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!
Mel (Georgia )
Who do you think wins Penn States starting QB job
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Mel, it should be an interesting competition for sure. A lot depends on how ready Tyler Ferguson looks for the Big Ten. He's an important addition. Penn State would like to redshirt Christian Hackenberg if possible, but it needs to see enough out of both Ferguson and Steven Bench.
Colin Cowherd said on Tuesday, that dynasties were good for sports, but in my opinion, what the SEC, and Bama in particular, is doing, makes college football very boring, for everyone outside of the south. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Pete, I think there's some truth to it, but I also think the playoff will change the dynamic a bit. Right now, it all comes down to one game. After 2014, teams like Alabama will have to beat two marquee non-league opponents. I think that favors teams from other leagues. But yes, when one league keeps winning titles and distancing itself from the rest, it does make the sport a little boring.
Geoffrey Dillard (Crestline Park)
True or False? With the demographic/population changes that have occurred across the midwest, the Big Ten will NEVER be able to compete with the SEC in football.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
False. Never say never. It comes down to strategy and resources. Big Ten coaches have to devote more time and energy to recruiting the types of players we see in the SEC. You just have to. And the Big Ten remains on par with the SEC from a revenue standpoint. It needs to pay coaches competitive salaries to keep them in the Big Ten. Coaching continuity is huge, and we haven't seen much of it in the Big Ten lately.
HOCKEY IS BACK! Go Blackhawks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Preach on. So fired up.
Now that the season is over, do you and Bennett still get that ESPN top-rate cash? Or do you take a cut?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Straight cash, homey. All year long.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Adam, is there still hope for the Hawkeyes to get to the next level in the B1G in the near future? I'm getting mixed signals from the blog. Expectations are low for next season. But Iowa's still getting mentions alongside the B1G dogs.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
I think this is the same Samuel who sends me emails. What I referred to in the piece earlier this week is that Iowa has been in the mix for national titles during the BCS era (2002, 2009). The Hawkeyes obviously aren't a national title contender right now, and they honestly look like the worst team in the Legends division entering 2013. Iowa certainly can make strides but it needs to get better along both lines and improve at the quarterback position. Could be another tough year in IC.
Alex Chicago [via mobile]
Hi, in regards to the final power rankings, do you think Northwestern was a better overall team than Michigan? Who would win a rematch?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
The teams played an incredibly close game in Ann Arbor in November. Northwestern arguably outplayed Michigan and would have won the game if not for a miracle pass that set up the tying field goal. And Northwestern's overall profile -- 10 wins, bowl win, three victories against bowl champions -- is stronger than Michigan's. You only get so much credit for losing to a lot of great teams.
Maxwell, Cook, O'Connor or Terry at QB in East Lansing?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
It should be a fascinating spring, Spencer. I'll make a prediction now: I don't think Andrew Maxwell retains the top job. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I think the coaching staff expected a lot more than what it got this season. Nothing will be handed to Maxwell or any of the others. This should be a truly wide-open race.
The top 3 offenses in the B1G next year will be:
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Nebraska, Ohio State and Indiana. All three units return starting quarterbacks and multiple weapons elsewhere.
Adam, Why do you believe multiple games will favor other conferences? Do other conferences have more depth? Are they going to be better prepared to take the beating of back to back Top-4 teams? Do you think that the SEC will be left out of the playoff?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Rett, I think playing that second game will help the coaching staff facing the SEC in the championship. They'll have a better sense of how a team like Alabama has improved from the end of the regular season to the bowl game. There's such a long layoff, and Alabama seems to have perfected the preparation component between Dec. 1 and Jan. 7. Planning for the championship game is basically no different than a game during the regular season. You have 7-10 days. There could be injuries, teams won't be as fresh as they are for the current national title game.
Missing Montee Ball (Chicago)
Adam, what do you think of Gary Andersen's latest coaching hires. One thing that struck me about BB's staff last year is that I don't think they had all worked together before. This new staff seems to, for the most part, have some connections - is that an advantage?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
The familiarity factor certainly is an advantage for most of the staff. And I think Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland will blend in well. I'm not crazy about the Andy Ludwig hire. He didn't do well at Cal and seems like a journeyman who keeps getting good jobs. We'll see. The defense should be fine with Andersen's background.
How much longer will Husker fans give Pelini? They ran Solich off, and he was arguably more successful.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
It's a tricky situation, Abullah. Pelini wins nine or 10 games every year, but his teams fall flat in big games and can't win championships. The 2013 season could be pivotal as Nebraska has a new AD in Shawn Eichorst who didn't hire Pelini. Will Pelini take that next step forward and solidify his future in Lincoln, or will the Huskers, despite a soft schedule, take a step back? We could see a change in that situation, although it would have to be a major step back. The other thing to watch is whether Pelini leaves Nebraska for another job. His name has been out there a lot in recent years.
The D (D-Troit)
Do you have any idea when we'll find out about Devin Gardner's medical redshirt application?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
I'll double check on this, but typically you don't hear about an extra year until after a player has finished his "senior" season.
Top 3 defenses in the Big 10 next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State or Ohio State.
Adam, I assume you use next year's strength of schedule when assessing your 2013 power rankings. In my opinion, a favorable home schedule is the only possible reason you could have Indiana that high. Or did you forget that football is played with both an offense and a defense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Ha, I did not forget that, Jeff. The 8-game home schedule definitely factors in, but Indiana took big steps on offense this year and has been recruiting at a higher level defensively. At some point, the tide needs to turn on defense. Illinois is a mess, Purdue could be a mess next year and I don't think Iowa has enough offensive firepower to be ahead of Indiana right now. But as always, these rankings can and will change.
Arpan (Livonia MI)
Hey Adam, do you think that the Brady Hoke - Urban Meyer coaching rivalry could be a second ten year war? Also, do you think that John Harbaugh - Urban Meyer would have been a more fun to watch coaching rivalry?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
John Harbaugh or Jim Harbaugh? I don't think John ever considered coaching in college. Jim, on the other hand, would have added to the rivalry. I think Brady Hoke will be at Michigan for a very long time. Whether Urban remains at Ohio State for 10 years is less certain. It should be a fun rivalry, but Michigan needs to start winning more. The only Ohio State team the Wolverines beat in recent years was the worst Buckeyes squad we've seen since the John Cooper era.
What are the big non-conference matchups next fall, where B1G can make an impression nationally?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Off the top of my head, you've got the three Notre Dame games (Mich, MSU, Purdue). There are several Big Ten-Pac-12 games -- Northwestern-Cal, Washington-Illinois, UCLA-Nebraska. Northern Illinois, which reached the Orange Bowl this year, visits both Iowa and Purdue.
John ( Michigan)
Who starts at QB for the Hoosiers in 2013? Two different starters from most of this season and Tre Roberson coming back into the mix as well!
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Wow, more Indiana questions than we've had in some time. Good stuff. It really comes down to Roberson's health, but if he's good to go, I think he wins the job. He was Indiana's best option entering the year, and he showed good signs early on before going down with injury. The good news, as you point out, is that IU has options if injuries occur or players struggle. Both Coffman and Sudfeld showed they could get it done.
Mitch (Iowa City)
Why are there not more home and home nonconference games with SEC teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
The biggest reason is the reluctance of teams from both leagues to give up home games. The SEC also rarely ventures outside the southeast to play anyone in non-league play. But when you've got two leagues with huge stadiums and athletic departments that need 7-8 home games a year, you won't get a lot of crossover. We should see more neutral-site games in the future, and there will be some Big Ten-SEC matchups in the distant future.
I am curious as to your take as to how Nebraska feels about their Big Ten membership from two perspective. 1. Are there fans happy with the move? 2. Is their administration happy? With all the bad press surround the big ten, I wonder if the fans might be unhappy with the move.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Nebraska fans, feel free to chime in, but I think most fans are pleased with the move, although some miss the Big 12 rivalries and don't get some of the Big Ten traits (loving the Rose Bowl so much, etc). Nebraska's administration is thrilled. More money, more resources, the Big Ten Network, a much more stable league. It's a definite win for Nebraska's admin.
Do you think Ohio St would have been able to put up a better fight than Notre Dame did against Alabama?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Anthony, Brian and I talked about this on the Big Ten podcast today. I would have been really interested to see whether Ohio State would have capitalized on bowl practices, made strides on both sides and built the type of depth you need to compete with Alabama. I still think Alabama wins the game, but Ohio State's offense shows up and makes it a game for a while.
Arpan (Livonia MI)
Also, aren't you kind of glad that the B1G is starting to cut ties with Notre Dame? Michigan is done, and I expect less matchups between the conference. Challenging schedules will only help us with the 4 team playoff, and I believe that facing new opponents out of conference is better than facing traditional foes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
You're saying this about the team that just made the national title game? That's not a challenging opponent? Don't understand your logic.
Back to the power rankings- will these be revisited after signing day?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Yes. And before spring practice. And after spring practice. And before fall camp. And after fall camp. We love power rankings. We do them all the time. They will change.
Andrew (Fremont, Indiana)
Too many Hoosiers questions already, who do you see winning the QB competition at Purdue between Henry, Appleby, Marshall, and Etling? And do you think we are finally rid of the awful two QB system in West Lafayette?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Ha, can't forget the Boilers. I don't think Darrell Hazell will be wedded to the 2-QB system as much as Danny Hope seemed to be. But unless a guy like Rob Henry really separates himself, Hazell might be forced to play multiple QBs to see what he has. I'm really interested to see how the decorated recruit, Danny Etling, performs in the offseason.
Tyler (Detroit, MI)
How will Michigan address their abysmal rushing attack from this year? With Denard graduating and Toussaint injured (even if he is healthy he was unimpressive this season) it seems like they have a tough road ahead
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
It comes down to the offensive line, Tyler. The run-blocking just wasn't good enough when someone other than Denard Robinson carried the ball this season. Michigan will be replacing most of its line -- Taylor Lewan announces his decision tonight and is expected to turn pro -- so reloading up front will be the team's top priority in the spring and summer.
Arpan (Livonia MI)
Let me rephrase. Is facing a new challenge better than facing a traditional challenge?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
That's a different question, although I still think playing a highly ranked non-league opponent -- whether it's Notre Dame, Texas or Georgia -- benefits the Big Ten. But I like seeing Michigan play different elite non-league foes. I love Michigan State's scheduling approach under AD Mark Hollis. The Spartans have added several marquee teams to their schedule (Oregon, Alabama). So yes, more variety is better, but it's better to play this Notre Dame team than the ones that consistently underachieved. The Big Ten got no credit for those wins.
MSU state's O came into the year with a lot of question marks due to departures, it seems odd that there seem to be even more after the season they just had. The O can't get worse, I hope, can it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Dan, the offense definitely is a major concern with both Bell and Sims gone. I do think the line will be better, especially if Dan Roushar takes a more active role in coaching the linemen again (yes, I know Spartans fans can't stand Roushar as a play-caller, but the guy can coach O-line). It really comes down to the quarterbacks and the receivers. Michigan State should be able to run the ball decently, but it needs a lot more from a passing game that provided so little for most of the season.
Matt (Oberlin College, OH)
Adam, Ohio State and Nebraska both go 12-0 in the regular season and meet in the B1G championship game as top five teams with a spot for the national title game on the line. Am I dreaming or will it happen?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Ohio State has a much better chance of getting there at 12-0 than Nebraska. Although the Huskers' schedule is favorable, they have too many problem areas -- defense, turnovers -- to go 12-0. They still have to beat Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State, in addition to UCLA in non-league play. I just don't see Nebraska running the table next fall. Too many issues.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Adam - not understanding yours and Brian's concerns around the Nittany Lion offense next season? Only big question mark is QB and we saw what BO'B and Charlie Fisher were able to do with McGloin in one offseason.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Brian, QB is a pretty big question mark, but I see what you're saying. Penn State has a star wideout in Robinson and a major strength at tight end. The offensive line answered some questions this season and will need to answer some more. I just think at some point, depth will catch up to Penn State. The Lions were relatively fortunate with injuries until the end of the season. They need the same good fortune in 2013.
Bart Miller is out, sad but that's how things work. He came through during a rough patch and I would like to see him find success somewhere, is there any word on his whereabouts or future?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Nothing is confirmed, but he definitely interviewed with several teams at the coaches' convention. He'll have no trouble getting a good job.
Tom (Columbus, Ohio)
I read your crystal clear article and while I agree that the B1G needs to be represented and win in the National title but I also think that we as a conference have fallen so much that we need to focus on baby steps. And those steps being consecutive seasons where we have good early non-conference wins and winning bowl seasons with 2 Rose Bowl wins. I guess I am interested on your reasoning? I think at times we are getting ahead of ourselves, sure my Buckeyes have a shot at getting to the National Title but if they get there they better win. Because we all know how that goes when OSU has a flop in the big game....
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Good point, Tom. Taking steps is important, but the entire sport is shaped by the national title game. The SEC for the most part had a so-so bowl season. But Alabama's win in the title game continues the narrative about the SEC being the nation's best league, period. I agree the Big Ten needs to start winning Rose Bowls, recording better regular-season non-league wins and competing better in the biggest bowl games. But as someone well versed in how leagues are perceived, I can assure you the Big Ten will only get respect when one of its teams raises the crystal football. Ohio State still looks like the Big Ten's best hope.
Chuck (Ann Arbor)
What odds would you give Northwestern being able to maintain it's momentum and consistently be a top B1G team, ala Stanford?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
The odds are good, Chuck, as long as Northwestern keeps Pat Fitzgerald in place. Fitz has no intentions of leaving and wants to see what he can do with a program that isn't lagging behind in facilities. That's why the new on-campus facility is so huge for Northwestern. Will Northwestern ever be Stanford? Probably not. But the Wildcats are a consistent bowl team that should become a more regular contender for division/Big Ten titles.
A lot of people have been saying that ND proved in the NCG that they didn't belong there. How exciting would an Oregon-Bama matchup have been?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Notre Dame went 12-0, and it would have been hard to deny the Irish a spot in the title game. That said, I would have loved to have seen the Ducks take on the Tide.
Matt (Amherst, OH)
Who's the biggest dark horse for each division next season? I think Northwestern is too trendy now for Legends, so I'm going with MSU. Leaders is up in the air. PSU is in the doldrums, and Purdue, Indiana and Illinois have too far to go to even be considered dark horses. So I guess Wisco. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Matt, good question. I'd go with Michigan State in Legends and maybe Penn State in the Leaders. The Lions certainly exceeded expectations this season and shouldn't be counted out with Bill O'Brien at the helm.
With all the D-Line recruits this year and last, then top LB's and DB's this year...how scary good will the OSU Defense be in 2 years when Braxton is a senior and has tons of weapons? That has NC written all over it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Ben, I agree Ohio State might have a better chance at a title in 2014 than 2013. There's just not enough defensive depth right now, although I could be proved wrong this fall. Both Ohio State and Michigan are in line to have huge 2014 seasons if things go their way.
Arpan (Livonia MI)
Do you think that Gholston could have improved his draft stock by staying a year? Or would he have just defended the run since MSU would be behind often.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Arpan, I think he could have improved his stock. But Gholston might always be one of those guys who has to wow the scouts at the combine and other predraft events. He never produced at an All-America level, but his physical gifts are off the charts. He'll have no trouble getting attention from NFL teams.
Why does the national media keep saying that we're going back to Big 2, Little 10(12)? Over the last 20 years, Wisconsin has more Big Ten titles than Michigan. Over the last decade, Penn State and Iowa have been more successful than Michigan. Even during OSU's run, they shared a few titles. Is it just the long term history that causes people to jump on such a simple (and incorrect) premise?
Can we all just face facts, this isnt the Big 2 little 10 now. Its Big 1 Little 11. OSU will be like USC of the last decade
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Thought it would be funny for you to see the different perspectives. Ohio State certainly could dominate the Big Ten for years to come, but I also think Jon makes some good points about other programs like Wisconsin elevating their profiles. Urban Meyer's recruiting efforts are the single biggest reason why Brian and others think Ohio State will start running away with the league. Other Big Ten teams -- looking at you, Nebraska -- need to start competing better with Ohio State and Michigan on the recruiting trail. Penn State certainly held its own with the 2013 class, which includes several elite prospects.
Ed (Cleveland, Ohio)
Interested to hear your take on recruiting? I know as an overall conference never fare as well as the SEC and have to develop the players brought in. How do we get more recruits excited about B1G football. I am in my mid-20's and remember being the premier conference. However, recruits coming in have only heard the B1G bashing that has been going on in the media the past 8 years or so. I know there are a lot of factors that sway recruits one way or another but how the perception that we are a weak conference hurts us.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Ed, some good points here. The Big Ten bashing puts the responsibility on Big Ten coaches to educate these recruits about their programs, the league and the opportunities it presents. The Big Ten is still a great place to play college football. The facilities are top notch, the academics are top notch, the TV exposure remains unmatched, etc. There are some good selling points for these coaches when they hit the recruiting trail, but when you're recruiting athletes from the south and southeast who only hear about the greatness of the SEC, it can be a hard sell.
Evan (Morgantown, WV)
What do think about Penn State's chances to not only field a top B1G team but a top national team in 4 years when this years recruiting class would be upperclassmen, especially if the sanctions get reduced with PA Gov. Corbett's lawsuit and O'Brien can recruit without the worry of sanctions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Evan, it's hard to predict that far in advance without knowing about the sanctions, O'Brien's future plans, whether he keeps his staff together, etc. I think there's a chance Penn State gets back to prominence faster than many of us thought. But I also would caution PSU fans about the sanctions. They're still very severe. They might not really impact the program until this coming season. And they may not impact PSU as much as we thought they would. It's just too soon to make any sort of reasonable projection about PSU.
cutter (Silver Spring, MD)
Is Northwestern the new Michigan State? Is Pat Fitzgerald the new Mark Dantonio? You were pretty optimistic about MSU this past season based on many of the factors you seem to be highlighting regarding NW in 2013. While the Wildcats had a pretty strong 2012, how can you be so sure they can replicate that going forward?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
It won't be easy, Cutter, and Northwestern has a more challenging schedule than most of the Big Ten's better teams in 2013. The Wildcats easily could be a better team with a worse record. One big difference between Northwestern and Michigan State, however, is that Northwestern returns its core from the 2012 team, while Michigan State lost Kirk Cousins and its top three receivers from the 2011 team.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Tom (Columbus, Ohio)
I agree with your point of winning a National Title but the SEC has one 7 in a row and you don't hear the bashing going on about the PAC 12 or the Big 12 being weak. Baby steps, ultimately, we need get at least to the #2 conference status. I am always concerned about getting exposed in that game when maybe as a conference we are not ready to compete at that level. See Notre Dame this year. The backlash from another B1G team getting destroyed is a concern, right?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
More good points from you, Tom. And if you look at the 2009 bowl season -- Big Ten won Rose and Orange bowls -- the league seemed to take a bit of a step forward. But you're also having a playoff arrive in 2014, and if the Big Ten isn't part of it, it will be bashed. So maybe you take baby steps next year with a Rose Bowl win and a better bowl performance, and then put at least one team into the four-team playoff in 2014. I can assure you that if the Big Ten gets shut out of the playoff, nothing else will matter.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, time's up. Enjoyed the chat.