Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Lot of news in the Big Ten -- not good for Michigan and MSU fans -- so let's begin ...
Greg (South Bend, IN)
Does the lack of a B1G team on ND schedule help or hurt ND? How about the B1G since MSU, UM and Purdue are going off the ND schedule in the next several years?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
I think both sides stand to benefit, although the regional rivalries are nice and historic. The Big Ten gets little from beating ND as it reinforces the perception that ND is overrated. The same goes for ND beating the Big Ten. Both sides can capitalize more by beating teams from other leagues.
Hey Adam...if the NCAA does allow PSU football to be eligible for a bowl next year, when do you think they are most likely to announce it? That obviously has an impact in recruiting, etc...thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Interesting question, Mike. The reduction in scholarship losses obviously came after the 2013 recruiting cycle, and I'd imagine we wouldn't hear anything until the spring. It would be a surprise if something came down sooner, but it's hard to pin down the NCAA on announcements unless it has to do with a particular committee meeting date.
Mike (PSU Class of 13) (NYC)
Adam - Why would Allen Robinson leave? There are at least 3 (Watkins, Evans, Lee) receivers that will be drafted higher than him and possibly a bunch more. Why wouldn't he stay in school and improve even more?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Mike, I don't know if all three would be definitively higher than Robinson, who could have a big combine. But he certainly could benefit from staying. A big factor for him could be Bill O'Brien and whether O'Brien will stay at PSU for a third season.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is the Most Expensive College Football Bowl Game this season to buy tickets?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
That's probably a better question for my pal Darren Rovell. I would imagine its the BCS national title game. Regular-season wise, the Iron Bowl had to be a pretty pricey ticket.
Taylor (East Lansing)
Do you expect MSU's defense to still be elite in the B1G/nation with the departures of Bullough, Dennard, Lewis, Allen, etc? And MSU has to be a favorite to win the Big Ten next year with all the returning personnel on offense, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Taylor, I expect Michigan State to reload on defense, although the Spartans will lose several multi-year All-Big Ten performers. MSU could be "a favorite" next year with so much returning on offense, but the Spartans might not be "the favorite," as Ohio State still will be in that mix.
Jeff (Between here and there)
Adam-Merry Kwanza. I'm going to ask you now and Scarborough next hour this question, and want to compare your answers. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses for both the Badgers and Gamecocks, and what must each do to win?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
And a Merry Kwanzaa (correct spelling) to you, too, sir. Both teams are very strong along the line of scrimmage, and as Wisconsin guard Ryan Groy told me, it really comes down to the Badgers' offensive line against Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina's defensive front. South Carolina will win if Joel Stave is in too many obvious passing situations. Wisconsin's defense, meanwhile, must rebound from the stinker against Penn State and contain a very dangerous backfield of Shaw and Davis.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
With the news that Gardner broke his foot early in the 3rd quarter against Ohio, how much more incredible does that performance look? 3 TDs on 4 drives after the injury. Also, do you have any pull at Northwestern? Can you have them explain to me why I have to work when no one else is on campus?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Even more impressive, GBK. Devin wasn't 100 percent for most of the season with Michigan's offensive line issues, and he played through a lot of pain. A real warrior. As for Northwestern, can't help you there. When I was in school there, we didn't even get a full day off for the MLK holiday. Ugh.
If Wis wins its bowl game and beats LSU in 2014 opener, could they be a legit playoff team if they win-out in 2014? They would be 2-0 to SEC teams, have beaten NEB, MINN, IOWA, and either MSU or OSU in B1G championship.
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
The Capital One Bowl should have no bearing on Wisconsin's playoff hopes next year, Eric. At least it shouldn't. But beating LSU in the opener and running the table would make Wisconsin a virtual guarantee to make the playoff. Undefeated teams from major conferences aren't going to get left out, especially when they challenge themselves in non-league play.
what will the B10 bowl record be this year? any chance of being over 500
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
It's going to be a challenge as always, Rob, and the recent injury/suspension news regarding Michigan's Devin Gardner (injured) and MSU's Max Bullough (suspended) isn't too encouraging. You're going to need to see at least one upset against an SEC team for it to happen. Ohio State also has to take care of business against Clemson in what should be a shootout at the Orange Bowl.
Do you think Braxton Miller should go to the NFL?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Not this year. He still has room for growth as a passer, and I'd love to see what he can do when healthy for a full season. But I can't fault a guy for making the jump if it's for family reasons, and Braxton has a young son.
Brent (Silver Spring, MD)
Adam, I was at sea for the last three weeks of the season. I just got to watch the replay of the PSU-Wiscy game. You may have already commneted on this but my takeways: Both teams looked awfully sloppy and confused (particularly the Wiscy defense) for the last game of the season. More importantly, I thought Hackenberg looked surprising poised. What do you see for his future? And, will the Wiscy defense be ready for their bowl game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
I can't say anything about Penn State's performance looked awful or confused, Brent, but Wisconsin's defense undoubtedly struggled against Hackenberg and Penn State's big-play offense. Hackenberg looked terrific and ended a strong freshman season with is best performance. I can't imagine Wisconsin's defense will allow as many explosion plays in the bowl, as coordinator Dave Aranda will have them ready to go.
Jeff (Cleveland, OH)
Adam- I have been hearing that the Buckeyes are going to be utilizing some of their younger talent on defense such as Vonn Bell for the Orange Bowl. How much of the younger guys do you think we will see in the Buckeyes struggling secondary and how does it change the defensive scheme they will run against Clemson?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Jeff, a lot of folks have been waiting for Bell to take on a greater role, especially with the team's struggles at safety since the Christian Bryant injury. I'd like to see Ohio State go a little younger on defense. It can't hurt, right? As far as the overall scheme, I don't know how much you can shake things up between the end of the league title game and the bowl. But anything to cover up the holes in the secondary could help OSU.
Henry (Rochester, NY)
Adam, I was wondering about Bullough. I know he's the QB of the defense, and we won't be able to replace his football IQ on the field, but I trust MSU's coaches to be able to find an adequate replacement. Who do you see the coaches tabbing to fill Bullough's MLB spot? My bet is Darien Harris.
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Henry, you're absolutely right about the difficulty in replacing Bullough's intelligence and leadership. No one can really do that. I think Kyler Ellsworth will get the first chance to replace Bullough, as Harris is a little undersized to play MLB. How odd would it be if Riley Bullough, Max's younger brother and the backup MLB this spring, got a bunch of playing time there in the bowl because of Max's suspension?
One of Nebraska's greatest coaches came here after leaving a coaching job at Wyoming. If Pellini flops again next year, do you think history will repeat itself?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Ha, interesting link between Bob Devaney and possibly Craig Bohl. I don't see it, though, as Nebraska could have dumped Pelini and hired Bohl this year. I think Nebraska will have a larger candidate pool next year if things go south with Pelini. I wonder how many Nebraska fans would get excited about Bohl. I've heard from some who would and some who don't want to see him back.
Mike (SEC country)
What do you think Urban Meyer should do with Luke Fickell? A) Leave things as is. B) Hire someone to co-coordinate the Defense with Fickell C) replace Fickell
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
It's a tough call, Mike, but you know Meyer will be hiring someone to replace Everett Withers. I wouldn't be surprised if Withers' replacement takes on more of the play-calling/philosophy with the defense. I'd still be very surprised if Fickell is replaced.
Patrick (Ada, MI)
Any reason given yet for Bullough's suspension. As an MSU alum, I am glad that Dantonio would suspend a leader as it sets expectations to others that no one is above the team (though it hurts their chances to win). Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Nothing definitive yet, Patrick. Mark Dantonio and a group of players meets with reporters at Disneyland (of all places) later today and undoubtedly will be asked about the Bullough situation. I think it shows once again that Dantonio is willing to make tough decisions, although as we find out more, it could have been a fairly straightforward call to suspend Bullough. Just an extremely unfortunate situation, but it does reinforce that no player is above the program.
John (Jefferson City)
What's the average B1G fan pulse with the addition of RU and MD next year? Excited or disappointed?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Apathetic, John. Big Ten fans aren't talking much at all about Rutgers and Maryland, programs that didn't generate much buzz when they were added last November. I'm sure there will be a little more excitement as we get closer to July 1 (when both schools officially enter the Big Ten), but not like it was with Nebraska.
Jeff (Mansfield, PA)
What would the reaction by the PSU fan base be toward Bill O'Brien leaving for the NFL? Would they be thankful that he righted the ship, or upset that he jumped ship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
It's hard to gauge that, Jeff, until O'Brien were to make a move. I would hope they would recognize what he did at the school in a short time during unprecedented sanctions. A portion of fans would be upset, which is to be expected, but most understand O'Brien always had NFL ambitions.
Mark (no where I wanna be)
Your prediction for the Capital One Bowl???
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Mark, I'm still undecided, and we'll have our full Jan. 1 picks early next week. I just wonder how effective Wisconsin's run game will be against South Carolina's defense. I don't trust Stave to win the game at this point, and Wisconsin's last performance give me cause for concern. Then again, I think Wisconsin's decorated senior class will go out strong
How does the loss of Max Bullough change the game plans of Narduzzi for the defensive side of the ball, and Stanford on offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Tim, Narduzzi is going to call what he wants to call, but he'll have to lean on other veterans like Allen, Dennard and Lewis to ensure players are lined up correctly and know all the calls. I don't expect anything dramatically different with the game plan for either MSU or Stanford. The Spartans are still an extremely good defense without Bullough.
Jon (New Baltimore)
Adam, what can you tell us about Shane Morris?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Product of Warren, Mich., ESPN 150/300 recruit, lefty, really vocal on Twitter and helped Michigan recruit other players after committing to the school. I haven't heard incredible things about him in practice this year, and a lot of folks are looking to 2014 recruit Wilton Speight as the long-term answer at QB. But Morris can certainly change that view and help his cause with a big performance in the bowl against K-State.
Adam, To most people Iowa was a surprise this season. The should have beaten Northern Illinois and they were in every game they lost. Still they don't seem to get respect for the defense that ranks in the top 10. Do you feel they can stack up to the LSU offense? I remember them shutting down a Georgia Tech offense that was supposed to be unstoppable(under Norm Parker).
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Jay, I think Iowa ended up about where it should have. Sure, the Hawkeyes could have beaten NIU, but they easily could have lost to Northwestern or Michigan. The defense is very strong, and with Mettenberger out, Iowa certainly could stop LSU if it contains the run attack. Although LSU's receivers are very good, Mettenberger isn't the one throwing passes. Iowa typically has been a very good bowl team, and if its offense shows up in Tampa, it should be a very competitive game.
Max (The Land of the Big Ten Champions)
The difference between Mark Dantonio and Brady Hoke seem to get bigger all the time don't they? On the eve of the biggest game in a generation Dantonio has the integrity to suspend his captain and leader. Hoke has lewan in Arizona doing interviews. What do you think Bo Schembechler would make of this situation?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
It's unfair to make this comparison when we don't know the whole story with Bullough. Plus, Lewan hasn't been charged with anything. I have no issue with Michigan playing him in the game if he hasn't been charged. I still am bothered Hoke doesn't impose additional discipline for the players involved in the brawl with Ohio State.
Faygo (Silver Spring, MD)
Adam, I wrote you on your other site, about this old Spartan (George Saimes era) being stunned that Max Bullough is not going to Pasadena. What do you know, and what does this mean? Stunned.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Everyone is stunned, Faygo. Bullough is one of the least likely players to end up in this situation for such a big game, a career-defining game in many ways. Details are still pretty scarce, but from checking court records in a few spots this morning, I haven't found his name anywhere. He's an Academic All-American, so an academic issue seems unlikely. Just a puzzling case all around, but I'm sure details will start trickling out soon.
Mike (PSU Class of 13) (NYC)
Wasn't Shane Morris PSU #2 target for QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Mike, I don't recall Morris being that much on the radar for Penn State. Plus, he committed to Michigan very early (May 2011).
Max had to do something pretty bad for him to be suspended you'd think, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Absolutely, Dan, and also not to even make the trip to California. This has to be a serious rules violation. His only other issue occurred in 2011, when he and former TE Brian Linthicum were arrested following an incident at a bar in Colorado.
james (arizona husker)
How come you give pelini a hall pass....against teams with a better than .500 record he has a abysmal losing record and against top 20 teams he is 4 and 15...his wins are padded by non FCS schools!!!His 9 wins are a joke!! Why not state the fact Pelini has failed at recruiting and this talk of a good defense in the future will probably be a 5 loss team???
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Who is giving Pelini a pass, James? I was as surprised as anyone when Nebraska decided to bring him back after the Iowa game and the press conference meltdown. If Nebraska had elected to fire Bo, I wouldn't have been up in arms about it. He certainly has more to prove against good teams, both in the Big Ten and elsewhere, but he also has maintained a decent level of success, which is more than we can say for many programs.
Gary (Lusaka, Zambia)
Can the Big Ten gain any respect with this year's bowl matchups, or is this a long term thing in that the Big Ten needs to dominate more bowl games over a longer time span?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Yes and yes. The Big Ten certainly can help its cause with a winning bowl season, especially with victories in the BCS games. But ultimately the Big Ten will need stronger postseason performances in the future and a national championship to truly change its perception.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
How pivotal is next season for Brady Hoke's long term future at Michigan? Does another season with losses to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State within the conference, and likley Notre Dame outside, place him firmly on the hot seat?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
It should be pivotal, Tony. Athletic director Dave Brandon loves Hoke, and as long as Brandon is in place, Hoke might be safe. But by Hoke's own standards, Michigan is failing, not even reaching a Big Ten title game in three years. Next year is huge for him and the Wolverines, and it won't be easy in the same division as MSU and OSU.
Brad (Stilson GA)
Does Brian Kelly have to win a title or is his current record at ND enough to keep him around?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Brian Kelly is completely safe at Notre Dame after what he did in 2012. The bigger question is if and when he jumps to the NFL.
andre (Buckeye Nation)
In order for Ohio State to compete for a National Title is a change at the Defensive Coordinator or Defensive Philosphy needed?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Tough to say, Andre. It might be, but the unit was still pretty young and not very deep this year. The Bryant injury really hurt, too. But does Fickell have more to prove as a play-caller? Absolutely. A poor showing in the bowl game could lead to a shift, even if it's not with the actual coaches.
What was the deal with Michigan's offensive line this past year? Magnuson, Kalis, and Schofield were all highly recruited and they've done a great job recruiting linemen over the past two years. Why aren't these players developing or playing up to the potential that they were thought to have had coming out of high school? Is it coaching?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Juan, O-line coach Darrell Funk certainly has come under fire, but I wonder if some of these players were overvalued in recruiting. Some might just bloom later in their careers. Offensive line is the toughest position for recruits to come in and be great right away. If the same players are progressing next year, then I'd get really worried.
Mike (SEC country)
Will you be in Miami for the Orange Bowl?? Go Bucks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I won't but Brian Bennett will. I'm flying to California tomorrow for some Rose Bowl prep.
Do you think the 2014 conference alignment will hurt the B10 with so many power teams on one side(OSU,MSU,UM,PSU)? if they all beat each other that will just rack up losses.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
It's a potential problem with the alignment, Rob, but one the Big Ten seems willing to shoulder to preserve geographical rivalries. I actually think the West division will be OK next year. Iowa and Minnesota had good seasons and bring back a lot. Nebraska's young defense raises hope for the future, and Northwestern brings back most of its core pieces from a team that should have been way better this year.
Stanford lost DE Ben Gardner this year to an injury. He was a senior leader on defense and an irreplaceable presence within the Cardinal scheme for containing the run as well as thwarting effective passing attacks by applying relentless rush pressure. My team had to suck it up and play on. It appears to me that many MSU fans are heartbroken by the sudden loss of there LB great based upon the family history as well as his greatness on the gridiron. Would this be accurate?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Um, yes it would. And the Gardner comparison is a good one, as Michigan State now must do the same thing and rally without one of its best defenders.
Mike (PSU Class of 13) (NYC)
Can you see O'Brien leaving for the Texas job or just for the NFL? I only see him leaving for the Texans due to the amount of talent already on the team and Bridgewater/another top QB
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
You're confusing me a bit with Texas/Texans, but I'd be surprised if O'Brien leaves for another college job. His buyout makes it much easier to go to the NFL, where he has familiarity and already is a hot candidate. Houston would be a good spot for him. I also could see him in Detroit as the Lions try to fix Matt Stafford.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do the Wolverines have any playmakers capable of stepping up next year to replace Gallon?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Tony, the wide receiver spot is certainly one to watch this offseason. While I like Michigan's prospects at tight end, and Devin Funchess basically functions as a wide receiver, the Wolverines need more options at wideout in 2014. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh are two names you'll hear, but I wonder if an incoming freshman like Drake Harris can get on the field right away.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Jon (Ann Arbor)
If the BIG title game were to ever expand to include more locales, what places would you like to see be in the running to host it?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I think Chicago, despite its outdoor stadium, would be the next logical spot because of its proximity to so many Big Ten schools. Minnesota's new stadium could be an option as its indoor. Maybe Ford Field, too, down the road. But I wouldn't be surprised if the title game moves for a year to New York or DC because of the new additions.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, everyone, thanks for the chat. We'll have more on Michigan's QB situation and the Max Bullough story later today on the blog.