staying or going ?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Tim Brewster told me via text message last week that he expected to retain Fisch for 2010. He also told the Star Tribune this week that he expects his entire staff to stay intact for the first time. Davis would be a big loss because he's a proven O-line coach and his players would only get better in Year 2. Can't blame USC for looking at him.
Jim (Mentor, OH)
Does Tres open up the playbook more next year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
He has to, Jim. He has now seen evidence of what Terrelle Pryor can do as a complete quarterback. Plus, Pryor has one of the better wide receivers you can find in DeVier Posey. You can't expect Ohio State to become Texas Tech, but the Buckeyes will have more balance in 2010 than they did in Pryor's first two seasons.
Any take on Iowa replacing its linebackers for next year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
It'll be tough, Gary, but Iowa always seems to reload at LB. Jeremiha Hunter will take on a bigger role as the lone returning starter, and Jeff Tarpinian and Troy Johnson both have playing experience. It's an area you watch, but I'd be more concerned about the O-line and cornerback.
Is a bowl appearance enough for RR this year? I'd hate to see him get yanked after year 3, knowing it would mean another 3-4 year transition back to traditional offense. Do people even think of this when they call for his head? I also don't think his offense was really the problem...
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
He needs to make a bowl, Jason, and if he does, Michigan would have a tough time letting him go. You can't miss the postseason for three straight years at Michigan and expect to remain the head coach, but a 8-4 season will keep him in Ann Arbor. I agree with you about the offense, which was very strong for most of the season. But the defense really worries me, especially without Graham and Warren.
Blake (York, PA)
How good is Stephon Morris and Gerald Hodges for PSU and will they start in 2010 ?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
I really, really Morris, Blake. He's got an excellent chance to start at CB this coming fall. Morris was one of the more underrated freshmen in the Big Ten. Hodges also has got a shot, but needs to show more in the upcoming practices.
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
That should be "really, really like Morris."
How come Jim Tressel hasn't won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award when he's won six conference championships in nine seasons? Do media members who vote think he should win championships every year because it's OSU, therefore don't vote for him?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
To a large extent, yes. It's hard for a coach to win that award when his team is picked as the preseason favorite. Ohio State will almost certainly be the favorite in 2010, so Tressel will have a tough time winning again. This might have been his best shot because Ohio State only had a handful of all-conference players and fell back in the league midway through the season, only to rally in November. I would have had no problem with Tressel winning this year, though Kirk Ferentz was deserving as well.
What about the gophers receiving corps? I know we lost Decker, but Green looked good this season. McKnight had a big bowl game and Stoudemire is definitely a play maker. Curious to get your thoughts on how these guys will stack up in 2010.
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
I was impressed with McKnight in the bowl game. That's the type of performance Minnesota needs week in and week out. Stoudermire has shown flashes as well, but not consistent production. Same with Green. One of those three needs to step up from the get-go this coming season.
Zach (Toledo, OH)
I'm gonna miss you Adam, it feels like I lose a piece of me in the offseason. Until next season! Goodbye... Brother.
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
No need for goodbyes, Zach. The Big Ten football blog, like all the others, will continue throughout the offseason. I'll have updates on recruiting, spring ball, preseason practice and more, so keep reading.
How will the 'Cats D look next year with the loss of Wootton, McManis, Smith, and Phillips?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
McManis and Phillips are really the two big losses, as both Wootton and Smith were limited by injuries this fall. I'm not worried too much about the front seven, as the LBs are good and Vince Browne and Corbin Bryant have played a lot in the trenches. The secondary could be a problem. Northwestern needs a better season from CB Jordan Mabin and second safety to complement Brian Peters, who I think is very solid.
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
Last couple questions ...
Connor (Novi, Mi)
Do you see Michigan even beating UConn in the season opener? If UM loses, would that be the beginning of the end for RichRod?
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
It would be tough for him to recover, especially if Michigan starts 0-2 with a loss at Notre Dame. The Connecticut game is critical to win and show progress on both sides of the ball.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Is next year a rebuilding year for Penn State? Or is it just the first year of a down period? Not to look too far ahead, but how do they look for 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
With the way Penn State has recruited, I don't think this is the start of a down period. It might not even be a rebuilding year, especially with Evan Royster back in the fold. The 2011 season could be big for PSU, but let's focus on 2010 for now.
If Northwestern plays at Wrigley, will it draw more people? Is it really needed for a Big Ten team (to use gimmicks for home games)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
It's a great idea for Northwestern, which drew only about 25,000 people for its home games this year. Any way to drum up local interest will be beneficial for a program that has been pretty fun to watch since 1995.
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
Last one ...
Brett (King of Prussia, PA)
Adam, who was your favorite Big Ten athlete to cover this season, and why?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
Wow, great question, Brett. I always enjoyed talking with Penn State's Daryll Clark, a very smart and insightful player. Iowa's Pat Angerer was also one of my favorites. Brutally honest and very funny.
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
OK guys, I'm out. Enjoyed the chat. Talk to you soon.