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 everyone, ready for your questions. Let's go.
Adam, what's your take on the OSU Assistants hired by Meyer? Are they as "top shelf" as Meyer promised?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Good question, Brian. I think it's a strong staff, but Meyer really raised expectations at his introductory news conference. Not sure Tom Herman and Everrett Withers are the big names Buckeyes fans thought they'd be getting, although they should work out well in C-bus. Herman could be a rising star. I was a little surprised how many assistants Meyer retained from the previous staff.
Hey Adam, love the blog! I've seen you and Brian mention some possible changed to the Big 10 bowl lineup starting in 2014. Do you have any specific details yet? When could we expect an official announcement regarding the future bowls?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Nothing official for a while, Mike, as the Big Ten is only now gathering information about the bowls and any potential changes it might make. But with the upcoming Pac-12 partnership, it makes total sense to align more with the Pac-12 in bowls. There are several bowl games the Big Ten plays that have more risk than reward. Would be surprised if we don't see several changes and at least one more Pac-12 tie-in.
Eddie (Hoboken, NJ)
I asked you last week about assistants for Penn State and we agreed that it would be very critical to hire the right ones for this long term project. Now that we know more.... TED ROOF?!? Really?? Is this the best we could do? The guys being brought in have almost NO buzz behind them... what is your opinion of the guys brought in?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
The Roof hire is the one that seems to be upsetting Penn State fans. I agree it's a bit questionable, but O'Brien obviously has close ties to Roof after working for him at Duke and alongside him at Ga Tech. I think O'Brien kept the right assistants on defense (Johnson, Vanderlinden). The offense, meanwhile, is O'Brien's area of expertise and we'll evaluate him there as the play-caller in 2012. Overall, I like some of the hires and have questions about others.
Does the constant RB turnover at Iowa hurt recruiting or help it? I can see on one hand a high school RB would want to avoid Iowa as there is something about it that appears to be a career-ender. On the other hand maybe a high school RB would jump at the chance to have plenty of playing time due to a shallow dept chart. So which is it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Interesting take, Joe. Can't really see how the situation helps Iowa, although young backs who want to see the field could see the Hawkeyes as an opportunity to do so. But I know the coaches would rather have Robinson, Coker, McCall and Hampton still on the roster. Hasn't been a good situation.
Tommy (Auburn Hills, MI)
How much of an impact is there in terms of recruiting when a program starts to have high level draft picks on a yearly basis? MSU hasn't had that since Saban left but now we're starting to get that trend back with Worthy this year, Gholston next year, and possibly Lawrence Thomas the year after that.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Tommy, there's undoubtedly a positive impact in recruiting when you consistently have players drafted, especially in the top three rounds. Things seem to be pointing that way in East Lansing. I also think the schemes on both sides of the ball help Michigan State in recruiting players who want to reach the next level. Wisconsin has benefited in recruiting from maintaining a pro-style offense. Same with Iowa. Michigan State has a similar system.
Nick Saban (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Wow! I won my third championship and I have tons of years left and plethora of SEC talent to dominate. Adam, I love the SEC love fest in the Big ten blog. How good is this Michigan team? Will they attempt to run the ball against my team. Will they cross 50 yd line?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Nick, I think your Tide will get a better test from Michigan's offense at JerryWorld. Al Borges certainly will have a better game plan than the LSU coaches, who played the game in a phone booth. Michigan will try to establish the run with two 1,000-yard rushers (Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint). And the Wolverines also will attack more than LSU did.
What's your take on Bret Bielema and Wisconsin's slow response to the coaching exodus... Cause for concern or smart to take their time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
To be fair, BiLo, the AFCA coaches convention just wrapped up, and Bielema undoubtedly has been looking for some replacements. He had to be prepared for Chryst's eventual departure, and he has a good track record of hiring assistants (Doeren, Huxtable, Ash). So I would sit tight and be patient for now.
Do you have any inside scoop on how the BSC talks are currently going? Or do you know when we might here anything out of that? It would be nice to see a plus one for college football and still have the regular bowl games for everyone else.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
David, things are moving toward a plus-one format. There's momentum for it like we've never seen before. The commissioners will meet 5-7 times during the next six months, and hopefully we've have a more definitive answer by the summer (July).
Adam, MSU fans complained a lot this year about being left out of the BCS, but they got left out last year too (when they actually qualified). Is this because they aren't a national brand compared to schools like Wisconsin, OSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
As you refer to, Michigan State technically didn't get left out this year because the Spartans weren't BCS-eligible after the league title game. Regarding 2010, the brand-name argument certainly played into the Sugar Bowl's selection of Ohio State. The Sugar Bowl showed this year that it values familiarity, and Ohio State had been in New Orleans for the 2007 BCS title game. All this said, Michigan State is building its national brand and should be more appealing as an at-large team in the coming years.
With a full year under his belt, what does Jerry Kill need to do to get the Gophers back to a Bowl in 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
He needs to build on the positive momentum from the end of the season and make significant upgrades on defense. I think the offense will be pretty solid in 2012, as MarQueis Gray enters his second year in the system. The defense is the area that still concerns me. Minnesota needs more of a pass rush and must replace Kim Royston at safety.
Although the season just ended, looking into 2012, do you think Michigan will make the Big Ten Championship game? It should be a test next year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
The schedule gets significantly tougher, Justin. Michigan in 2012 could be a lot like Michigan State in 2011: a better team than the previous one but a team with a worse record. Now MSU still won the Legends division and Michigan will be right there in the mix, but the Wolverines will have to be better on the road as they visit Lincoln and Columbus, not to mention South Bend and Dallas (neutral site game with Alabama) in non-league play. Michigan was brilliant in the Big House but just so-so away from it this year.
Any inside info if Tom Bradley interviewed for the Iowa DC Job, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Tom, there's some talk that Iowa is in the mix for Bradley. Maryland and UCLA also mentioned as possible destinations for Scrap. Think he'd be an excellent hire for Iowa, but how long will he remain in a DC role? You know he wants to be a head coach, and Ferentz doesn't like much staff turnover.
Seems like Northwestern is starting to rope in some big time, 4-star recruits. How is next year's class shaping up?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Adam, this is looking like the best recruiting class Pat Fitzgerald has had at Northwestern. And it comes at a good time, too, as the team is lacking talent on the defensive side. Ifeadi Odenigbo's pledge is huge, but Northwestern will need several defenders in this class and the previous two to contribute early in their careers. Simply not enough playmakers on that side of the ball.
Megan (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Now that Coker has left Iowa, where would you put the Hawkeyes in your pre-season rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Brian and I actually discuss this in our podcast later today, but after the top five teams (MSU, Mich, Wis, OSU, Neb), it's pretty wide open in the Big Ten next year. Iowa is probably in that 6-8 range in the league, as there are big questions on both sides of the ball (RB, DL).
Danny (New Jersey)
What are the chances of Oregon reaching a 4th straight BCS bowl next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Ah, a Pac-12 question. Nice. While Stanford will take a step back in 2012, Oregon will be pushed by USC, which won this year in Eugene. Both teams could end up reaching BCS bowls, and I'd be surprised if they don't meet in the Pac-12 title game. You could see teams like Stanford and Washington push Oregon and USC, but those squads are clearly the class of the conference.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
Do you think Luke Fickell focusing stricly on defense will improve the unit in 2012? I know they had some losses going into 2012 but the defense really struggled at times and that is not typical Ohio State.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Yeah, there was nothing typical about Ohio State's defense this season. One thing many folks forgot with all the suspensions and Terrelle Pryor's exit was the fact Ohio State lost a bunch of production on defense from the 2010 squad. This will be a more seasoned defense and most likely a deeper one in 2012. And yes, I think Fickell will be able to put his stamp on the unit along with Withers, Vrabel and the others.
With the 2017 Pac 10 tie in what's the chance that ND gets shut out of the Big 10 schedule? I mean you only want so many hard non-conference games and frankly ND needs the big 10 way more at this point than the big ten needs them.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Erik, while I somewhat agree that playing Notre Dame doesn't help the Big Ten nearly as much as it used to, you won't see the Irish disappearing from Big Ten teams' schedules. Purdue AD Morgan Burke has said he wants to play Notre Dame for the next 800 years. Michigan State also values the ND rivalry, although AD Mark Hollis is a creative guy who thinks outside the box as well. Still, would expect to see both MSU and Michigan playing ND almost every year. The exposure of playing ND still helps Big Ten programs. That's why Northwestern recently added a home-and-home with the Irish.
Any one in the big ten going to take a chance on me?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
This is Marcus Coker by the way (not the real Marcus Coker), but the question is more whether you'd want to transfer to another Big Ten program. They make it tough for players to move within the league, so it wouldn't surprise me to see you end up closer to home with an ACC program. But that's just speculating at this point.
I am surprised so many think Sparty will be a top 10 team next year. They lose a ton on the offensive side. I realize the D is good, but the defense did give up some points in games (Wisconsin).
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
That's true, Chris, but one thing to remember is that Michigan State's offense will be different in 2012. The offensive line will be older and deeper, and running back Le'Veon Bell will be featured much more in the offense. So while losing Cousins, Cunningham, Martin, etc., is a big deal, Michigan State will transition into a more run-based attack. And the defense will once again be very, very good.
You say there's momentum for a +1 in the BCS...has Delaney gotten on board yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
He's worried that a plus-one leads to a bigger playoff (8 teams, etc.), but he's at least open to the idea. He sees the writing on the wall and the momentum for something different.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City)
So, uh...free pass for me again? No heat for the fact that I'm having more transfers and arrests than wins? Sweet...
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Zing. While I do think the running back situation is pretty unlucky, the number of personnel issues the past four or five seasons is unusual. But I don't think you get free passes from the fans, who demand more. Iowa should be winning 8-10 games a year, not just avoiding those 4- or 5-win seasons.
Any chance PSU goes with a new QB next year instead of the unproductive QB's we had this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
With a new coach (Bill O'Brien) coming in, the QB situation should be wide open entering 2012. Will Paul Jones finally enter the mix? Could happen. McGloin will be back and Bolden is on board for now, but Penn State has to evaluate all of its options.
Saw today that Kyle Prater is considering three Big Ten teams. Is this transfer a new development or do you have any idea which way he might be leaning? Seems like Wisconsin would be the best fit among the three.
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Prater announced earlier this week that he's transferring from USC. As an Illinois native, he wants to be closer to home. The three schools in the mix are Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois. His mom told the Chicago Tribune it's between Wisconsin and Northwestern, but Kyle himself is also keeping Illinois in the mix. Wisconsin would be a decent fit, but both Northwestern and Illinois have produced some very good receivers. Northwestern passes the ball a ton, and Illinois likely will in a spread system under Tim Beckman.
bucky (Lake Tahoe)
Adam, you have stated that its hard to believe the Badgers lost 3 games with the talent they had. I agree. Although I think their defenes was overrated much of the year. Over the years the Badgers either over achieve when expectations are low or under achieve when expectations are high. Why is this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
While that's somewhat true, Wisconsin had high expectations last year and met them. And despite three losses this year, the Badgers still won the Big Ten and reached the Rose Bowl. Your point about the defense is valid. It's one of those units that wasn't as good as its numbers indicated. Some good players on the unit -- Taylor, Borland, Fenelus -- but no difference-maker like JJ Watt.
Stick'um Salesman (Lincoln, NE)
I just moved into town because I heard that there might be a profit to be made here. Any chance that the receiving corps makes vast improvements and I could be out of a job by the end of the year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Haha, I would rent and not buy if I were you. Nebraska's receiving corps should be much better in 2012 with another year of experience and another offseason in Tim Beck's system. Kenny Bell came on strong at the end of the year, and others like Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner should take on bigger roles this coming season. I really like the potential in Lincoln.
I know its way too early (hasn't stopped your coworkers from predicting next years yet!) but what's your honest gut feeling about the outcome of the Michigan-Bama game in Jerryworld next fall?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
I don't think Michigan will win, but the Wolverines will give Alabama a better game than LSU did and could really give the Tide a scare. Michigan's offense will need to be a lot better than it was in the Sugar Bowl, but Alabama's defense won't be quite as dominant. Should be a fun game.
What do you think is the B1G's problem in bowl games? Is getting 2 teams in the BCS creating tougher matchups for the other teams, or is it something more? ...talent deficit?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
It's all of the above, Brian. But I do think the lineup sets the Big Ten up for failure, especially because the league consistently sends two teams to BCS bowls. I'm not saying get rid of Cap One and Outback. But the league should really evaluate whether the other bowls help more than they hurt.
Bob Marley (Cary NC)
Will Montee Ball hurt his draft status next year? New O-line. New coaches. But we do admire him for taking his 'student-athlete' role seriously.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Is this really Bob Marley? Awesome. ... Montee realizes the gamble he's taking by coming back to school. But he wants to see how he does at a slightly bigger size (215) and whether he can address questions about pass blocking and so forth. He realizes another 1,900-yard season will be tough, but he can become a better football player despite some new faces around him. Should be interesting to watch.
In your estimation, will UM keep the top recruiting class in the B1G or can Urban Meyer close the gap in the next few weeks?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Lucas, it'll be interesting, but ultimately the evaluation of those two classes will be pretty comparable. It's subjective which one is better, but both Michigan and Ohio State have loaded up for 2012.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Beyond Paul Jones, do you think Skyler Mornhinweg will compete since he's a prototypical pro style quarterback? Wouldn't one think the hire could potentially solidify his commitment to PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Mornhinweg is on board, from everything I've heard. While it's tough to expect him to compete right away, O'Brien should keep an open mind with the position, which underachieved this season by any measure.
James D. (Park Ridge)
This year the +1 model takes two SEC teams, the Big 12 champ and the Pac 10 team that didn't win their conference... Tell me why I should support this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Haha. Well, maybe you geniuses will figure out a better way to determine the top 4. You've supported the BCS rankings formula to this point, so you've got to live with it or change it.
Which bowl games do you think the Big Ten should honestly go after for the 2014 season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Kraft Fight Hunger makes a lot of sense. Lot of Big Ten fans in the Bay Area, and others would travel out there in late December. You're facing a Pac-12 foe, too. Big Ten also needs to evaluate the viability of bowls in cold-weather cities and whether it's worth entering a game like the Pinstripe Bowl.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
It may be a technicality, but didn't the NCAA impose a 2 Bowl ban if they prohibited OSU from playing in the B1G Conference Championship. I believe with USC the NCAA simply banned the Trojans from bowl games and the Pac-12 imputed the conference championship ban....shouldn't the conferences decide who can and cannot play in thier championship games, not the NCAA?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Don't really follow your question, Bren. The Big Ten announced that teams banned from postseason play by the NCAA wouldn't be eligible for the league title game. So the conferences are deciding, not just the NCAA.
Alex (Davenport, IA)
Is JVB cemented as Iowa's starting QB next year or are Sokol and Ruddock going to give him a run for his money.
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Alex, I don't think Vandenberg should simply be handed the job. He put up some nice numbers but struggled down the stretch and away from home. While I'd expect him to be the starter, he should face a little pressure from the others. In this case, competition could help Iowa at QB.
Michigan 2012 projected wins ... over/under 9.5?Remember, they could go to B1G champ game with 9-3 record ... losses to Alabama, ND, and non-division foe ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Chris, that's a really good point, and I'm glad Big Ten fans are catching onto the importance of division games vs. non-division games. A Michigan loss to Ohio State likely won't hurt Michigan nearly as much as losses to Michigan State and Nebraska. So if Michigan can end its slide to MSU and win in Lincoln, it should be in great shape to reach the title game.
Jake (San Diego)
Who has the biggest shoes to fill next year? Andrew Maxwell?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
He's definitely up there, Jake. The QB replacing Russell Wilson at Wisconsin also qualifies in my book.
Any update on Stonum's status? That's a lot of strikes to still be on the team.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
As far as a final decision, there hasn't been one. Think we could hear something in the next few weeks. And yes, I agree on the strikes. Too many to remain on the team.
Who do you think is going to bring the most potent offense to the table in the B1G in 2012? Nebraska seems to have the inside track with all the skill returning, and although they are losing 3 starters on the O-line, they were able to rotate in a lot of young talent this year due to key injuries.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Tony, Nebraska and Michigan come to mind. Both units return most of their starters from the 2011 season. Nebraska needs to shore up its offensive line, and Michigan must replace star center David Molk and top receiver Junior Hemingway. I also think Ohio State will be a much-improved offense with this coaching staff. And while Wisconsin loses a lot, the Badgers are still set up to rack up yards and points with Montee Ball carrying the football.
If Delaney is so concerned about preserving the sanctity of the Rose Bowl, why not just remove it from the BCS rotation (in the event of a +1)? PAC and B1G teams would still get their BCS invites, and the Rose Bowl could still fill up with other schools from said conferences.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
That's an option, Scott, but in many cases you would seeing the Big Ten No. 2 or No. 3 team vs. the Pac-12 No. 2 or No. 3 team. Not sure that's what Delany wants, but there's really no way to consistently preserve the Big Ten champ-Pac-12 champ matchup in Pasadena with a plus-one system. If the Rose is designated as a semifinal game, it could be SEC vs. Big 12 or Big Ten vs. ACC.
If we ever go to an actual playoff system, what do you think the proper number of teams are. I'd vote 8 as it keeps the regular season important, and any team beyond that probably isn't good enough anyways.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Mark, I've been a plus-one guy, and if an eight-team playoff is organized the right way, I'd be in favor of it. But I'm not for a 16-team playoff at all. Too many teams. Even an eight-team deal leaves me with some questions, but I could get behind the right format.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Any chance the fans let me move Denard to WR since thats his obvious pro location?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Haha, given the number of fans who email me about Devin Gardner, I don't know if you'd get much pushback. But we both know Denard is a quarterback, at least for now!
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, everyone, time's up. Enjoyed the chat. Let's do it again soon!