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 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Hey guys, good afternoon. Let's chat.
Tim Burden (Orlando, Florida)
The Urban Meyer-coached Buckeyes of Ohio State are widely considered to be the B1G's power team of 2013, claimed by many to some to be Alabama's biggest threat. To what do you give most credit for this, Meyer's aggressive recruiting ability or his strategic style of play-calling?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Tim, he has revolutionized offense at Ohio State, and he has a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback (Brax) coming back for 2013. The recruiting has helped, but you figure we won't see the results of his first two classes until at least 2014. So it's really the one-year gains Meyer has made at Ohio State, especially on offense, that fuel the hype.
Jason (Ann Arbor) [via mobile]
When do you think we will hear a ruling on Devin Gardner's medical redshirt? Curt Phillips already received word on a sixth year, so Gardner's status must come soon, right? Thanks for all your hard work.
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Jason, good question. Actually consulted our Michigan guy Michael Rothstein about this, and he pointed out that Gardner is seeking a fifth year (from the Big Ten) not a sixth year (from the NCAA). The answer honestly should be coming soon, if Michigan doesn't know already. It's not an NCAA/sixth year situation where the player only finds out after he's exhausted his eligibility. So stay tuned ...
Tim Burden (Orlando, Florida)
Two decades ago, the Rose Bowl was widely considered the greatest of the bowl games. A decade ago it was the slightly more prestigious bowls of the BCS. Today, it's considered to be overrated and unimportant by most outside of the B1G and Pac-12 (and even by many within). A decade from now, where do you see the Rose Bowl standing in the college football world, will it become "just another bowl game"?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
Tim, I certainly hope not, and I disagree that the Rose Bowl is unimportant. Of all the BCS bowls, it still has the most prestige because of the history, setting, etc. Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist, but that game remains special for all those who attend and participate. Do we need better matchups? Sure. But I don't see the Rose Bowl turning into just another game.
Miguel (San Juan)
Give me some sort of hope for my Hawkeyes next year - anything...losing faith.
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Keep the faith, Miguel! How about that linebacking corps? All three starters return, and all three have been really productive. Iowa also returns some of its injured offensive linemen and running backs, and should be able to run the ball more consistently than it did last fall. I know things look bleak, but the Hawkeyes have surprised us before.
Adam how much hate mail have you already received for your top 25 post season player rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
Haven't checked today, but not much at all so far. Nothing compared to our first Big Ten power rankings for 2013. Folks weren't happy about those (they never are).
Mochila (Grand Rapids)
Everybody loves a good story of redemption. My question is did Michael Carter's come too late, or will he get his chance to play in the NFL? If so, what round do you think he could be drafted?
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
Good question, Mochila. I don't think Carter's turnaround came too late, as he really stepped up during the most important games (Big Ten, bowl). He made plays to get noticed. Now he has to have a good predraft performance. But the guy always had talent, and we're starting to see it come through now. I can't predict where he'll be drafted, but I'll have a better idea after the predraft events.
Can you give us any insight as to your postseason rankings? Do any teams go 0-for the list?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Yes. Four of them.
Any further speculation that my Badgers will be playing Bama in the Cowboy classic in 2015?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
It's all speculation at this stage, but definitely stay tuned. I, for one, would love to see it.
Timmy B (Columbus, OH)
Adam, there should be some great dual threat quarterbacks in the league next year. Out of Miller, Gardner, Martinez, and Tre Robinson, who do you want leading your offense?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
Timmy, I'd definitely include Northwestern's Kain Colter in that mix. Led the Wildcats to 10 wins this season. I think you mean Tre Roberson, who returns from a broken leg to help Indiana. I'd go with Braxton Miller, but there are some good options.
Zac (Athens )
Hey Adam, love the blog, though you aren't posting nearly enough articles to keep my three hour wait in-between classes entertaining, almost forcing me to study (almost). Do you think (possible) Michigan commit Derrick Green is a Big10 ready half back coming out of high school? That seems like the biggest position of need with Fitz injury/ineffectiveness of the rest of the depth at that position. At 6' and 220 he seems like the perfect back for what Hoke wants to do on that side of the ball.
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
Apologies, Zac. Posting will be a little slower in the offseason, but we'll do our best. ... I'm really interested to see what Green can do if he comes to Michigan. You're absolutely right about running back being a position of need, and we've seen freshmen step in and contribute right away in the Big Ten. Fitz Toussaint is a big question mark and no one else has really emerged, so Green certainly would have a chance to compete right away. His size definitely doesn't hurt, but grasping the offense and playing fast can be tough for true freshmen.
I've heard that there are some B1G players struggling to learn new positions. It was said that John Simon was terrible in coverage before he was injured and that Denard Robinson struggled running routes as well as catching passes and fielding punts. Any word on this?
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
You're referring to the Senior Bowl, Trasch. For starters, both Simon and Robinson came to the game with injuries, and Simon's issue forced him to leave. It's certainly a challenge for a guy who played only defensive line at Ohio State to move to outside linebacker. I think Simon needs a team that would consider him as an undersized DE, but we'll see. From the reports today, Robinson is doing a lot better at receiver, but it'll take some time for him to get acclimated.
The return of Jordan Hall [fulfills/delays development of] Meyer's prototypical "Harvin" role?
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Tom, I think so. Jordan Hall was projected to fill the role last season before injuries essentially wiped out his season. Ohio State isn't stacked with great players at receiver, and Hall certainly has the experience and talent to fill that need.
Adam, the Big Ten sends nine teams to bowl games next season. True or false?
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Matt, I'm going to say false. Think it will be eight. If Penn State didn't have the sanctions, it would be nine.
Quarterbacks (Big10 )
I think one of the conferences biggest weaknesses lately has been the lack of any truly elite Qb's, outside of Russel Wilson the quarterback output of the conference has been really disappointing. Do you see any kids coming up in the future recruiting classes who could turn that around? Maybe Shane Morris? Or someone else?
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
It has been a weakness for a number of years, although the development of both Wilson and, to a lesser extent, Kirk Cousins, is an encouraging sign. Shane Morris definitely is a name to watch, and I'd definitely keep an eye on Christian Hackenberg, the nation's top pocket passer according to ESPN Recruiting. He'll be in an NFL-style offense at Penn State and certainly has a chance to develop into a pro-level passer.
Jason (Rochester, MN)
Feel like making any early guesses as to the Badgers' starting QB in 2013?
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
Jason, I think of all the quarterback races in the Big Ten, Wisconsin's intrigues me the most. You have three players with a decent amount of starting experience in Stave, Phillips and O'Brien. You have the hotshot recruit in Bart Houston, who might have the most natural ability. And then you might have Jon Budmayr, who many expected to start in 2010 before Russell Wilson arrived. I'd give a slight edge to Stave, but it'll be really interesting.
Bob (Munroe Falls, Ohio)
Adam, As a Big Ten fan, this SEC domination has killed me ( I was cheering for Michigan in their bowl game for crying out loud!). This isn't a question but a plea....Make it stop!
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Bob, I feel your pain. But unless you plan on kidnapping Nick Saban and Johnny Manziel between Aug. 1-Jan. 1, it'll likely continue.
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Please don't take that literally.
Can we expect Illinois to make some improvements next year (like they could get worse) or do you think it will be more of the same for the Illini in 2013?
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
I can't see how much worse it can get for Illinois. But the team once again loses several NFL-caliber defenders -- Hawthorne, Buchanan, Spence -- and its top two offensive lineman. While I can't imagine the offense will be so inept again, and I doubt Illinois endures as many injuries as it did in 2012, I still don't see the Illini having enough firepower to hold their own in the Big Ten.
AAWolv (Ypsilanti, MI)
Since B1G COY goes to biggest over-achiever, who do you predict for next season? Ferentz, Kill, O'Brien?
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
I don't think it'll be Bill O'Brien again, although if he wins eight games again, you never know. Jerry Kill might be a good choice. The guy has had Year 3 success at previous coaching stops like Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. Minnesota is in the tougher division (Legends), but if Kill wins eight or nine games, he could be the pick. I'd also put Indiana's Kevin Wilson and Wisconsin's Gary Andersen on that list.
Nebraska should have a great offense next year, but they lose a lot on defense. I think this will cause them a lot of issues next year when they play MSU, UofM and NU, especially if they can't cure the turnover bug.
Adam Rittenberg (3:22 PM)
I agree, Tony. Nebraska needs to hope for some addition by subtraction on defense. Then again, if the younger players really are better, why didn't more of them see the field this past season? Nebraska clearly struggled against the better offensive teams, and the key for the Blackshirts is improved play in the front seven. Nebraska has lacked a dominant defensive lineman since Suh, and linebacker is a huge question mark with no starters returning.
Zac (O-H I-O )
What are the chances that Rutgers (or Maryland) come in and compete for Big10 titles within the first few years? Somehow i just dont see either of those teams getting past Ohio State or Michigan, or Wisconsin for that matter. I just dont understand how adding another Indiana does much for the brand.
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Zac, I don't know that you're adding another Indiana as Rutgers and Maryland both are in larger markets and in better recruiting areas. But I see some growing pains for both programs during the Big Ten transition. It's just a different level week in and week out than the Big East or ACC. It'll take some time for them to get adjusted.
Yams (Are good for you.)
Assuming the "Pods" idea was allowed within the NCAA's bylaws (I think it is technically), would the Big Ten avoid this at all costs because of how confusing a system it would be (rotating divisions annually; making it almost impossible to brand and sell)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Maybe, but one thing the Big Ten likely wouldn't do is hold semifinals to determine which division champs advance to the title game. I can't see the presidents ever going for that (which several readers have suggested). The Big Ten had a very confusing tiebreaker system before going to divisions, so this wouldn't be that different. But yes, the league would need to be as clear as possible about breaking ties.
Klauta (North Carolina)
Wait his name is GARY Andersen? Why has Bennett been lying to us all this time?!
Adam Rittenberg (3:27 PM)
I think Bennett murdered someone named Dave Andersen and keeps saying that name (instead of Gary) because deep down he wants to get caught.
Do you think spring games really show us much? I know many of us Badger fans are antsy to see what the new coaches will bring to the team.
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
I don't, Renee. It's a big reason why I almost never attend spring games. I see a lot more from a spring practice in the middle or latter part of the session than the spring game. Most coaches aren't going to reveal too much. Sometimes you get a sense of who is making progress, but I can go on and on about "spring game stars" who never amounted to anything in the fall.
Thoughts on an out-of-the-box idea about divisions and scheduling: Assuming B1G stays at 8-game conf sched, and the concern you'd play non-division, non-rival teams every 6 years, could the B1G allow 1 non-conf game within the conference and not count towards conf record?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Steve, I know Michigan and Minnesota talked about playing a non-league game a few years ago, but it never came to fruition. I don't think the Big Ten would like to get in this habit. It's more likely the Big Ten increases the number of conference games to 9 or 10 so its teams are playing one another more often.
Are you going to do a post of the new members (RU and MD) traditions?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Yep. We'll probably do that this summer when it's really slow. It's still more than a year before either program joins the B1G.
Blinky (East Lansing)
Any more rumblings on potential expansion? I heard a lot of speculation earlier this week that Virginia was about to get an invite, and would take it immediately if it came. That would open the door for UNC, right?
Adam Rittenberg (3:32 PM)
Georgia Tech and Virginia are definitely on the Big Ten's radar. Both schools fit the profile of the recent additions, even though Georgia Tech isn't in a contiguous state (not as big of a deal as many think, AAU membership more important). North Carolina is the wild card. It would be the big-splash addition, and it would resonate for Jim Delany, a UNC alum. But it'll be hard to get UNC away from the ACC.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Adam, the Pods system doesn't imply a semi-final. Think of it as two regular 8-team divisions. Each division would likely use the same tiebreaker rules that exist now to determine the division champ. The only difference with the pods is that the divisions change every year by rotating which two pods make up a division. And each year every team is still playing all 7 teams within its division, so there's no issue of not having a true division record to fall back on for the tiebreaker.
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
Right, this format makes more sense than having semifinals, as many readers have proposed to me. There will be some complaints about some pods playing easier pods than others, but you're always going to have this to a certain degree without having a true round robin. I actually like this plan a lot, as long as the pods themselves had some competitive balance.
Pomero Y. (Pittsfield, MI)
Will there be any new bowl games/locations B1G fans should be excited for next year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
The current bowl lineup remains for the 2013 season, but a new lineup will be introduced for 2014 (likely lasting through the 2017 season). There will be changes. I'd be stunned if the Pinstripe Bowl isn't added to the lineup. I'd also be surprised if another California Bowl -- Holiday or Kraft Fight Hunger -- isn't added. I'd expect the Big Ten to play at least one game against the ACC or Big East. The Capital One and Outback Bowls likely aren't going anywhere. Beyond that, it's all up in the air.
With Dantonio saying Maxwell is the #1 going into Spring, what are the chances that he will start someone else over him? Kind of seems like a Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez confidence, minus the tattoo of course.
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
John, I might be in the minority, but I don't put too much stock into what Dantonio said about Maxwell. I think he's trying to instill confidence in a player who probably lost some because of his struggles last season. Does Maxwell have a chance to start? Sure. But he definitely has to outplay the other candidates. That's definitely an open competition.
Adam -- Kain Colter, while a "dual-threat" really struggled to pass downfield this year consistently. This allowed opponents to focus on containing him and there were multiple games we pulled out only because Siemian was able to come in and move the ball downfield. I feel now that the NU gameplan is out of the bag and teams will focus on QB containment and stacking the box against Colter. Do you believe he has the potential to improve his downfield passing abilities? Or will the Cats continue to rely on Siemian when opponents shutdown Colter?
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Alex, you make some good points here. Colter was disappointing at times as a passer, and it's fair to wonder if he'll ever turn the corner with his passing game. But I do think he can be better. I've seen it in practices and in some games. The receivers need to improve, but Northwestern's offense doesn't ask the quarterback to make a bunch of long throws. Colter needs to be accurate on the short to midrange throws, and Northwestern needs him to be more than just a running threat.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Adam, I just don't see UNC has a bit splash edition footbal-wise. For me, UNC immediately equates to basketball and Duke. Does UNC have good football? Or is everything else about the school (location, AAU, etc...) what makes it a great addition?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Samuel, I hear ya, and the UNC basketball brand always will stand out above football. But the football program has had success and actually has produced a bunch of NFL players. There's decent tradition with the UNC football program, and the recruiting in the Carolinas is very good. The other elements of the school -- AAU membership, academics -- also are appealing.
Ace (DC Burbs)
Given Nebraska's lack big bodies on the D-line and the glut of new O-Line recruits, do you think flipping a few big uglies to the other side of the line is a possibility?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
Ace, it's possible, but I really leave the position switch decisions up to the coaches. They really know their players best. Just because there are a bunch of big guys doesn't mean they can play on both sides of the ball. I've seen the same thing with teams that are loaded at wide receiver and lack defensive backs. Why not move some wideouts over? The answer is because the skills really are different and players need to convince the coaches they can succeed in new positions. So is it possible? Sure. But I don't expect Nebraska's coaches to make those moves just to balance out the depth of the two groups. It has to be a good fit.
Crazy Man (Colorado)
Any chance Colorado's name gets tossed in the mix for the Big Ten expansion? We are right next to Nebraska after all.
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
No. Already in the Pac-12. In poor financial shape. This won't happen.
Andrew (New York)
Adam, this would be better directed at Brian, given his recent interview with Rutgers AD, but ... you're here. For the past decade or so, the Rutgers AD has drawn on student fees and the university's general fund to sustain itself. This has occurred as academic departments have seen big cutbacks in graduate funding and support services. Any sense whether the Big 10's TV money will allow Rutgers athletics to become self-supporting? Might they actually give something back to the academic departments that they've starved?
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
Good question, Andrew. Rutgers' financial issues with its athletic department are well documented, and while Rutgers would have crawled to the Big Ten to become a member, the financial benefits certainly help the school. Every school uses its Big Ten revenue differently, but I would imagine Rutgers will create a situation where it can sustain athletics without removing funds from those areas you highlight.
With Alabama reportedly offering Drake Harris a scholarship yesterday, does it become more realistic that MSU loses out? With some top tier programs offering now, am I wrong to think the only way he stays is through the bond he develops with other commits (i.e. Damion Terry)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
John, I don't know the kid, but I would be concerned if I were an MSU fan. Although MSU has increased its profile, Harris now is receiving interest from some bigger brand-name programs. The Terry connection seems to be key, but it might be tough for him to pass up those other offers. It's one of the big story lines heading into signing day.
What is Nebraska's ceiling if they put together a top 40 defense next season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Nebraska certainly would have a chance to win the Big Ten . There's little doubt the offense will pile up points, yards and big plays. The key is for Nebraska to contain some of the other explosive offensive teams rather than give up so many yards and points, as it did this season. Nebraska's defense didn't give its offense a chance to win those games. That's the big key entering 2013.
Adam, would Delany ever consider expanding to the North with the addition of the University of Toronto? It would break the B1G into an entirely new market and would add to the conference a well-respected, AAU accredited university. Is there any way this would ever be considered?
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
OK, since you keep asking over and over (don't do that), I really don't see this happening. Too big of a risk. And the Big Ten really wants an East Coast presence, to be bi-regional, not bi-national. I can't see this happening.
Vince (Los Angeles)
Over the past 25 years there has been a demographic shift in the country- now football hotbeds are in the southeast and LA, while traditional powerhouses likes PA and OH are drying up. How does the Big Ten combat this or will we simply drift into second class status?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
That's why Georgia Tech is such an intriguing possibility for the Big Ten. Sure, it's stretching the footprint, but you really have to do that to remain relevant.
Do you think this recruiting class will be enough for IU to breakthrough to a bowl game, or will the tough schedule keep them out?
Adam Rittenberg (3:52 PM)
Justin, as I mentioned in my bold predictions, I expect Indiana to go bowling in 2013. Eight home games, an explosive offense and a defense that has to turn a corner eventually will get IU to six or seven wins. Schedule isn't too tough.
how long do you think the B1G will wait until they add two more teams. i think it will be a few years maybe like 5, until the ACC gets settled out on if FSU, Clemson, and maybe Miami is still going to be in the confrence, which may free up notre dame for delany's last shot at them
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
Mike, it really depends on the landscape. The Big Ten has reacted to what has happened elsewhere, at least with the most recent expansion. But I think we'd see something sooner rather than later. Wouldn't be shocked if there's movement before the football season.
Jack (Ann Arbor)
Do you see Brady Hoke wearing more than a polo at any point during the 2013 season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
Nah. It's his trademark. His sweater vest. 80 degrees or 10 below, Brady's wearing the polo.
I feel a lot more confident playing BYU next year in November with Gary Andersen coaching now. Other than OSU, what's the Badgers' hardest game on the schedule in 2013?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
A.J., good point on the Andersen factor. I think it's good Wisconsin has that game later in the season, so the team get get acclimated to Andersen's style. The Northwestern game won't be easy, even though it's at home, and Wisconsin also has to play at Arizona State, which is never an easy trip for Big Ten teams to make.
Fire Roushar (America)
When will this seriously happen? Unless he comes up with some huge improvements, I give it to the end of next season.
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
It's not happening before the season, I can tell you that. Mark Dantonio still has a lot of faith in Roushar, who may take a more active role with the offensive line going forward.
Anonymous (somewhere in the B1G)
THIS JUST IN - the reigning heisman trophy winning quarterback from texas a&m johnny manziel and the 2 time defending national championship coach nick saban are missing
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Uh oh, look what I've started. Where's Brian Bennett? Verify Bennett's whereabouts! And Dave Andersen's!
Ben Omaha [via mobile]
Nebraska doesn't seem able to get over the hump, why do you think that is? Is it talent, coaching, resources? And how can we improve in that area?
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Ben, like many things, it's a combination. Nebraska lost some luster during the Callahan years, and although Bo's teams have been good, they haven't been great on the really big stages. The recruiting has to get a little better, and it's fair to question some of the coaching staff decisions Bo has made, particularly on defense. A Bo Pelini-coached teams shouldn't have the defensive struggles we saw this past season.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
OK, last one for the day.
Tim Burden (Orlando, Florida)
What's your favorite Terrance Howard movie?
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hustle $ Flow.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Goodbye. Talk to you next week. Thanks for the chat!