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. Let's chat!
One complaint that pops up all the time is about the B1G's rule against November night games, especially when it comes to great late-season match-ups. It occurred to me that (to my knowledge) most B1G teams play their "cupcake" schedule all at once to start the season. Would it be beneficial for some teams to play a non-conference game in November instead to try and squeeze in another prime-time game, or is it better for them to get in another week of game experience before their conference slate? This feels like a case of what's good for the fans vs. what's good for the team.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Steve this is a very interesting question, and I suggest you check the blog at 1 pm ET for a post about early conference games, which may or may not happen in the future. Bret Bielema and other coaches have advocated playing one Big Ten game earlier in the year and moving a non-league game to November. The Big Ten certainly doesn't benefit from slates that make it nationally irrelevant. I see a lot of positives to playing a league game in Week 2 or Week 3 and moving a non-league game to Week 10.
Matt (Pittsburgh Pa)
Adam, I know it, you know it, bolden is not going to win the qb comp at happy valley. What are his options now? Wide out? Tightend?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Matt, while Bolden seemed very much in the mix when I visited Happy Valley last month, his spring-game showing hurt his cause. Confidence has to be a question with him right now. If Penn State narrows the field to McGloin and Jones, Bolden will have to re-evaluate his options. He's clearly a good athlete, and he actually has a really good arm. But decision-making clearly is a major issue for him. No consistency.
Reese (Downers Grove)
Will the Illini continue to benefit from Coach Gilmore remaining on staff on the recruiting side? He has worked wonders for the front four in season and now that the rewards are coming in from 1st Rd draft picks, will recruits take notice of what is going on in Champaign?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Reese, Beckman made a brilliant decision by retaining Gilmore. I think Gilmore and Penn State's Larry Johnson are the Big Ten's top defensive line coaches, and Gilmore's recent track record speaks for itself. Don't be surprised if another Illini lineman -- Buchanan or Spence -- is drafted early in 2013. Illinois just picked up a D-tackle commit, and I'd expect more linemen will sign on after seeing the success of players like Liuget and Mercilus.
Hank (Washington DC)
Do you think UM will still incorporate the Nard and Gardner deuce package they used last year? Or convert Gardner to WR?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
As Brian Bennett said after visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan fans probably need to pump the brakes on the Gardner to wide receiver talk. He might hurt the team more than he helps it at that spot. If Michigan can get by with Roundtree, Gallon and a few others emerging at WR or TE, that's the way it should go. Gardner needs to be ready in case Denard goes down with injury.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Big-10 College Football Player was selected in the First Round of the 2012 NFL Draft?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
That would be Riley Reiff, offensive tackle from Iowa. Went No. 23 to the Detroit Lions. The Big Ten endured its longest wait in the first round since 1968.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Adam, I'm going to have disagree about playing a non-conference game later in the year. If it was a rivalry game sort of like Florida/Florida State or a higher profile game, then I can see the appeal, but otherwise don't see a reason to break up the conference schedule. Plus, there's no chance you'll get a SEC/PAC 12 team to the midwest in November.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
GBK, I agree on your last point. I'm talking more about moving one of the easier non-league games, against an FCS team or a bad MAC team, to later in the year. It would be nice for the Big Ten to have at least one showcase game every weekend in September. We really haven't seen that the last two years in Week 4, the Saturday before league play. The Big Ten is completely irrelevant that week. Whether it's a rivalry game or just a division game that's played every year, I think it'd be nice to see one Big Ten game in Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.
thank god for google on answering that question for u
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Haha. Actually the fine folks at ESPN Stats
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
Adam, Michigan and Michigan St both lost several starters from last year. What is the realist expectations for these two programs?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Carl, both teams have to reload in certain areas, namely Michigan State, which loses its starting quarterback, top three receivers and two of its top three tight ends. Michigan has to replace two standout D-lineman and star center David Molk. That said, both of these teams can be very good in 2012 and win 10 or more games. They both face challenging schedules that, in my mind, take them out of the national title hunt, but they'll both be in the mix for the B1G crown and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Lots of talk about Wisconsin and Iowa having to improve recruiting to maintain position at the top of the B1G, yet both (lately mostly the UW) have just fine, thanks, by following a method of development of 3* guys rather than fighting the true bigs for 5* guys. As Alvarez's experience several years back, isn't aiming too high a potential risk as much as a reward?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Lites, while I see what you're saying about high-level recruits, just because Wisconsin and Iowa are strong developmental programs doesn't mean they couldn't help top-level recruits become even better. Sure, you'll probably encounter more prima donnas -- or "hat dance" guys, as Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald calls them -- among the five-star recruits, but there are also guys who back up the hype. Wisconsin and Iowa have positioned themselves to at least aim for the best of the best. Their main selling point: recent NFL draft success. Both teams will continue to develop under-the-radar guys, but they shouldn't hold back from the best prospects, either.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
Adam do you expect much improvement from Indiana this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Definitely, Carl. You can't get much worse than 1-11 with no wins against FBS competition. The influx of junior college players should help the long-suffering defense, and Tre Roberson should be more comfortable in his second year. Indiana also has more overall talent at QB with Coffman joining the mix from the juco ranks.
Chris (Washington DC)
For any Penn State fans still leary on the O'Brien hire, I just want to say after having the chance to meet him and hear him speak in Washington DC last night of his visions for not only the football program, but his support of all other athletic teams was very uplifting and it showed why he is the right choice for the job. He may not be a PSU grad but he certainly fit right in like he was
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Chris, thanks for sharing your perspective. Glad you got to meet Bill. I really enjoyed my visit with him. He has embraced a unique challenge and seems to really like the environment in State College. Glad to see Penn State fans are giving him a chance. Then again, like any coach, he has to win.
I agreed with your preseason top 25. I think Michigan and MSU will likely slip on one of their non conference games, setting up an early battle for the best team in the B1G between Neb, Wisc, and maybe even OSU. What will week 5 look like?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Kase, you might be right, but slipping up in a non-league game wouldn't hurt Michigan State and Michigan if they take care of business in the league. Ohio State should be 4-0 entering Week 5. Nebraska and Wisconsin, meanwhile, have some potentially tricky matchups as the Huskers face four teams (So Miss, UCLA, Ark State) with new head coaches, and Wisconsin must make a long trip out to Corvallis, Ore., to face Oregon State.
Adam, The Vest never won it...but if Urban takes tOSU from 6-7 to 10-2, 11-1, etc; shoe-in for B1G COTY?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Depends on what happens elsewhere, Ben, but he'd have an excellent chance, especially since the voting isn't done by other Big Ten coaches. It would be hard for Urban to beat out, say, Kevin Wilson or Jerry Kill if Indiana or Minnesota go 9-3, but if Ohio State wins 10 or 11 this year, he'll have a good shot.
jordan (charleston, sc)
Think Ricky Wagner is primed for a big season for UW? If he's drafted in the first 3 rounds that would make all 5 of Wisco's 2010 O-Line drafted in the first three rounds (Carimi, Moffit, Konz, Zeitler, Wagner). I've already seen him in first round in early projections. Certainly says something about that Wisco O-Line tradition. And by the way, Wagner's a former walk-on tight end.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
He's a returning starter at left tackle for arguably the nation's premier offensive line program (along with Alabama), so I'd say Wagner has a good chance to be a high draft choice. He'll need to follow up a good 2011 season with an even better one in 2012. At times, the Wisconsin offensive line wasn't as dominant as it could be. And losing Russell Wilson makes things tougher for the linemen. But Wagner is positioned well for a big season.
Do the Bulls even need another championship? After all those that Jordan got you guys... Maybe Rose destroying his knee was the basketball gods' way of saying "it's time to give other teams a chance"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Ah, Chris, you just couldn't resist, could you? Salt in the wound, brother. It has been 14 years since the Bulls' last championship. Think that's more than enough time to "give other teams a chance." Unfortunately, that drought will continue this year. No way the Bulls make it out of the Eastern Conference. What a rough year in Chicago pro sports (Cutler, Rose, underachieving Blackhawks, bad baseball).
James (East Lansing)
My roomate does not find Zooey Deschanel attractive at all. I've argued and shown him various examples but he wont budge. What can I do to make him see?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
I think she's moderately attractive, unlike Bennett, who drools over her. I find her moderately annoying, which costs her a few points in my book. I do enjoy the "Bein' Quirky With Zooey Deschanel" sketches on SNL. Spot on.
Adam, I'm starting to think that the OSU fans around me are spending all their time drooling over the fact that Meyer is their coach and not looking at the facts of this team. Last year I said you were nuts for thinking this team was a 10-2 team. Now I would like to say the fans are nuts for even contemplating a 10-2 11-1 season. They dont have any experience at WR, they lost their best 3 offensive lineman (which was a major liability last year) They have RBs but not alot of experience. They are going through a complete scheme and philosophy change. Why do OSU fans seem to think that their team is the only team that can have such a great season with all this going against them. There is 4 losses on this schedule. NEB,MSU,Wisco,UofM
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Nate, I'll fully admit my prediction for Ohio State was just awful in 2011. And you make some good points about potential weaknesses for the Buckeyes this year. There aren't enough playmakers, and there's very little depth at offensive line, although the starters performed well this spring. The thing to remember, though, is that while the offensive philosophy is very different, the unit itself can't get much more than it did in 2011. There are inherent elements of the spread that will translate into greater production. Plus, the defense returns nine starters and still boasts a lot of talent. The defense wasn't anywhere near Ohio State's typical standards in 2011. That should change this fall. I agree 10 or 11 wins is a lot, but I don't see Ohio State winning six or seven, either.
I think the funnier thing is the Blackhawks losing. It's always great to see all the Blackhawks fans talk about how it's a better franchise than the Red Wings, even though the Wings have won the same number of titles in the last 15 years that the Hawks have won in their entire existence...
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
I'm a big Blackhawks fan and appreciate the rivalry, but anyone saying this franchise is better than the Red Wings is delusional.
Adam (B10 Country)
What's the chance that Hoke has a crash landing this year, seems like last years schedule was as favorable as you could ever get and a lot of balls bounced the teams way, is 6-6 out of the question?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Adam, I think 6-6 is out of the question, but Michigan could end up being a better team than in 2011 with a worse record. The schedule is that taxing, and a 2-2 split with Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State would be impressive in my book. The Wolverines still have to play MSU at home. I'd put Michigan in the 8- to 11-win range this fall.
Hard to believe, but John Stocco won more games in his senior season than Russsell Wilson. I would take Wilson 10 times out of 10 over Stocco, but perhaps O'Brien or Stave can do the same for the Badgers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
We'll see, Patrick. I'm still stunned how Wisconsin managed to lose three games with that team last year. Russell did his part, but the little things -- defending long passes at end of games, special teams, when to call timeout -- doomed the Badgers. There were some very tough lessons learned by a very good football team.
Do you think Tressel will get into the college football HOF?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Joe, this is a fascinating question, one I might have to address in a lengthier blog post. My inclination is yes because time tends to heal some wounds and Tressel's accomplishments as a coach, both at Youngstown State and at Ohio State, would make him a shoo-in for the HOF. It depends on how his violations are viewed when it's time for the selections. But if I had to make a prediction, I'd say yes.
How big of a loss is Aaron Green transferring away from Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Jeff, it might be a bigger loss in 2013 than it is for 2012, when Nebraska's RB depth looks fine. Rex Burkhead is a tremendous lead back, and Ameer Abdullah looks like a capable backup. Nebraska also picked up a nice addition in recruiting with Imani Cross. But after Rex departs, depth could be a bigger issue. Green seemed in position to compete with Abdullah for the starting job in 2013. It'll be important for Nebraska to identify some more capable backs before next season.
Doesn't "inherent elements of the spread" require those elements to be there? And isn't it sort of convenient for folks to forget the state that Urban left Florida in? Not sure why he gets such a pass from the pundits who seem to automatically assume that OSU will once again return to prominence simply because of a recognizable name and enhanced recruiting? You still gotta coach them.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
You're right, lites, but did you watch Ohio State's offense last year? Four passes against Illinois? A near shutout against MSU? The unit was pretty pathetic. Yes, Urban and his assistants need to coach 'em up, but there are few spread offenses that don't produce at least serviceable numbers. Braxton Miller fits the system, and while there will be some mistakes, and most likely more turnovers, there will be more yards gained and points scored. But my main point with Ohio State is that the defense will be better, potentially a lot better than it was in 2011.
What's a 'successful' first season for BOB (one that doesn't cause rumblings in the alumni base), just reaching a bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Eight or nine wins would be a good start for O'Brien. Penn State's schedule isn't overly taxing, and if things fall right, the Lions could really surprise some folks in a wide-open leaders division. I don't think anyone will be pleased if Penn State goes 6-6 this fall. An 8-4 or 9-3 result would give the fan base some confidence. Anything better would get Nittany Nation pretty amped up about O'Brien and the future.
Am I right in thinking that the window of opportunity for Wisconsin to win a BCS game is closing after this season? I think its paramount that they find a way to win the B1G and a Rose Bowl this year, because it may be 5 or 6 years until they get another shot.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Drew, Bret Bielema strongly disagrees with you. In case you missed it, he recently told Bennett that the 2013 team could be his best yet at Wisconsin. That would include the 2006 team (12-1), the 2010 team (11-2) and the 2011 team (11-3). It seems a bit tough to understand as Wisconsin loses standouts like Ball, Borland and Taylor, but Bret really likes the younger players in his program. The big key for Wisconsin, in my mind, is upgrading athleticism in the secondary, developing an elite pass rusher and building more depth at receiver. Positions like running back and O-line always will be fine in Madison.
Adam, there's been a lot of talk about the Michigan and MSU squads, but I feel like this has been done in a vacuum; nobody is talking about the matchups on the field. While Michigan's defense may not be quite as stout, I think it is relatively more stout compared to MSU's offense. UM (finally!) has depth in the back seven and MSU has a lot of questions at receiver, even if Arnett plays. I also think its DL will perform better than people think. On the other side, Michigan (for the first time since Henne) has a returning starter at QB running the same offense and a talented OL that I think will be able to run the ball against MSU, as its strength on DL is its pass rush. How do you see these matchups playing out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Michael, I applaud you for making the discussion about the matchups rather than the typical meatball stuff I hear from both fan bases. I'm particularly interested in seeing Michigan's offense vs. Michigan State's defense. Both units could be among the league's best -- Michigan State's D might be the league's best overall unit. Michigan will need to make the Spartans defend the entire field and keep Gholston out of the backfield. The Lewan-Gholston matchup should be fascinating, and not just because of the stuff that happened last year. If Michigan's defensive line can take away Le'Veon Bell and the run game, MSU will have a tough time scoring points. Michigan boasts two strong corners in Countess and Floyd, and Michigan State's receivers have a long way to go. The Spartans have to be a run-first team in 2011, and Michigan will try to take away that element. Should be a lot of fun at the Big House.
Wow, i'm rather disappointed with that response to the Tressel / HOF question. I cant disagree, cause i'm not in the know about these things, but it would strike me as so wrong for him to get such an honor, considering everything... would be a sad indictment on the HOF if he gets in, though i'm sure there are others in there with less-than-stellar moral qualifications.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Tim, I'll spend some time going through the recent selections to see who got in with a violation or a checkered past. The Tressel situation remains fresh as it only took place last year, but my sense is it'll fade away with time. If you subscribe to the belief that a great coach made some terrible decisions and shouldn't be punished beyond losing a dream job, then you likely think he should get in. If you believe the violations are enough to overshadow the good things Tressel accomplished during his career, you don't want to see him enshrined. It's a tough decision for sure.
James (Napoleon, MI)
Before I get to my question I would like to give a shout out to former Michigan St Fullback Todd Anderson, who recently signed with the St. Louis Rams. Becoming the first Napoleon High School Football player to play in the NFL, and of whom I myself played with. With that being said, which un-drafted big ten player do you see making the earliest impact for their NFL team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Congrats to Todd. Nice story. ... Mike Brewster certainly seems like a guy who can help a team. A year ago, he was regarded as a potential All-American and maybe the nation's top center. The fact he went undrafted surprised a lot of folks. Penn State WR Derek Moye and Iowa DE Broderick Binns are two other players to watch.
How much longer will Mattison coach for? He is a great D coordinator and recruiter, but he is getting up there in age. He is even the one who got Tebow to go to Florida, which was a big plus for Meyer's resume.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Tony, this is a fair question. Mattison is 62, and I think Michigan will be his final stop. But he also loves coaching and has been in the business since he got out of college in 1971. I think he's got at least three more years left, if not more.
Adam, There was alot of rumblings on boards across the web about a ESPN co-workers (whos last name starts with a p, and I wont attempt to spell it) about him saying that OSU was the clear cut most talented team in the B1G. Who would be your top 6 as far as talent goes? In my opinion its 1.MSU/UofM 2.Nebraska 3. Ohio St. 4. Wisco 5. Penn St 6. Iowa
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
While I disagree with Mr. Pollack that Ohio State -- or any Big Ten team, for that matter -- has far and away more talent than any other, I'd still put Ohio State in the top 3 for overall talent with Michigan and Michigan State. Nebraska isn't far behind. But the bigger point is there doesn't seem to be a huge talent gap separating these teams.
How does it feel to the Big 10, upon hearing all the realignment in the lower conferences and the imminent death of the WAC, knowing that the entire realignment mess started only because Jim Delany wanted one extra team? Makes them feel a bit powerful, I bet.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
You know, Andrew, I was thinking about this when I saw the WAC news yesterday. Delany would never admit it -- he'd probably recite his familiar line about "leagues make their own decisions," and "there have been XX expansions since 1975" -- but he has to wonder what would have happened had the Big Ten stayed at 11. The answer: some other major conference would have started the expansion dominoes. So I don't think it's all the Big Ten's doing.
Mystery Coach (B10 Country)
I develop talent better than anyone in the conference, who am I?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
You are Kirk Ferentz. But sometimes you are Bret Bielema. Depends on the year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Erik (E Lansing)
Does the 4 team playoff basically knock ND out of the question and force them to join a conference to remain releveant?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
No, I don't see that. Notre Dame plays the type of schedule that if it goes undefeated, it'll make the top 4. The challenge for the Irish is going undefeated. Notre Dame will still be able to make big bowls because of its brand, as long as it finishes among the nation's best teams. Notre Dame hasn't been a serious national title contender for years, so the question is more whether ND can still make the big bowls in a playoff environment. I say yes, it can.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Enjoyed the chat.