Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's make it a great Friday chat.
Tom Osborne (Lincoln, Neb.)
What division will I be in? And will the Huskers be the favorites?
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
I think you'll be in a division with one of the following three teams: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State. Still tough to tell which one, but my money is on Penn State. Will you be the favorite? Maybe in 2011, but that's a long way away.
Adam - Good God Welcome Back! You have made all of us completely dependent on you. With the tight QB race at Michigan, a lot of people forgot about the RB situation. Their backs are hurt again, and with not much experience coming back, do you think that the RB position should be more of a concern for UM fans than the QB's?
Adam Rittenberg (2:01 PM)
Thanks, Tim. Somehow, you survive without me. ... I wouldn't be too concerned about the RBs because Michigan has some depth there. The Wolverines can survive an injury or two. Interested to see how Vincent Smith looks coming off of his injury. But all this talk about QBs and RBs shouldn't overshadow the real issue in camp: the defense. If Michigan doesn't get better there, it won't matter what the offense does.
Adam, what in your opinion are the biggest deficiencies of the top three teams in the league (osu, wisc, iowa)? Also, do you think this year is the year one of those three can bring a national championsip to the big ten?
Adam Rittenberg (2:03 PM)
Ohio State: Not as solid on special teams as most seasons; not a ton of depth in the secondaryWisconsin: Secondary needs to step up after losing Chris MaragosIowa: Cornerback, offensive line have some question marksAll three teams could challenge for a national title, with Ohio State being the frontrunner of the group.
Which game should OSU worry about more, Wisc or Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (2:04 PM)
Good question, David. Iowa gave Ohio State a lot more trouble last year and had a great chance to win that game at the end of regulation. But teams just don't win many games at Camp Randall Stadium, and if the Badgers stay healthy, I'd worry about that trip, even though Ohio State won there in 2008. Iowa left the door open for teams at home and seemed to be better away from Kinnick Stadium in 2009.
Paul C (Chicago)
Illinois has hired new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and reports have all said that not only are they fitting in with the rest of the staff but that the players are fully on board. I'd like to be hopeful, but honestly last year was so monumentally upsetting for the Illini that I can't bear myself to even look at the date "Sept 4th." My question: Do any situations you know of come to mind where a team has had a similar overhaul of staff that has monumentally improved it's schedule? Some sort of precedent would go a long way towards easing my mind.
Adam Rittenberg (2:06 PM)
Paul, this is a great question and I'll look into it for a future blog post. Off the top of my head, I can't remember a time when a team had so many assistant coach changes without the head coach leaving as well. The good thing is Illinois got the two coordinators in place rather quickly, and the players now know what to expect from Petrino and Koenning.
Kurt (Chesapeake, VA)
There was an article in the LA Times about a possible kick-off game between the Pac 10/12 and the Big 10 at the Rose Bowl. Do you think the Big Ten would be up for this?http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/29/sports/la-sp-0730-pac-10-football-20100730
Adam Rittenberg (2:07 PM)
Well, the Big Ten is just a possibility in that scenario, far from definite. But I like the idea from Larry Scott, who continues to impress me. It would take some maneuvering in the schedule, and I don't know how often the Big Ten would want to play virtual road games every September, but I bet something could be worked out.
John Clay: 260 or 310?
Adam Rittenberg (2:09 PM)
Gosh, Justin, I hope it's the former and not the latter. Clay's weight will always be a story, and he certainly struggled to stay in the 245-255 range that best suits him. I'd like to see him right around 250 when the season starts.
I know you cover the Big 10, but what 5 head coaching jobs would you classify as being the best?
Adam Rittenberg (2:11 PM)
Good question, Vinnie. Off the top of my head, I'd definitely go with Florida and Texas. USC has to be in there, despite the recent problems. Ohio State has so many resources at its disposal. Alabama and Oklahoma are also great jobs. Michigan and Notre Dame are right there, too.
Adam, great job with the blog. I'm a Gopher fan and think that this is the year they break through. Out of Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin, which game do you think the Gophers are most likely to win, and which are they most likely to lose?
Adam Rittenberg (2:13 PM)
Bjorne, I really think Wisconsin is the most important game of Minnesota's season. The other two games could be impacted by what happens in Madison. An upset win on the road in a rivalry game gives the Gophers a huge boost, but they don't match up well with Wisconsin. We don't know how Penn State will look on offense, but if Minnesota can keep the score down, it'll have a chance at home. Iowa has given Minnesota a lot of trouble lately, and that game could depend on what's on the line for both teams.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
With a bunch of returning starters at QB. Do you think the Big Ten will finally take a step forward? Possible 5 wins in Bowl Season?? (Okay....second question is too far out to be fair to you!)
Adam Rittenberg (2:15 PM)
Jason, last year at this time, I was working on a story about the Big Ten's struggles at the QB spot. Looking at this year's crop, there certainly has been some improvement. Pryor might be the only true national awards candidate, but Stanzi is a winner, Tolzien did a real nice job last year and players like Cousins and Chappell can put up big passing numbers. You add Robert Marve to the mix at Purdue, and the Big Ten QB group should be more than serviceable. A lot obviously depends on Pryor, but the Big Ten should be well positioned for another strong bowl performance.
Andrew (Columbus, OH)
Is there a more talked about player in the country that is not attending their conferences media day then Terrelle Pryor? Hes the face of OSU's program right now and maybe the face of the Big 10, a heisman candidate and a 2 year starter at QB, why isn't Tressel bringing him?
Adam Rittenberg (2:17 PM)
You're preaching to the choir, Andrew. Tressel typically only brings seniors or juniors who might be team captains to Big Ten media days. Coaches hate any sort of change, even when it's obvious that Pryor is the guy in the spotlight. National media really don't care about anyone else on that team. Ohio State fans defend Tressel's thinking. It's a frustrating situation for reporters and fans who can look at the situation from the outside, but that's just the way it goes with the Buckeyes.
Andrew (Columbus, OH)
Where does Bo Pelini rank in terms of head coaches in the Big 10? Obviously behind Tressel right now, but outside of him, and Paterno if he still counts as a HC, there really isn't another huge name coaching a Big 10 team. Maybe Ferentz at Iowa.
Adam Rittenberg (2:19 PM)
Andrew, Pelini is a very solid coach, but he's not ahead of Kirk Ferentz. Not even close. Tressel and Paterno definitely are ahead, and despite his struggles at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez's overall profile is more impressive. Not a knock against Pelini, but let's see a little bit more from him first.
Larry (New Jersey)
What are some perks of being the head coach at a Notre Dame or Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (2:21 PM)
Tradition and resources. People talk about your program even when it stinks. You don't need to educate recruits on what you've done. But the big thing is $$$ and lots of fans/alumni.
Jim Tressel hall of famer?
Adam Rittenberg (2:22 PM)
No doubt. He's a slam dunk for the Hall.
Kurt (Chesapeake, VA)
How serious are the talks about a 9 game conference schedule? To me, home field advantage is a major determining factor in the Big Ten, and with 9 games there will be a 5 game then 4 game rotation, which would have a major effect on teams.
Adam Rittenberg (2:23 PM)
It would, Kurt, and there are coaches in the Big Ten who would certainly oppose a change. This could be a classic coach vs. AD debate because for the ADs, nine conference games eases their burden for scheduling and creates a more attractive home schedule every other league. Five Big Ten games = more $$$. But from the coaches' perspective, it's six more losses spread around the league.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
A bit upsetting but fair not to see a PSU QB on your list. Do you expect to see a throw back to Joe Pa's old 'three yards and a cloud of dust' style of offense?
Adam Rittenberg (2:25 PM)
I'm really, really interested to see what Penn State will do, J.B. If Newsome is the guy, you have to expect more spread-offense elements (option, zone read, quick passes). Royster clearly will get more carries (finally), and the offensive line has to improve its performance. I don't think we'll see the old Penn State offense, but the Lions won't take too many chances with the young QBs, especially early.
Mike (Lewis Center, OH)
I tend to agree with Barry Alvarez's assessment of the Big Ten schools. I do not see why Ohio State , Michigan, MSU, PSU, Purdue, and Indiana are the East Division, and Nebraska, Illinois, NW, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are the West Division? Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin seem to equal OSU, PSU, and Michigan as of late. Don't look at tradition (I know it is hard), because recent performance shows that Iowa and Wisconsin have been solid programs for the past 10+ years.
Adam Rittenberg (2:27 PM)
You're right for the most part, Mike, but you can't say "don't look at tradition." You're right about Wisconsin and Iowa in the last 10-20 years, but college football is built on time-tested brands, and you'll have four in the Big Ten with Mich, OSU, PSU and Nebraska. Can Wisconsin and Iowa eventually enter that mix? Sure. But they're not there yet. I really advocate a division system where those four brands are split up evenly.
Which non conference game do you think has the most impact on Big Ten as a whole? Personally, although not part of the B10, I'd love to see Nebraska beat Texas.
Adam Rittenberg (2:29 PM)
Tim, I wonder how Nebraska's performance this season will affect the Big Ten. I know a lot of Big Ten fans are rooting for the Huskers to do some serious damage in their final year in the Big 12. ... As to your first question, Miami-Ohio State is a game that a lot of folks will be watching nationally. Same with Iowa-Arizona and the three Big Ten games against Notre Dame.
Adam Rittenberg (2:29 PM)
And if Minnesota upsets USC, that would make an impact, too.
Paul (Peterborough, ON)
Do you think that Pudue has what it takes to beat Notre Dame in their season opener? Both teams have a bunch of question marks and Robert Marve seems to be fitting in well.
Adam Rittenberg (2:31 PM)
Paul, I'll be attacking this more in an upcoming blog post, but I do think the Boilers have a great chance in South Bend. I'm confident Robert Marve will come out hot and put up points with that offense. My big question with Purdue is whether the defense improves, especially against the run. Purdue also needs to show it can handle a tough environment since the Notre Dame faithful will be pumped up. I can't wait for that one.
Chase (Holland, MI)
Adam, Michigan has two talented athletes at quarterback in Robinson and Forcier. Why wouldn't they put them both on the field at the same time? Put them both back at quarterback, and the defense will have no idea who is getting the ball. I think this would be tough for defenses to prepare for.
Adam Rittenberg (2:32 PM)
Chase, I'm sure Rich Rodriguez is considering the possibility, but in the end, you'll see one or the other taking the snaps. Michigan didn't have trouble moving the ball last year, but turnovers were a major issue. Rodriguez wants to identify the most dynamic quarterback, but also the most consistent one.
Adam, what are your odds that the Big Ten will expand again in the next 5 years? and will we get a idea of what teams they might be looking at by the way they set up the Divisions?
Adam Rittenberg (2:33 PM)
Beau, there's still a decent to good chance we'll see another expansion, possibly before the league's 12- to 18-month study period expires in June 2011. Not hearing much about any momemtum now, but we'll see. ... We should know plans for divisions (or no divisions) and scheduling by Sept. 1.
What is Ohio State's bigger concern this year... Depth/experience at DB or WR? And might we see some craziness with Stoneburner?
Adam Rittenberg (2:35 PM)
Tom, I hope so regarding Stoneburner. He's too talented to be used simply as a blocker like Ballard and Nicol. And the fact that Ohio State isn't loaded at WR should prompt Tressel to use Stoneburner more in the passing attack. Neither DB nor WR concerns me too much regarding depth, although I'm interested to see how the Buckeyes' secondary will perform without Kurt Coleman.
Dave (Royal Oak, MI)
I think too much is being made of PSU's QB replacement situation. PSU has had inexperienced guys play well before (Mills' first year prior to the dark years comes to mind, also M-Rob and Clark to an extent). This young group of QBs is talented. I am far more concerned with our special teams, which in 2009 were very un-special, than I am with the QB or O-line. Am I being too optimistic about the QB's?
Adam Rittenberg (2:38 PM)
Dave, that's a valid opinion about the QBs, and a common one among certain fan bases. Fans hate hearing about one position over and over, and they're typically more concerned about different groups. Many Penn State fans I hear from are much more worried about the O-line and special teams than the QBs. The special teams issue is really puzzling, given JoePa's track record. It's an area that must be address in camp.
Will switching to a 3-4 improve the MSU defense greatly this year? I see them winning the Big10, and Greg Jones winning the Heisman. GO SPARTY!
Adam Rittenberg (2:39 PM)
Jon, I think more 3-4 is a good move for the Spartans. You might not see it on every down, but MSU has much more depth at LB than DL. While I'd like to see Jerel Worthy and Blake Treadwell on the field together at DT, you look at the linebackers and there's so much experience, combined with exciting young players like Bullough and Gholston. It makes too much sense not to try the 3-4.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Adam, where do you see Northwestern finishing in the Big Eleven?
Adam Rittenberg (2:40 PM)
Right in the middle again, most likely. I have some concerns about the secondary and the running game, but Northwestern is establishing the type of consistency you saw from teams like Purdue in the 2000s. These guys know how to win. I could see the Wildcats anywhere from fourth to eighth in the league this fall.
GunnerySgt (Crawfordsville IN)
IU fan here. Got a question for you; What does Lynch spend more time doing until signing day; Adding more recruits or holding on to the ones verbally committed now?
Adam Rittenberg (2:42 PM)
Great question, Sgt. After losing guys like Jibreel Black last year, it's important that Indiana solidifies its 2011 verbals, while keeping its eyes out for a few more players. The best way to keep the class intact is to win, which would remove questions about Lynch's job status. But I think keeping the group intact and looking ahead to 2012 is the right approach.
How can you omit PSU-Bama from your OOC games? And how is the PSU HC job not as good as OSU or Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (2:43 PM)
My bad, Rob. Honest mistake there. Penn State-Bama certainly means a lot for the Big Ten. A loss doesn't hurt that much, while a win would be HUGE.
Mark (Med School)
How would you rank the Big10 in terms of combined football/basketball powers?
Adam Rittenberg (2:44 PM)
Mark, I did a post on this last year, but I'd put Wisconsin and Ohio State right at the top. If Michigan State continues to make bowl games and starts challenging for titles in football, I'd put the Spartans in that group as well. Same with Purdue, which has a great hoops program under Matt Painter and could reclaim the consistency in football we saw under Joe Tiller.
Adam's Loyal Minion (tOSU campus)
Oh, master of the blog! I keep calling John Simon "Sandman", but it is not catching on, yet. To illustrate it I threw a bunch of sand on him while he was eating at the Ohio Union. Doctors said I should be walking next year.....but I think he is warming up to the name. :-)
Adam Rittenberg (2:45 PM)
Hey, it was worth a shot.
What would you say about Hope's recruiting so far at Purdue this year regarding the current commits: Solid start, backbone of the class, or dissappointing?
Adam Rittenberg (2:46 PM)
Sam, it's tough to evaluate small classes. They usually get ripped because there aren't 12 five-star prospects. I think Purdue's doing fine and Danny and his staff know what they want. Will it be a top 25 class? No. But I wouldn't worry about it.
If you're Jim Delany, where are you going to host the championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (2:47 PM)
Chris, I'd look at the SEC's model and see if there's once facility that makes the most sense. If not, I'd certainly be open to a rotation. Big Ten fans will travel to this game, and moving it between places like Indy, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland wouldn't be too tough logistically. I'd also consider the Green Bay option, although I'd have a long list of questions to ask the Packers before going through with it.
Hey Adam. Thanks for the chats! While everyone knows the Michigan defense needs to improve, let's keep in mind that one more score beats Iowa and MSU, even if the defense doesn't change. We all know those WVU teams just flat outscored a lot of teams...
Adam Rittenberg (2:49 PM)
Good point, Jason, and I'd add the Purdue game to that list. But Michigan also got fortunate against Indiana and Notre Dame, so it goes both ways. I just think to win in the Big Ten on a consistent basis, you need the defense to step up. Michigan had so many major breakdowns last year. It puts too much pressure on the offense. And with all due respect to West Virginia, the Mountaineers weren't facing Big Ten-caliber defenses every Saturday.
what is your favorite part of the media frenzy coming up in a couple days? Also, what do you think the chances are of michigan missing another bowl game?
Adam Rittenberg (2:50 PM)
Andrew, I'm not a big fan of Day 1, when the Big Ten packs every coach and Jim Delany into a four-hour window. I'd much prefer the SEC or Big 12 model, with four teams a day. But with the lucrative kickoff luncheon on Day 2, I understand why the Big Ten does it this way. I really like the Day 2 morning session with players and coaches. Some guys are struggling to wake up, but it's a nice time to visit with everyone.
Adam Rittenberg (2:51 PM)
You also asked about Michigan. I can't see the Wolverines missing another bowl game. The bigger question is whether they win enough games (7? 8? 9?) to save Rich Rodriguez?
Wayne (Des Moines)
Someone from your staff in 2009 said the devensive line of Iowa was not very athletic. (Clayborne, Binns, Krug and Ballard) In 2010 this defensive line is rated the top in the country. What reporter said that in 2009?
Adam Rittenberg (2:52 PM)
Geez, Wayne, I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. Anyone who watched Iowa's D-line go to work against Penn State wouldn't say anything negative about that group. It's one of the best, if not the best, in the country, entering this fall.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
How old and long has Joe Paterno been around? The last head coach of Penn State (Joe Bedenk) died in 1983, before any of the players were born!! The previous two coaches died in 1978 and 1969. Joe Paterno is literally the only living football coach for PSU. :-)
Adam Rittenberg (2:53 PM)
Great stat, Jason!
Ariana (Sarasota (FL))
I keep hearing all the fan talk about how the Buckeyes are going to beat up on Miami. Do you really believe that or will it be closer than everyone thinks? Maybe even a Miami win?
Adam Rittenberg (2:54 PM)
I think it'll be a close game won by Ohio State, but Miami definitely has a shot, Ariana. It comes down to Jacory Harris against an always-tough Ohio State defense. If Harris plays like he did against Wisconsin, Miami has no chance. If he plays like he did against Oklahoma last year, the Canes could leave Columbus with a huge win.
Trevor (Ann Arbor Michigan)
Who you have getting to bowl games this year? I would guess that; Ohio State, Wisky, PSU, and MSU are the sure bets. Who else?
Adam Rittenberg (2:56 PM)
Iowa is a sure thing. Between Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan, at least two of them go. And then we'll see about Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana. Indiana's schedule is ridiculously easy, and the Hoosiers have a good chance to reach the six-win plateau.
Which would be a bigger win for Big Ten? Minnesota over USC or Penn St over Alabama? Also which would be a worse loss for Big Ten? Miami over Ohio St or Arizona over Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (2:57 PM)
Penn State over Alabama for sure. It's the defending national champ on its home field, not to mention with an unproven Penn State QB. Worse loss would be Ohio State against Miami because the Buckeyes are at home and viewed as a national title contender. This is the type of loss that would reinforce Ohio State as a big-game loser.
Ricky Stanzi (Hawkeye Country)
If you had to take a Big Ten QB into the national title game, who would you take.
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
You, of course! (But only for the fourth quarter)
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
Last one for the day ...
In your opionion, Adam....do you think 7 should be enough for RR? Not whether it will for the school...but for you. I just can't understand how the AD at Michigan wouldn't realize this guy is playing with sophmores this year...
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Jason, if it's the right seven wins, it could be enough. By that, I mean beating quality teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State and, gasp, Ohio State. I can't see Rodriguez surviving if those are Michigan's five losses this year. Plus, he needs to have no more drama away from the game field. It'll be tough, but he's still a heck of a coach who will succeed again -- whether it's at Michigan or another program.
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
That's all for today. Great questions, everyone. Follow me Monday and Tuesday at Big Ten media days!