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 2 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Hope you enjoyed the Big Ten spring recap. I'm here. Let's get started.
John (Lincoln, NE)
Do you think the Big Ten will expand to 14 teams now, and wait on ND for a couple of years to then expand to 16 teams?
Adam Rittenberg (2:01 PM)
Anything is in play, John, but I think it will be a one-time expansion, either 1 or 3 or 5, with the later two most likely. I think the Big Ten is sending a message that if Notre Dame doesn't join during this expansion cycle, the door is essentially closed.
jon (Ann Arbor)
What are your predictions on michigan this year? anychance of winning 8+ games; or even 6 games to go to a bowl game... also rich rods last year?
Adam Rittenberg (2:02 PM)
I see Michigan winning at least six and possibly as many as nine. As bad as things have been, Michigan wasn't far away from a 7-5 record last year, which would have turned down the heat, at least for a little while. If the team wins seven or fewer games this year, it'll be tough to see the staff returning. It might even take 9 or 10 wins.
Matt (Athens, GA)
It is feasible to hope for a Northwestern v. Stanford Rose Bowl of the Nerds in the near future?
Adam Rittenberg (2:03 PM)
The stars need to align for both teams in the same year, which will be tough. Northwestern needs Ohio State to have a down period, which is highly unlikely, while Stanford must hope that USC declines a bit under Kiffin. Talent-wise, neither Northwestern or Stanford will be at the top of their leagues, but both schools have had breakthroughs to reach big-time bowls. The hard part will be whether it happens in the same year.
Has the Big 10's deliberate expansion process potenitally hurt their plans because they put other conferences on red alert and they may offer some schools that the Big 10 was interested in? I know they want to be thoughtful in their process, but enough's enough?
Adam Rittenberg (2:05 PM)
I don't think so, Dave. If you've noticed, everyone is reacting to the Big Ten and has been ever since December. The Big Ten is in a position of strength, no matter how long the process takes, because of its TV deal, overall revenue, etc. And I don't think there are many teams coveted by more than one league. Maybe Texas, but everyone wants Texas and I doubt anyone will get them.
Chris (Jackson, MI)
Adam, Love the Blog! Much of the talk about ND joining the Big Ten revolves around the Big Ten 'destroying' the Big East, leaving ND no home for its other sports. But if the Big Ten 'destroys' the Big East, doesn't that mean the Big Ten is now full, leaving ND no home to go to?
Adam Rittenberg (2:07 PM)
As I see it, there are only four Big East teams the Big Ten would want (Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse and UConn). So even if all four are added, there would be one more spot for a team like Notre Dame. Now the Big Ten could shut the door by adding some Big 12 teams in addition to Big East squads, but I think the Big Ten wants to back Notre Dame into a corner, where joining a league is the only option.
Rob (Omaha, NE)
Adam, quick hitter: Top (5) most valuable coaches in the big ten?
Adam Rittenberg (2:08 PM)
I'm going to define "most valuable" as guys who would damage their programs by leaving. I'll go with Tressel, Ferentz, Paterno, Fitzgerald and Dantonio, but not necessarily in that order.
Fight For Iowa (IA)
Eleven Warriors had a good post about what teams were in the best situation at QB. Iowa was at the top with Stanzi and a solid back up in Vandenberg. The rest of the list: 2 - OSU, 3 - Minnesota, 4- Wisconsin, 5 - MSU, 6 - Purdue, 7- Michigan, 8 - PSU, 9 - Illinois, 10 - Northwestern, 11 - Indiana. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (2:10 PM)
I'd put Michigan State and Northwestern a little higher, and drop Illinois and maybe even Penn State to the bottom. Neither of those teams has a proven quarterback. I don't know how you put Indiana last with Ben Chappell as the starter. I agree on Iowa as the No. 1. Wisconsin was really hurt by Curt Phillips' knee injury.
OK Adam, last week you opened a can of worms with the COY award not going to Tressel. So since you started a very controversial thread that stirred emotions it is time to put you on the spot. If you were a voter would Tressel have ever won a COY award and if so which year/years do you think he was snubbed? Also no one seems to know but who votes for the Big Ten COY award?
Adam Rittenberg (2:12 PM)
Call me Mr. Controversy, Jeremiah. If I had voted in 2002, I would have seriously considered Tressel ahead of Ferentz, despite Iowa's impressive turnaround that year. He's just been unlucky in some years, like 2005, when Penn State really turned things around under JoePa. Media members from around the Big Ten vote for COY, but I no longer vote for it.
Dan (ego land)
Heyward, Clayborn, and Rittenberg clashing pads in a 3 way tackling drill. Who is last to fall? First to cry?
Adam Rittenberg (2:13 PM)
Definitely me for first to cry, hands down. Don't want to mess with those dudes. I'd love to see Clayborn and Heyward go at it. Two big, athletic dudes. Clayborn is tough, but Heyward is so big and strong, I'd have to say he's the last to fall.
Tough to call on the Big Ten rankings after Ohio St, isn't it? Michigan at 7 seems low...they were maybe four plays away from finishing with 8 wins last year. On the flip side, Iowa was about five plays away from finishing without a bowl berth...
Adam Rittenberg (2:14 PM)
Ha, I got a bunch of emails saying Michigan was too high at No. 7. Iowa is the clear No. 2 in my opinion. A lot of guys back from an Orange Bowl championship team, including Adrian Clayborn. Iowa had a strong spring, while Wisconsin's spring brought up a few question marks, so the Hawkeyes should be right behind the Buckeyes. You're right that Michigan was a few plays away from 8 wins. The Wolverines were also a few plays away from two wins.
Matt (louisville ky)
Adam, Do you really see Michigan firing there entire staff if they do not win 8,9 games? Dont you think that would do nothing but further there chances of receiving a bowl bid in the next 4 yrs? I mean come on!!!!!
Adam Rittenberg (2:16 PM)
Hey, I'm not the one making the decisions, and I see the potential problems of gutting the staff and starting over. But if Michigan doesn't have a very good year with some good wins, the clamor from fans to make a change will be awfully loud. Will new athletic director Dave Brandon cave to the pressure, or keep Rodriguez if he wants to see things through for a full recruiting cycle? Should be interesting.
Brandon (Las Vegas, NV)
It seems as if Devier Posey has been dropping a lot of passes lately. If I recall there were a couple in the Rose Bowl and a few in the S/G game. Do you see this as a fluke or a potential problem?
Adam Rittenberg (2:17 PM)
I'm not worried about DeVier Posey one bit. He's a first-team All-Big Ten receiver this fall, in my view. And while he has had a few drops, I also remember a great leaping touchdown grab he made in the Rose Bowl. DeVier will be fine in 2010.
If Illinois doesnt start at least 2-1 going into the game agiantst osu will Zook be joining you as the assistant to the big ten blogger
Adam Rittenberg (2:18 PM)
I always need someone to recruit more readers.
Do you think IU will make a bowl game? and if so which bowl and what's their record?
Adam Rittenberg (2:19 PM)
The schedule sets up very favorably for IU, especially early on. The Hoosiers should go 4-0 in non-league play. Given how easy it is to make bowls these days, Indiana would need only two Big Ten wins. I think they can get it done and reach one of the lower Big Ten bowls (Detroit, Houston, Dallas). But they've got to be better on defense, an area where they've struggled for years.
Greg (Lansing, MI)
I know this isn't even on the table, but if the Big 10 picked up West Virginia, would West Virginia vs. Michigan be the most awkward regular season game, or the most awkward of all time?
Adam Rittenberg (2:20 PM)
Yes, yes it would, Greg. But it's not happening. West Virginia has a fine football program, but the school doesn't fit the profile of what the Big Ten wants.
Do you think if Brandon Saine can stay healthy all year and rush for over a 1,000 yards, he wil be a 3rd to 4th round draft pick? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (2:22 PM)
Brian, I'm not sure Saine will get enough carries to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, but you bring up an interesting question about his draft status. Hard to evaluate Saine at this point. He's got a ton of ability, decent size, and good pass-catching skills. But there are questions about his durability and whether he can truly be a featured back or a run-between-the-tackles type. We'll learn a lot more about him this fall, as I do consider him Ohio State's top back.
Brian (Royal Oak MI)
Adam, do you believe the big ten schools will consider academics when picking schools for expansion? Having every member apart of Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the Association of American Universities. If so doesn't this eliminate some of the "contenders"
Adam Rittenberg (2:23 PM)
Brian, the Big Ten will consider academics strongly in evaluating expansion candidates, but it won't confine itself to AAU members. The Big Ten twice went after Notre Dame, which doesn't belong to the AAU. League sources have told me AAU membership isn't a deal maker or deal breaker. What does eliminate some schools is their overall academic profiles. You need to be at least in the ballpark of where the current Big Ten schools rank academically.
Is it really a good approach for Michigan and Rich Rodriguez to blanket the nation with over 200 scholarship offers to high school rising seniors? Isn't it like Spam after a while and a scholarship offer from Michigan means nothing?
Adam Rittenberg (2:25 PM)
I don't know about that, Ken. A lot of coaches offer scholarships like they're napkins, including a certain coach many folks want to be Rodriguez's replacement at Michigan. Not naming names, but you can figure it out.
Mike Slive (SEC Headquarters)
Do you really think I will let you become a superconference and take away my reign? Make your move and I will get checkmate in the end.
Adam Rittenberg (2:27 PM)
Mike, would you agree to a deathmatch fight with Jim Delany? Or, if that's too risky, you could settle it with squash or croquet.
If the Big Ten does add 3 or 5 teams-1- would they split into divisions? 2-what would they be? Because no matter how they split them I see one division (Ohio St, and Penn St being together no matter what) being a lot tougher. Maybe like the Big 12 South and North?
Adam Rittenberg (2:28 PM)
There would be divisions, but it could be four divisions of four teams each if the Big Ten goes to 16 teams. I definitely agree that competitive balance, and not geography, must be the No. 1 factor in splitting up the league. You don't want a Big 12 South situation in the Big Ten, and I doubt the league would let that happen.
Adam, love the blog. How do you see the Badgers finishing this year record wise? Any chance they knock off Ohio State at home?
Adam Rittenberg (2:30 PM)
There's definitely a chance, Matt. Look at Wisconsin's home record under Bielema. And they were pretty close in 2008, as Ohio State needed a late drive to win that game. I see Wisconsin winning anywhere from 8-11 games. It's too soon to make a full season prediction. But it'll once again come down to whether the Badgers can beat the Big Ten's best teams. Hasn't happened under Bielema yet.
Duff (Commerce, MI)
I think Denard Robinson could be a 1,000 yd. rush, 2,000 yd. pass guy for the wolverines over the next few seasons, but is it more likely he will switch positions and be like a Reggie Bush or a Precy Harvin?
Adam Rittenberg (2:31 PM)
Not right now. Rich Rodriguez needs a quarterback to run his offense, and Robinson looked like the best option this spring. Rodriguez said Robinson has earned the right to be a quarterback, so I don't foresee a position change in the near future.
Art Vandelay (Queens, NY)
Yo, Adam! Love the blog. As an architect and part-time marine biologist, I was wondering which schools you thought had the best academics within the current Big Ten? NW and PSU have the best grad rates, but you have to put NW head-and-shoulders above the rest. Who comes next?
Adam Rittenberg (2:33 PM)
Art, there are so many ways to measure academics, but it's safe to put Northwestern at the top, followed by Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State in that next group. There are no weak academic schools in the Big Ten, but those four are generally considered to be at the top.
Adam, shouldn't the Big Ten look beyond recent results in terms of football for some of those Big East schools? If you look at all sports, those Big East schools are not even close to the Big Ten, but should they look at football beyond maybe 10 years?
Adam Rittenberg (2:34 PM)
Jeff, I would think they'll look at everything, but keep in mind that TV revenue is driving this whole thing. And say what you want, but the Big East schools are attractive from a TV standpoint because of where they're located. While they're not home-run additions by any means, if the Big Ten is confident that it can grow its product (Big Ten Network, etc.) but going to the East, the league is likely to go through with it.
Does Illinois have the best receiving core in the Big Ten? If not then where do they rank?
Adam Rittenberg (2:36 PM)
Kasey, the Illini still have some talent at receiver, and it's encouraging to hear about A.J. Jenkins' development. But I would put Michigan State's wideouts at the top of the league. Indiana's are up there, too. Illinois' group is in the middle of the pack. Benn and Cumberland are fairly big losses, despite the poor production in 2009.
Mark the Shark (Columbus)
Does starting with "love the blog" give me a better chance of getting thru? If so, should I have a comment or question next time?
Adam Rittenberg (2:37 PM)
No and yes.
Do you believe it will take until December or later for us to know more about big ten expansion officially?
Adam Rittenberg (2:38 PM)
I think we'll know something before December, although if we don't, the Big Ten can point to its original timetable (12-18 months). The summer will be very interesting, as it's a good time to initiate contact with schools.
Luke (Big 10 Country)
I understand that people are giving love to the Hawkeyes, but one thing I don't see is people truly understanding what the Hawkeyes have coming back, that doesn't include Adrian. If you were to pick the X factor at Iowa what would it be? My feeling is "Stanzi". Sure he wasn't pretty last year but he really reminds me of a certain UM QB that is now playing for the Pats.
Adam Rittenberg (2:39 PM)
The X-factor definitely is Ricky Stanzi, Luke. When he's on his game, Iowa's offense is very dangerous. But Ricky knows and I know and most sane Iowa fans know that the team can't expect to go 11-2 again with its QB throwing 15 INTs and four pick-sixes. Iowa really defied the odds last year, and it needs Stanzi to limit his mistakes.
Please rank who you would like to see join the Big 10 in order, and also rank onwhat you think Jim Delaney's list would look like.Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (2:41 PM)
Greg, I'm still in favor of adding only Notre Dame, to make it a 12-team league. But if the Irish aren't in play, my list goes: Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Connecticut. I'd also take a long look at Boston College, a team that hasn't been mentioned much but makes a lot of sense to me. As for Delany's list, he's definitely looking at ND, Mizzou, Rutgers and Nebraska.
Brett (King of Prussia, PA)
Adam,It's well understood in Nittany Nation that this is likely to be a difficult campaign for our Lions. Which contest do you believe is the most likely to define the direction of Penn State's season? Most reasonable people concede that Alabama is a shot in the dark, so is it Ohio State in mid-October? Maybe Iowa or Northwestern? I think 9-3 would be satisfactory this year, all things considered.
Adam Rittenberg (2:43 PM)
Good question. Let's take a look at the schedule ... The Iowa game could be huge if Penn State wins, but the stretch afterward -- vs. Illinois, at Minnesota, vs. Michigan, vs. Northwestern -- will define Penn State's season. If the Lions go 4-0 or 3-1, they should be in shape for a decent bowl. Two losses or more, and it could be a rough November in Happy Valley.
Duff (Commerce, MI)
Tate Forcier is still the top Quarterback for Michigan, you have to look at the circumstances. He played with tthe second team offense vs the first team defense. I still think Tate will win the job in the fall. One scrimmage doesnt decide all, what do you think Forciers chances are?
Adam Rittenberg (2:44 PM)
He's definitely right there, Duff. I know Robinson is getting the hype now, and he had a strong spring, but Forcier definitely has a shot to retain the starting job. You can't substitute for game experience, and Forcier still has much more of it than Robinson. I got the sense that Rich Rodriguez really challenged Forcier this spring. I would say Rich got Foricer's attention heading into the summer.
Brynn (Westerville, Ohio)
Would you expect Terrelle Pryor to improve reading the game, throwing and throwing mechanics even more between now and August? Also, Coach Tressel cannot stop running him entirely can he? Tressel has to keep him sharp and aggressive, right?
Adam Rittenberg (2:46 PM)
I would think so, Brynn. Watching Pryor in the spring game, he showed better footwork and a strong arm. His mechanics will never be perfect, but if his footwork improves, he'll be able to get a lot on those throws. In the past, I've been in favor of Pryor running the ball 17-20 times a game, but if he builds on what he showed in the Rose Bowl, that number can be reduced (12-15).
Adam, with all the off the field problems Michigan State has had this year how do you see their season playing out? Can they get to 6 wins??
Adam Rittenberg (2:48 PM)
Definitely, Jacob. I'm going through the same struggle with Michigan State right now. I really want to buy into this team, as I love what they have at the skill positions. But buying into Michigan State usually leaves you disappointed. I will say this: six wins or fewer would be a MAJOR disappointment, given the schedule. Michigan State should win at least seven or eight this year.
Adam, what do you see is Ohio State's biggest obstacle to the title game? The road schedule -- at Wisco, at Iowa -- or the untested secondary (How could Kurt Coleman go in the 7th round?)
Adam Rittenberg (2:49 PM)
Yeah, Coleman going so late surprised me, too, Jonathan. The secondary is a bit shaky, but I would say it's those two road games. Ohio State has been so good on the road in the Big Ten, but those two trips won't be easy, especially with the way Wisconsin and Iowa play at home.
Luke (Dublin, OH)
Adam, have you got your scholarship offer from Michigan yet in the mail? It was addressed to "Current Resident". No offer yet?
Adam Rittenberg (2:49 PM)
Not yet. I'll keep you posted.
Hey adam, love the blog.Made it up for the Gophers spring game. I was really impressed by the athleticism on both sides of the ball. O-line is improved and the front 7 on D could be one of the better groups in the Big Ten. I think if Weber looks like Sophomore Weber, and not like Junior Weber the Gophers win 8 games, including Wisconsin. You think this will happen? The Gophers are WAY overdue to beat wisconsin/Iowa
Adam Rittenberg (2:51 PM)
Totally agree on the overdue part, Bobby. But that schedule really concerns me, especially since Minnesota has so few signature victories in recent years. I'm very interested to see how both lines perform. The offensive line couldn't be much worse, and I keep hearing about all the talent on the D-line, which must replace four starters. I really think Weber will be better, but the competition is pretty tough, too.
How many games do the Gophers have to win to really get Brewster off the hot seat? I say he wins 7+ games, with 2 wins out of these games: Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, and USC.
Adam Rittenberg (2:53 PM)
Michael, I totally agree. Minnesota fans are accustomed to 7-5 teams, but 7-5 this year with some good wins would be a step in the right direction. Those seven wins have to include at least one trophy game or a win against Penn State or USC.
Hey Adam.. I was wondering why everyone is so high on Wisconsin this year. Don't get me wrong, I love my Badgers, but I don't want to be burned by expectations once again. I mean, look at last season, they beat nobody with a winning record until the Champs Sports Bowl, and they were rarely dominant during the season. Do you really think they would still be ranked so highly if they had lost to Miami?
Adam Rittenberg (2:54 PM)
No, they wouldn't, Evan, but that's the power of a bowl win. It lasts for eight full months. I understand your hesitancy as a Badgers fan to buy in, but there were some things to like about last year's team, mainly their youth. Wisconsin brings back a lot of guys on both sides of the ball. There are some issues -- wide receiver, QB depth, secondary -- but Wisconsin should be OK this fall.
cornerback seems a weakness at osu do you see any teams able to exploit this in the big 10
Adam Rittenberg (2:56 PM)
I'm sure they'll try, Phil. But Chekwa has a bunch of experience now and should be in position to be a shut-down guy. I really like Devon Torrence, a very athletic corner. But if there was a weak spot on Ohio State's defense, it would be CB right now.
Adam Rittenberg (2:56 PM)
Got time for a few more ...
Marissa (New Orleans)
Do you think football stadium size has any factor in Big Ten expansion (smallest Big Ten stadium is Northwesterns at about 47,000)?
Adam Rittenberg (2:59 PM)
I assume you're referring to Big East stadiums, Marissa, since the Big 12 candidates have big stadiums. Rutgers recently increased its stadium capacity to more than 52,000, and while Connecticut's stadium only holds 40,000, the school could look to expand if it joins the Big Ten. Stadium size is a factor, but television sets in the region might be a bigger one.
Adam Rittenberg (2:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Henry (East Lansing)
What's it going to take to get Pat Narduzzi fired or at least moved to recruiting coordinator since he recruits so well? He always let the team back in the game last year and it cost us. Also the amount of interceptions the defense had was atrocious. Was that because of the coach or players because there's not much left from the John L. Smith era. Dantonio was a defensive guru, so why is it our weak point?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Henry, the secondary play has been troubling, although I'd give it one more year to make firm judgment on Narduzzi and maybe even Dantonio. The problems last year stemmed mainly from older guys who didn't get better. If this year's secondary struggles, it falls squarely on the coaches. I also agree the number of INTs must go up. They really missed Otis Wiley last year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
OK, guys, that's a wrap. Later.