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 everyone, happy Wednesday to you. At your service for the next hour. Let's get started!
Richard (Madison, WI)
Danny O'Brien is here for 2 years in Wisconsin. How do the prospects look for them from 2014 and beyond?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
This coming season will be interesting, Richard, as Wisconsin has some star power coming back (Montee Ball, etc.). But it'll be O'Brien's first season there. Having 2014 could be huge for him and the Badgers, and coach Bret Bielema thinks 2014 could be his best team, which is saying a lot.
Jon (Augusta, GA)
Having a 9th conference game could alleviate many of the long layovers (e.g., OSU-Neb, UW-MSU) that are coming up. Do you think the league would entertain the thought of staging a yearly set of 6 neutral site games (i.e., one for each team) as a 9th conference game? In this way, each team would keep an even # of home and away games, and it could increase B1G exposure in large cities within (Detroit, Cleveland, etc) and near (St. Louis, DC, NYC) the conference footprint.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Jon, that's an interesting proposal, but again, the problem is the reluctance of several Big Ten schools to part with home games. The thought of five guaranteed games away from home (road or neutral) just won't fly with some ADs in this league. But I obviously like the idea of fewer gaps between league matchups, and the neutral-site element is very interesting given what's happening around college football right now.
Dave (Aurora, NE)
Adam, You guys have the Huskers as potentially the most potent offense and around 4th strongest defense in the B1G... Help me with my math...How does that translate into a "3rd place" in the Legends division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Dave, I haven't ranked the offenses or defenses yet, and a lot can change between now and the season. But Michigan State looks like the Big Ten's strongest defense, and that probably won't change before the season. The Spartans' D is the single best unit in the league, and defense wins championships in the Big Ten (as it does in most leagues). The gap between Nebraska's offense and others in the league isn't too wide -- Michigan is right up there, too. The Huskers' defense, meanwhile, needs to make significant strides in my view for Big Red to win the division.
MI Hawkeye (Plymouth, MI) [via mobile]
Adam, how do you see the Hawkeyes this year? I can see them going 6-6 but I could also see a classic "out of nowhere" Ferentz season of 9 wins. Also, is JVB second to Denard in terms of Big Ten QBs and could he be the best?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
I agree on the JVB argument, Hawkeye. The Big Ten lacks a lot of elite QBs entering the season, but both Robinson and Vandenberg boast a lot of experience and the potential to be stars. A 6-6 season would be disappointing for Iowa, given that the schedule isn't overly taxing. I think Iowa is a 7- to 9-win team.
So because Michigan fans don't like him, Dantonio is considered a villain? That is pretty funny, Adam.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
As I mentioned in that post, it's all in fun, Dave. And yes, Dantonio fits the villain role in part because of the things he has said and done in relation to Michigan. He's also not regarded well among Iowa fans after last year's contest, which featured some questionable "injuries" from Michigan State defenders.
Golden (Philadelphia, pa)
Besides adding cash to the pot, what are the other benefits of Notre Dame to the B1G.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
I guess it all relates to money, but Notre Dame's TV appeal remains extremely strong. You put Notre Dame against a team like Iowa or Wisconsin, and that game gets more national attention than it would if the Badgers and Hawkeyes played one another. Notre Dame would help the Big Ten negotiate stronger TV deals, and it would enhance the Big Ten Network's position as well (not just for football, but for all sports).
Smitty (Carmel, IN)
If Michigan loses to Alabama in a close game, do they have a chance at a NCG if USC, Bama and LSU all have one loss at the end of season.?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Depends on those losses, Smitty, and how they came about. Michigan also would need the teams it beat to get to 11-1 -- Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, etc -- to be highly regarded nationally. If Michigan beats Notre Dame and Nebraska but neither team wins 10 games, the wins don't hold as much value for the Wolverines. Bottom line: it'd be tough for the Wolverines to get to Miami without beating Bama.
BigZx2 (Santa Monica, CA)
Are the odds to see a B1G Title game rematch between the Spartans or Badgers? Or is there another team in each division we should keep an eye out for?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
It's interesting, Big Z. Right now, I'm picking a rematch between MSU and Wisconsin. But I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see at least one of them not reach Indy. It's rare that you see the same two teams in the league title game in consecutive seasons. While Wisconsin is the odds-on favorite in the Leaders division, both Michigan and Nebraska have good opportunities in the Legends. And you never know with teams like Purdue and Iowa.
Nate (Denver, CO)
Is it really so unreasonable to think that Nebraska could be the best offensive team in the B1G this year? If they luck out with an upgrade at QB (Martinez 2.0?), see increased production from receivers and line play, and Burkhead keeps being Burkhead, they may just be as good as Wisconsin was last year. That coupled with a possibly improved defense could lead to a top heavy battle in the Legends division. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Not unreasonable at all Nate. Nebraska returns a bunch of starters and will be operating in Tim Beck's offense for the second year. The Huskers also will have greater familiarity with their Big Ten opponents. That's huge. But it's really all about Martinez for the Huskers. If he gets more consistent as a passer, allowing Beck to call a more balanced run-pass game plan, the offense could be really hard to stop. On the defensive side, it's all about replacing star power with greater depth.
Mark Dantonio (East Lansing)
Why am I a villain? I guess if standing up to people marginalizing my players and the success of my team makes me a villain, then it is true... but why is there that perception around me in the Big Ten? What is a larger factor, my success on the field, or my mouth off the field? I just wanna be loved!
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
I actually don't think that's true, Mark (it's not really Dantonio, folks). I don't think you care that much about how you're viewed outside of Spartan Nation. I actually think you like being the bad guy -- just a little. You defend your players, which helps you with them and with the fans. But the outside perception is you've repeatedly challenged Michigan, you didn't suspend Gholston (while the Big Ten did), you told players to fake injuries at Iowa, you've allowed players to go from jail to the practice field, etc. And yes, the biggest factor is your success. If it isn't obvious, to be a coaching villain, you have to be successful. And you have been incredibly successful at MSU so far.
Ryan (somewhere new each day)
Hey Adam, keep up the good work! Have you had the chance to meet the new Kirk Ferentz yet? More open with the media, open to ProComat uniforms, etc. What is going on?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Ha, yes, I visited with Kirk in April. Didn't get a chance to ask him if he'll be tweeting soon, but if it happens, I might have a heart attack. It's great to see Kirk becoming more open with the media and starting to "get it" more. College football is a year-round sport, folks, and coaches need to realize the media coverage isn't going away. The more they cooperate and have an open mind, the better off they'll be (in this reporter's view).
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Adam, McGloin has struggled with his decision making in the past. This new offense is based on making the right decision. I should be worried then, right? Also, this points out how poorly PSU recruited/developed QBs (past tense) - how quickly do you see this changing with OBrien?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
To your last point, I think it'll change very soon with O'Brien. The coaches are excited about incoming recruit Steven Bench, and 2013 recruit Christian Hackenberg looks like a stud. But decision-making has been an issue for both McGloin and Rob Bolden the past two seasons. Like most teams, Penn State isn't good enough to overcome repeated mistakes from the QB spot. O'Brien's offense places a lot of pressure on the signal caller, so it'll be interesting to see if McGloin and/or Bolden has improved in this area.
Brady Hoke (A2)
Will I be at Michigan or will Coach Meyer be at OSU longer?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
It's a tough call to make so early in your respective tenures, but I think you'll be there longer, Brady. Michigan is truly your dream job. You'll coach there as long as they'll have you. Meyer's track record shows more job-hopping, and his affinity for Notre Dame isn't a secret. Could both of you stay in your jobs for more than a decade? It's possible. But few would be surprised if you end your career in Ann Arbor.
Chris (Santa Monica, CA)
If you were a Head Coach, would you schedule a bunch of night games (or try to) for National Exposure, even if it could possible hinder your team's success? IE, UM has 3 night games this year, all away from AA.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Depends on which team I'm coaching, Chris. Three night games away from home aren't ideal, but Michigan can win all three contests in my view. And what a season that would be, to go on the road and repeatedly win at night. If I'm Michigan, I want one home night game a year and maybe one on the road. If I'm Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana or Minnesota, I want as many night games as possible to showcase my program. But there aren't many downsides to night football, in my view. It certainly doesn't seem to bother folks in other leagues as much as it does Big Ten folks.
Burt (Middle of Nowhere)
Article Idea.... Pick no more than 3 players from each B1G team and create the Ultimate All-Star B1G team going into this year. Remember, no more than 3 from each team. (exception can be punter/kicker)
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Thanks for the suggestion, Burt. We'll take it under advisement.
Bad Negotiator (BCS Title Talks)
Hey Adam, after reading about these meetings about the NCG and playoffs, it seems like the B1G, Big 12, SEC and Pac12 were the main voices that needed to be heard. It also seems like the B1G compromised on many of its original goals in these talks (plus 1 model, home game semis, games up north, etc). It seems like we got taken to the cleaner and the only promise we have is "the reasoning and importance of the B1G in the NCG landscape and the Rose Bowl will come out in the near future." My question is, if the B1G was willing to compromise on so much, what did the other key conferences "give up" so far in these discussions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
The campus sites thing had very little support outside the Big Ten, so I just don't know how forceful the Big Ten could be in that area. I do think league champions will be an important factor in determining the playoff participants, which is a goal for the Big Ten. The SEC wants it to be the top four teams, regardless of league titles or not. I'd be stunned if that's the case. I've been told the proposal floated at the Big Ten meetings last week -- top three rated league champs plus one wild card spot -- is the most likely to be adopted.
Eli (New York, NY)
Asked this in the mailbag, but don't know if it'll get answered: Why are we so short-sighted when it comes to success? it was just in 2008 when Wisconsin finished 7 - 6, and 2009 Michigan State left nothing to be desired. What gives?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
That's a good point, Eli, but to be fair, Wisconsin also had a very good season in 2006 (12-1) and a decent one in 2007. Wisconsin hasn't been a bad team for a long time. Michigan State also had a good season in 2008, and while the Spartans endured a down stretch from 1999-2007, they have put together three good seasons (2008, 2010, 2011) under Mark Dantonio. It's not the biggest sample size, but both programs appear to be trending up.
Another year, another "relatively light" schedule for Iowa. Just thinking about it, Adam, when is the last time you said they had a tough road ahead? I feel like I'm in Groundhog's Day.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
I know it feels that way, Jason, but ironically Iowa's last very tough schedule came in 2009, when the Hawkeyes went 11-2. That Iowa team had to travel to Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Not an easy slate by any means.
Bama Fan (Denver)
Adam, I was curious what you would say to SEC (and Bama folks) about Jim Delany's obvious bid to try to keep more than one SEC team out of the last four (although it could ostensibly happen down the road to two B1G teams I suppose). Are fans up there embarrassed by this? I sure would be if Mike Slive was putting up the same argument. thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
SEC fans crack me up. What do you expect him to do? Bow to the mighty Slive and just say, "Fill the playoff with your obviously superior teams! Don't mind us!" C'mon, Bama fan. Of course Delany is going to fight to have his conference champion in that mix as much as possible. He's the Big Ten commissioner, not the SEC appreciation commissioner. It'd be like Slive openly stumping for playoff games in the north. It's never going to happen.
Dave (Turtle Beach)
If somehow the Big 12 steals Florida St away...does that turn up the pressure on JD to put the full court press on Notre Dame? or are we "still" ok?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Dave, Brian and I debate the expansion topic at 1 pm today, so be sure and check the blog. I don't think the Big Ten can sit this one out. Notre Dame is the only home-run addition, but it might not be realistic. If the Big 12 and SEC both go to 16 teams, the Big Ten can't afford to stay at 12. It might have to add some "filler" teams like Maryland, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, etc. I hate the superconference thing, but the Big Ten can't afford to let the other leagues run wild.
Bama Fan (Denver)
What, so you're cracked up that a conference commissioner is OPPOSED to the four top teams? What doesn't he just come out and say he completely opposed to the new format and wants to stick with BCS? Is he better off?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
He has said he's not opposed to including a non-league champ like Alabama was in 2011. He said that last week. Where it gets murkier is a No. 4 non-league champ vs. a No. 5 league champ. What definitively puts that team at No. 4 vs. No. 5? Is it strength of schedule (a good reason) or just perception of league strength (a bad reason)? I don't like the subjectivity in determining No. 4 vs. No. 5. And in most cases, I'd have no trouble including a league champion rated No. 5 (like Oregon in 2011 or USC in 2008) over a non-league champion at No. 4 (like Stanford in 2011 or Texas in 2008).
Do you think Hoke is really as good as advertised? He walked into a situation with great players still there and has been incredibly lucky with Ohio State and Penn State experiencing turmoil.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
I think we'll learn more about Hoke in the next three seasons. But you have to give him credit for accelerating the turnaround process at Michigan. It was a pretty toxic situation in Ann Arbor, and now there's a lot of enthusiasm. Was Michigan the best 11-2 team we've ever seen? No way. But the Wolverines were a good team that capitalized on opportunities. And with the way Hoke and his staff are recruiting, Michigan could be a nationally elite team again in the near future.
Any Memorial Day plans, Adam? Bet you are hoping nothing big breaks over the long weekend and you actually get to spend some time at the lake or something.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Ha, don't jinx it, David. Memorial Day last year was no fun for me, but it was even less fun for Ohio State fans. Would be surprised if anything remotely that big breaks, but you never know.
Jake (Lincoln, NE)
Adam, in my opinion if Notre Dame is going to join any conference it's going to be the Big 12 due to each schools ability to keep their 3rd tier rights. It would allow Notre Dame to continue on with their current contracts. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Could happen, Jake. The ACC also has been floated as a possibility. But will Notre Dame football actually join one of those two leagues? Tough to say. I know this: if Notre Dame is interested in the Big Ten, it will have to show that interest. The Big Ten isn't going to be begging for the Fighting Irish.
I mostly agree with Dave Brandon, he has done some good things at Michigan. However, I have to be scratching my head at his recent comments about not having any playoff games in the midwest following him being against campus sites. I know he says its for the kids, and going somewhere sunny would be a great reward...but how is the opportunity to play for a national title not a greater reward in itself, regardless where its played? And I'd rather see kids miss a day or two for a midwest game, campus or "neutral" site before a longer travel if necessary, then miss time off school for back to back weeks for long travels. Not even getting started with cost for fans and schools...I thought Brandon was a business man.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Tony, I don't get it, either. Never thought I'd be reading comments from the Michigan AD and the Ohio State AD saying football games in cold weather in late December or early January are bad for the kids. I don't know how many bowl games the Big Ten has to lose in SEC/Pac-12/Big 12 territory before it stops being "fun." Sure, those trips are nice, but shouldn't it be about positioning yourself for national titles and, in the process, helping your fans with travel and saving some money?
B1G doesn't want 9-game conference schedules because of regular games with Notre Dame (Mich., MSU, Purdue) and 4/5 home/away splits. The PAC-12 plays 9-game conference schedules despite regular games with Notre Dame (Stanford, USC) and 4/5 home/away splits. What's the difference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
The Pac-12 has always taken a more aggressive scheduling approach than the Big Ten, Bill. And the Pac-12 coaches, quite frankly, hate it because it hurts their chances of winning national titles. The 9-game league schedules, while benefiting Pac-12 fans, have unquestionably hurt the league in getting BCS bowl bids and winning national titles. So which do you want: more enjoyable regular-season schedules or stronger positioning to unseat the SEC atop college football?
Awesome, must be anti-Ohio State weds today. Guess I will check back next week!
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Don't go, Greg!
The perception that Michigan State's D is inpenetrable is misleading. Didn't Wisconsin run up a bunch of points on them and also a one dimensional Nebraska team ran all over them. I don't see how their D alone this year will win the conference.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Wisconsin had some success against the Spartans, but the Badgers also had one of the nation's most dynamic offenses last year. They put up points and yards on everybody. Nebraska had only 270 offensive yards in the win last year -- hardly an offensive explosion. Notre Dame's offensive totals weren't overly impressive in its win against MSU.
It seems like Jerry Kill has a pretty good reputation from coaches around the country, including the big ten coaches. Agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Definitely, Jay. Several coaches told me last offseason how much like they liked the Jerry Kill hire, including former Ohio State boss Jim Tressel. Kill's story is inspiring, and his success at multiple levels really resonates with his coaching colleagues. He's also a very affable guy, and he's popular around the league.
Any chance the Big Ten will expand in the future or do you think they are pretty well set with the teams they have now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
The Big Ten doesn't want to expand. Big Ten folks see most additions -- aside from Notre Dame -- as adding for the sake of adding. The problem is that every other league is doing that -- expanding just to expand. Eventually, it'll be hard to stay at 12 if everyone goes to 16.
AJ (Madison, WI)
Adam, I think that people are going so nuts about how to figure out this playoff thing that they are forgetting that we are FINALLY getting a playoff. While I would prefer on-campus games and conference champions (really only so the Badgers have a better shot at making it), I think that changes will happen to the system once its been in place for a couple years (i.e. the conference commissioners will demand on campus games, etc.). That being said, any word on how long the new system will be in place for before renewal?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Good points, AJ. The commissioners definitely want a long-term agreement in place to prevent changes from being made every few years. Would imagine the contract will be in the 10-year range. The commissioners don't want to see this go to 8 or 16 teams. They see the mere fact that a playoff is happening as a major step.
Would you agree that Nathan Scheelhaase is an amazing athlete but not necessarily an amazing qb?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
That's a possibility, Jim. Arm strength is definitely a concern, but I want to see how Nathan fares with a real supporting cast around him. It might not happen this fall, as Illinois has depth issues at both WR and RB. Scheelhaase had some nice weapons around him as a freshman, but his arsenal wasn't nearly as strong last year. I think he can be good fit in this system, but he has to complement his running ability by executing the high-percentage throws that the spread offense requires.
How does the Pac 12 get to 16? There are no viable candidates left west of the Mississippi now that the Big 12 schools have pledged their media rights to the conference for the next decade.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Andrew, this is a good point. If the Big 12 is going to be one of those 16-team leagues, how does the Pac-12 get there without adding teams like Boise State and San Diego State that would not jive with the Pac-12 presidents. It's another reason why the Big Ten and Pac-12 are in agreement on so many things. While the Pac-12 seemed more open to adding some marginal cultural fits from Big 12 territory (hello, Oklahoma State), both leagues really value academics and qualities more than just the quality of a football program.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, time for one more ...
The only reason Delany wants the conference champions to be the top 4 teams in the playoff is that is the only way the BIG can get a team in the top 4. If it's based off of the true top 4 the BIG will have no shot, aside from every 6 to 7 years. What do you think Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I'm sure that has something to do with it, Lou, but he also mentioned league champs having to be ranked in the top 6 to be eligible. If the Big Ten champ isn't in the top 6, Delany doesn't think that team belongs. His larger point, which I agree with, is that very, very little separates No. 4 from No. 6 in most years. I'd rather have a league champ at No. 5 or No. 6 that isn't vastly inferior to the No. 4 team be included in a playoff.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Talk to you soon.