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, I'm here. Bear with me a few minutes, though, as I need to make a quick call.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Sorry for the delay. Let's get started.
Hey Adam, love the blog. If you could start your offense around one B1G player and defense around one B1G player, who would they be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Good question, Scott, and maybe something for a future blog post. William Gholston would be my defensive player, although I can think of a few others (John Simon, Gerald Hodges) who I'd like as well as centerpieces. Montee Ball would be my pick for the offensive side. Denard Robinson is tempting, but a bit too risky.
I have to say that I think Illinois has to be the most underrated job. It's in the largest state in the Big Ten which has to help recruiting (and they only share it with Northwestern), has a huge student body that would probably be great fans, if they're ever given successful football, and it has none of the expectations or pressure of some other programs. In my opinion, Illinois is the right coach away from becoming an annual contender.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Ben, you make a good case here. I've always wondered how Illinois fans would respect if they ever got a consistently successful football team. It's still a basketball school, but like Michigan State, there's also a strong football following that has been obscured a bit by the inconsistency. The facilities upgrades really help, and the location -- close to Chicago, St. Louis and Indy -- makes Illinois attractive for recruits.
The last few years, it seems Pelini's teams have a penchant for inexplicably dropping 1 home game to a team they shouldn't. I'm hoping this year's team can break this trend, but if not, who could you possibly see unexpectedly tripping the Huskers up at home?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
I don't know if Nebraska will drop an "inexplicable" home game, but the Huskers should be wary of Penn State, which will be an improved team by the time it visits Lincoln. Of the non-conference games, Southern Miss could be a tricky one, as the Eagles come off of a C-USA championship.
adam.. why do you bother taking time out of your day? the SEC will win again this year. and the year after.. and will get 2 teams in the playoff 9 out of 10 times. the little 10 stands no chance. i have georgia making a run this year to win the TITLE.. and if the fault along the way... then its either bama/lsu
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Thanks for setting me straight, Max. Or is your name Mark Schlabach? Your line about Georgia cracks me up. Anyone get suspended today in Athens? The Dawks are all bark and no bite.
Do you expect Tim Taylor and Al Borland to lead the conference in tackles again this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Haha, the Home Improvement crew. Chris Borland always has put up big numbers, and Mike Taylor really came on strong last season. I don't know if both men will have as many tackles as they did last year -- could depend on how much UW's defense is on the field -- but they'll be productive.
Adam, Can a Big Ten coach ever be considered "defining" if he fails to win a Rose Bowl or even take his team there? With the new format in place in a couple of years, theoretically, a coach could never go to the Rose Bowl yet still win national championships. For example, Mark Dantonio could average 11 wins per season from 2010 to 2013 and never get to a Rose Bowl and then win a national title sometime after 2013 without a Rose appearance. I suppose, grudgingly, Matt Farley, errrrr, Brady Hoke could do the same and then retire to his van down by the river as a "defining" coach. Conversely, could a coach that regularly wins 10+ games a year with multiple Rose appearances winning a couple of times but with no national championships, Ia??m thinking Bret a??I look like my schoola??s mascota?ý Bielema could one day fit this bill, become a a??defininga?ý coach? Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Rich, if Mark Dantonio wins a national title at Michigan State, he'll be the school's defining coach, plain and simple. Winning Rose Bowls and getting there is important, and if Dantonio stays for another 10-15 years, it's hard to imagine him not getting to Pasadena once. But in this day and age, it's all about winning national championships. Also, the defining coach line is about longevity, and that's a question mark with Dantonio (56, had heart issue two years ago).
All the talk about Husker coach Bo being on a warm seat is ridiculous. Husker fans suffered through 4 years of Billy C where he was tearing down tradition after tradition. Look at Osbornes first few years: 9 wins. It will take a lot to put Bo on the hot seat, and I'd be worried about him bolting for a job elsewhere before him getting fired.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Sean, I tend to agree. Pelini has his critics, but Nebraska doesn't want to go through another coaching transition. Huskers fans can be tough on coaches, but if they see some progress, they can be patient, too. Tom Osborne doesn't want to see another Callahan disaster on his watch, and he has been pleased with Bo's growth both on and off the field. Is this a big year for Bo? No doubt. But I don't think he's in any serious danger barring an absolute collapse (4-5 wins).
Who does Northwestern upset this year? They always ruin a team's hope and dreams year after year. I feel like they could be ruining one of michigans hopes this year especially playing both late in the season
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
I guess that's possible, Kevin, but Northwestern doesn't really match up well with Michigan or MSU. A lot depends on how the Wildcats start the season. They could be 4-1 or 5-0 by the time they visit Happy Valley, or they could be 2-3. A strong start gives Northwestern a chance to knock off Penn State.
Josh (Madison, WI)
Mr. Rittenberg, how did Matt Canada's offensive game plan look in spring ball? I know he is not Paul Cryst, but I really think a new coordinator could be a big plus for the Badgers this year, if he adds a new dimension to the offense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
I think Canada will mix things up a bit in the passing game. Chryst did that more last year with Russell Wilson, but Wisconsin's offense has been fairly straightforward and effective. Canada has run the spread system before (Indiana), and I think you'll see a few wrinkles in what Wisconsin runs this fall.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Northwestern doesn't match up well against Michigan? NU led Michigan at halftime last year, and save for some miraculous Denard armpunts, might have won that game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
True, but Northwestern's secondary looks pretty shaky entering the year, and Denard and Toussaint could tear up the Wildcats at the Big House. Plus, Michigan will be better in the secondary and harder to pass against.
Adam, any idea on how Purdue will utilize their bevy of quarterbacks with starting experience? Is Danny Hope likely to pick the best one out of training camp and stick with him, or will it be a quarterback-by-committee season in West Lafayette? (Consequently, do quarterback-by-committee teams ever succeed?)
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Hope has been pretty vocal about Caleb TerBush being his No. 1 guy coming out of spring ball. I'd expect TerBush to get the first chance and remain in the game until his struggles. Hope also likes Robert Marve and his arm strength, while Rob Henry was the team's top QB before his knee injury last August. Henry is the most intriguing player of the bunch. Will he play QB? Will he play elsewhere? How's his health? It'll be interesting to see how it pans out with Henry.
Josh (Madison, WI)
Who would be a better college head coach, you or BB? I could see you as a head coach and BB more as a waterboy type!
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
BB speaks with a southern accent, automatically making him more qualified. Even college football coaches from Minnesota and Maine speak with a southern accent.
No Hoosier love? Tisk, tisk.What is your prediction of the Hoosiers' record this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Chris, check out my piece on Ted Bolser later this week or early next week. Bolser was candid about the problems last year and the improved chemistry right now. I think Indiana wins 4 games this year with at least one Big Ten win.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
IU still needs another year or two to get the defense right, but the offense will be stronger.
Waffles (Southern California)
Besides Ball I don't think the B1G has many truly "elite" RBs. Don't get me wrong, they are all great backs, but I watch these second and third string guys at USC play using great instinct, and taking these smart angles that allows them to pick of yards and break tackles. I just don't see it much in the B1G. Do you think that's more coaching, talent, or just a little bit of both? Side note, I'm not that impressed with Redd, after seeing him healthy early last season and during his freshman season.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Waffles, I'd tell you to give Redd another chance early this season. Keep in mind he's already transformed himself as a back, from a scat-back type as a freshman to more of a powerful, one-cut runner last year. Another offseason should make him even better. Nebraska's Rex Burkhead isn't a flashy guy, but he does what you want from a lead back. I also think Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Michigan's Fitz Toussaint both have opportunities to become elite backs. Bell, in particular, has a high ceiling because of his size/speed/strength combo.
Jami (Kalamazoo, MI)
Adam, after 4 straight losses to MSU, does Michigan end that streak this year? How do you see this one playing out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
There's a good chance Michigan ends the streak this year. Division home games are so important, and the Wolverines really need to defend their home turf against the Spartans. Both teams should be solid defensively -- MSU more so than Michigan -- but I'd expect Denard Robinson and the Wolverines seniors to step up in their final chance against the Green and White.
Short question. Long answer and debatable I assume.What juristiction does B1G have in PSU case? If NCAA keeps their hands off, can B1G office act? Would they?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
The Big Ten presidents announced an investigation into Penn State, but I've been told everyone is following the lead of the Freeh Report. That's going to chart the course for how this plays out, along with the pending lawsuits against Curley and Schultz (and maybe Spanier). I don't think the Big Ten will consider removing Penn State from the league. That's been thrown out there, but it doesn't seem too realistic. And again, unless NCAA rules violations surface, I don't know if the Big Ten or NCAA will act against PSU.
Thomas (Iowa City)
Is sustained success possible for any team in the big ten other than Michigan and OSU? Don't get me wrong, Michigan State and Wisconsin have been great the past 2 seasons, but I think people are a little quick to say they have "arrived." I remember Iowa having a string of top 10 finishes, only to return to a string on mediocre seasons the last few years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
I think it's possible, Thomas. Wisconsin has been an upper-tier Big Ten team for the better part of the past two decades, and has had several runs at elite states (1998-99, 2010-11). Can Wisconsin be at the top year and year out? Probably not as easily as Ohio State and Michigan can be, but it's not out of the question. I also think Penn State and Nebraska have the ability to be elite in most years.
Joe (Glass Houses)
Should other B1G schools and their fans be demanding punishment for PSU regarding Sandusky or should they examine their systems and procedures to ensure something similar does not happen on their campuses?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Joe, I can tell you Big Ten schools already have started the process of examining their systems and procedures in light of the Sandusky situation. That's definitely happening around the leagee. As far as fans, many love to throw garbage at other programs and act like bad things never happen to their own. It's one thing I detest about college football fans.
Any recent news on Kyle Prater? When should we be hearing from the NCAA and what do you think his chances are getting accepted by the NCAA to play this year? Also would he be the number one receiver or play behind Demetrius Fields as a number 2?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Prater should have his decision from the NCAA by the end of the month or in early August, most likely by the start of preseason camp (Aug. 6). As long as he hears one way or another before the season -- he's allowed to practice now. He and Northwestern feel the case is strong, and the recent rulings, including Amir Carlisle, suggest he'll get his waiver. If he does, he'll play one of the outside receiver spots, most likely as a starter.
Will the ESPN servers hold up for tomorrows big news?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
I think so. We've had bigger news (Favre! Favre! LeBron!)
Which likely B1G starting QB would you be most afraid of if he's leading a 2 minute drill against your team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
The guy in Ann Arbor. He's done it a lot in his career, and he's extremely good in the clutch.
Do you think that coming into this season Michigan might be alittle overhyped? They had a great season last year but they lost their only true tough road games. I've even heard some UM fans talking about a National Title.
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
I think a little, but the beauty of it, Matt, is this season will show just how good Michigan will be. The schedule gets significantly tougher with the Alabama game, road trips to Ohio State, Nebraska and Notre Dame, and the home test against Michigan State. Michigan doesn't look like a national title contender to me, but the Wolverines will be a better team. How does that translate, record-wise? Could be a better team with another loss or two.
Josh (Madison, WI)
Must have been living under a rock, what is the big news that happens tomorrow?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Freeh Report on Penn State (re: Sandusky mess) is published.
How close do you think Nebraska is to a championship? It was easy for us to know in the B12, we shouldve had 2 titles our final 2 years (Yeah, I'm still bitter). But I think I speak for quite a few Husker fans when I say one year isnt enough to tell us where we stand.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Sean, if things fall right this year, Nebraska could be hoisting the Big Ten championship trophy in Indianapolis. Michigan and Michigan State both aren't perfect teams, and if Nebraska can notch some big road wins (MSU, OSU), it has an excellent chance to win the division. To get there, Nebraska will need to show greater depth on defense, particularly in the secondary, and limit turnovers on offense, which killed the Huskers in their losses.
Going to the Wisconsin / Purdue game on 10/13, is there anything you recommend doing in West Lafayette besides drinking at a bar to forget I'm in West Lafayette?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Ouch. Well, if you do go to a bar, make sure to make a stop at Harry's. Purdue's campus is worth exploring as well, and if you're into history, you can check out the Tippecanoe Battlefield site.
Jake (Bascom Hill)
Afternoon adam! I was wondering what it would take for Ball to bring home the Desmond Howard - I mean Heisman. Not just numbers but in NCAA overall. Thanks a bunch!
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Ball won't have as much trouble getting noticed nationally as a returning Heisman Trophy finalist from 2011. He also won't have to deal with another Heisman candidate on his team, as Russell Wilson was in 2011. A few big games early would help, and a strong performance in the Big Ten opener at Nebraska is a must. Montee still will fight the perception that, "All Wisconsin running backs should be great. Have you seen their offensive line?" But he's a special player, and he's also a nationally known name now.
John (Merrillville, IN)
Talk to me about Indiana football, Adam. Wilson's offense should be pretty good this year. I loved watching Tre Roberson against OSU last season. How good will he be this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
John, Roberson can be very good, and I'm hearing good things about him becoming a better leader in the offseason. The older guys don't view him as an underclassmen any more. Now he must get a lot more consistent as a passer, but his running ability is just as good as that of players like Braxton Miller.
Hearing anything about Danny O winning the starting job at Wisconsin yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Well, he's on campus and working out with his teammates, Bryan. But he hasn't practiced yet for the coaching staff. That begins in August, and while everyone expects O'Brien to be the starter, he'll have to separate himself from Joel Stave, who had the best spring of the current QBs.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who steps up for the Huskers and replaces Crick, David, and Denard at all three levels of the defense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Up front, I'd say Cam Meredith and Baker Steinkuhler, along with a younger guy like Chase Rome. At linebacker, it's clearly Will Compton's show now. And in the secondary, it could be several players: Green, Seisay, Evans.
Adam, don't you think we should wait to see if Meyer really has changed in terms of discipline/cleaning up his program? His rep at Florida was that star players and contributors got away with everything and a few backups were sacrificial casualties for appearances. Let's wait to see if a starter/contributor gets in trouble before we say he's changed his ways. What do you say?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
To be fair, Jon, Klein was a starter last year and likely would have been the team's No. 4 linebacker this season. So he's not a nobody. But you're right: What happens when Ohio State has a key player get in trouble during the season? How does Meyer react? That will be the true test for many people, but the bigger issue is his ability to limit off-field incidents, which he couldn't do at Florida.
Hello Adam, Regarding the B1G NYD bowl schedule, why does Delaney feel the need to "rule the day", which hasn't really happend lately anyway. Wouldn't all those bowl games get higher ratings if they didn't cannibalize eachother's audience? And don't higher ratings translate to more advertising revenue and consequently more money? I'm suprised the bowls involved actually allow this.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Andrew, while I agree with a lot of what you said, one thing to remember is that the Rose Bowl has an exclusive TV window between 5-8 ET. So you only really have two other windows to have games: 1-430 ET and 830 ET-whenever. I think it'd be better to lock in with more bowls that don't play on New Year's Day. Having a tie-in on Dec. 30 or Dec. 28 might get more attention because there are fewer games on those days. I'm not saying give up Cap One or Outback, but I don't think Gator or TicketCity does much for the exposure of Big Ten teams.
Confused (In a box)
Why are PSU fans being so insanely ignorant about this whole Sandusky situation? No other program in the history of College Athletics has had this disgusting of a problem yet they want to compare it to current issues like USC and Ohio State. What am I not understanding here?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Let's not paint with a broad brush, but we're talking about a few different things here. There are the blindly loyal Paternoists, who are incapable of believing Joe could have done anything wrong. These people, quite frankly, have embarrassed Penn State time and again. Another group is those who don't see the precedent for the NCAA to impose penalties. I don't really, either. That doesn't mean you should compare this situation to any other in college sports because there's no comparison.
Who has consistently been the best coach in the conference to interview?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
For me, it'd probably be Bret Bielema or Pat Fitzgerald. Both are younger guys, both get the media's role and they're not afraid to say things. I also really like visiting with Iowa's Kirk Ferentz -- he's a straight-shooter and doesn't sugarcoat his responses. Indiana's Kevin Wilson is also one of my favorites -- brutally honest in his assessments.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
OK, got time for two more ...
Brian (Valley Forge, PA )
Adam, if the beer vote passes in Minnesota, how quickly will it take for other B1G teams to follow suit?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Brian, I don't expect the movement to catch on. Minnesota has a unique situation being in a major city, having a new venue and soon to be hosting an NFL team in the stadium. I haven't heard much about other Big Ten facilities considering any changes to the liquor policy.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Last one ...
Do you ever get to really enjoy gameday festivities at campuses you are reporting from, or does all work and no play make Adam a dull boy?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Ha, game days are anything but dull. They're a ton of work. I do like to walk around and get a feel for the scene. But in that respect, I typically enjoy Friday nights more than Saturdays, as I have to be watching games and reporting 12-18 hours.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK guys, time's up. Let's do it again soon.