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 11 a.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (11:00 AM)
Hey everyone, thanks for showing up an hour earlier than normal. The championship game is two days away. Let's get started!
Andrew (NYC by way of PHL, CHI, COL and TOL)
Hello Adam, We all know how the weather can affect B1G games, but Saturday's game is inside. Which team benefits more from this, OSU or MSU?
Adam Rittenberg (11:01 AM)
Good question, Andrew. I've been thinking about this a lot in recent days because the first two Big Ten title games have been high scoring. It's not the same setting as Big Ten teams have played in the past 4-6 games. The ideal conditions seem to benefit Ohio State's offense, but Michigan State also can put up points and move the ball.
BWW Bowl can't pass up Nebraska if they can get Texas too, can they?
Adam Rittenberg (11:01 AM)
It would certainly be an appealing matchup for the Wings Bowl, Dan. Nebraska fans always travel. Would Michigan fans be as motivated to go out the desert? Hard to tell. But we think Nebraska is headed to Tempe.
Colton Bavery (North Carolina)
Wisconsin went into the game against Penn State as huge favorites with home field advantage as well. But they came out playing like they hadn't played a down together as a team this year. So my question is, what went wrong? What caused them to play this way?
Adam Rittenberg (11:04 AM)
It's baffling, Colton. Penn State deserves a lot of credit for a great plan and great execution, especially by Hackenberg. But Wisconsin didn't show up for the biggest game of its season, with a potential BCS at-large berth on the line at home, where it has been dominant. Not sure if the Badgers underestimated Penn State, which hadn't played well on the road, but the team we had seen for the past two months wasn't there on Saturday. We've been very positive about Gary Andersen this season, but I'll admit that game gives me some pause about the new Badgers coach.
Mike (Atlanta, GA)
Should Luke Fickell be concerned about his job? In his defense (pun, eh?) he has a young group of guys on that front-line.
Adam Rittenberg (11:05 AM)
Mike, I don't think so, as Luke brings exceptional recruiting skills and other qualities to the table for Ohio State. It's a very young group still, and there was some progress made before last Saturday, when Michigan had a great game plan. Ohio State needs to see progress from the defense, but I'd be shocked if there's a change at coordinator.
Christopher (Garden City, MI)
Adam, win or lose (hopefully win) Michigan State is projected to Pasadena. My question with only 4 spots between them and 14 if MSU what point margin must it be to remain in the top 14?
Adam Rittenberg (11:06 AM)
Really good question, Christopher. I can't read the minds of all those voters, but I think it would have to take a loss of 17 loss or more for Michigan State to fall out of the top 14. We'll see. But if the Spartans are at least competitive, which they should be, they'll remain in the top 14.
Mike (St. Paul)
Do you think Pelini is back next year? Would getting crushed (like in the B1G Championship last year) in the bowl game lead to his firing?
Adam Rittenberg (11:08 AM)
I don't think so, Mike. Shawn Eichorst made his decision when he did to help Pelini's recruiting efforts. Firing the coach a month from now could be disastrous for recruiting. I think Nebraska is moving forward with Bo for 2014, which will be a pivotal year.
Do you think MSU will run another special teams fake? Everyone knows they love to run them by now I think it would be awesome to do another one in a huge game.
Adam Rittenberg (11:09 AM)
No one would be surprised, John. Ohio State obviously will be prepared for them, but the Spartans have been so successful in the past, even when their opponents know one is coming. Mark Dantonio won't hold back in this game.
Are the illini going to see a change at DC this season? Who are we going to see turn this defense around? Also, who steps up in the WR column next season for Lunt?
Adam Rittenberg (11:12 AM)
Dustin, I wouldn't be surprised if Beckman makes a coordinator change in the next few weeks. There's a lot of youth on defense, but I didn't see a whole lot of progress there. As for the wide receivers, Martize Barr is a guy Illinois expects big things from in 2014. He showed some flashes this year but didn't really put it all together. Illinois needs others to emerge there, although the tight ends (Davis, LaCosse) pick up some of the slack.
Do you think other conference commissioners would have suspended players in the same situation as Ohio State? People are being awfully hard on Delany but the same thing would happen in the SEC or any other conference.
Adam Rittenberg (11:13 AM)
I doubt the SEC would have added additional punishment, as I pointed out in the post. But does the Big Ten want to be viewed like the SEC in that realm? I don't think so. The Big Ten holds itself to a higher standard in terms of values and player conduct. It didn't act like it in this case.
Zach (St. Paul)
Do you see any movement in the B10 head coaching carousel this offseason? Assuming Nebraska doesn't get embarrassed in their bowl game it looks like everyone is staying put, right?
Adam Rittenberg (11:14 AM)
It does, Zach. Tim Beckman is safe at Illinois, and Bo seemingly is safe at Nebraska. Brady Hoke never was in danger at Michigan but received a vote of confidence from his AD. Unless Bill O'Brien leaves Penn State for the NFL, which doesn't seem too likely, we'll see the same group of coaches back in 2014.
Adam, I'm a little confused on the whole PSU's assistant coaches leaving situation. Do you think that they really just thought it was time to move on? I find it a little odd that Vanderlin would leave and the same with Fisher in the middle of developing Hack. But I can't find a reason why BO'B would force them out, do you have any insight?
Adam Rittenberg (11:16 AM)
I haven't heard much, Jim, although one coach close to Vanderlinden who I contacted seemed very surprised by the situation. We'll have to see where the two coaches land, as they could have better opportunities on the horizon, especially Fisher, who could be a true offensive coordinator somewhere else.
Can Michigan State slow down the run of Hyde and Miller? Is their defense that good, have they been tested against an OL like the Buckeyes have? What is your prediction for run yards?
Adam Rittenberg (11:17 AM)
Lori, Michigan State will commit a lot of defenders to the run because it trusts CBs Dennard and Waynes to lock up receivers on the outside. Most defenses can't afford to do that and pay the price against Miller and Hyde. I think Ohio State will make some plays on the ground but will have a harder time running against MSU than against other Big Ten squads.
Adam, thanks for the great chats. Do you think Michigan will be a B1G contender next season? Also, please tell your bosses we miss the chats with TVH!!
Adam Rittenberg (11:20 AM)
TVH is the best! Michigan has a lot to improve, namely the offensive line, but should be a better team in 2014 as the young recruits mature. I'm a little worried about the wide receiver spot with Gallon and Dileo leaving. And I wonder if more star power emerges on defense and Michigan can become a true Top 10 unit. The division certainly will be a challenge.
Anthony (Iowa city)
With some head coaching vacancies in big name conferences opening up do you think some big ten coordinators might put their names out there? The two schools that come to mind are UDub and wake forest.
Adam Rittenberg (11:21 AM)
Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is the obvious big name, Anthony, and he has been mentioned as a candidate at UConn and now Wake Forest. Washington is less likely, as Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier are being mentioned as the top candidates. But certainly Narduzzi and perhaps Ohio State coordinators Luke Fickell and Tom Herman should be in the mix for top jobs.
So Mizzou, who was practically begging the B1G to take them is going to the SEC championship game with an outside shot at the NC game while the B1G has a credibility problem on the field is bringing in the almighty Rutgers and Maryland next year. Do you think behind the scenes top league officials are second guessing themselves and wondering if they were trying to get to cute with the media market thing?
Adam Rittenberg (11:23 AM)
It's a fair point to raise, Nick, but the Big Ten made its expansion motives clear and isn't about to go back on them. We'll see if it works out, but Missouri didn't fit the criteria the second time around. Should the Big Ten have taken Missouri back in 2010? Perhaps. But not for a football team that only occasionally has seasons like this.
Adam, the last thing I want to see in the BCS title game is the Buckeyes, but this SEC thing is ridiculous. Auburn won 2 games on fluke plays, a 3rd in the last minute of a game, and got blown out by a 3 loss team. A couple years ago when they had the Bama/Ok State argument, Ok State was left out because they had a worse loss (even though OK State beat more ranked teams). As of right now, OSU doesn't have any losses. Shouldn't that be enough to have them in the title game (not to mention that Auburn still hasn't beaten Mizzou)?
Adam Rittenberg (11:26 AM)
Yes, I think it should. The system is flawed right now, and hopefully things get better next year with the Playoff. But to keep an undefeated major conference team out just to satisfy the SEC masses isn't right. Yes, Auburn has a few more quality wins than Ohio State. But the Georgia win was a total fluke (I was there). A 1-loss Auburn team being left out in favor of an undefeated Ohio State team isn't some great injustice in college football history. It just isn't. But I can't wait until 2014, when both teams would be in the Playoff, no questions asked.
MSU seems to struggle the most with stretch runs (Nebraska and NW-for a little bit). I know Carlos Hyde is a bruiser, but can he hurt them on the outside? He seems pretty exclusively between-the-tackles and that has to fit well into MSU's defensive strength which gives me hope for slowing him and possibly disrupting the entire OSU running game just enough.
Adam Rittenberg (11:28 AM)
Matt, I agree that Ohio State can have success attacking the perimeter against the Spartans. Some coaches I spoke to this week talked about the need to get the ball out quickly against MSU, whether it's passing or running. Slow-developing plays just won't work against this defense. Hyde's strength is the power run, but he can make some plays in space as well. Miller is the one to watch as he's almost impossible to spot when has room to maneuver.
Ryan (Des Moines Iowa )
With the hawks having a bounce back 8-4 regular season, could next year be another peak year for Iowa? Looking at the schedule we could potentially be 10-0heading into the Wisconsin matchup, which now doesn't look as daunting with 26 seniors graduating with the rodents "ahem" badgers I mean. And we got over that big red hump as well. We gotta dream right?
Adam Rittenberg (11:30 AM)
Ryan, while I think Iowa fans should have high expectations in 2014, a 10-0 start might be a bit ambitious. Iowa was very fortunate to beat Northwestern and Michigan at home, and will need to have the same late-game mojo as it likely will be in a bunch of close games again. I agree Wisconsin likely will take a step back after losing so many seniors, so you have to look at Iowa as a main contender for the West division crown.
Tom (Twin Cities)
Do you think Minnesota can keep it up? I enjoyed the game with Sparty because I feel like Gophers and Spartans are the future of a strong conference - schools with a lot of football history who are finally waking up.
Adam Rittenberg (11:33 AM)
Tom, I think there's a nice foundation at Minnesota. The defense has actually been very good the past two seasons. I really like the staff on that side of the ball, beginning with Tracy Claeys. Minnesota clearly has to improve at wide receiver and at quarterback. Philip Nelson still is a young guy, although he'll enter 2014 as one of the league's more experienced QBs. There's some young talent at wideout with guys like Jones and Wolitarsky. Their development will be critical for Minnesota next fall.
Just curious... if FSU wins, Mich St. wins... What bowl will Ohio State go to? Since Mich St. would go to the Rose bowl.
Adam Rittenberg (11:34 AM)
John, I'd expect to see Ohio State in the Orange Bowl against Clemson. The Orange Bowl would love to have the Buckeyes and their large fan base in Miami.
Wil Gohlston got a one game suspension for a punch, yet no suspensions for any Michigan or Ohio State players. Double standard for the "Big Two"?
Adam Rittenberg (11:35 AM)
Mike, the big difference is Gholston finished the game where he committed the punch, while the Ohio State/Michigan players were ejected immediately and missed the final three quarters. I still think the Big Ten could have tacked on another quarter or a half for some players, especially Hall and Jenkins-Stone, but chose to do basically nothing.
Adam, if Robinson stays at Penn State will PSU have the best offense in 2014 in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (11:36 AM)
They'll be pretty good, Curious. Penn State will have to fill some holes along the offensive line, but it will have a ton of talent at all the skill spots (QB, WR, TE, RB). The defense is the area that must improve, but I only see better thinks for Hackenberg and that offense, especially if No. 8 sticks around.
Nate (Kansas City, MO)
Why has Nebraska struggled so much in the B1G when Mizzou/Texas AM were able to join a new conference and compete at a high-level? Is the B1G a little tougher than the national media would lead you to believe?
Adam Rittenberg (11:38 AM)
Nate, don't forget that Nebraska won the Legends division last season, so it hasn't been a total disaster. I think A&M and Mizzou have shown the SEC isn't so far and ahead of every other league. I wouldn't attribute Nebraska's struggles to a tougher Big Ten, as the league overall has still struggled. I think Nebraska is a unique case with its recruiting challenges and the questions about its ability to develop players.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
Adam do you think IU fires their defensive coordinator?
Adam Rittenberg (11:40 AM)
I don't know how Indiana can proceed without some staff changes on defense. It isn't working right now, and the unit is still a few notches below really bad. We've heard that the talent is better, especially in the younger classes, but the results just aren't there. Indiana missed a big opportunity this season with eight home games.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
With Ferguson transferring, O'Connor, who arrives in January seems to be automatically the #2 QB. Seems the best thing would be to redshirt him, which would mean either Hackenberg playing every down in '14 or one of the run-ons moving up. Thoughts on how that might play out?
Adam Rittenberg (11:42 AM)
Good point, Lou. Ideally, you can redshirt O'Connor and create some real space between the quarterbacks. I think O'Brien would be fine with Hackenberg playing as much as possible, and Penn State doesn't run an offense that puts its quarterback's health in jeopardy like the spread. But you always have to prepare for a potential injury.
Adam, in response to the one of the earlier questions, Alabama lost to the #4 team and only dropped three spots; would it be reasonable, then, to expect MSU to drop only three spots after a loss, or was the former due to SEC bias?
Adam Rittenberg (11:43 AM)
The former was due to the way Alabama lost -- on a crazy play on the road. Michigan State just can't get blown out, Matt. If the Spartans show they belong on the field with Ohio State -- and I think they do -- they should remain in the top 14 and go to the Rose Bowl even with a loss.
Big snowstorm is expected in Indianapolis. A dome I guess is more fair but wouldnt it have been cool to see a big time game with snow?
Adam Rittenberg (11:44 AM)
It definitely doesn't feel like Big Ten football with the game inside. It's part of the reason why I'd like to see the game in Chicago eventually. I hope the snow holds off until I get to Indy tomorrow afternoon!
Jessica (Jackson, MI)
We know there is an Anti-OSU sentiment around the nation, but is there one in the Big Ten as well? Its seems so after seeing Urban Meyer and Shazier not winning conference awards.
Adam Rittenberg (11:46 AM)
Jessica, I can see it more as an anti-Meyer sentiment, although most who vote for Coach of the Year simply look at the records from the previous year and who improved the most. As for Shazier, I think Borland's win is more of a career achievement thing, and he played for a better defense. Both are great players. While Shazier's numbers clearly are better, he also is on the field a little more than Borland. It's very close between them.
can connor cook and the msu receivers get big chunks of yardage vs OSU? they dont throw too many screens, but they've made huge strides since the early part of the season. plus, since no one emerged early, they have 4-5 legit weapons. mumphery seems to only catch long TDs
Adam Rittenberg (11:48 AM)
Pat, it will be interesting to see how creative Dave Warner gets with his play calls. Michigan used the screen game very effectively against Ohio State last week. Will MSU ramp those up, especially with a guy like Langford who used to play receiver? That might be a good approach. I also think the Spartans will test Doran Grant and Ohio State's safeties quite a bit, as there are plays to be made in the middle of the field.
I just read your prediction ... MSU 30, OSU 28 ... MSU only scored 14 points on Purdue AT HOME ... 14 points on Minnesota AT HOME ... OSU defense plays better against non-spread units ... where is 30 points by MSU coming from?
Adam Rittenberg (11:50 AM)
I think MSU forces some turnovers and scores off of short fields. Ohio State also struggled with Wisconsin, which isn't a spread offense, and had some difficulties with Iowa for the first three quarters. The Buckeyes are vulnerable on defense, and Michigan State's offense, while not great against Purdue or Minnesota, has been pretty solid in some of its biggest games (Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska).
Lou (Tampa, FL)
Regarding the indoor/outdoor debate, my guess is that Delany & Co. will wait to see how the Super Bowl plays out before opening things up to Chicago. (Yes, I believe Delany feels the B1G championship is as big as the Super Bowl).
Adam Rittenberg (11:52 AM)
Lou, I'm sure there's some truth to that, but the bigger issue is whether Chicago can put on an event that rivals what Indianapolis has done for years. Chicago finally has a real sports commission that has its act together. There are some logistical challenges in a bigger city with a stadium not right downtown, but Chicago can get it done. And I think should get it done in the future.
Ryan (College station, Texas)
I know your last game of the season makes the biggest impact of the season. However, all season I've rarely heard the blog talk about or hype up Carlos Hyde. Did his final game really make him "the better running back" over Ameer Abdullah or Melvin Gordon?
Adam Rittenberg (11:54 AM)
I'm guessing you missed my post where I endorsed Hyde for Offensive Player of the Year. So yes, the way he finished the season -- and the way he performed throughout Big Ten play -- certainly won me over. Just an exceptional back.
Matt (@Work, fml)
So Iowa had a reverse year from a year ago and went 8-4. Would you say they beat everyone they were suppose to and lost to everyone they should have? Or were they fortunate to end up with that record? You said just minuts ago Iowa fans shouldn't be too ambitious next season, even with a favorable schedule squeaking wins out this year at home against NW and UM. Well we were in every game we lost too, and those could've gone either way. I'm very ambitious for next year, but I'm looking at 10 wins coming from a bowl victory. Ah Thank You So Much!
Adam Rittenberg (11:55 AM)
Matt, Iowa was beaten rather convincingly by MSU, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and lost a heartbreaker with Northern Illinois. The Hawkeyes were fortunate to beat Northwestern and Michigan. Overall, Iowa ended up about where it should. You're an Iowa fan, so you have the right to be ambitious and excited for the future. I'm looking at it from a more realistic/objective point of view. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if Iowa wins the division next season. Kirk Ferentz told me yesterday that this team reminds him of the '08 squad, and we know what happened the following season.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
MSU victory??? Adam? Have you been sitting at the SEC lunch table in Bristol again? ;-)
Adam Rittenberg (11:57 AM)
Yes, Bren, since I'm in Bristol maybe once a year, and have to pick against Ohio State and hype the SEC to keep my job. You got me! You've slipped behind the curtain! Good for you. It's not possible that I actually think Michigan State will win based on the evidence going into the game. Nah, not a chance.
Having worked for a nowhere paper in Illinois before lucking into this position, I was curious, is that where your hatred of Ohio State started? Being in a state dominated by losing Big 10 teams and nearby Notre Dame? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (11:59 AM)
Yeah, that's it, Jon. You know, that hatred made me endorse Hyde, Meyer and Shazier for major awards, or constantly label Ohio State as the Big Ten's preeminent program, or say an undefeated Buckeyes team should play for a national title, or say the rest of the Big Ten needs to catch up to Ohio State, the only Big Ten program that competes at a national level. Oh, and I was one who actually explained Ohio State's schedule and the bad luck the Buckeyes had. But keep thinking positive thoughts, Jon! O-H!
Adam Rittenberg (11:59 AM)
This is getting ugly, so let's take one more ...
Do you think Northwestern is poised to have a comeback year after they lost so many close games this year? It seems nothing went their way this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Jay, you're right that luck wasn't on the Wildcats' side this season. I can't imagine they'll have so many injuries again in 2014, and the schedule seems pretty similar in terms of difficulty. Pat Fitzgerald and his staff must learn from how they handled late-game situations, and the offense needs a bit of a reset after struggling so much. But Northwestern should be pretty decent on defense, and Venric Mark returns. I'd be really surprised if the Wildcats don't win at least seven next fall.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
OK, time's up. Heading to Indy tomorrow, hope to see some of you there.