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 (12:01 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
CPT Kirk (Ft. Benning)
Over/Under on MI winning 7 games this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Wow, that's a tough question, Kirk. I'll have a better answer for you once I see the Wolverines defense for a few games, but I see Michigan recording somewhere between 6-9 wins this fall. Don't see this team backsliding out of a bowl.
Bob (Big Easy)
Adam, I'm a big Buckeye fan in New Orleans, so maybe I'm missing part of the Tressel story, but do you honestly see any way Tressel escapes being ousted, once the NCAA is through? I hope he stays, but the University and the program is greater than any one individual, even JT. Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Bob, couldn't agree more with your last statement, and it's important for AD Gene Smith and president E. Gordon Gee to protect the Ohio State football brand, one of the most powerful in college sports. Although Tressel has done a lot to build that brand, he's not bigger than the brand. And if the fallout from this will start eroding the brand and setting the program back significantly, it might be time to make a change.
Brad (Valdosta Ga)
I know it's still very early but as of right now who are your top 2 teams in each division
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
You're right, Brad, it's very early. I'd go with Nebraska and Michigan State in the Legends division. Still have to go with Ohio State in Leaders, and I'd pick Wisconsin or Penn State as the other team. Both the Badgers and Lions have questions that need to be answered this spring.
Jason (East Lansing)
How goes it Adam? Do you see the D-line being the strongest part of the MSU team for the 2011 year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Jason, it's going well. ... Definitely don't see the D-line as Michigan State's strongest unit, but there's room for improvement. Greg Jones is gone, so the Spartans need to find several defensive linemen who can effectively rush the passer. I love Jerel Worthy's potential, but who else steps up this spring? Will it be William Gholston? Overall, there's talent along the D-line, but the wide receivers and running backs both are stronger groups imo.
John (Westborough, MA)
Good Golly Miss Molly is this just an all Big 10/11 room? This sucks like the mid-west (minus Chicago) does.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
See ya, John.
Who do you see as a wild card in each division? The teams that could either come in the top two in the division, or even the bottom two
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Good question, Doc. In Legends, three teams fit the description: Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan. Both Northwestern and Michigan need to get a lot better on defense, while Iowa is replacing a ton of stars but always seems to be dangerous when underestimated. In Leaders, I'd go with Penn State and Illinois. The Illini are looking to take another step forward and reach back-to-back bowls for the first time in a while. Penn State has some big question marks, but I love the talent at RB, WR, DB and LB.
What do you see as the strengths on both sides of the ball for Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
The Huskers' defensive line should be very good, and if Sean Fisher and Will Compton settle in at LB, it's another group that should shine. Also like the CBs (Dennard and Evans). The running backs should be the strength on offense with Burkhead and incoming frosh Aaron Green.
Alex (Des Moines)
A lot going on the last week in CF with the Tressel story, HBO doc on players being paid, and the Fiesta Bowl BCS status. Which of these stories do you think will end up having the biggest impact?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Definitely a lot happening, Alex. From an overall sport perspective, the Fiesta Bowl mess is the biggest story. It could change the BCS structure, and that's big. But if we're seeing the beginning of the end for Jim Tressel, that's pretty meaningful, too. Few coaches have had Tressel's success in the past decade.
Why is Mattison's NFL magic going to be any different that Greg Robinson's NFL magic (and 2 Super Bowl rings) for Michigan's 450-points allowed defense? The theory among Michigan fans is that scheme (a switch to 4-3) and Mattison will make all the difference with a returning bunch that couldn't tackle a thing last year. Is it really that easy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
It's not that easy, Mike, and Michigan will have to improve significantly from a fundamentals/techniques standpoint. But I do think the 4-3 scheme will really help the entire defense, and Mattison's experience in a tested system should pay off.
Will the playing for the Little Brown Jug more likely become meaningful again because Minnesota eventually rises to Michigan's level or Michigan sinks to Minnesota's level?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
It'll definitely mean more if both teams are playing well, but Minnesota has to start actually winning the Jug for the rivalry to be significant again. I thought the Gophers would get it done in 2008, but a terrible Michigan team came into the dome and won.
When do you think there will be the official ruling on Jim Tressel by the NCAA?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
The NCAA Committee on Infractions next meets in June, and decisions following that meeting typically take a few months. So we could hear something by the end of the summer.
Jonathan (Dallas, TX)
If Jim Tressel was more open with the media during his tenure, would he be held less over the coals in the current situation? Reason I ask is, Pete Carroll seemed to get a pass, especially from your network, and Carroll had a good relationship with the media.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Jonathan, this is a really interesting question. I always felt that USC's media-friendly program delayed some of the programs from surfacing in the media. But eventually, these things come to light. Ohio State certainly is more restrictive in terms of access -- as are many Big Ten schools -- but in this specific case, with a federal investigation involved, these things would have come out eventually regardless of the media's efforts.
Steve (Lafayette, IN)
Does the 4 year hiatus teams will have in playing each other concern you at all? It doesn't seem like it keeps the intimacy of the league in tact to have players who will go their entire careers without playing another team in the league.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Steve, I'll likely have more on this later today in the blog, but it does concern me to an extent. An Iowa player who arrives next fall might never play Ohio State, and vice versa. Some of these issues will go away with a nine-game Big Ten schedule, which still seems likely, but it's a concern for the next cycle.
Adam (Gilbert, AZ)
Do you think Taylor Martinez will keep the QB job in Lincoln or get moved to say WR or Safety...he's too good of an athlete not to have on the field, but i'm not sure QB is the best place for him.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
I think Taylor keeps the job, Adam. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck seems pleased with him so far this spring, and Beck is providing Martinez greater freedom in the offense. Martinez said Monday that the system reminds him more of what he ran in high school. So I think you'll see a more comfortable T-Magic leading up to the season. Would be surprised if he doesn't win the job, but we'll see.
Iowa and Nebraska both play a similar brand of football, are based in relatively talent-poor states, and yet have enjoyed a similar degree of success over the last decade. How important are the first few matchups between the Hawks and Huskers in determining relative program strength moving forward?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Jack, those are measuring-stick games, but both programs have achieved a certain level of success in recent years. Iowa is a notch below Ohio State in the Big Ten, but you can never count out the Hawkeyes from the league title race. Nebraska was in a similar position in the Big 12, winning division titles but seeming to be a notch below Texas and OU. It'll be interesting to see which program takes that next step in the Big Ten. We could find out in late November when they play.
Dan (Denver, CO)
Have you updated your backdrop/background for web videos yet with something with the new conference logo? Why hasn't Scott Chipman hooked you up yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Haha, while I'd love to blame Chipman for all my problems, I've been a little lazy in asking the Big Ten for a new banner. It might take a bit of time to get the backdrop updated, but I'll get it done eventually. Does this mean you guys like the new logo?
Matt (St. Paul)
Jerry Kill was quoted saying he was "aghast" at the current players conditioning and attention to academics saying it looks like "they've been playing video games since the end of the season." Is this new coach hyperbole to light a fire under his team or are the returning players THAT out of touch with what it takes to be a winner?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Matt, I think there's a degree of Kill trying to light a fire with his players. What struck me is that Minnesota played its best football late in the 2010 season. Perhaps there was a lull between that time and Kill's arrival, but not having a permanent coach can play a role. I wonder what Jeff Horton, who I think did a great job after Brewster's firing, thinks of Kill's comments.
Vince (Salt Lake City, UT)
If Jim Tressel is not going to be the coach for the 2011 season (regardless if he is for 2012), shouldn't the athletic department make a definitive move now rather than wait (perhaps giving Luke Fickell the interim job for 2011)? Is it really a good idea to wait, from a players' aspect?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
The players don't matter in this case. If Ohio State wants to part ways with Tressel, I can't see how you conduct a full head-coaching search in early April. You'd have to go with an interim coach (probably Luke Fickell) in 2011 and then go through a full search. Is that fair to the current players? No. But it's better for the long-term health of the program.
Mike (Columbus, OH)
Adam, I am not from the Midwest and have lived all over the country. Can you explain why there is such an arrogance amongst the "Big" Ten fans? This confernce tradtionally plays a pathetic non-confernce schedule and always has a losing bowl record.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Mike, you're not the only person who feels this way. Although I generally have good dealings with Big Ten fans, the arrogance issue is out there. It likely stems from being part of the oldest, most tradition-rich conference, and having massive alumni bases all over the country. Also, Big Ten academics are ranked as the best among the power conferences (Pac-10 is close). I know a lot of non-Big Ten fans who wonder why this league matters so much. The tradition and the large fan bases always will make it matter, regardless of the results.
David (San Francisco)
Adam: After your visit to Nebraska, what did you think about the state of the program and did you find out anything that surprised you about Lincoln.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
David, I was extremely impressed with Nebraska's facilities. HUGE weight room, good indoor facility, great locker room, etc. The stadium also is very impressive. I think the big challenge going forward is whether Nebraska can recruit among the nation's best. Lincoln reminds me of some Big Ten cities, especially with the weather. Can't say it's a huge recruiting asset. Nebraska will have to bring in top recruits with its tradition (past and present) and facilities.
Scott (San Diego)
Having followed Devin Gardner's career fairly closely, it would seem he would be a more natural fit under center than Robinson. Can you imagine a scenario where he could actually win the starting position from Robinson, or has Michigan essentially locked itself into keeping Robinson at QB after selling him on the new coaching staff?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Scott, I really couldn't see a scenario where Gardner starts over Robinson entering the season, but you could see changes if "Shoelace" struggles once the game starts. It's important to keep in mind that Robinson has the full support of his teammates. He has the locker room, and that's a big factor when you're looking at QBs.
Hey Adam, Fitz said yesterday Jeravin Matthews is the starter opposite Mabin. Do you know who is leading to start opposite Peters at safety?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
John, I don't but I'll be happy to find out Thursday as I visit Northwestern practice. David Arnold is getting a look at safety, and Northwestern has some other possibilities (Hunter Bates, Mike Bolden, Jared Carpenter). The second CB spot was the big issue, so it's good that Mabin has stepped up.
Jeff (Chicago, IL)
Adam, do you see MSU getting to 8 or 9 wins this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Jeff, it's certainly possible if the Spartans get better along both lines. Their schedule will be a lot tougher, though. They have trips to Notre Dame, Ohio State (Buckeyes are shorthanded), Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. They also get both Wisconsin and Michigan at home. So it'll be a challenge.
Just saw the article about the HBO special. Recruits being paid by boosters to come to their program, with Ohio State being named. Is this the nail in the Buckeye coffin? Especially with the Jim Tressel scandal going on?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Yeah, Michigan State also mentioned in that piece. It'll be interesting to see what type of fallout there is from the allegations.
greg (omaha, ne)
It may be too early to tell at this point, but do you see the chances of a Big 10 Team being in contention for the National Title or is this going to be a down year for the conference overall?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Greg, I think the Big Ten could have greater overall depth than it did in 2010, but it's hard to say there's a legit national title contender, especially with Ohio State's situation. Nebraska could be that team, but the Huskers' schedule is brutal. Same for Michigan State. Both Penn State and Wisconsin have too many issues right now. So entering the season, my answer is no. But keep in mind that few people saw Iowa start 9-0 in 2008 or Michigan State start 8-0 this past season.
Bad news out of State College as Pete Massaro is once again out for the season. Do you feel the Nits are deep enough to overcome this one, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Yeah, that's a bummer, J.B., especially with all the uncertainty at the D-end spot. Penn State really needs big things from Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and others. It's also key for the Lions to rely more on their defensive tackles, especially Devon Still. Injuries have been a big story so far this spring in Happy Valley.
Adam, if I were to lie at my job, I would be fired. Yet Jim Tressel gets a free pass for doing it to the NCAA?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Yes, and it could cost him dearly. But he has two huge advocates in Gene Smith and E. Gordon Gee. Not sure what line of work you're in, but if you were as successful as Tressel has been for Ohio State, you might have some pretty powerful people in your corner.
Bill (Plowville, PA)
When do you think we'll get a respectable logo and division names?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Bill, the logo seems to be catching on, at least the B1G mark. I get a ton of emails from fans who use "B1G" whenever talking about the Big Ten. The division names could change eventually, but they'll be in place for at least one year. The Big Ten is hopeful the names connect better with fans, but I don't see it happening.
If Tressel is forced out, do you think Urban Meyer would be a good replacement? He's a proven winner, and he already has great ties to the southeast. However, his health has seemed to be an issue as of late...
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Meyer is a great candidate for sure, but the health issue you bring up has to be a concern for anyone thinking of hiring him. If I'm Ohio State and I make a change, I'm opening this job up to the nation, not targeting any one candidate. Think of all the great coaches with ties to the Buckeyes or the state of Ohio. You have to survey all options rather than pigeonholing yourself with one candidate, even if he has two national titles.
Adam, now that you've physically visited Nebraska, does it seem more real to you that they're part of the B1G? I still have trouble wrapping my head around it sometimes....I think I need to see them play some B1G conference games to fully get used to it
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Well, the fact there were snow flurries on Monday definitely made Nebraska feel like a Big Ten town. I didn't see any Big Ten logos or designations around the Osborne Athletic Complex, but those should be on the way this summer. You're right, Chris, it might take a few games before the reality sets in, but I really think Nebraska will be a good fit in this league.
Tom (Washington, DC)
Adam -- you were asked a question about the logo and the divisional names. What about the alignment? Do you see that changing. There's been a lot of discussion on these blogs about balance within each of the divisions.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Tom, we'll have to see how things go, but I think the alignment of the divisions is fine. You have two of the brand programs on each side (NEB/MICH, OSU/PSU) and create balance with Wisconsin and Iowa on opposite sides. I know that doesn't sit well from a rivalry standpoint, but the Big Ten did a good job of maintaining competitive balance and brand attractiveness of the divisions.
Why is Penn State not recruiting a Quarterback hard? I saw an article that they are telling recruits that they are not making an offer to a QB until May. At the end of spring, Newsome is gone or at a new position. Either Bolden, McGloin, or P.J. will transfer. Rumor is P.J. is not getting first team snaps. Shouldn't QB be a BIG priority?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Brad, you're assuming a lot of things. Will Penn State likely have a QB or two transfer? Yeah. But nothing has happened yet and you don't want to put yourself in a bind. Spring ball wraps up on April 16 and we should have some more answers about the Lions soon after that point.
Will Hoke beat OSU while Tressel is still the coach there?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Interesting question, Jay. He might have a shot this fall in Ann Arbor, depending on what type of state the Buckeyes are in at that point.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Hey guys, sorry to cut this short, but Ohio State's news conference is about to start and there already has been some news with Luke Fickell being elevated to assistant head coach. Great chat and we'll do it again soon!