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, I'm here. Excited for the chat. Let's get started!
Makayla (Lincoln, Neb.)
Hey Adam, new Big Ten fan here and glad to be reading your blog now! How do you think Nebraska's current defensive personnel will match up with the different style of offenses they'll be facing in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Thanks, Makayla. I don't think the Blackshirts will have a tough time adjusting to Big Ten offenses. The athletes are there for the Huskers, and they're extremely well coached. I have more doubts about Nebraska's offense, which really struggled down the stretch. Although this wasn't a banner year for Big Ten defenses, I think Nebraska will face better defenses overall in the Big Ten than the Big 12.
Christian (Richmond, VA)
Michigan fan here, I'm curious though about MSU. Do you think they WILL (not can) sustain their success in the upcoming years? And do you think D'Antonio could be considered for a higher profile job in the near future?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
Christian, Michigan State has put itself in position to be good for a long time. The new football facility is outstanding, and the Spartans are recruiting very well in the state. Michigan will become a bigger in-state recruiting factor now with Brady Hoke, but MSU will continue to challenge the Maize and Blue. As for Dantonio, I really think the only job he'd leave for is Ohio State. He went to South Carolina, but I don't see him coaching in that part of the country.
Adam, will Boise beat Georgia and TCU next year and go to the NAtional Championship
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Cory, those will be two excellent matchups. Georgia really needs a turnaround season or Mark Richt will be and should be outta there. TCU likely will take a mini step back after losing so many standout players, so I like Boise in that matchup. Pat Forde's Boise Bus will be cranked up once again.
Now that the bowls are done, any news on new division names?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
This might be tough for Big Ten fans to hear, but I'd be completely shocked if the division names change. There might be some re-evaluation from Jim Delany and his staff, but it would be out of character for them to change things up despite the initial outcry.
Your thoughts on Michigans new coach? Is he the right man for the job? Its time Michigan gets back to the elite.
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Hoke seems like the right man for the Michigan job. The thing is there aren't too many qualified coach to whom restoring Michigan really means something. You can tell Hoke loves the place and would love nothing more than to make Michigan an elite team again. But he still needs the players to get it done. Recruiting will be key, as it is everywhere.
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
A little breaking news for you: Indiana has announced the additions of three new assistants, including former Michigan aides Rod Smith and Greg Frey. Smith will serve as co-offensive coordinator.
Sara (Westerville, Ohio)
Would it still be right for Jim Tressel and the coaching staff to bench players after they help you to a 4-0, 5-0 start (for the suspended players)? Also, what if the tailbacks or quarterback get hot?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Sara, it will be an interesting dilemma. It's tough to go away from the hot hand, but Terrelle Pryor and the others provide a significant boost for the Buckeyes. I have a hard time envisioning Pryor staying on the bench after his suspension. The guy has started three seasons. For Boom Herron, it could be tougher if a guy like Hall, Berry, Hyde or Smith gets hot.
Will Penn State ever rise to power again in the near future?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
JD, my concern for Penn State going forward is recruiting. Can Penn State either extend its recruiting reach or bring in more of the top regional players to keep pace with Ohio State? Although location is a concern for most Big Ten programs after the population shift to the south and west, it seems more pronounced for Penn State.
Average Joe (Mediocrity)
What will it take for Iowa to get over the hump and consistently produce double digit win seasons and be in the NCG conversation? Or maybe that is just something that is not attainable in Iowa City?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Joe, the problem for Iowa is its challenges in recruiting. As much as I believe coaching has more to do with a program's success than simply getting a bunch of five-star recruits, you need the horses and Iowa doesn't have as many as other programs trying to compete for national titles. We certainly could see a Hawkeyes team make a run every 3-5 seasons, but you're not going to see title contenders every year in Iowa City.
Matt (St. Paul)
After the New Year's Day massacre, what sort of changes can we expect to see starting next season? I realize all of the scheduling was done years ago, but is there anything that we can look for as a sign of better things to come NYD 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
Matt, the only change that needs to happen is more winning on New Year's Day. The Big Ten loves to be featured on Jan. 1 and will be in those games for at least another three seasons. The lineup can have a major upside for the Big Ten if it wins three or four games, but we saw what happens if the league struggles on NYD.
jon budmayr (madison)
i'm the second coming of brooks bollinger, right?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
Jon, I'm sure the Badgers coaches and fans wouldn't mind if you are. With Curt Phillips out until at least the fall, you have a chance to grasp hold of the starting quarterback job this spring. You've got to learn from Tolzien and make the smart throws, avoiding INTs. You've got the ability. Now you've got to put it all together.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Do you see Nate Scheelhaase can develop as a passer? I worry sometimes he may be Juice Williams 2.0, he never developed as a passer and should have used him in the option more often his last two years. Can the current Illinois staff maximize his potential as a QB?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Mike, I'm sure you watched the Texas Bowl, in which Scheelhaase showed tremendous improvement with his passing. He certainly has the potential to get better there. Scheelhaase probably needs to take more of a pass-first mentality to his game. He's such a gifted runner, but he puts his body at risk of injury too much for my liking. While he's nowhere near a finished product, I think he'll become a better passer as a sophomore.
You stated the advantages of the SEC, but did you forget the number of sports aspect? Ohio State has 36 sports (most in the NCAA). A school like LSU or Alabama has maybe half of that (perhaps less). I can filter more money towards football with less sports (even though Ohio State spent more than anyone else). Isn't this a disadvantage for the Big Ten too (look at UofM, PSU, etc.)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Oliver, you bring up a good point, but I don't think spending is the big issue for the Big Ten. The one area where it could apply is assistant coaches' salaries, which are out of whack nationally but especially in the SEC. Overall, the investment in football is there from Big Ten schools. The big drawback is location in relation to recruiting. The SEC schools have more talent in their backyards.
Rich Rodriguez (Ann Arbor, MI)
I feel like the scarlet letter. Will anyone hire me again?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Absolutely, Rich. I wouldn't worry. After what happened at Michigan, I think you'll be a bit more deliberate in researching a possible destination and what it's all about before diving in. You are a good fit at many college football programs, and I'm sure there will be an opportunity, if not multiple opportunities for you in 2012. You might want to check out this school in Clemson, S.C.
OSU, PSU, and Wisconsin already recruit the midwest pretty well, and if you add Nebraska's increased presence in "Big Ten Country" going forward, the work Dantonio's doing to turn MSU into a consistent winner (like you, I assume he only leaves when Tressel retires), and a possibly resurgent Notre Dame (assuming they continue building on their second-half success), and high-level midwestern recruits aren't short of options near home. How critical is it that Hoke turns things around quickly, given his regional recruiting focus?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Mike, you make some great points here. Local and regional recruiting has gotten more competitive for Michigan in recent years. It's important for Hoke to have some early success, but it's even more critical for him to show recruits what he's about, what the program's identity is about and where things are headed. If he can get that message across, he'll be fine.
When is the schedule for tv for next season released? what are some night game we can look to ?
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
Funny you should ask, David, because I had some discussions about this topic today. The Big Ten wants to finalize the primetime schedule soon, but things still have to be worked out with the TV partners and the schools. Tpyically the primetime schedule comes out in late March or early April, but the league would love to release something sooner. There are A TON of great primetime options. Right now, only one night game is finalized (Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 11).
I notice most instant 2011 polls predict OSU to be ranked somewhere around 9-10. How high do you think they'd be without the suspensions of Terrelle Pryor and Co.? I was a bit surprised at what I thought to be a low ranking considering their bowl performance
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
Jon, I think the impending suspensions bumped Ohio State down two or three spots in these early rankings. The SEC once again looks tough, especially the West division, and the Pac-10 boasts two national title contenders in Oregon and Stanford. I would put Ohio State in the 5-7 range in my preseason poll.
Do you ever get real messages in your chat from players / coaches or are they all just pretenders?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
To my knowledge, they're all just pretenders. So if you see a question from someone saying they're a coach or player, please don't take it seriously. I got in a bit of trouble with this in November regarding Penn State QB Matt McGloin. Remember, this is all in fun.
Cory (Geneva, IL)
What affect would ND getting back on top and being a bigger player for midwest recruits have for the Big Ten or is there enough to go around?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Cory, Notre Dame will get its share of elite Midwest prospects, but it also recruits nationally a lot more than most Big Ten programs. California is a big feeder state for ND, while not many other Big Ten programs consistently look to Cali. I know Big Ten fans don't like to hear it, but an improved Notre Dame is better for the Big Ten.
Adam, Chris Borland coming back should offset the loss of JJ Watt to a point, and Montee Ball & James White have shown they can carry the load. Aside from Bud/Phillips (who you've discussed) what other area does Bucky need to improve to maintain their spot as co champ? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
Borland is a huge addition, Rob, but he and Watt play different positions. I'm still a little concerned about the D-line without Watt, who made so many plays. Quarterback is the other big concern, but I think Wisconsin will be fine everywhere else on offense, including the O-line.
Ryan (The Heartland)
Former RB Brandon Wegher is headed to Oklahoma... Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
A little surprised, but OU gives Wegher a chance to shine on the big stage. His situation at Iowa was very odd, but that happens sometimes. Hawkeyes fans should move on and focus on their dynamic young running back Marcus Coker, whom I believe has more upside than Wegher.
Hey, Adam, other than the obvious QB position, whats the one single phase of the game that Penn State needs to improve on in order to be considered an elite team?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Line play on both sides of the ball. I'd really like to see Penn State get back to the pass-rushing prowess it showed in 2008 with Aaron Maybin and crew. This was definitely a down year for the Lions' D-line. On the offensive line, I'm looking for greater consistency. Silas Redd can be a superstar in this league, but he'll need some holes in 2011.
Barney Stinson (NYC)
The B1G TEN should change their division names to LEGEN & DARY
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
YES! Great suggestion, Barney! Will pass it along.
In your opinion, which current Buckeye RB has the best chance of getting the start in the 2011 opener? Given the loss of three starters on the offensive line (with the Adams suspension) and a QB with little to no experience starting, I'd think Smith or Hyde due to their running style being a better fit for Tresselball. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
Chris, a true power back would be nice for Ohio State, and a lot of folks were impressed with Smith during bowl practices. I wouldn't count out Jordan Hall, though. Jim Tressel loves the kid and he runs hard for a smaller back. He might be the answer.
Vincent (Leaders Division)
I know people continue to bring up that Ohio State is losing maybe seven starters on defense. Are some underestimating the depth of the Buckeyes, because Etienne Sabino, Dorian Bell, Travis Howard, Dominic Clarke and others are pretty good? James Laurinaitis stepped in and didn't miss a beat in 2006.
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Vincent, I totally agree with you when it comes to the defensive backs. Those guys really helped fill the gaps after injuries this season. I'm interested to see if a guy like Sabino will elevate his game in 2011. He was a shoo-in for a starting spot this past spring but then seemed to slip in practices. If Sabino and others can help fill the production void left by Homan and Rolle, Ohio State will be just fine on D.
Big Ten will now have a championship game while the Big 12 drops theirs next season. Do you see it as a good or bad thing in regards to getting to the title game? It seems like it would help an Oklahoma team not having to play an extra tough game.
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
Michael, the championship game guarantees one more loss for one of a league's top teams, so in most cases it doesn't help the national title push. It also can reduce the number of teams a league gets in BCS bowls.
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
Hold on guys. Be back in a minute.
Adam, how do you see Bullough, Gholston, and maybe the new guy L Thomas filling into the holes Jones and Gordon left behind in the Spartan defense? How critical is this to their success?
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
There will be an adjustment period, but the talent is in East Lansing. And the fact that Bullough and Gholston got their feet wet this season is huge. I'd like to see more consistent production from Michigan State's defensive line, which has some talent as well, but the linebacker group will be interesting to monitor.
In all fairness to Rich Rod when he came to Michigan from West Virginia he inherited no talent at all from Lloyd Carr. Why was recruiting so poor during Lloyd Carr's last few seasons?
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
A lot of Michigan fans will tell you recruiting wasn't poor and that Rodriguez didn't capitalize on the talent there. But it seems like there was a bit of a dip late in Carr's tenure. One thing that stands out to me about both Michigan and Notre Dame is the recent struggle to field good defenses. We've seen a few standout players recruited to both places, but the units simply haven't been up to par.
Could 5 be better than 4? OSU might benefit from seeing how their backups do against B10 competition vs. MSU, thus knowing who they can and can't rely on for Nebraska. I don't think they'll figure that out after Colorado and the rest of OSU's stat padding patsies.
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
Wow, Mike, that's a pretty positive spin on the situation. I think four games will show Ohio State enough about their reserves and the Buckeyes will be more than pleased to welcome back players like Pryor and Adams.
Mike (Paris, OH)
Which team at the bottom of the Big Ten (Indiana, Minn, or Purdue) is closest to being a legitimate bowl contender again and which team at the top of the Big Ten is in danger of plummeting down the standings?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
If Purdue can stay healthy on offense, I like its chances to reach a bowl in 2011. Ryan Kerrigan is a huge loss on the defensive line, but I like what the Boilers return in the secondary. I don't see any of the top four teams (OSU, WIS, MSU, NEBRASKA) plummeting down too far, but a team like Wisconsin will have to fill several holes on both sides of the ball.
You mentioned earlier ND being better helps the Big 10. How?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
It validates any wins the Big Ten gets against Notre Dame and it helps the Big Ten's case that you can win playing in the Midwest. Notre Dame will be grouped with the Big Ten whether you like it or not. Obviously, the Big Ten wants its teams to beat ND, but it helps if ND goes on to have a strong season against teams from other conferences.
Craig (St. Louis)
Knowing that Jim Tressel will probably retire earlier rather than late and go into administration, do you think that Gene Smith has a short list on his desk at all times? For continued success, would Ohio State need to get a guy w/ head coaching experience to run such a large program?
Adam Rittenberg (4:51 PM)
Craig, I'm sure Gene Smith is prepared for when Tressel steps down as coach. And I'd be surprised if he doesn't conduct a major national search. Ohio State remains one of the best jobs in the country, and the number of elite coaches from the state of Ohio makes it even more appealing. ... I'd be absolutely stunned if Ohio State hires someone without head-coaching experience to succeed Tressel.
Is David Brandon tied to this hire of Brady Hoke? In other words, if Hoke fails, does Brandon go too?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
He might, Roger. Dave Brandon certainly has hitched his wagon to Brady Hoke. Brandon could have stuck with Rich Rodriguez and overhauled the defensive staff, but he chose to make a change very late and bring in a guy with Michigan ties but so-so credentials. Most ADs don't get a chance to hire two football coaches, so this is huge for Brandon, one way or another.
So, Chryst and Boland are still Badger coaches right now, right?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
I think you mean Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad. Yes, as of now they're still with Wisconsin and I'd be a little surprised if they don't remain with the Badgers for 2011.
When will the top 30 players come out?
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
When the Big Ten news cycle dies down. Too much else to react to right now. Hopefully, I can start before Feb. 1.
Any special ooc games next year to look forward to?
Adam Rittenberg (4:57 PM)
There are quite a few in the Big Ten, Tyler. Alabama-Penn State, Ohio State-Miami, Notre Dame-Michigan at night, Wisconsin-Oregon State, Illinois-Arizona State, Minnesota-USC.
Wisconsin vs. NUI at Soldiers Field
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
That's another good one. Former Badgers DC Dave Doeren takes what should be a good Northern Illinois team against his former squad.
Kevin Wilson (Bloomington, IN)
What do you think of the future of my program? We are bringing a lot of guys back on the defensive side of the ball, and by bringing in Rod Smith, I think the Ed Wright Baker becomes our quarterback. Do we have the talent and coaching to go bowling now?
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
Kevin, you've done an excellent job putting together this staff. It'll take a bit of time to get the right talent there, but IU is making a true investment in its football program. Great to see.
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
OK, guys, that's it for today. Great chat and I'll talk to you soon!