Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Welcome to the Big Ten chat. Today, I'm chatting with you live from Schembechler Hall in Ann Arbor. Spending a few days with Michigan before driving to Columbus tonight. Fire away!
Hi Adam,Quick question - what will UM's record be against their 4 biggest games this coming season. Optimistically, I see them going 2-2, with wins over MSU and Notre Dame, and losses against OSU (soon to end), and PSU. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
I think a lot of Wolverines fans would take a 2-2 mark in those four games. Both Michigan and Penn State should be better teams by the time they meet in State College. Should be an interesting matchup. Michigan might not be favored in any of those games, but the Wolverines will get Michigan State in Ann Arbor and play Notre Dame very early.
Hey Adam, great job with the blog. One question--you seem to constantly imply that Jim Tressel isn't long for the coaching world. Do you know something, or is this just a hunch? I for one would like 10 more years of Tressel vs Michigan, but I don't think you see it this way.
Adam Rittenberg (1:03 PM)
It's not that I see Tressel hanging it up next year. But he's not going to be Joe Paterno and coach into his eighties. Plus, he's a guy with interests beyond the football field, which isn't the case for many head coaches. I think he wants to work in Ohio State's athletics administration at some point, and he does a lot of charity work as well. Will we see 10 more years of Tressel? It's possible, but I think five or six is much more likely.
Jonathan (Westerville, Ohio)
Just in regards to Duron Carter, he's not practicing in the Spring and there are rumors of continual classroom problems. Could it be possible that Carter gets passed by some of the other receivers (or maybe already has been passed)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:04 PM)
When I asked Jim Bollman about the No. 3 wide receiver situation last week, he didn't even mention Carter and talked extensively about Taurian Washington. I think Washington has slid into that No. 3 hole, though Carter certainly has a chance to compete there if he gets things in order.
I am hoping that the Gopher offense can be much improved this year. What is your outlook for who wins the QB battle, the new offensive coordinator, a WR ready to step up, and the establishment of some sort of running game? Trying to get in as many questions as I can!
Adam Rittenberg (1:06 PM)
Lot of questions there, Noah. I spoke with both Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray the other night. Weber sounded confident about his performance in the QB competition, said that things started 50-50, but he's taking a few more snaps with the first team. Gray also seems optimistic about his progress, but he knows he has two years left after 2010. Both guys seem to like working with new OC Jeff Horton. As for the WR, look out for Da'Jon McKnight. And Weber said he sees a big difference with the offensive linemen. They're displaying much more toughness this spring. How's that for an answer?
Hi Adam, how do you rank Michigan's offensive line heading into this year vs the rest of the conference and do you think they will be able to open holes for the the young running backs. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:08 PM)
Michigan's offensive line should be a strong point for this team in 2010. There's experience with guys like Schilling, Molk and Omameh, and the coaches are really excited about the development of the redshirt freshmen this spring. Michigan should be more prepared for a key injury or two with greater depth this fall. I wouldn't put Michigan's line up with Wisconsin's or Ohio State's, but it should be better than last year.
Andreww (West Hartford, CT)
Hey Adam,What is the latest on Demar Dorsey? I heard he signed a letter or intent to a community college as a backup plan. Has there been any word from the coaching staff regarding his status at this point?
Adam Rittenberg (1:09 PM)
They're just waiting to see if he qualifies, which we won't know until the summer (June or July). That's all they can do at this point. But from talking with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson just now, I know Michigan fully expects several incoming freshmen to help on defense, and Dorsey will be one of them if he qualifies.
In a story this week, a writer said Jim Delaney could completely change college athletics and force Notre Dame to join the Big Ten. Adam, isn't it a little drastic for the Big Ten to bring in five teams? That's a total of 16 and somewhat crazy in terms of schedule for other sports.
Adam Rittenberg (1:11 PM)
I agree with you, Howard, though it seems like people are getting greedy and want to see a 16-team super conference. I would hope the Big Ten would add one team like Notre Dame or three teams at the most. Five teams would dramatically alter the college football landscape, which might not be a good thing. And, as you mention, it would create some scheduling headaches and take away the intimacy of a league, something Delany touched on.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
any hope for PSU this year?
Adam Rittenberg (1:12 PM)
Sure, absolutely. The defensive staff has a strong track record of developing players, so I'm not overly concerned about the holes on that side of the ball. The run game should be very good with Evan Royster back. A lot comes down to the quarterback position, but I don't see Penn State taking a huge step back this fall.
UM Grad (Saginaw, MI)
Do you think one Wolverine RB will emerge as this year or do you think we will mostly see a committee of RB's? With Vincent Smith out, I'm not sure if there's another RB that can emerge. Maybe Mike Cox?
Adam Rittenberg (1:14 PM)
Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee just told me he really wants three backs he can rely upon this fall. The Michigan coaches are really happy with Cox and Michael Shaw this spring, and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Smith will be back for preseason camp, but Magee said he'll need to catch up to the others, which is a good sign for Michigan. Running back isn't among my major concerns for U-M.
Carson (Las Vegas)
It's a very litigious world. That being said, do you believe Ohio State will force Tyler Moeller to sign some sort of waiver absolving the university if an injury were to occur (you've seen the number of lawsuits against universities these days)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:16 PM)
That's a really interesting question, Carson. I know that Ohio State won't clear Moeller unless its doctors are satisfied he can handle live game action. But this is a unique injury, one not suffered on the football field, and anything to do with the brain must be handled extremely carefully. I'll look into this ...
You think Wisconsin has a chance of getting back to the levels it was at in the late 90s/early 2000s?
Adam Rittenberg (1:17 PM)
Wisconsin is building back toward those levels. Last season was huge for the Badgers to re-establish their core values, and this season will be even bigger. Wisconsin needs to challenge for a Big Ten title, as it did throughout the 1990s. Bret Bielema has a pretty strong record at UW, but he needs some signature wins against the Big Ten's top teams. He'll get a chance this fall.
Heidi (Baton Rouge, LA)
Adam, will you be making a trip to Columbus for Spring Football and, if you do, can you please get a definitive answer on the number of times John Simon can bench press 225 lbs. (the rumors are he broke the NFL record in HS)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:18 PM)
Heidi, I'll be making the drive down there later today. Excited to see the Buckeyes practice tomorrow. I'll try to get you an answer on John Simon. I know they expect him to be a factor along the D-line this fall.
In your honest opinion, do you really see any other programs coming into the conference within the next three years? If so, how many and who, dont bail out and name twenty teams that might but lets get your exact picks...(my sources, lol, say 3 teams -ND, Mizz and Pitt)
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
Ha. The three teams you mention have the least amount of negatives. If you can't land Texas, the ultimate prize, Notre Dame makes a lot of sense. Both Mizzouri and Pitt could compete from a facilities standpoint. The only other schools I'd throw in there are Connecticut and Boston College, which would give the Big Ten a presence in the northeast.
Talal (State College)
Between PSU vs Alabama and OSU vs Miami, which game are you looking forward to more next season?
Adam Rittenberg (1:22 PM)
I'm really looking forward to both, but I'd have to say Ohio State-Miami. It appears the be the more evenly matched game, and the quarterback matchup between Pryor and Harris will be very intriguing. Penn State could surprise some folks with its progress, but I just don't like that the game in Tuscaloosa takes place so early, as the new quarterback will be making his first road start.
Alex (Ann Arbor, MI)
You named some potential candidates for Big Ten expansion in your article yesterday while in Ann Arbor. What are the chances of a team like TCU, Arkansas or Boise joining, it's the first I heard of these teams being thrown into the mix.
Adam Rittenberg (1:23 PM)
Actually, those teams were part of a master expansion plan two Michigan staffers and I brainstormed yesterday. TCU and Arkansas would go Big 12, Boise would go Mountain West. None of the three have any shot to join the Big Ten. Sorry for the confusion there.
Jeremy (tecumseh, mi)
Rumors on the Michigan fan boards are citing Forcier has lost some zip on his ball and that is how Robinson is gaining ground, plus Tate appears to still have fumblitis. My question is have u seen Tate throwing since you've been up there? how did he look to you?
Adam Rittenberg (1:25 PM)
I saw Tate in the hallway yesterday and shook his hand. That's about all I've seen of him. From what I've been told from folks here, Forcier is still the most accurate of the three quarterbacks, but Robinson has really improved his passing mechanics and his ability to survey a defense. But the coaches also really like Devin Gardner, whose football knowledge is very advanced.
What do you think Tim Brewster has to do to silence the critics? I think considering the Golden Gophers have one of the top ten toughest schedules in all of college football in 2010, 7-8 wins with a win in a rivalry game gets him off the hot seat. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:26 PM)
Michael, you touched on it. He has to win one of his rivalry games. He also has to win in November. Minnesota has struggled in both categories under Brewster, and I don't think he'll survive another winless November with no trophy game victories. You bring up the schedule and that's a great point. Seven or eight wins with that schedule looks a lot better than the 7-5 regular season Minnesota had in 2008.
Of the four hot seat coaches (Rodriguez, Lynch, Brewster, Zook), how many will still be around in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (1:27 PM)
I'm going to say two will be back. Not sure which ones, though.
Adam, there is absolutely no way Arkansas is leaving the SEC to go to the Big12. That would be like Purdue joining the ACC: it's financial suicide...
Adam Rittenberg (1:28 PM)
There would be a financial hit for the Hogs, but one thing to consider is where they recruit. They're in Texas for pretty much all their sports, and it could help to have a Big 12 affiliation. Recruiting isn't the only reason to join a league, but it can't be ignored, either.
Are you going to be at the Gopher spring game? I'm interested to hear how the positional battles are shaping up (QB, LBs, Corners, DEs, O-line)
Adam Rittenberg (1:30 PM)
Sorry to disappoint you guys, but I won't be going to any spring games. I get a lot more out of visiting the schools on my own, watching practices and having time to talk with the coaches. The spring games are fun for fans and sometimes provide some clues, but for me, coming to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State this week is much more valuable. ... That said, I will be providing updates on those position competitions at Minnesota, so stay tuned to the blog.
Daniel (Detroit, MI)
Adam, the most intriguing part of expansion to me, as a fan of the Big Ten, is the addition of a conference championship game. If the big ten does expand to twelve, where do you see the championship game being held, and what effect do you see the game having on the overall strength of the conference. Will the game rotate between stadiums, how big of an event will it be?
Adam Rittenberg (1:33 PM)
Daniel, I think it'll be a major even for the Big Ten. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis would be my first choice for a championship game venue. Ford Field in Detroit also is a possibility, and maybe Soldier Field in Chicago (brrrr). As for having an overall effect on the league, it will put the Big Ten's best teams on par with those from the SEC, Big 12, etc., in terms of when they play their final regular-season game. But a championship game will reduce the number of Big Ten teams that go to BCS bowls. You won't see as many years with two BCS-bound squads.
Kevin (Grand Rapids MI)
Adam, love all the press you are giving MSU right now. We always suffer from a lack of coverage during the off-season. Do you give Sparty any chance for a Big Ten Title in 2010?
Adam Rittenberg (1:36 PM)
I really like what Michigan State returns from a skill standpoint. I'm just concerned about the two lines, especially the offensive front. The Spartans want to be more balanced offensively and run the ball better with Larry Caper and Edwin Baker. It's important to find eight or 10 capable offensive linemen. Pass defense remains an issue as well, though I expect MSU to improve there. I don't see the Spartans as a Big Ten title contender this year, but they should be in the 7-9 win range.
Kelly (Worthington, Ohio)
You covered the Irish, do you believe Notre Dame has enough forthright to know that in the ultimate end game (20 yrs from now), they have to join a conference and it's better to join a conference? This is the same school that gave Weis a contract extension after 8 games.
Adam Rittenberg (1:39 PM)
Ugh, don't remind me of that Weis extension. It was one of the silliest things I've even seen a school do. ... Jack Swarbrick seems like a very sharp guy to me, and I hope he'd be willing to do the right thing, if it means joining a conference, and not worry about his legacy (being the AD who "caved in" to a conference). Notre Dame has to think about the long-term sustainability of its athletics programs, and it can't ignore what's happening elsewhere in the sport. I would hope if ND remained independent, it would do so for the right reasons and not because of a fear to join a league.
Have you seen anything from Cam Gordon over there in Ann Arbor? Is he looking as good as the coaches have talked him up?
Adam Rittenberg (1:40 PM)
Brook, I haven't seen Gordon, but literally every defensive player and coach I've spoken to here mentions him. I guess he exhibited some defensive tendencies as a wide receiver, like crackback blocking linebackers and defensive backs. He's certainly carried that over to the defensive side, and he really has put himself in a position to contribute.
Do you think Stanzi can finally take Iowa over the top this year and win an outright Big Ten Title?
Adam Rittenberg (1:42 PM)
If Stanzi can cut his interceptions total and improve the way he starts off games, Iowa should be very dangerous this fall. The Hawkeyes play most of their toughest games at home. The thing I like about Iowa is those players won't get overconfident, even coming off of an 11-2 season, because they know their margin for error is never huge.
Adam, I read the blog daily and I'm anxious to know when you're heading to Minneapolis to look at the Gophers this spring? The local media isn't giving enough coverage, so help Gopher fans out!
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
Robert and everyone else asking about this, I won't be making the trip to Minneapolis this spring, but I'll still have plenty of Gophers coverage on the blog the next few weeks. I can't make it everywhere every spring and every preseason, but you'll always get coverage of all 11 teams on the blog.
Adam, I asked one of the other bloggers that if all of the ESPN.com college football bloggers participated in the combine, who would get the best results. This particular blogger said that you would get the best score on the wonderlic. Do you agree with that assessment?
Adam Rittenberg (1:44 PM)
Ha! Who said that? I'll have to go through the chat archives. I'm just glad they didn't say I'd have the best 40-yard dash time. I'd have to seriously question their ability to cover football.
Matt (Centerville, OH)
What are your thoughts on who will have the best defense this fall in the Big Ten? Iowa has that great d-line, but lost a lot behind it, same with Ohio State. Penn State and Wisconsin both lost big names, but return strong cores. Or does a Michigan State hop up into the discussion with Jones and Gholston.
Adam Rittenberg (1:47 PM)
Michigan State has a few too many questions on the line and in the secondary to be branded an elite defense at this point. I really like what Iowa and Ohio State have coming back, and I'm optimistic about Wisconsin if the Badgers can avoid more injuries and get Borland and Taylor back on the field. If I had to pick one unit, I'd pick Iowa because I'm confident in their ability to reload at linebacker, and they have enough cornerbacks with playing experience to potentially fill in for Spievey.
Josh (Cedar Rapids, IA)
We have heard that the potential expansion will happen within the next year, how soon does that translate to the field? Would the 2011 schedule include the expansion team(s)?
Adam Rittenberg (1:49 PM)
That's a good question, John. It depends how quickly the expansion process plays out. Penn State was admitted to the Big Ten in December 1989 but didn't play football for several years. The ACC expansion took place much faster. I'd say 2011 would be the goal, but 2012 might be more realistic, especially if you're adding more than one team.
Adam for one who covers ND football how could you even say it is a fear of joining a league. It is all about the money and if you woul;d like specific examples just say so and I will provide them.
Adam Rittenberg (1:50 PM)
Rick, if it was all about the money, Notre Dame would make much more money from being part of the Big Ten's TV contract than its own contract with NBC. The NBC contract isn't nearly as lucrative as what every Big Ten team receives. I don't think you can ignore the tradition of being independent and the potential backlash Notre Dame officials would get from joining a league after all these years. Money plays a huge role, but it's not the only factor.
Blake (Abilene, TX)
Great storey out of Augusta? Tom Watson has the lead at the Masters
Adam Rittenberg (1:51 PM)
Really? That's awesome. I've had no time to watch golf today. Plan on catching up this weekend.
What are your thoughts on the 3-3-5 that Michigan is supposed to be running this year? Will they be able to stop the Wisconsins and Ohio States that pound the ball?
Adam Rittenberg (1:53 PM)
I'll touch on this more a little later, but I think people are making too much of the 3-3-5. Michigan will continue to use multiple looks on defense (three-man front, four-man front, even five-man front at times). Greg Robinson just told me that folks outside the program get too caught up on schemes, but it comes down to better fundamental play and having more depth. You're not going to see Michigan play the 3-3-5 against power teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. I would expect to see it more against spread teams (Purdue, Notre Dame, Illinois).
Hawkeye Eddie (Kansas City, KS)
Any word on the Northwestern game @ Wrigley Field? Iowa, and IL are the front runners, right? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (1:55 PM)
Last I heard, things were still moving forward, albeit very slowly. I really think Northwestern is nearing a point where it has to make a decision. Otherwise, play Michigan or Rice at Wrigley in 2011. If they play this fall, Illinois is still the likely choice. Sorry to disappoint Iowa fans.
Akili (Dayton, OH)
Should Big Ten officials take not of Rich Rodriguez's inability to adjust to the Big Ten from the Big East and factor that into Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in terms of expansion? Big East success isn't Big Ten success, more/less.
Adam Rittenberg (1:56 PM)
Akili, I can guarantee you that won't be a major factor in the Big Ten's thought process. There's so much more that goes into expansion than how a football coach from one league is faring in another league. Mark Dantonio seems to be doing OK after coaching at Cincinnati.
Hey how many years does JoePa have left in the tank?
Adam Rittenberg (1:58 PM)
Joe really seems to have gotten a second wind here in the last 15 months or so. It was hard to watch him during the 2008 season, as he had to hobble around stadiums. But he feels good and looks good, and it's going to take a lot for him to walk away from the game. I'll say 2-3 years left.
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
What do you think of the Gophers home slate? How many games out of USC, NW, Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa do they have to win to have a successful season?
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Man, it's an awfully tough home slate for Minnesota this year. The Gophers should have little trouble selling out their games. Minnesota beat Northwestern last year, so the Gophs should have a shot there. Penn State could be winnable, and Iowa is a rivalry game, which hasn't been good for Minnesota lately. Ohio State looks awfully tough. That would be a major upset.
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Talk to you next week as we get ready for the first round of spring games in the Big Ten.