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, I'm here. Let's get started.
Adam settle a bet- who would you take for your RB for this upcoming year: Fitz Toussaint or LeVeon Bell?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Wow, very tough question right off the bat. Two excellent options. Loved the way Fitz finished last season and I probably would lean toward him heading into 2012. That said, Bell's physical gifts are off the charts, and I like bigger running backs. Bell will be a really good player by the time he's done at MSU.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Adam, do you think the Hawkeyes have been too reliant on the run game these past couple of years and that's part of what led to their two underperforming season? Iowa has had powerful running backs proven and ready to start these last two years, maybe it's better that they don't this year as it forces the team to fully consider all scoring options as part of a game plan.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Ted, I think your question is rooted more in perception than reality. The reality is Iowa passed the ball a lot in 2011. Hawkeyes put some some of their biggest passing numbers in the Kirk Ferentz era. Iowa wasn't an overly effective rushing team, but Marcus Coker did his part. I think Iowa will be more pass-happy this year as it searches for help at the RB spot. But I don't think it's ever a good thing when a team is thin at RB.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
So again the B1G will be getting the short end of the deal. The "neutral site" games for the playoff will be in the locations that favor the Big 12, SEC, and the Pac 12. If we want to support our teams in the post-season we will have to travel to 2 different locations within a week, and just after Christmas when most people travel to see our families? Are they not even thinking of the fans in this plan? Also they players, if they want great football why are they making them play another game? Imagine how the offensive and defensive lines will feel after 14 games and now have to play in the hardest game yet. They won't be able to play their best ball and the game will be horrible.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Ted, a lot of good points here. I spoke with Ohio State AD Gene Smith about the toll so many games takes on players. Here's what he said: "These coaches taper off toward the end of the season for a reason. When you get to that 14th, 15th, 16th game, those kids are taking a beating." Also a good point about the travel issue. I think it's imperative that venues in the Midwest bid for and earn the right to host the national championship.
I was really hoping to see semifinal games on campus. The atmosphere's created by that would be phenomenal. They're taking a step backward with that decision! Anyway, if it will be neutral site games, do you think they'll ever select an outdoor venue like Chicago's Soldier Field for a playoff game? That would be awesome!
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Jerome, while it would be awesome, I'd be absolutely stunned if it ever happened. These are major national events, and too many things can go wrong, in the eyes of the commissioners, by having the game outdoors. It's why you never see the Super Bowl at a cold-weather site -- too much risk for such a big event. While I wish it were different, I also understand the need to have things go smoothly.
Adam, it sounds like Delaney is going to have to choose between On-Campus semi's or The Rose Bowl. I think OCS would be better for the fans, teams, and B1G as a whole...but which will Delaney go with if he only has once choice?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Ben, I'm not sure Delany will have a choice as the on-campus plan has lost a lot of support it seems. I think Delany must aim for having as many neutral-site games in the Midwest as possible, whether it's the semifinals or the national title game. Big Ten fans deserve that.
Brady Hoke (Ann Arbor)
Which impresses you more, my o-line recruiting haul over the last two classes, or Ohio's d-line haul?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Ah, good question, Brady. Ohio State's D-line haul has received more national attention because of the big names. But you've done very well on the recruiting trail, piling up players who fit your system and Al Borges' post-Denard vision for the offense. It should be fun to see those two groups of recruits go at it in the coming years.
Kurt E (Chesapeake, Virginia)
Adam, 2 yeasr ago, many people stated that the fast start that Michigan State got off to was the result of a favorable schedule. This season, MSU's only out of state game in the first 9 games is at Indiana. Lets say MSU starts 7-0 or even 9-0...how many people will say that it was the result of a favorable schedule instead of MSU being a good team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Kurt, there will always be those who try to discredit teams to prop up other teams. So there will be criticism out there. But going to Ann Arbor won't be easy, and Michigan State also must visit Madison and win the Big Ten title game (if it qualifies). The talk about favorable schedules will be there, but beating a team like Boise State, no matter where the game is played, resonates in my book.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Adam,The BIG 10 released their primetime schedule for the upcoming season,is there a game not on the list that you would love to see under the lights?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Phillip, there are several. As many B1G blog readers know, I'm a big fan of night football and hope the Big Ten eventually scraps its silly view against November night games. Would love to see Michigan State-Michigan at night, although I do understand the concern Michigan has about crowd control, etc. It'd also be great to see Ohio State-Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Penn State at night, but both games are after Nov. 1.
I used to often make fun of your appearance along with some other readers. I feel it is now only fair to note that you have considerably stepped it up and consistently appear to have at least combed your hair and not put on a wrinkled shirt you found in your trunk. Congrats, maybe you will make it to television.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Ha, thanks, Lucas. I guess. While I doubt I'll ever be pretty enough for TV, I'm doing my best not to look especially schlubby, as my wife often says, for the video hits.
Harrison (Chicago, IL)
Adam, can you clarify how the neutral site games will feed into the BCS? Will these be extra games, with the losers going to the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, or Rose, or will these games be bowl games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Harrison, my understanding is that if the semifinals take place at the bowl sites, those will serve as the bowl games for that year. If they don't, there will be separate bowl matchups independent of the playoffs. I don't envision a scenario where semifinal losers would go to BCS bowls. But again, a lot still must be worked out.
Where is illinois biggest weak spot?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Offensive skill. Illinois had very little depth at WR and loses its best option in A.J. Jenkins. Darius Millines is a talented guy, but he struggles to stay healthy. The running back depth is a concern, despite Josh Ferguson's strong spring game. I'd also include offensive line here as the Illini must get better up front after a disappointing end to 2011.
Michael C. (Chicago)
Adam, how does the "smaller stadium" argument hold any weight when most of the B1G stadiums hold upwards of 70,000 and are located in/near major cities? That seems like an excuse to avoid the issue of on-site home playoff games. And even going beyond the B1G, I'm fairly certain MOST major college football facilities hold sizable crowds every week during the season...
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Totally agree, Michael. And the smaller stadium argument doesn't apply to the Big Ten. The commissioners are using the rise of teams like TCU and Oregon, who play in smaller facilities, to keep the bowl sites relevant with semifinals. It's really amazing the lengths the commissioners will go to to please the bowls.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Especially when campus sites benefit the fans.
Reese Morgan (Iowa City)
I've got some young faces here, but who's my best D lineman right now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
I think when Dominic Alvis returns, he'll give you a nice boost as long as his knee holds up. He impressed me at times last year. Steve Bigach is a veteran presence. And I read and hear good things about Trinca-Pasat and Cooper.
Love the 3 prime time night games for the Huskers! I think this will give us some great coverage and allow us to show off the all black unis! But what goes into selecting these games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Still holding out hope for the all-black unis, are we? While Nebraska will shake things up a bit uniform wise, I wouldn't hold my breath on seeing dramatic changes. But yes, three night games, including two at home, certainly put Nebraska on the big stage during its second year in the B1G.
The D (D-Troit)
Can we please see Arizona and Arkansas play in a bowl this year? The Underachiever Bowl? I think UM and MSU fans would finally be able to laugh together.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Would rather see Michigan or Michigan State face a team like Arkansas. Would be a fun matchup of two good teams.
Rittenberg, in your opinion what should the fate of the marquee bowl games be if/when the 4-team playoff is implemented? Should they have conference tie-ins like non-BCS games do now or should the 4 bowls have the freedom to pick the top teams not in the playoff regardless of conference affiliation?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Ryan, I'm a fan of seeing better games. I don't like seeing 8-4 vs. 11-1. The Rose Bowl is the only game where league tie-ins truly matter. I'd much rather see games arranged by the quality of the teams, not which leagues they come from.
Rick M. (Valdosta, Ga.)
Adam, Could this possibly be one of the most exciting and anticapated years in Big Ten history? Both leagues seem to be wide open. The Legends have 3 teams in Mich, Mich St. & Neb all thinking Pasadena while the Leaders seems to be open from top to bottom. With Urban Meyer in the mix, Michigan playing the defending national champions and Mich. St. opening it up with Boise St., and the first season without Mr. Paterno on the sidelines. this season cannot get here fast enough.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Completely agree, Rick. With so many coaching changes (assistant and head coach), the Big Ten will be a very interesting league to watch. I think the Legends division looks a lot stronger, but the Leaders could be a very wild ride. Is it September yet?
Jeff M (Madison, WI)
Hi Adam, what do you think Brett Bielema needs to do to attract higher ranked recruiting classes? He has been very successful with average ranked classes, but it makes you wonder what Wisconsin could do with a top 25 recruiting class.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Jeff, Wisconsin always will be a developmental program to some degree, a designation both Bret and Barry Alvarez welcome. But the Badgers can start aiming for nationally elite recruits at certain positions like RB and OL. Wisconsin can sell its NFL track record, its pro-style offense, etc. The key, in my mind, will be Wisconsin being able to attract more nationally elite defensive prospects, particularly in the secondary.
Geoffrey (Crestline Park)
What will it say about the Big Ten if Alabama steamrolls Michigan in Dallas? Can the league recover, or will it be yet another year of talking about how overrated the conference is?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Sure, the league can recover. By winning big games in early January. It will take a national title for the Big Ten to improve its national rep. While the Michigan-Alabama game certainly matters, it doesn't matter nearly as much as the big bowl games in January.
In all this talk about semi-finals and national champions, has there been any discussion on changing the voting process? The harris and coaches polls are ridiculous and are extremely prone to bias/politicking and some of those computers are just as bad (oklahoma number 6 team in the country last year????). Any chance of changes?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
ES, I think everything is on the table right now. I'm in favor of a selection committee for the top four spots, just like we see in college basketball. These would be folks who watch games and can look at a ton of data to make an informed decision. These can be administrators, commissioners, media types, etc. Anything is better than having the coaches' and harris polls determine who plays for the crystal football.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What was Arkansas thinking hiring the grease fire John L. Smith? Do you think the AD will be "slapping" himself by midseason wondering how he made such a poor decision?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
He might be, Tony. Arkansas is such a good team that the head coach might not matter too much. But Smith's personality doesn't seem to fit a team that has gone through a lot emotionally in recent weeks. His Michigan State teams seemed to reflect his personality -- very up and down. Arkansas can't afford to have those peaks and valleys in the SEC. Would have preferred a coach with a more steady demeanor.
Is there any chance more games can be added to the prime time schedule or is this set in stone? For Example purdue and wisconsin are undefeated and it could be for leaders title situation?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
While we have seen some games move to primetime (LSU-Alabama) during the season, it's very unlikely. Expect the list released Tuesday to be the final list.
Is there any hope that the Big Ten will change the no night games in November rule? Ohio State-Wisconsin would have been fantastic.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Renee, I don't see the policy changing as long as the current power brokers are in place. Most of the Big Ten ADs also seem to understand the policy. So it could take some dramatic changes around the league. That said, commissioners see what's happening around the country and the popularity of night football. So you never know.
Would you be in favor of Delaney, Slive, and company pressuring the Big 12 to expand to 12 and reinstate their conference title as a requirement for the soon-to-be-coming playoffs? Seems to me that conference has a huge advantage as the only major league with less than 12 members and no title game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
It's funny, the same thing was said about the Big Ten for years. I don't think Delany and Slive will have to pressure the Big 12. Once a new commissioner is in place, we could see another expansion push in the near future. Hard to see that league staying at 10.
Obviously Michigan fans are excited about their offensive line commitments coming in the next two years, and Ohio fans are excited about their defensive line commits. You answered a question a minute ago about who has the more impressive haul between the two, but I have been wondering for a while which is the more important unit to focus on? Would a team rather have an excellent offensive line, or an excellent defensive line? Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
It's obviously great to have both, but I think an elite defensive line puts a program over the top. You've seen that in the SEC. Here's what Urban Meyer recently told me: "We all know we had great success at Florida, and Tebow and Percy and all these guys got recognition. But at the end of the day, our defensive line was what Florida was known for." Big Ten teams have been strong on both lines, but I'd prefer a disruptive D-line that prevents the offense from getting comfortable.
How do you see Danny O'Brien stacking up? Joyner wrote a column not seeing success at all.Hes not Russell and I think most fan understand that.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
He's not Russell, and he won't try to be Russell. But I think one thing that needs to be brought up is that O'Brien played in two different offenses, one in 2010 and another last year. He was a lot better in 2010 in a scheme that more closely resembles what Wisconsin runs. While he shouldn't be absolved from the struggles last year, I think the system had something to do with it.
Bo Pelini seems to be as excited about the D this year as he was going into 2009, especially the depth in the secondary. Should the rest of the Big 10 be on notice or is Bo just losing it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I think Big Ten teams respect Bo Pelini and his defensive track record, so I'm not sure how much more "on notice" they'll be. I definitely sense the optimism Pelini has about his defense and what they can do schematically. Nebraska always talks about how different its scheme is from others in college football. Last year, we didn't really see that translate on game days. I think we could this year, as Nebraska should be deeper in the secondary and at spots like defensive end.
Chobi-Wan Kenobi (Tatooine)
Hey Adam, what are your thoughts on the article about PSU's tradition of weak OOC games? In the last few years we've played the defending national champions, an Oregon State team that almost won the Pac-10, and every year we schedule at least one major conference BCS team. On top of that, anyone who calls Temple a weak team is living in the past and fooling themselves. The Temple game last year might have been the most exciting PSU game of the season.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
I think it's slowly getting better. The Alabama series was great to see, even if the games didn't go Penn State's way. And the Temple series has gotten a lot better for sure. It's great to see Penn State bringing Pitt back on the schedule, and the Pac-12/Big Ten partnership will add more marquee games. So while it's fair to criticize some of the FCS schools and the like, most teams schedule those. And Penn State's overall slate is improving.
Is it safe to say that the Big East is no longer a power conference and that now there are only 5. What happens if the same conference (i.e. ACC) perennially left out of the 4-team playoff? Do we get some tweaks to the system such as widening it to 8?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Ryan, the Big East actually has done much better in BCS bowls than the ACC. That's only one gauge of a league's strength, but it's an important one. The ACC's performance in the big bowls is laughable. ... As to widening the system to 8, I don't see it in the immediate future. The fact the commissioners are going to 4 is a big deal, and they'll want a long-term commitment at 4 before considering expanding it.
nuff (your crawlspace)
hope I can get this in at the last minute, but assuming the four-team neutral site plan goes through, would it be possible to push for a rule that not team can play in a semifinal game that takes place withni its state borders? That might help equalize some of the travel issues.nuff said.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Hmmm, that would be somewhat similar to the NCAA basketball tournament rules about playing at a site where you're the host. That said, one big argument for neutral sites is to lessen the travel demands on fans. So if one fan base can get to a neutral site and not break the bank, that might be the way to go.
Ohio State is loading up on the defense but don?t they need to focus all their recruiting efforts on getting playmaking guys on the outside to stretch the field?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Oh, they will, Tony. Urban Meyer has made it pretty clear that Ohio State needs more depth on the perimeter. It's clear the wide receiver position will be a priority for 2013 and beyond.
Brady hoke brought up an argument that no B1G title but a BCS win is a failure. On the other hand Wisconsin has 2 titles no wins. If Wisconsin doesn t win B1G but wins Fiesta or Orange bowl is it a failure and will this hepl BIG GAME BRETs reputation.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Coaches have different definitions for a successful season. I see where Brady is coming from, but he can't be too upset with an 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl win. Bowl game wins always matter, because they have staying power during the offseason. They keep momentum for teams. League titles are important, too, but winning BCS bowls is a major accomplishment not just for a team, but for a league. It's clearly a step Wisconsin needs to take after dropping back-to-back Rose Bowls.
Rittenberg, i think you missed the point i was trying to make. All of the quality BE teams that won bcs games are gone. Louisville is the only team left with a bcs win an they are heavily rumored to be B12 bound eventually. Now the BE is a league of replacements. The ACC is the weakest of the 5 major leagues left and if they struggle to reach the playoffs could the model be re-done to get them better access?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Boise State is coming to the Big East, but yes, I get your point. Access will be an issue with a four-team playoff, but an undefeated ACC champion, like an undefeated Big Ten champion, is virtually guaranteed a spot. You just don't see four or more undefeated FBS teams from major conferences very often. The game changes when you're talking about 1-loss league champions, but I think you've got to earn that access by winning big games. The SEC has done that time and again. The ACC has failed time and again. So if an undefeated ACC champion somehow gets left out, you can raise a stink. Otherwise, start winning more big games as a league and then we can talk.
Who do you think will end up being the best Offensive player in the B1G this year, when it's all said and done?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Joe, I think the Defensive Player of the Year race is a little more interesting -- Gholston, Simon, Hodges -- but there are some good candidates on the offensive side as well. Would definitely keep my eye on the running backs: Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, Penn State's Silas Redd, Michigan's Fitz Toussaint and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Is it safe to say that Bolden if the QB that gets left out in the cold after the spring at PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Cosmo, while Bolden didn't help himself in the Blue-White Game, I don't know if he's completely out of the mix. At the practice I attended, Paul Jones definitely looked like the No. 3 guy. But Jones also seemed to improve his stock at times this spring. It's a tough race to handicap. Penn State has three options, none of which make you want to stand up and proclaim a league title is on the way. But Bill O'Brien wants to reduce the race to two candidates.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Hi Adam. As a fan of the Big Ten and no particular team, what one conference game would you recommend seeing this year (keeping in mind the competitiveness of the game and the qualities of the city)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
So many good choices, Bob, but I'd go with Michigan State-Michigan. Could pair the league's two best teams. Doesn't hurt that they're in-state rivals and in the same division. And Ann Arbor will be rocking for that one. Great town.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed the chat. Talk to you soon.