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)
It's the middle of winter and we're taking Big Ten football. Good stuff. Fire away!
Am I crazy to think the gopher defense could be better next year? We have both starting safeties returning, Michael Carter at CB, Keanon Cooper and Gary Tinsley at Linebacker, Kirksey and Edwards anchoring the middle, and Wilhite off the edge. I just feel that this group is a lot more athletic than last years squad, and I definitely see improvements in the pass rush (can't get much worse). Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Sam, you could definitely be right, as I really like the young talent Minnesota has brought in on that side of the ball. You didn't even mention the safeties, Kyle Theret and Kim Royston, who could be the best tandem in the Big Ten. Losing all three linebackers and both starting tackles will hurt, but the overall pass rush could be a lot better, as you say. I like what Kevin Cosgrove has done up there.
David (Chicago, IL)
In your best coaches of the decade article you had Jim Tressel as #1 and rightfully so but if he is the best of the decade why has he never won a Big Ten COY award?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
One of our enduring mysteries, David. Honestly, I think fans care about this a lot more than Tressel does. He'd rather win national titles and coach national award winners. But it'll be hard for him to win unless Ohio State is "rebuilding" a bit. He could have won this year or in 2002, but both awards went to Ferentz.
Hey Adam, pretty much agree with the decade rankings. If Michigan's two abysmal seasons were the first two instead of the last two, are they #2 overall?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
I really tried to evaluate the whole decade, Adam, but it's hard to overlook the recent struggles in Ann Arbor. The last two years really hurt Michigan in the rankings. I did put Lloyd Carr ahead of Kirk Ferentz in the coaches' rankings, as Carr never had a losing season this decade and won three league titles.
Troy (Findlay, Ohio)
Hi Adam,Please give it to me straight. I have been asking on here. Who will be added to the Big Ten? Missouri? Nebraska? both? Texas? Virginia? Kentucky? etc? I believe Missouri is the best fit. Is it realiztic for Nebraska to come with Nebraska.Thanks for your insight.
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
I agree that Missouri might be the best fit, and I'd imagine the Big Ten will take a long look at the Tigers. Mizzou won't bring a ton of TV sets, but the program definitely can compete in the major sports and from a facilities/money perspective. Forget about Texas, and Virginia and Kentucky probably won't happen. Nebraska is an interesting possibility, but only for football purposes.
Dan Hess (Los Angeles)
We all now that Fitz is building a winning program in Evanston with one end goal in mind: roses. Let's be serious, how long do you think it'll be until we realistically see the Cats in Pasadena?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
They'll make a run sometime in the next six years. Northwestern needs to get over a few hurdles first, like winning a bowl game and competing better against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the one team that still makes NU look like it doesn't belong in the Big Ten.
Jeff (Las Vegas)
How important are the teams' stadiums, practice and conditioning facilities and home cities when it comes to recruiting? And do you think the Big Ten Network helps or hurts Big Ten teams when it comes to recruiting?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Facilities are HUGE when it comes to recruiting. Home cities aren't as big a factor, as players are open to leaving home for college. As for the Big Ten Network, it definitely helps recruiting. The more exposure for these teams, the better.
Chris (Columbus OHIO)
What are the chances the Spartans improve next year, with Cousins leading the way, and Greg Jones back to anchor the d, any chance the Spartans could be smelling roses next season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Doubt it, Chris. Too much work to do on both lines, and the top of the league is too strong. But it's not unreasonable to expect eight or nine wins and a solid bowl game. Michigan State has to start improving that defense, though, especially the secondary.
Stephanie (Lewis Center, Ohio)
Gene Smith of Ohio State, regardless of what the question is on expansion, continues to mention the conference not limiting itself to one school if expanding (mentioning his experiences when working in the Big 12). If Notre Dame isn't available, isn't multiple teams the surest way to the most money? And if Mizzou is so worried about rivalries, why not bring in their rivals too?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
Gene certainly is plugged in, Stephanie, but Barry Alvarez told me he doesn't expect the Big Ten to add more than one team. Listen, anything is possible, and if Notre Dame doesn't join, it might make sense to go to 14. But you don't just snap your fingers and bring in three teams. It's not that easy. I still think 12 is much more realistic.
Ethan (Richmond, VA)
Adam, I know everyone will have their problems with the rankings, and I certainly understand how subjective and judgement-callish this things are, but my one problem with the rankings of the teams and especially the coaches, is that they tend to favor football "royalty" more than anything else. This is more true with the national writers, but it seeps down to the conference blogs too. Quite simply, OSU/Tressel and Mich/Carr shouldn't get as much credit, because just about anyone could do well with the resources they have; whereas a Ferentz, Bielema and Fitzgerald (ugh, that's painful to write) have to work harder to get more out of less.
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
I've given those three coaches a ton of credit, Ethan, and your argument has a few holes in it. If anyone could win with the resources Carr and Tressel have, why is Michigan 8-16 the last two seasons? Why didn't John Cooper win toward the end of his regime? Bielema has done a nice job, but he inherited a pretty good situation from Barry Alvarez. Ferentz has done wonders at Iowa this decade, and Fitzgerald has done a nice job at NU, but I'm not going to penalize Tressel and Carr for winning.
I was wondering way the psu fsu was on low on the list of best games? IS it the midwest sportswriter bias?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
Ah, the Midwest sportswriter bias. How many Penn State fans cite this whenever you criticize their team? I've heard from several Penn State fans that the Orange Bowl shouldn't have even made the list, with Penn State-Ohio State in 2005 taking its place. Fact is, it wasn't a well played game on either side, but it generated some drama because of the overtimes. I think No. 8 sounds right.
Joe M (Washington, DC)
Adam- is the Big Ten expansion talk a knee jerk reaction to the weakness of the past few years? Unless ND can be swayed, I see it as a net negative due to branding issues, dillution of the market into less populated areas, etc... thoughts? Go Blue!
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Joe, I can guarantee you that as long as Jim Delany is commissioner, the Big Ten won't make a knee-jerk move here. The league will only expand if a new member makes sense on a lot of levels. Aside from Notre Dame, there isn't an obvious home-run candidate. The Big Ten could end up deciding that it is happy at 11.
I'm surprised you didn't mention Rutgers in your answer for the Big 10 invite. RU is a big state school, strong academics, football program with alot of momentum, good facilities and good at other sports. ALSO, the NY TV market. The rumors here say RU with Pitt and Cuse, but RU the leader. You don't agree?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Rutgers is definitely in the discussion, Dave. There was a lot of buzz about RU right after the Big Ten's statement came out. I think it'll come down to Rutgers' ability to sell itself to the Big Ten. Can Rutgers consistently capture the New York TV market? It did so a few years ago, but the Big Ten wants a guaranteed presence for ratings.
Soren ((Chicago, IL))
Any non-conference BigTen games you like this year? Bama-PSU? Zona-Iowa?...Go HAWKS!
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Quite a few of them, Soren. Those two you mention for sure. I also like Ohio State-Miami, Wisconsin-Arizona State, Minnesota-USC, Michigan-UConn.
Will (Columbus, OH)
What will Denard Robinson's roll be in 2010 since it seems he will be enrolling early and will participate in spring drills?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
Will, I think you mean Devin Gardner, as Robinson played last year at QB. Gardner could challenge Tate Forcier for the starting job with a good spring. I think it's huge he'll be there in the spring rather than just for preseason camp. Forcier clearly benefited last year, and Gardner might be the most natural fit for Michigan's offense. Should be fun to watch this spring in Ann Arbor.
Ben (London, England)
How many wins does Rich Rod need to keep his job this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
He has to make a bowl at the very least. I don't think 6-6 will cut it either, so seven wins is the bare minimum. Michigan wasn't far away from this in 2009, but the Wolverines need to shore up that defense.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Why do so many people feel Notre Dame to the Big Ten would upgrade the conference? Haven't these people been watching NBC these past few college football seasons?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
It's not so much the results on the field, J.B., but Notre Dame is a huge name in college athletics, regardless of what you think of the program. No 6-6 team generates as much media attention as Notre Dame, which is in the spotlight, win or loss, all the time.
Alex (Evansville, IN)
Any good news you can give a hopeful IU fan about Hoosiers football
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
I really like what your Hoosiers are bringing back on offense for 2010, Alex. Ben Chappell did a really nice job last fall, and he'll have Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher, Mitchell Evans and Darius Willis at his disposal. If the O-line holds up, Indiana could put up a ton of points. As for the defense ... you wanted good news, right?
Bryant (State College)
Here at Penn State we believe Tom Bradley will be the next head coach but why not at least consider a younger Penn State alum with proven heach coaching success by the name of Al Golden?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
I'm sure Al Golden will gain some consideration in that search, Bryant, especially if he keeps this up at Temple. Bradley and Larry Johnson are the top candidates already on staff.
With Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all coming to Iowa City, are the Hawks in the best position to win the Big Ten title?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
The schedule definitely looks a lot more favorable this year, Charlie. Iowa will have to travel to Michigan and Northwestern, but if it can defend its home turf, it should be in pretty good shape in the league. All four of those home games will be huge.
Mike W. (East Lansing, MI)
Adam-who sits as the cream of the crop among QB's and RB's this season? Early predictions of All-Big Ten maybe?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
QBs: Terrelle Pryor, Ricky Stanzi, Scott Tolzien, Kirk Cousins, Tate Forcier, Ben Chappell.RBs: John Clay, Evan Royster, Ralph Bolden, Jewel Hampton/Adam Robinson, Brandon Saine/Boom Herron, Larry Caper/Edwin Baker
If RichRod doesn't win enough games this year and gets fired, does Michigan return to tradition and go after a Michigan Man, or do they go after another coach with a flashy offensive scheme? (hey, Leach might not find a job by 2011...)
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
I think they'll go Michigan Man and make a strong run at the guy at Stanford unless he's coaching in the NFL by then.
How does Fisch's departure as the gophers OC effect the QB competition between Weber and Gray?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Well, it might make things even more wide open because if Minnesota goes to the outside for a replacement, the new guy won't have ties to either player. It all depends on the new OC, what type of system he runs, what type of QBs he likes, etc.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
I'm guessing Kevin Newsome will be the starting QB in Happy Valley this season. Do you expect to see much change in the offensive play calling (i.e. more designed QB runs) or will the Nits stay the course?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
That's a good question, J.B. Newsome first of all has to win the job, but he'll enter spring as the frontrunner. I'd expect more zone read, more designed runs, but Penn State should be pretty solid at wide receiver and needs to feature those guys as well.
Adam, Who is going to be Northwesterns QB in 2010?
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
I'd be surprised if it wasn't Dan Persa, Brad. Persa logged some time behind Mike Kafka this year and did some nice things in the win against Iowa. He's more of a true zone read spread QB, so he'll be running the ball more than Kafka did this season. He'll need to become a more consistent passer, especially in the short to intermediate routes.
Mike W. (East Lansing, MI)
Adam-with signing day coming up, what should we expect on the overall Big Ten picture? Any classes as a whole that could be pivotal this fall?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
I don't know if there's a class like Illinois in 2007 that will make a huge national splash, Mike. Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan lead the way, and Michigan State is bringing in a pretty solid class as well. I'm hearing good things about Minnesota's recruiting haul as well.
Best saftey in the big ten next year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
Tyler Sash from Iowa certainly jumps out at me, Tim. Jay Valai from Wisconsin and the two Minnesota safeties (Theret and Royston) look pretty solid as well. But I'd definitely go with Sash.
Bryant (State College)
Do you think the nation will be as excited as the loyal Big Ten fans will be of the Ohio State-Iowa matchup that could realistically pit two 10-0 teams against each other?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
That game should create more national buzz because the Big Ten will be more highly regarded entering 2010 than it was entering 2009. If both those teams are 10-0 when they meet, you'd better believe the spotlight will be on Iowa City.
After reading your rankings of the top programs of that past decade, how do you feel that list will change a decade from now? Do you see any programs starting to make moves right now that'll set them up for a great decade in the 10's?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
Iowa has certainly elevated its profile in the last two seasons. Same with Northwestern and, to a certain extent, Michigan State. But it's hard to imagine Michigan being down for too long, and Ohio State and Penn State show few signs of slowing down.
Steve (Des Moines, IA)
I have to agree with your prediction of Purdue as the sleeper for next year. They were just short of getting over the hump this year. With that said, I am unsure of Marve as a potential replacement for Elliot. What can you tell me about what Marve did at Miami? I have trouble with programs who don't return a starting QB being able to get to the top of the hill. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Marve had a tumultuous year at Miami, though he was really young at the time. The kid clearly has a lot of talent, and if he wins the job, he'll be stepping into a good situation with Purdue's offense. I certainly understand your concern with a new starting QB, but Elliott did a nice job stepping in for Painter. Same with Mike Kafka for C.J. Bacher at Northwestern, Scott Tolzien for Dustin Sherer at Wisconsin, Daryll Clark for Anthony Morelli (two years ago) at Penn State. So it's definitely possible.
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Got time for a few more here
brian (virginia beach)
who will be the best qb in the 2011 draft
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
It's got to be Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker. Both of those project extremely well to the next level, and both are back for 2010.
Any change Illinois is better next year? If not, does Zook lose his job?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
I really like the Vic Koenning hire on defense. That unit should be better with him at the helm. On offense, Paul Petrino has his work cut out for him, but he does inherit some good running backs and receivers. It'll be interesting to see what happens on that side of the ball. But without some significant improvement, expect a change at the top after 2010.
Mike W. (East Lansing, MI)
Adam-early predictions on top 5 or 6 teams this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
As far as the Big Ten goes, it'll be Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State at the top, probably in that order. At No. 5 and No. 6, I see four teams: Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan. Right now, I'd put Northwestern at No. 5 and either Purdue or Michigan State at No. 6.
Chris (Glenmoore, PA)
Adam, is it because they're not flashy or trendy that Wisconsin seems to get absolutely no publicity around the country? Look how flashy Miami was going into the bowl game and the Badgers came out on top. Same thing with Cade McNown and the UCLA team they beat in Pasadena a few years ago...when will people finally respect the W?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
I think I was the only one who liked Wisconsin heading into that bowl game. People get an impression about a team over time and they don't want to change it. Wisconsin was an exciting offense to watch this year, displaying great power and balance. I think people respect Wisconsin's program nationally, but the Badgers will never have that "cool" factor like the Oregons or the Texas Techs. It doesn't matter as long as Wiscy keeps winning.
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time I had. Good questions again this week.