Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, happy December. Let's get rolling.
alan meacham (northville, michigan)
why is it you are so convinced wisc & osu should be ranked higher?obviously i feel holis and dantonio are correct...the timing of wins and losses would change these rankings...hence YOUR vote would be flip flopped...you know it...so why dont you work with chris falica and campaign for msu to be ranked higher...its the right thing to do...they beat wisc and they beat psu at happy valley when they were playing their best...
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Alan, you obviously didn't read the blog on Monday, when I had a 1,200-word post about Michigan State's campaign for a BCS bowl. I can't honestly rank Michigan State ahead of Wisconsin because I believe the Badgers are the better team right now, despite the head-to-head loss on Oct. 2. I will say it's very close between Michigan State and Ohio State. The Spartans are stronger in SOS and have a signature win that the Buckeyes lack.
Jason (South Carolina)
Adam we saw two styles of coaching from Kirk Ferentz this year, the MSU game and the rest of the year. Do you think the late game collapses could have been avoided had they kept their foot on the pedal like the MSU game, and the lack of aggressiveness with all their talent is what lost the players interest?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Jason, it's really stunning how Iowa took its foot off of the gas aside from the Michigan State game. I really thought it would be a springboard for the Hawkeyes. Instead, Iowa easily could have lost all four of its November games. You have to put some of it on Ferentz, who didn't have a great year by any stretch. But doesn't it also fall on the players, too? Especially the seniors playing their final games in college?
Adam, what are the chances that the Outback or Gator Bowl surveys the 7-5 blahness and goes with the team with the most exciting player in college fotoball in Denard Robinson? Or should I just pack my bags for Tempe?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Tom, it's very possible Gator could go with the Maize and Blue. Really, a lot of things could happen with that mass of 7-5 teams, especially if Illinois wins Friday night. Denard certainly helps Michigan's attractiveness, but I would say the uncertainty surrounding Rich Rodriguez is a negative as far as bowls go.
Aaron (St. Louis)
I like Big Ten Red and Big Ten White for division names. What do you think? There's an opportunity for some cool looking logos in there, and maybe if you put it all together you get something patriotic. It's simple, and it just has a nicer ring to it than Big Ten Black and Big Ten Blue.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Aaron, I think the safe route is to keep colors out of it because some teams would feel slighted. I'd be surprised if the Big Ten uses colors in any way to name the divisions.
Scott (Iowa City)
Adam, I read your blog just about every day and enjoy your insights. Prove to all of us that you have your finger on the pulse of all things Big Ten and tell us the inside info on where the Hawks will go bowling! Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Scott, I wish I knew! When I spoke with Outback Bowl CEO Jim McVay yesterday, he must have asked me three times, "Who are we getting? Who should we pick?" So there's a lot of uncertainty out there. I'd be somewhat surprised if Iowa falls below Gator, but there's some concern that the Hawkeye fans aren't jazzed after the poor finish.
Why is nobody talking about the fact that Michigan State caught a huge break by not having to play Ohio State? If they had, they would have 2 conference losses. Perhaps that is a reason to downgrade them.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Josh, you're assuming Michigan State would lose to Ohio State. While that's a fair assumption given the Spartans' struggles against the Buckeyes, it's not a guarantee. I would pick Ohio State in that game, but Michigan State could win if things fell right.
Jesse ((Iowa City))
Adam, it's clearly too soon to be looking ahead already, but without any games for a month, it's hard not to. Who's going to be the best team in the Big Ten next year (let's assume, though it's risky, that juniors are coming back)? Anyone have a shot at the title?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
National title? Ohio State always has to be in that mix. Nebraska, too, if all the Huskers juniors return. One team that could be very good if all its juniors return is Illinois, but I'd be surprised if Leshoure, Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget all come back.
Blair (Northville, Michigan)
Adam:I vehemently disagree with your logic in the recent David Brandon/Rich Rodriguez piece. If anything, this evaluation period completely undermines RR, should the decision be made to keep him. The next two weekends are huge for recruiting and the staff is going to be deluged with "are you guys going to be here" questions. Further, what about the mid-year enrollees? These kids are going to need to make up their minds quickly and having this hang over the program for a month could be disadvantageous. Don't get me wrong, if this period of time yields us a new steward of UM football, then bravo, well played. Rodriguez and his staff have been a disaster since day one and need to go. I have faith in David Brandon, but I sure as hell hope this is him slow playing the process to get what he wants and minimize the carnage.
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Blair, you make some great points here, and you might be right in the end. I just think Brandon is leery of starting over, even with a coach like Harbaugh who would fire up the fan base. Make no mistake: if Michigan makes a change, it will be a very bad team in 2011, and possibly longer. I tend to think while it's tough to let Rodriguez hang out there right now, it's more likely we see Rich retained and the defensive staff cleaned out.
Drew (New Jersey)
Adam, You have clearly spent a lot of time with JJ Watt. Do you see him returning for another year? What about Mr. Clay?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Haha, I've definitely been accused of having a J.J. Watt man crush. Guilty as charged. I'd be surprised if J.J. makes the jump. He loves college ball and Wisconsin too much. I'd also be surprised if John Clay stays in school. He's been at Wisconsin four years and doesn't need to prove much else at the college level.
Hawkeye Fan (U.S. )
You still can't say Iowa had major coaching issues this week without putting a majority of the blame on the players. Yes, they are ones who make blocks, make catches, tackles, but you ARE SO RELUCTANT to blame coaching. I guarantee DJK during his Jan. 2011 press conference is going to rip the coaching staff and Kirk Ferentz. He's going to expose some major issues within the coaching staff. Just make sure to listen...
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Trust me, I've got the direct line to DJK and can't wait to hear what he has to say about the season. Listen, Iowa's coaching staff mismanaged some situations late in games, no doubt. But the players also showed an incredible lack of poise, including Stanzi and his receivers (including DJK). That's a shock after what we saw last year, when Iowa was money in crunch time.
Clarkl (Bloomington, IN)
Adam: Do you know who IU is looking to replace Lynch as the football coach? I keep hearing Leach and Hoke, but Hoke just recieved some extra money from San Diego State. Just seeing if you knew anything. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Clark, as with any coaching search these days, you're going to hear a ton of names. Some of the reporting around the Minnesota search has been downright comical. As for Indiana, Leach isn't coming there, but Hoke should be in the mix, along with Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and others. I think Glen Mason would listen if Indiana calls, but not sure Indiana wants to go down that road (former coach, out of the mix for a few years).
So, Penn State only loses 11 seniors...do you see the Nittany Lions contending for the Big Ten crown next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Bryan, there's a chance, but Penn State must significantly upgrade its defensive line play after recording only 16 sacks this season. The Lions also need to figure things out at quarterback and get more consistency from Bolden or McGloin. That division won't be easy with Ohio State, Wisconsin, a potentially strong Illinois team and a Purdue squad that gets healthy.
Thomas (Orlando, FL)
Hey Adam, I saw your link a few days ago about JoePa's hearing, but didn't find that it had much information. Can you tell how much of an issue his hearing is? Has it affected interviews/press conferences that you have been a part of?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
It's a week-to-week thing, Thomas, and not unexpected given that Joe is nearly 84. But it has been a factor at times on the Big Ten teleconference. Joe has good weeks and bad weeks, just like any of us would at his age.
I can't honestly rank Michigan State ahead of Wisconsin because I believe the Badgers are the better team right now, despite the head-to-head loss on Oct. 2. If a head to head win doesn't matter, why even play the games? I'm a big fan of yours and this doesn't change my opinion, but that logic, or lack thereof drives me crazy. Take a stand with your bowl projections and power rankings, not a 1200 word peice.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
My stand is Wisconsin is the better team, Tom. What more do you want? Yelling and screaming? Head-to-head matters, but so does what has happened since that point. If head-to-head was the sole determining factor, Iowa is better than Michigan State and both Wisconsin and Ohio State beat Iowa at Kinnick. There's more to it. And bowl projections are what I think will happen, not what I think should happen. Two very different things.
Scott (McLean, VA)
I know we're in the height of football season, but I'm just wondering what chances do you think the Big Ten has of winning the Big Ten/ACC challenge tonight? We only need 2 wins out of 5 games... However, I only see IU as a lock to win. Where do you see another win coming from? Also, do you see the Big Ten as the best hoops conference?Hope a hoops question gives you a nice little change of pace!
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Yeah, it's nice to talk hoops every once and a while. Went up to Evanston last night to see the Big Ten get a very impressive win against the ACC. IU and Purdue are the big games tonight. Don't want to put all the pressure on Michigan State to win against Duke, although the Spartans will be in that game for sure.
Only one QB in PSU history has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games. His name: Matt McGloin. I'd say he's the front runner for the job next season, Adam, and in terms of consistency I think he's done pretty darn well.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
He did do well, J.B., but you have to open up that competition. Think how Bolden will be with a full offseason under his belt. Bolden's overall talent can't be dismissed just because he's younger. I think it's totally fair to have a QB competition this spring with at least two strong options.
Whose got the bigger crush on who...You and Watt, or Pat Forde and Boise State? I go with Forde and Boise. He defends the smurfs till the death.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
I agree. And while my man crush had a huge game Saturday, Forde's Boise Bus crashed into the Sierra Nevadas.
Hey Adam, how much longer do think The Vest is going to coach for OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Good question, Joe. I heard before the season that he might not coach as long as people think he will. Jim isn't 60 yet and could be there for another five years or so, but I don't think it'll be that long. If he wins another national title, I could see him stepping aside and pursuing other interests.
7 and 5 gets Randy Shannon fired at Miami. Is there any doubt that Ferentz has the country's sweetest gig?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
He has a pretty sweet gig, Calvin, and that's why I doubt he'll leave any time soon. But the difference is Miami is located in arguably the best area for elite recruits in the country. Shannon brought in blue-chippers and couldn't win big. Ferentz gets to the Orange Bowl with average recruits and works in a state with limited talent.
Jeremy (New Jersey)
On Mike and Mike this morning they talked about how Boise had a harder schedule than Ohio State and a lot of other big time teams. How is this possible when they only play a few legitimate teams? Where do we find the strength of schedule rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
You also have to look at the teams Boise played and the teams those teams played. Take Oregon State, a team Boise played. The Beavers aren't a great team but they played a tough schedule with Boise, TCU and a bunch of ranked Pac-10 teams. Ohio State unfortunately didn't get any credit for beating Miami and was hurt by not playing Michigan State. The Buckeyes don't have a win against a current ranked team. Check out the official SOS stats here: http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/2010/Internet/toughest schedule/tough.html
Craig (Braintree MA)
How big an issue is it at Minnesota that the ADs boss is changing in a year as far as the head coach position goes?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Craig, GREAT question. I've been thinking about this a lot with the zaniness in Minnesota the last few days. Coaches want to see stability at a place, and Minnesota doesn't have it with the president retiring and an aging AD in Joel Maturi. The coach will have to deal with a new president and most likely a new AD in his tenure. It could be a turnoff to some candidates.
Scott (McLean, VA)
It's looking more and more likely that Ohio State will be heading to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Assuming Auburn beats USC on Saturday; how do you think the Buckeyes match up against the Razorbacks?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Scott, I think the Buckeyes match up well. I've been really impressed with Ohio State's pass defense, which ranks in the top five nationally despite the season-ending losses of three players, including nickel safety Tyler Moeller. If the Buckeyes can contain Ryan Mallett in the pass game, I think they'll win.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
I believe the emergence of Denard Robinson has to influence a coaching change more than people think. He has broken numerous Michigan and NCAA records from the quarterback position, and many people question his role in an Harbaugh led offense. While I know Denard is a great guy and would most likely stay at Michigan no matter what, it still worries me to think of losing such a tremendous athlete in a coaching swap.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Matt, the Denard factor certainly helps Rich Rodriguez because of the success Denard has had in Rodriguez's offense. Still, you can't base a decision like this solely around one player. There are too many other things involved. But Denard winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year doesn't hurt RichRod's cause.
Adam...quick who leads the Badgers in rushing next season?? I hear Melvin Gordon might be a Badger soon...if so and Clay leaves i expect him to be getting some serious carries next year...You do know who Melvin Gordon is right?? Decommited from Iowa last weekend and going to verbal to Wisconsin soon.
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Uh, yes, John, I know who Melvin Gordon is. And he might be in the mix, but you've also got Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, Montee Ball and Zach Brown, who redshirted this year. And that's all assuming Clay leaves. Wisconsin will be LOADED at running back next year, so Gordon had better be legit to touch the ball.
When the B10 goes to 9 conf games, do you see the B10 setting any standards for the non-conf schedule? To have 7 home games, it will require 2 guarantees and 1 home & home....could make for a lot of meaningless non-conf football.
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Great point, BCS. If the Big Ten goes to nine league games, a strong possibility in 2014, the nonconference schedules could be worse than they already are. Some teams will be even more leery of going on the road. It's certainly a downside, but the positive is more Big Ten games.
I was snubbed from the All Big Ten team selection. What do you think my stats will look like next year? I'm going for a senior year in high school repeat - 2,000 passing yards, 2,000 rushing hards. Cam who?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Like to hear your confidence, TP. While I understand you feel snubbed, it had more to do with the incredible number of great QBs in the Big Ten this year. Look at Iowa's Ricky Stanzi. He entered November as a fringe Heisman candidate and didn't even get honorable mention All-Big Ten!
Outside the BCS games, the big ten may be underdogs in most of it's bowl matchups. Do you see the B10 having a losing record this bowl season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
It's possible, Danny. Of the teams at 7-5, only Penn State and Illinois finished the season strong. But I wouldn't count out Iowa in any bowl. The Hawkeyes always play well in the postseason. Northwestern is the one team I really worry about. The Wildcats' season ended when Dan Persa got hurt.
Luke Bunge (Lansing)
We know there is lobbying from MSU's side but what is OSU doing to lobby the Sugar and Orange bowls?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I can check, but I don't think the Buckeyes have to do much to lobby. Ohio State is Ohio State. You know what you're going to get with the Buckeyes, and it's very good for a bowl game.
Long time (and suffering) Boiler fan here. What can you say about the Boilers to make me feel better about next season? Is it far too early to judge if Hope is the right man for the job?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Yes, too early to make a true judgment on Danny Hope. He gets his teams to play hard in every game, which is great to see. He also must start to clean up the mistakes on special teams. Seen too many of them the last two years. But the injury factor can't be ignored with the Boilers this year. We need to see them closer to full strength to make a true judgment.
T. Gates (Omaha, NE)
Why isn't Pat Fitzgerald mentioned more for other coaching jobs (i.e. Colorado)? He's done a great job in Evanston and, as an Iowa fan, I want him outta of the Big 10!
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Haha, I can understand your desire, T. Gates. But Fitz isn't going to Colorado, especially after what happened there with one of his mentors, Gary Barnett. Also, Fitz needs to do more than just beat Iowa and win 8-9 games to be in the mix for top jobs. He needs to win a Big Ten title.
Your earlier answer said Michigan would be a very bad team if they make a switch. I don't see the logic behind that. I mean yes they might have some transfers but there is no way they can be as bad defensively and no way Denard and Forcier both leave. So please explain how they would be a very bad team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
They'll be a little better on defense, but the offense would drop off with players recruited to the spread playing in a pro-style, power system. Rodriguez has recruited to the spread for two plus years. I just can't see how that unit doesn't take a major step back if there's a change. But I could be wrong.
Pat (Dial, GA)
Where do you rank Leshore in terms of other recent Illinois RBs? I personally feel he's as good as Mendenhall.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Mendenhall was amazing, Pat, but Leshoure isn't far behind him. Leshoure has been very good since the end of last season, and, unlike Mendhenhall, he had to share carries for a little while this fall. And yet he still can break Mendenhall's single-season team rushing record with 311 yards in the last two games. Just a very complete running back.
What are the odds BA ups BB and Christ to lock them down for good? I know BB is contracted through 2015, but another year or two of 10 win seasons and his name might be starting to get thrown out there. Christ is already tossed around.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Justin, Bielema is already fielding calls about both Chryst and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren. Chryst wants to be a head coach, and I think he'll have some opportunities this year. He does make good money and has a lot of ties to Wisconsin and Madison, but he also wants to see if he can handle a HC job.
Regarding RR, I think I read that if Mich waits until Jan. 1 they save about $1.5mm in buyout costs. Got to play a factor in waiting, don't ya think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
That's correct. And while it could play a factor, I don't think Dave Brandon waits to make a change just to save money. Michigan has enough in the bank to do what it wants when it wants.
Seemed like a lot of high profile injuries this season. Which team was hurt most by the injury bug?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Sara, in terms of the Big Ten, it's Purdue, without a doubt. The Boilers lost their top quarterback, top running back, top wide receiver, No. 2 wide receiver for a stretch and several other players. There were some key individual injuries in the Big Ten like Northwestern's Dan Persa, Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Ohio State's Tyler Moeller, but Purdue really got hit hard.
Brodie (Macomb, IL)
What do you see from Iowa next year? They lose a lot on the DL but have Daniels and Binns back. Lose a few LBs but have Morris back (who i love). Also, Sash hopefully returns along with Hyde. On offense, the line should be great.. and there are weapons (McNutt, Frederowicz, Davis, ARob) for new QB Vandenburg. Do you see Iowa being pretty good next year? Good enough to compete for a Big Ten championship, a year similar to this or them not being very good? Thanks for your work this year!
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Thanks, Brodie. Iowa could be a good team, in 2011. Not sure if the Hawkeyes will compete for a league title, especially in what figures to be a very tough division. But if the defensive line reloads and Vandenberg builds on the promise he showed in 2009, Iowa certainly could challenge the league's top team. Right now, I'd put Iowa in the 8-9 win range.
What are the chances the Wildcats win their first bowl game in decades without Persa? Do you think the extra practices will be enough for Northwestern to turn things around?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Andrew, it depends on the matchup, but I would say the chances are very slim. Northwestern's defense hasn't been good all season, and it got exposed the last two weeks. Unless the D significantly upgrades its play against what likely will be a potent Big 12 offense, I can't see Northwestern winning.
Adam, I would be interested in what your actual prediction is on Rich Rod's job status. Will he stay or go?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
My prediction (subject to change multiple times before Jan. 1): Rich stays and the defensive staff goes.
Eric (East Lansing)
Adam, how about Dan Conroy going from walk-on to First team all Big Ten!... sounds like a great story line for the blog.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Good call, Eric. Especially since he replaced one of the school's all-time greats in Brett Swenson. We all expected some type of drop-off, but Conroy was really good this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
anything new regarding the Gophers football coach search?The key isn't who the U of M wants...but who wants them!!!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Good point, Mark. I definitely think there's more outward interest than interest in the job. Brady Hoke is the one name I've heard from the start, along with Troy Calhoun. But I'm not going to make any predictions. Should be an interesting week, but I'd expect a resolution in the next 5-8 days.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Thanks for a great chat. Enjoy the bowl selections this weekend!