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, I'm here. Ready for another great chat.
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
some of the betting site list Wisconsin as a favorite to win Leaders division followed by PSU. I know what you will say about this "don't write OSU off just yet b/c they still got talent" but come on Adam... you KNOW a team with new QB and new head coach won't win it all.. right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Ryan, you're absolutely right about the challenges Ohio State faces. But I refuse to dismiss a team that has won or shared the past six Big Ten championships, despite all the controversy. Ohio State could be better on defense than both Wisconsin and Penn State. And don't forget that both the Badgers and Lions must visit Columbus this year. That could be big in who wins the Leaders division.
Brandon (Milford, MI)
Hey Adam,My Spartan's are returning a lot of key guys from last years squad but will need to fill the hole left at linebacker after lossing Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. I believe they are deep enough at that position to do so. With that being said, is MSU your favorite to win the Big Ten this year? Especially now since OSU has quickly faded with the suspensions and the loss of Tressel and Pryor. If not, who do you like this year to go to the Rose Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Brandon, there's a lot I like about Michigan State, but two factors concern me: the road schedule and the offensive line. Michigan State won't just need one signature road win to claim a Big Ten title. It will need several. And it's hard to forget MSU's two ugly losses away from EL last season. Can the Spartans reverse the trend? Absolutely? But visiting Columbus, Lincoln, Iowa City and Evanston is no picnic. ... The offensive line will be a fascinating group to watch. It's never easy to replace both starting tackles plus the starting center in the same season. If that group holds up and builds some depth, look out for the Green and White.
I haven't seen too many questions about kickers, so here we go. Who's going to replace Alex Henery? Brett Maher looks like the guy for now, but Mauro Bondi has an impressive resume. Maher looked good in the spring game making 4 of 5, but it's hard to rule out Bondi. Agreed?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Spiegs, I totally agree. I'd be very surprised if Maher doesn't get the first crack at it. He did look impressive in the spring game. While Nebraska brought in Bondi for a reason, he'll have to have a good camp to close the gap on Maher. But to expect either guy to perform like Henery is unrealistic. Henery was truly special.
Do you think Wisconsin will win the Big Ten if Russel Wilson trensfers to Wisconsin and maybe even a national championship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Brooks, I'll say this: Russell Wilson makes Wisconsin a better team. How much better? It's tough to say without seeing him run the Badgers' offense for a few games. At the very least, he can make Jon Budmayr better by creating a more competitive situation at quarterback. Wilson would have to make a quick adjustment to Wisconsin, the Badgers' offense, the Big Ten, etc. It's asking a lot of him, but if he can do it, look out for Bucky.
Pete (Chicago )
I'm thinking both divisons in the B10 are wide open- don't you think (with the exception of Indiana) this is true?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Pete, I tend to agree. The Legends division always looked wide open to me as every team aside from possibly Minnesota contending for the title. Ohio State's situation makes the Leaders division more open as well, especially if teams like Penn State, Illinois and Purdue can take steps forward during the offseason.
Hey Adam, With the decommitments happening at OSU right now, and other offers wavering, in your opinion does that force the University and all involved to speed up the search for the future HC, if not Fickell? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Gregory, I could be wrong, but I don't think a new coach being brought in right now would make a huge difference in recruiting. The concern for these recruits is what happens to Ohio State with potential NCAA penalties coming down this fall. The future seems uncertain in Columbus, and it goes beyond who will be coaching the Buckeyes in 2012.
If we were looking for the Gophers to regain their 1960 form (last time they were national champs), would we be looking years, decades, or centuries into the future?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Jay, Minnesota has a long way to go to compete at the national championship level again. There are some inherent disadvantages with the program -- geography, funding -- that make it hard to compete with the nation's elite. Still, there's no reason why Minnesota can't be a consistent bowl team that occasionally competes for Big Ten championships. Jerry Kill looks like the coach who can get Minnesota back to that level.
Hey Adam. love the blog! Are you surprised how fast Hoke and his staff have turned this Michigan programs attitude & recruiting around? One of the top classes for 2012. I know this probably won't happen, but what do you think michigans chances are of winning the B1G? I mean, oLIEo state is down and other than them, there havent been many guaranteed leaders in the conference.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Tom, any time a new coach comes in, you see a spike in energy and enthusiasm. The circumstances surrounding Hoke, who he replaced at Michigan, the program's recent turmoil, etc., contributed to the buzz you're seeing right now. His recruiting has impressed me and surprised me a bit but not that much. When he brought Greg Mattison aboard, you could expect an uptick in recruiting. ... Now I don't want to squash all the optimism in Ann Arbor, but I don't see Michigan as a legit Big Ten title contender this year. Too many question marks, too many changes. We'll see some growing pains with that team, and while the defense will be improved, you can't expect a complete turnaround in Year 1.
Hey Adam,Is this the start of a new era at Wisconsin? BB is going after a very strong QB in Wilson and we have Bart Houston to look forward to coming up. Are the Badgers moving towards a more balanced offense in the coming years instead of the typical heavy run game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Brian, the run-oriented offense has done wonders for Wisconsin, so I'd be stunned to see any major departure from it. But what Wisconsin also offers is a chance for quarterbacks to compete in a pro-style system that could help them reach the NFL. Having a top coordinator like Paul Chryst certainly helps, too. I think Wisconsin really benefits from being a non-spread offense. The Badgers can be a bit different when they go out and recruit QBs like Bart Houston.
What is your prediction for Notre Dame in its "mini Big Ten schedule?" -- at Michigan, Michigan State, at Purdue ... 3-0? 2-1? less?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Mike, I see the Irish going 2-1 or 1-2. Notre Dame could be favored against Michigan, but Michigan has all the intangibles on its side with the first night game at the Big House. The ND-Michigan State game is fascinating after what happened last year and both teams' potential to be really good this fall. ND likely will be favored at Purdue, but the Boilers boast some talent.
Alex (Des Moines)
You've talked several times about how Iowa seems to do better when expectations are low. Those low expectation years typically coincide with when we lose key offensive players and we have a lot of unknowns on offense. I've always thought this has something to do with how predictable we are on O; the only time defenses can't stop us is when they don't know who the playmakers to key on are!
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Alex, you might be right, but Iowa also has established continuity at some positions where good players are replaced by good players. I know fans get frustrated with Ken O'Keefe and the offense, but if the line blocks well and the players execute the scheme, good things typically happen.
Hey Adam, what are the odds Justice Hayes and/or Thomas Rawls come in and steal the starting running back position as true freshmen for the Wolverines?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Thomas Rawls is a name to note, as a lot of Michigan fans think he could emerge as a playmaker this fall. While both freshmen have a chance to compete, I'm particularly interested in how Stephen Hopkins performs. He's a bigger back who might be more suited to Al Borges' offense than the spread.
Bill (Hoosier Nation)
Adam, with the departure of Ben Chappell, I don't think a pass heavy offense like ours has a viable quarterback option. Should I just focus on the Colts? I'm not sure I can watch any of our games if that is the case. Got any hope for me?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Bill, I wouldn't dismiss the Hoosiers too easily. While the quarterback situation is a big mystery, the starter will benefit from one of the league's best WR/TE groups. And if Darius Willis can somehow stay healthy, the run game could be decent. Kevin Wilson has produced great QBs and WRs, but he doesn't neglect the run game. A guy like Willis could take a ton of pressure off of Kiel or Wright-Baker.
Frank (Minot, ND)
Adam, every year I get more and more excited for the season to start. Last year was kind of disappointing with the all the games the Huskers lost being so close. I think our Defense will again be great, and if our offense stays healthy and gets clicking, what are the chances I am dissappointed again or will they be pretty dominant over our conferrence opponents?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Frank, if Nebraska's offense performs more consistently for an entire season, I doubt you'll be disappointed. I would tell you to be mindful of the schedule, however. Nebraska could be a very good team that drops a few games because of a very challenging Big Ten slate. Coaches often talk about it's not who you play but when you play 'em. Nebraska could be facing several teams at tough times of the season. I'm not saying the Huskers can't win the Big Ten, but if they finish 9-3 or 10-2, I wouldn't be devastated.
Where does Illinois' offensive line stack up with the rest of the BIG?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Carl, I believe it's one of the best. Jeff Allen is one of the Big Ten's best and most experienced offensive tackles. He's a guy who can definitely play at the next level. I also like Graham Pocic at center and several of the other linemen. Getting Corey Lewis back from injury will be big. Illinois showed it can bully teams up front, and there's reason to get excited about this group.
Chad (Chicago, IL)
Adam -- what's the bigger early challenge for the Northwestern defense: at Boston College, or facing the Army triple-option at West Point? And do you believe (as I do) that getting Persa back (along with his ability to maintain drives) will help the NU defense stay rested?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Chad, the triple-option is a bigger challenge because it's a unique scheme, but it's also important for Northwestern's defense to get some confidence at Boston College. The Eagles aren't a dynamic offensive team, but after getting stomped in the final three games of 2010, Northwestern must get its swagger back. ... Persa's presence certainly can keep the defense a bit more rested. Despite running the spread offense, Northwestern doesn't make a ton of big plays and can control the clock with sustained drives and moving the chains. An improved run game also can help here.
with iowa playing 9 teams this year that feature a spread offense (something iowa traditionally struggles with), is it now time to change the 4-3 vanilla look that norm parker features?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Tim, I know there's some talk about Iowa playing more 3-4 this year, but I don't know if Kirk Ferentz feels he has enough at linebacker to do so. If Iowa can find 5-6 solid defensive linemen, it will continue to operate in a system that has worked for the most part. The good news is Iowa boasts a secondary that features several playmakers (Hyde, Prater). That group will be huge against spread teams.
What does PSU have to do to have a chance against 'bama? With Ingram and McElroy gone I think if we win the turnover battle our defense will keep us right there and one or two plays could go a long way in deciding this game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Bingo, Lance. As you know, Penn State had its chances last year in Tuscaloosa. Several of them, in fact. But the Lions would screw up every time they reached Tide territory. That simply can't happen against a team like this one. Penn State needs to keep this a low-scoring game and cash in on possessions that reach Bama territory.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Short of a national title tell me a scenario that has Luke Fickle as the 2012 head coach for the Buckeyes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Bren, always good to hear from someone in my hometown. I don't know if it's national title or bust for Fickell (keep in mind a bowl ban could be imposed for this year). One question is whether Ohio State wants a clean break from the Tressel tree or whether a guy like Fickell makes sense for 2012 and beyond. I think if he guides Ohio State to a division title and keeps off-field issues to a minimum, he deserves a look for the permanent job. He'll need to impress the right people for sure.
TJ (FL) [via mobile]
Adam, with the new news coming from the Ohio BMV as well as the NCAA allogations released to North Carolina, who do you think is worse off at this point? Does the NC allogations help or hurt OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
TJ, I know everyone loves to make comparisons, but these really are separate cases. The Bruce Pearl-Jim Tressel scenarios certainly have some parallels, but I'd caution you people and some of my media colleagues from constantly trying to draw links between different schools. The BMV report bodes well for Ohio State, but I still think memorabilia sales are the big concern going forward. How many of the allegations are true? Were memorabilia sales a systematic problem? Did Ohio State adequately monitor its players and individuals outside the program? These are the critical questions in my view.
Jeff` (Lincoln, NE)
Any more news on Bubba Starling Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Nothing I've heard, Jeff. He's still planning to report to Lincoln in July. Startling certainly has a tough decision to make. He seems like a really unique guy, so he could surprise us with what he decides.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Adam,I tend to agree with the link you posted a week or two ago about Penn State needing to end the Rob Bolden saga (I believe it was a PennLive piece). It feels as though the inmate is running the prison in this case. If the kid can't commit to his teammates, it causes a chain reaction in the locker room that can only end in fallout of some sort or another. At least Ginger (McGlizzle) and Paul Jones are committed to the team, if Bolden can't make up his mind if he wants to be there, why not let these two have at it for the job? A player shouldn't expect something to be handed to him on a platter, nor should the player have the ability to hold a program hostage.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Brett, I understand your frustration, and you're not alone on Bolden. It would be beneficial for everyone involved to know his intentions for the long term. He needs to be aware of the potential implications his waiting has on the locker room, although I didn't get a sense there were any issues when I was in State College this spring. The thing I'd say for Bolden is that he has remained academically eligible, stayed out of trouble, etc. His teammates don't seem to be upset with him or the uncertainty. We'll see what happens, but I get the sense there's more angst outside the Lasch Building than inside it.
Adam, I'm a little worried about the B1G will fare in their non-conference games. Some of the marquee games will be tough, tough wins. How much will it hurt the conference's national reputation if PSU loses to Bama, OSU loses to Miami, ND sweeps the B1G teams, etc.?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
An Ohio State loss and a sweep by Notre Dame would hurt the Big Ten more than a Penn State loss to Alabama, which most people expect. The Penn State-Alabama game has the most potential upside for the Big Ten without a lot of downside. Losing multiple games to Notre Dame, meanwhile, wouldn't help the Big Ten's national rep. There are other games that will shape things as well (Illinois-Arizona State, Wisconsin-Oregon State, Minnesota-USC, Nebraska-Washington).
Assuming the 1st year record ends up about the same, do you see Michigan giving Brady Hoke more or less time than they did Rich Rod in getting Michigan back to a competitive level?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
More time, definitely. Michigan understands the dangers of changing coaches every 3-4 years. Hoke has to prove he can win championships at this level, but he'll have some time to get his players in the program.
Adam:Braxton Miller as 2011 freshman of the year??? It could be.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Jeff, it's certainly possible. If an Ohio State freshman wins the starting quarterback job and performs decently, he has a good chance of winning the award based on visibility. We haven't had a quarterback win Freshman of the Year since Terrelle Pryor in 2008, so we're due for one.
Adam, How was your Memorial Day, again? My crystal ball says some breaking B1G news will happen July 4th!
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Yep, and I'll be vacationing on Vancouver Island. Brian Bennett, it's your problem, pal!
Adam,Are the Badgers ok without JJ Watt this year? I know Henry is going to step up and try to be a leader on D but JJ was a beast! Also, please tell RW to hurry up and make his decision, I can't take it anymore
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
JJ certainly will be missed, Brian. Few defenders in college football helped their teams in as many ways as JJ helped Wisconsin last season. It likely will take a collective effort to replace Watt, so keep an eye on Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert and Brendan Kelly, who came on this spring. DT Patrick Butrym also is taking at lead role. Although Wisconsin might have the Big Ten's top secondary this season, a defense typically must draw leadership from the front seven.
Ashley (Lincoln, NE)
Sorry Jeff, Jamal Turner will be the B1G freshman of the year!
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Another good option, Ashley. Turner was extremely impressive in the spring game, and he plays a position (wide receiver) where Nebraska needs contributors to emerge. I'm interested to see how Nebraska uses Turner this fall.
Would the conference's reputation be hurt by Nebraska winning the conference, given their last Big 12 title was in '99?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Really good question, Matt, and one we'll explore a lot before the season. Some people might have a hard time accepting Nebraska as a Big Ten program for several years, so a Huskers title in Year 1 might hurt the league's national rep. A lot could depend on what the Huskers do in a bowl game. If Nebraska wins the Big Ten but flops in, say, Pasadena, it won't look good for the league.
Adam, with 2 bloggers now working for the Big 10, I am sure you will have to fight over covering some top games. As a result can we expect to see Rittenberg Vs. Bennett on ESPN's Friday night fights this fall?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Haha, I'm sure you'd be disappointed if you did. As I'll probably mention 5,000 times before the season starts, neither Bennett nor I decide which games we attend. Those decision are made by the editors in Bristol. We just go where we're told.
Adam, Assuming both Michigan and Notre Dame achieve results better than their 2010 seasons respectively, which win will earn more points in national perception for Michigan State? A win at home vs Michigan OR a win on the road against Notre Dame? A win against Michigan would make it four in a row for the first time in the history of the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Interesting question, Alden. Road wins almost always carry more weight than home wins, so a victory in South Bend probably helps Michigan State's perception more than beating Michigan again. Where it really helps MSU is because of the Spartans' road games that follow (Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern). A win in South Bend could really spark the Spartans for the rest of their tough road slate.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
What would it mean for the program if the Gophers beat USC? How about for Kill?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
It would be huge, the biggest win for the program in recent memory. USC might not be USC, but a win at the Coliseum, especially after a coaching transition, would do wonders for Kill and the Minnesota program.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Another good chat in the books.