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 (3:59 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
Adam, what are the chances of Jim Delaney getting REALLY aggressive with Notre Dame and letting them know that if they say no this time, the following will happen: (1) Big Ten teams will not schedule ND in football, (2) the Big Ten will lobby hard against ND having an auto BCS bid, and (3) the Big Ten will absorb the Big East. It seems like Delaney (if he's aggressive) can rebuke every one of ND's "we like being independent" arguments.
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
I don't think he'd take such a firm approach, Matt. First of all, Michigan State and Purdue wouldn't want to stop scheduling Notre Dame. Those games put their programs on the national stage. Delany could go to Notre Dame and say it's the last chance to join the Big Ten. The Big East implications would be implicit if the Big Ten goes to 16, and the Big East itself could put some pressure on ND to join.
Brandon (Buffalo, NY)
With the losses of both Quarless and Schuler, do you possibly see Brent Brackett lining up as a tight end this season for Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
Brandon, I didn't catch all of Brackett's teleconference today, but he did mention playing more of an H-back, tight end spot. I don't think it would be dramatically different from what he did last year, but Brackett certainly is a big body who can help at that position. Makes sense to me.
Did you get any sense of how the OL is progressing at the Iowa spring camp?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
I think it's going pretty well. Iowa isn't worried about Reiff and Vandervelde, and there seems to be some good competition at the center position. Unlike some other Big Ten teams, Iowa has seen some separation with the top six linemen, which makes it easier to build chemistry early in the preparation process.
Why is this year's Big Ten out-of-conference schedule so weak? They only face 11 AQ opponents and 10 FCS teams. It almost makes me embarassed to say I root for a Big Ten team.
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Check out the SEC's nonconference schedule. You'll feel better.
Brodie (davenport ia) [via mobile]
Who leads iowa in carries this year: hampton, robinson or wegher?
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Too early to say, Brodie, as Robinson missed all of spring ball, Hampton was limited and Wegher got nicked up toward the end of the session. Kirk Ferentz told me the carries could be evenly divided between the three. If I had to make a prediction, I'd go with Hampton. Still like what he brings to the table.
leighton (iowa city ia)
any word on new uniforms for any teams in the conference? we saw some glimpses of nikes new 'pro combat' last year... will we see more? are the teams that used them last year taking them on as their permanent uniforms now? i'd obviously be particularly interested in anything on the Hawkeyes. thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
Michigan State will unveil its new uniforms -- and a whole new brand identity for its sports teams -- on Friday afternoon. Indiana has some new unis, and Northwestern also plans to make some changes. Haven't heard much about other teams, including the Hawkeyes.
Adam, Tell me why I should be hopefully for UW with all the hype, last time Badgers were ranked as high as they will be pre-season they finished 7-6.
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
I can understand your skepticism, Jarrad, especially after the 2008 debacle. You can feel pretty confident about the offense, as long as QB Scott Tolzien stays healthy. I really like Tolzien's approach to the game, and John Clay will have a huge season if he stays healthy. There are some concerns on defense, but the unit stepped up nicely in the spring game. If LBs Chris Borland and Mike Taylor transition back without any hiccups, the Badgers' D under my guy Dave Doeren should be good.
Is it time for the Big Ten to have night games in November? They have two potential gigantic games this year (PSU-OSU, OSU-Iowa) in November that can't be in primetime. Is this is a weather issue, a lack of permanent lighting issue, or a rowdy crowd issue?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
It's all of the above, Matt, but probably the rowdy crowd/game management issue above all. Ohio State AD Gene Smith recently talked about how much more it costs to have a night game than a day game. There are a lot of factors involved, and the Big Ten likes its two main time slots at noon ET and 3:30 p.m. ET. I wish things would change, but I doubt they will.
After watching Michigan's spring game, do you believe Michigan's defense will be improved enough to win games that Michigan "should" win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
I wouldn't take too much away from the spring game. CB Troy Woolfolk didn't play, and he'll be Michigan's top cover man this fall. Also, the defense should look different after some of these freshmen, including Demar Dorsey, arrive on campus this summer. I just can't see the Wolverines being any worse than they were last year, but they do lose two great players in Graham and Warren.
Will Zook make it through another year or is this his farewell tour?
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
Illinois would have a hard time retaining Zook if he doesn't win at least six games and make a bowl. But AD Ron Guenther doesn't like to fire people, and he might give Zook more time if there's some progress. Anything less than five wins would prompt a change, in my opinion.
Adam, love your blog. I'm a diehard Michigan fan and it's been a tough couple of years. I'm tired of all the naysayers out there who constantly blame RichRod for everything. I think as long as the team wins 7 or 8 games then he'll be back. I can't imagine firing RichRod and starting all over from scratch again. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
Thanks, Chris. A lot depends on the NCAA hearings in August and what the NCAA finds out about Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia. Would seven wins guarantee a fourth season for RR? Doubt it. Eight wins is right in that gray area, while I believe he'd be safe with nine or more (and no off-field drama). But you're absolutely right about the "starting from scratch" part. Michigan fans who want Rodriguez out might get their wish, but the team might be absolutely horrible for 2-3 more years afterward.
Stuart Scott (Minneapolis)
Will Gary Tinsley play for the gophs this year? If not, how do the gophs look up th middle on D with Royston's broken leg and Tinsley out?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Shouldn't you be in Bristol, Stuart? No word yet on discipline for Tinsley, but it's his second incident with police, so I'd imagine something will come. The Royston injury really hurts. I really liked what he did last year at safety. Minnesota's D definitely has a few question marks coming out of the spring.
Shaun (Rochester, NY)
What is the current situation with Penn State in regards to punting?
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
Anthony Fera is in the doghouse, so Russell Nye is the starter right now. His backup? Wide receiver Graham Zug, who punted in high school. It could be a rough year for Penn State at that spot.
MSU-ND under the lights at Spartan Stadium... will the student body even make it to the 8 pm game after a day of tailgating?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Ha! We'll see. They showed up last time these teams met at night, and that was in a downpour. I don't want to remind Michigan State fans what happened in the game, but at least it was a great atmosphere!
Rob (omaha, ne)
Who are your breakout big 10 wide receivers this fall?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Good question, Rob. There are quite a few, in addition to the All-Big Ten guys from last year (Keith Smith, Tandon Toss). I really, really like Ohio State's DeVier Posey. Iowa's top two wideouts, DJK and McNutt, should be solid. Also like Keith Nichol at MSU, Nick Toon at Wisconsin, Da'Jon McKnight at Minnesota, Derek Moye at Penn State, A.J. Jenkins at Illinois and Roy Roundtree at Michigan. Big Ten should be better at WR this fall.
Travis C. (Lake Highlands)
It seems like the "Texas to the Big 10" movement has lost all momentum. What are you hearing, are both or either sides at least keeping this an open issue, or is it all the way dead?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Travis, everything is still on the table, but I don't think Texas was or will be a realistic option for the Big Ten, unless UT thinks the Big 12 will fall apart because of expansion from other leagues. Texas has a sweet deal in the Big 12, and AD DeLoss Dodds seems happy to stay put. The power in the Big 12 rests with Texas, which also benefits from the Big 12's unequal revenue sharing.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Are you going to the Army vs. Notre Dame College Football Game on Saturday November 20 at Yankee Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
That'd be a no, Chris. I cover the Big Ten. But I hope to be covering Northwestern-Illinois at Wrigley Field. I can walk right down Clark Street to the game! Shortest commute I'll ever have for this job.
Bret (Nevada, IA)
If the Big Ten goes to 16 teams and has a protected rival from the other division, teams would never play the other 7 teams from the other division outside of the conference championship game if the Big Ten continues to only play 8 conference games. What will the conference due to eliminate this problem?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
One option would be to not have a protected rival in the other division, but a rotation instead. Or, the Big Ten could add conference games. But you hit on a great point: you lose a lot of the intimacy of a league when it goes to 16. Some teams wouldn't feel any connection to other teams, even though they'd be in the same league. This is one reason why I oppose a 16-team Big Ten.
Tom (Los Angeles)
How realistic is Nebraska to the BigTen? Will they bring a fair number of viewers to the BTN?
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
Tom, I think Nebraska would listen if the Big Ten came calling. Nebraska football is still a team that moves the needle, and games against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan would be huge events. The Big Ten certainly will look to more populous areas for potential expansion, but Nebraska looks better and better to me.
Did Ferentz talk anymore about how they plan on using Derby? Earlier in the year, he has hinted at changing the offense a bit. Is he still planning on redshirting this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Kirk just told me that Derby will stay at quarterback for the immediate future. He also said that the quarterbacks have made the most progress this spring, including third-stringer John Wienke. Sounds an awful lot like Derby will be redshirted this fall.
Adam,Just saw that the Big East hired Paul Tagliabue as a "Special Consultant". What a sign that something large is about to go down very soon. Sounds to me like the Big Ten is either making head way with some Big East schools or those schools are showing some serious interest.
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
Shane, it's certainly an interesting move, and a good one by the Big East. That league needs to start preparing for what might come, and bringing on Tagliabue certainly can't hurt.
How many more years do you figure Tress will be on the sidelines? I've heard reports that after he works out this contract he may move into an administrative job? Say it aint so!
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
It's a tough question, Brian. I think at some point, Jim Tressel will be an athletic administrator at Ohio State. Will it be in five years? Maybe. Ten years? Pretty likely. I can't see him coaching into his seventies.
Jon (Washington DC)
Is the Blue/White game the biggest Spring football game? What do you think of Herbstreit and Musburger announcing?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
It's a big one, Jon. Will be interesting to see if more fans show up at Penn State vs. Ohio State this year. You all should tune into ESPN2 to hear one of the best broadcast teams around.
As a Hawks fan, I am very nervous about the trip to Tuscon. The Big 10 doesn't travel west very well and I was at the game when Iowa came to ASU. Seems like a game that could derail a much anticipated season.
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
Matt, I was talking about this game with some Iowa folks last week, and there's certainly reason to be concerned. Big Ten teams typically don't do well traveling west, especially for late afternoon or night games. Iowa will need to make sure it comes out with some energy, as Arizona boasts quite a few weapons on offense. Should be a very, very interesting matchup, and a big one for the Hawks.
Joe (Orange County)
Adam, you keep saying things like "the Big X will look to more populous areas for expansion" with regard to Nebraska, but if you look at TV ratings, etc. Nebraska is a national brand despite its small population base. They not only "move the needle" but control the needle when they play big time competition. Plus, Tom Osborne doesn't like Texas. Big X seems like a real possibility. Your thoughts on the likelihood of the Big X calling?
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
Absolutely, Joe. I've never doubted that Nebraska football is a national brand, and that's why the Big Ten absolutely should investigate the possibility of Nebraska joining the conference. If I were Osborne, I'd hope my phone rings soon. Both sides could really benefit from a move.
Jackie (New Albany, Ohio)
Is it realistic to think the Big East would try to save its own skin and kick Notre Dame out if the Irish do not join the conference in football, thus forcing Notre Dame to join the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
It's certainly a possibility, Jackie, if the Big East feels threatened. Would Notre Dame finally give into the Big Ten, if only to ensure its other sports could be in a league? You can't be an independent in basketball and expect to survive. It'll be very interesting to monitor the ND-BE relationship during the next few months.
Adam, I think you're missing the point on the Michigan fan/RichRod firing thing. We know full well we'll stink for 2-3 years after he gets canned. I'd rather get the process started now than have to live through another 2-3 years of his garbage AND THEN start over. Cut the cord on this guy at the end of this year if he doesn't get 9 wins (minimum) and move on. I've had it!
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
Good point, John. I wonder how many other Wolverines fans feel this way. I still think there's a chance Rodriguez turns things around, but it'll be tough.
Considering just the number of televisions in the Big Ten region (I believe it was the most of any conference), aren't other conferences taking a huge risk trying to create their own network and copying the Big Ten? Just look at the alumni bases of just Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan and you see why it works for the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
There's definitely risk involved, Allison, and there was a lot of skepticism when the Big Ten launched the Big Ten Network. The SEC could pull it off because college sports are such a big deal down there. I doubt any other league could do it, though.
Tim (Dublin, OH)
It's supposed to rain Saturday in Columbus. Is 96,000 or more out of the question this year, Adam, at Ohio State's Spring Game (due to the weather)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
Sounds like a fun challenge for Buckeye fans. You still gonna show up or wimp out because of a little rain?
Darin (New York, NY)
Adam, what are the chances Denard Robinson is the Starting Quarterback at Michigan this fall?
Adam Rittenberg (4:42 PM)
Pretty good, Darin. He made the most progress of any QB this spring, so if he continues to build in preseason camp, I think he'll be the guy. Robinson is so good on his feet, so if he can just be an average passer or slightly above average, he'll be awfully dangerous.
John from Detroit has lost his mind. 9 wins or else? Please. A bowl game = substantial year over year growth. UM had plenty of sub-9 win seasons before Coach Rod came. This UM Alum supports the coach.
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
A good little debate going on between Michigan fans. John, your response?
We're talking about a Heisman Trophy winner, but in 2006, Jim Tressel allowed the OSU offense to attack the defense and had his best year statistically at OSU. Wouldn't it create a greater margin for error if he allowed Pryor to open it up a little (especially with his defense)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
We all know the margin for error increases with every pass thrown, but I think Ohio State has to try to build off of its Rose Bowl performance and be balanced on offense. Can the Buckeyes beat eight of their opponents this year with a no-mistakes plan? Sure. But they're going to need to take some chances against Iowa, Wisconsin and a couple of others, to win.
If the expansion is only one team (let's hope for this) wouldn't ND or Nebraska make the most sense? But what if Delaney decides to add 3 teams? What 3 would it be?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
Ron, I agree with you. Notre Dame is the obvious choice if you only add one, but Nebraska on its own wouldn't be bad, either. If it's three teams, I've got to think Missouri and/or Pitt are in the mix. If both ND and Nebraska are out, I'd look for Rutgers or Connecticut.
Big Wisconsin fan here, how good of a vhance does wisconsin have to win the big ten this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
The Badgers are in the mix, Craig. They have to start beating the Big Ten's elite, namely Ohio State. The mid-October night game at Camp Randall will be huge for UW.
Robby (Grove City, OH)
He's undersized in relation to an NFL defensive tackle but he's arguably the strongest player in the Big Ten, but with the addition of John Simon starting for OSU in the middle, doesn't that create more room for the LB's and actually make this year's defense more dangerous for OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Simon certainly has the potential for a huge year, Robby. I wouldn't dismiss the losses of Doug Worthington, Todd Denlinger and Thad Gibson up front, though. But if Simon can provide a good complement to Cam Heyward, Ohio State's defense certainly could reach or exceed its performance from 2009.
David (Kansas City)
Adam, Are you wavering now and thinking Nebraska would be a better fit than Mizzou? Say it ain't so... I would hate for the Cornhuskers to go to the Big X over my Tigers. NU doesn't add much, but Missouri is a real draw. Just my thoughts. Yours?
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
David, I know you're biased, but I can't agree that Missouri "is a real draw" and Nebraska "doesn't add much." Now I've advocated Mizzou to the Big Ten and continue to do so, but Nebraska still has a lot more name recognition, especially in football. Both would be good additions, but Nebraska, at least in football, would move the needle more than Missouri.
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Hey guys, got to get back to the blog a little early. Have time for two more.
Darin (New York, NY)
I believe RRod Needs to have atleast 8 wins to survive. Dating back to 1970, Michigan has only had 4 seasons with less than 8 wins... two of the with RRod at the helm. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
Eight wins is the minimum, in my view. And it depends on who he beats. If Michigan loses to Ohio State, Notre Dame, Iowa and Wisconsin, it won't inspire a ton of confidence in this staff. But nine or more wins, with no off-field stuff, should keep the staff in place.
Jonathan (Fullerton, CA)
Wouldn't it be a huge risk to change the name of the Big Ten? I mean, you have to change the name of a TV network too. Isn't the brand name just too strong to change?
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
I get asked this question all the time, Jonathan, and I agree with you. The name won't change, especially because of the BTN. It'll be odd with a 14- or 16-team league, but people will get over it.
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Guys, sorry to cut out early, but work calls. Talk to you next week!