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 noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get chatty.
Mac (Huntington, WV)
Adam, thought I'd get this question in early. I've got (a quick) three part coaching question for ya. First, who do you think snagged the better coach ? Indiana with Wilson or Minnesota with Kill? Second, which coach turns their respective programs around quicker? Just looking at next year?s B10 schedule, I?ve got to think Kill?s in a better position. Hoosiers are on the road at Wisky, Iowa, OSU, and Sparty. Minny gets Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisky all at home and avoids the Buckeyes. And third, true or false, one of the two is in the B10 Championship game in the next 5 years. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Mac, Kill is a proven head coach, but Wilson has the long-term potential to be a special coach at the highest level. I would agree Minnesota has the better chance to turn things around for 2011, but both teams will be projected at the bottom of the league. As to your third question, while it wouldn't shock me to see one make the title game, I'd lean toward false.
With Iowa Loosing DJK to drug charges what do you think the chances of them beating Missouri?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Mark, it's very unfortunate with DJK. He's a smart guy who did some very dumb things. He's certainly a big loss for Iowa, and there seems to be a dark cloud hovering above that program right now. I think the vibe isn't good, but Iowa certainly has the ability to win.
Steve (Findlay, OH)
Adam, who do you like better in the secondary? tyler sash or jermale hines?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Steve, two good options, but Hines has been the Big Ten's best safety this season. It's a true testament to him, Chimdi Chekwa and others that Ohio State has a top 5 pass defense despite losing three players to season-ending injuries, including Moeller.
Matt (St. Paul MN)
Jerry Kill? Really? Don't get me wrong, he might be a good coach in the MAC....but how were Minnesota fans supposed to feel about this hire?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
All I can tell you is to be patient and watch the product on the field. Kill wins games, and I think he'll do it at Minnesota. Joel Maturi gave Minnesota fans unrealistic expectations about landing a big name, but there are big names who can't win games any more. Kill is a lesser-known coach with a very strong track record. Just be patient.
Michael Hodges (Big Rapids, MI)
Hey Adam, love your blog. Before I ask this, we all know rich rod still has a chance to come back next year. But, if you had to choose the top candidates for the possible job at Michigan, who would they be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Michael, to me, the candidate list looks like this: Jim Harbaugh. That's it. He's the guy you hire or you stick with Rodriguez. I'm not a Les Miles fan, and Brady Hoke still needs to prove more at SDSU. Harbaugh is the hot commodity. If you don't land him, you continue forward with Rodriguez. A national search would be a major mistake.
Mike (Lincoln NE)
How do you see the divisional races shaping up next year? And when will the Big Ten come up with names for their divisions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
The "East" division could be very competitive with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and possibly Illinois. There are more key personnel losses in the "West" division and I'd like Nebraska as an early favorite along with Michigan State. Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa also could make some noise. ... I hear the division names aren't imminent, and that the league is focused more on the new logo. But I'd expect something before Christmas.
So Adam, what do you think of the bowl selections for the Big Ten. Joe Pa may be well past his prime but that name sure got him a nice bid, didn't it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
It didn't hurt, J.B., but it wasn't as if the Outback Bowl had a bunch of incredible options. Iowa fell apart down the stretch and both Michigan and Northwestern got blown out in their last two games. At least Penn State won 4 of its final 6.
Adam, what do you make of the future of Penn State's QB situation. It seems McGloin is the go to guy at the moment, but obviously we can't forget about Bolden and then there's Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome. How long will they carry 4 QB's for? Will someone be reassigned, transfer or what?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
I think Penn State has a very competitive QB competition next spring with Bolden and McGloin as the top candidates. I wouldn't expect to see Newsome remain a quarterback, but we'll see. Paul Jones showed some promise in the spring game, and he should be in the mix.
Daily reader, haven't seen an espn blog nearly as unbiased as yours. What teams are having the best recruiting classes?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Thanks, Nolan. That is my No. 1 goal with the blog. ... Ohio State has a dynamite class coming in. Nebraska's class looks strong, and Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan have some good prospects as well.
Adam, your take on Tom Bradley being Pitt's top choice? is this a true test of loyalty to both Penn State and Coach Paterno?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
I'd love to see "Scrap" get a shot at Pitt. I know there's the rivalry there, but I don't think he'll be the next Penn State coach from what I've heard. He deserves a shot to run a program, and he obviously has a ton of familiarity with the region.
Hey Adam, as an Iowa fan, I'm getting deja vu from 2005. After a disappointing 7-5 season, the Hawkeyes backslid for 2 more years and had numerous off the field problems. Do you think the DJK situation is just the beginning of Iowa's problems?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Frank, I understand your concern, and it's important for Kirk Ferentz to ensure history doesn't repeat itself. Iowa still has some nice pieces returning for 2010, although I hear there's a chance Tyler Sash goes to the NFL, which would hurt. I really liked what I saw from QB James Vandenberg in 2009, and he'll have a good offensive line as well as A-Robinson and McNutt.
To our friends in Minnesota... Jim "1-AA" Tressel was flatly panned by the local media and fanbase when announced as OSU's head coach. Um - oops?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Tom, that's a great point. Few saw Tressel becoming what he has become in Columbus. So I would urge Gopher fans to see what the product looks like on the field.
Josh (Bettendorf, IA)
"Dark cloud hovering" over the Iowa program? While I agree the season ended badly and DJK's arrest looks bad I can find schematic reasons for Iowa's poor play and the arrest is ultimately DJK's fault not the programs. Am I missing something?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Josh, maybe that's a bit extreme, but you have to admit there's not a good vibe around that program. You blow four fourth-quarter leads and drop your last three games, it's hard to feel too confident about your ability. While there are a lot of seniors, you have to question their leadership with all the close losses Iowa has endured.
Nate (SEC Country)
Any chance the Buckeyes win the Sugar and shut up Chris Low and his cronies?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
HA! You can never quiet my man C-low, but beating an SEC in a bowl game would really help Ohio State's national rep. The 0-9 thing is thrown in the Buckeyes' faces all the time. Arkansas is a good team, but I don't think the Hogs are as strong as LSU in 2007 or Florida in 2006. This is a game Ohio State can win and arguably should win.
Is Wisconsin preseason Top 5 next year? Only concern would be Tolzien, who reminds me a lot of Craig Krenzel, and OSU really struggled in the first year post-Krenzel. Can't just hand it to Ball and White 80 times a game.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Matt, I agree. Wisconsin always has great RBs and O-lineman, but Tolzien was the biggest difference for that offense this season. The Badgers have struggled to consistently find quarterbacks like No. 16. There will be a drop-off, and it will be interesting to see who emerges between Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr.
Adam speaking of Wisconsin's recruiting class, do you think they can get some highly recruited players by simply making the Rose Bowl, by winning the Rose Bowl, or neither?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Without a doubt Wisconsin's recruiting will be helped by reaching the Rose Bowl, regardless of the result. If I'm a running back who wants to go to the NFL, I would go play for Wisconsin and not think twice. Wisconsin likely will never land a top 10 class, but the Badgers can recruit to their strengths.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Hey Adam, last Friday's game was a killer. Looking back on this season I can't help but feel that Illinois' inexperience (especially in the secondary) played a strong part in most of Illinois' losses. Do you see this as much of a problem for next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Good question, Mike. At times, Illinois made plays in the secondary and changed games with INTs. But Fresno State shredded the Illini on Friday, and Tavon Wilson's penalty really hurt. Getting Terry Hawthorne healthy for a full season should help, and guys like Trulon Henry will be back as well. It'll be interesting to see how the DBs perform in the bowl against Robert Griffin.
Shouldn't Um keep Rich Rod for the sole purpose that Denard can';t work in Harbaugh's offense. I mean really. You have a stud and the right coach, keep them together.
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Zak, certainly this is part of the case to keep Rich Rodriguez as coach. If Michigan makes a change, it runs the risk of really starting over again and taking a step back. But there's never an ideal time to make a change, and any change at Michigan likely will be a dramatic one because of the way Rodriguez coaches and recruits.
Alex (Des Moines)
When does Nebraska officially become a part of the Big Ten, and is there a set date when all Nebraska sports will go from Big 12 to Big 10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Alex, Nebraska becomes a full Big Ten member on July 1, 2011. All of Nebraska's teams will begin Big Ten play beginning in the fall of 2011.
Jaron (Madison, WI)
What do you think will be Wisconsin's best strength and biggest weakness against TCU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Wisconsin's size has to be a factor in this game. The Badgers can't be too confident that they can overpower the nation's No. 1 defense, but they have to try to use their size to their advantage. Wisconsin's ability to mount long drives and stay on the field can be a huge advantage. The Badgers' disadvantage is their defense will allow points and big plays, and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton can make a lot of them.
If Auburn wins but the Big Ten wins 3 of 4 or all of their head to head bowl games against the SEC who is the better conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Good question, David. The BCS title game is the single biggest factor in terms of shaping national perception about conferences. So if Auburn gives the SEC a fourth consecutive league title, the SEC will continue to be perceived as king. Beating the SEC in bowls is important for the Big Ten, but Ohio State's game against Arkansas looms largest. The Big Ten MUST win its BCS games.
Tom (Ft. Wayne)
Which D-line will have a harder time without they're star DE next season, Iowa or Purdue?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Wow, great questions today, guys. You gave me an idea for a blog post. Purdue will really miss Ryan Kerrigan, although the Boilers have some other good pass rushers. I just think the opponent's game plan changes without No. 94 on the field. Clayborn also is a big loss, and I think the collective loss of Clayborn, Klug and Ballard really hurts Iowa. Will be a challenge to reload around Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns.
Paul (Ann Arbor)
Dave Brandon needs your help! Is Harbaugh really better than RRod? Two good years at Stanford, but an offense that won't separate itself from the rest of the big ten, and a defense that struggles against really good offensive teams. RRods offense will only get better (scary) with Denard in his 2nd year as starter and fewer turnovers, defense will get better with added depth and experience.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
All good points, Paul. One thing to consider is how well Harbaugh has recruited at Stanford and how much better he can recruit at a place like Michigan with all of its resources. His defense isn't nearly as bad as Michigan's, and Stanford's offense resembles Wisconsin's and could do some major damage in the Big Ten. It comes down to whether you believe Michigan's defense will significantly improve. Maybe a new coordinator gets them on track. but something dramatic needs to happen.
Do you see any currently unranked B10 teams a candidate for final AP Top 25 ranking pending a bowl win? I feel like Iowa, PSU, Michigan, and Northwestern all lost games at a bad time, but I hate to believe they have no chance of ranking. Maybe if enough ranked teams lose?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Mike, I think all four of those teams could get close to or in the final top 25 with bowl victories. An Iowa victory against Missouri would almost certainly put the Hawkeyes back in a bowl. Same for Penn State against Florida.
Alex (Des Moines)
The most frustrating thing about the DJK situation to me is that he's doing these things as a senior. When you see a headline like this I'd usually expect a freshman or soph to be involved. He was only 6 months away from an NFL paycheck, you'd think that being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel would provide a little more guidance to someone in his position. What a dumb set of decisions.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
I agree, Alex. He's not a kid any more, and he should know better. But I think DJK has some inner demons and his problems run deeper than just a guy fooling around with drugs. From reading the police reports, something serious is going on with him. I hope he can overcome this and turn things around because he has a great personality and a lot of football ability.
Drew (Evanston, IL)
Even if Northwestern gets rolled by Texas Tech, do you think they will enter next season in the top 25?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Very unlikely. While people know who Dan Persa is, Northwestern always has to earn its way into the rankings. There are some major concerns on defense for a program that hasn't been great on defense since the mid-1990s. Northwestern will have one of the Big Ten's best offenses next fall, but the issues on defense must be addressed.
As an Ohio State fan, will it be worth going to New Orleans even if I don't have a ticket to the Sugar Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
If you've never been before, then yes. New Orleans is an amazing city. There's obviously the party aspect on Bourbon Street, but it's about as close as you'll get to a European city in America. I have a good friend who is in law school at Tulane and I spent some time down there in March. Even got recognized by a Buckeye fan in a jazz club. It's a great town. You should go.
I work in a company surrounded by Big Ten alums, and we all keep brining up Bielma's year. While Wisc is obviously talented the general consensus is he's not a good sportsman - the Minnesota debacle, coupled with running up the score in 3 games, leaves me to believe that while he's a good coach, he's a poor sport. Thoughts??
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
I won't defend Bielema for going for two against Minnesota. It was a shot at Brewster and a coaching staff he doesn't like. And if he didn't do it, maybe there wouldn't be as much scrutiny around the Indiana and Northwestern games. But if your co-workers actually watched Wisconsin against IU and Northwestern, they'll see a team that didn't try to run up the score with its starters or throw a bunch of passes in the second half. You need to watch the games before making judgments.
I'm going to the Outback Bowl. What kind of game can I expect to see? Do you think Penn State has a great chance on beating the Gators?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Not sure about a "great chance," but that's a pretty even-looking matchup to me. Florida has more overall talent, but Penn State looks more stable on offense and should get better through the bowl practices. You also have to question how much the Gators care about playing in a non-BCS bowl. Penn State, meanwhile, always shows up for postseason games.
Josh (Baton Rouge, LA)
Besides Ohio State (3 point favorite), every Big Ten team is an underdog in their bowl game. Which team(s) do you see having the greatest chance of pulling off the upset and winning one for the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
It's going to be tough, Josh. I like Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl against TCU. Badgers are on fire, and TCU hasn't seen a team like Wisconsin. Iowa-Missouri and Florida-Penn State can go either way. I'd have both Illinois and Michigan as slight underdogs, but both teams certainly can win. The one team I really don't think has much of a shot is Northwestern. Persa's injury combined with problems on defense doesn't add up to a bowl win.
A "Kill"-er hiring for Minny I believe (I'm the first one to use that I believe). The main question I have is do you think he can recruit at a Big-Ten and National level? He is not a big name coach with national ties or a high-profile staff. He seems to have a great track record of developing and coaching up players. In other words, he is the anti-Brewster.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Yes, I'm sure that's an original, Noah. The recruiting question has been brought up a lot about Kill, and it's a valid one. Recruiting to a Big Ten school is a different animal, and it'll be interesting to see if he retains any of the current assistants to help in that effort. But Kill is the anti-Brewster: no big talk, no bull, strong track record as a head coach.
Looking at next year and the number of seniors that will be leaving, how much of a drop-off do you see with Ohio State in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Ohio State always reloads well, Meg, but this senior class will be missed. I'm interesting to see if linebackers like Sweat and Sabino can fill the sizable voids left by Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. The secondary also loses a lot, but getting Tyler Moeller back should help. I do see a chance for a drop off, but Ohio State has so much talent waiting to step into bigger roles.
Adam, I read your article a while back about Michigan having bad luck on defense losing Warren to the draft,Turner transfering,cissoko's trouble with the law,emilien transfering,woolfolk's injury...no defense co. can do well with those losses I mean come on give Rich Rod a break the guy is improving the team each year also what are their chances against Miss St. what would be the keys to victory??
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Mike, Rich certainly has had some lousy luck on defense, especially at the cornerback position. Michigan has been absolutely depleted there. As for keys to victory, Michigan has to get off of the field on third down. Michigan ranked 83rd nationally in third-down conversion defense, and the Wolverines seemed even worse on third-and-long. The other key is to start fast on offense and avoid the turnovers we saw too often in Big Ten play.
Luke P (Dark Side of the Moon)
When you and the other bloggers get together in Bristol, do you make the Big East's Brian Bennett sit at another table in the cafeteria? Chris Low (SEC) is the jock, Heather Dinich (ACC) is the cheerleader, David Ubben (Big12) is the farmboy, Ted Miller (Pac10) is the surfer dude and you're the geek (BigTen). It's like a scene from "Glee" that I admittedly never watch.
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Not only does Bennett have to sit at the other table, but he has to carry our bags and bus our tables. In the words of Paul Rhoads, I'm so proud to be your geek. Love the "Glee" reference, by the way.
How good will Wisconsin's defense be next year with Chris Borland healthy and Watt coming back?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Borland's return should be huge for the Badgers. And if J.J. Watt also returns, look out. That's a lot of playmaking ability on one defense, not to mention on special teams. The defense could be ahead of the offense heading into next fall because of the loss of QB Tolzien.
If wisconsin and osu lose their bowl games and msu wins theirs over alabama will their be a national sense that the bowls got it wrong or will they continue to discount msu?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Cory, I think it will help Michigan State's reputation but not the Big Ten's. Leagues are judged on their performances in BCS games. The Big Ten really struggled from 2006-08 and rebounded nicely last year. Winning the Capital One Bowl hasn't helped the Big Ten in the past, although Michigan State would benefit for sure.
I know it's been said, but is the Big Ten trying as hard as they can to keep Nebraska out of the Big Ten Championship game next season. @Wisconsin, OSU, MSU, @PSU, @Mich, Iowa - are you kidding me?!
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Welcome to the league, John. C'mon, can't Big Red take the heat?
How safe do you think Ron Zook's job is right now and should Illinois make the move early to have a better candidate pool, if Zook is determined to be fired?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
It's funny, 50 minutes into the chat and then I get back-to-back questions about the Zooker's job security. He's safe for 2011, especially since AD Ron Guenther is close to retiring and doesn't want to have to look for another coach. Plus, the program made strides this season, despite the inconsistency. With the likelihood Guenther retires soon and a new AD arrives, Zook needs a good year in 2011 to ensure he's safe for the long term.
Bryant (State College)
Last off season we had the expansion talk to keep us going. What do we have this off season to talk about other than the weekly police reports?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Haha, I'm not sure. I'm looking forward to taking a lot more time off this offseason. You guys will complain, of course, but you'll get over it.
KY Buckeye (Louisville, KY)
Adam - in your opinion, would a Wisky/Stanford game make a more compelling Rose Bowl? Why didn't they do this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
It would make a more compelling game leading up to Jan. 1, but Wisconsin-TCU could provide some great theater once the ball is kicked. The reason Wisconsin-Stanford didn't happen is the new Rose Bowl access rule, which requires the game to take an eligible team from a non-AQ league the first time it loses the Big Ten or Pac-10 automatic representative to the title game. This will only happen once during a four-year cycle. So if Wisconsin and Stanford repeat this in 2011, they likely would meet in Pasadena.
After the Wrigley Field game, what are other Big Ten area venues that could host attention-getting games (have the Badgers ever entertained Lambeau)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Pat, Wisconsin has a pretty good home-field advantage at Camp Randall. The Badgers aren't going anywhere. It was interesting that new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson talked about playing Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium to open the 2011 at Tuesday's news conference. I could see Northwestern or Illinois playing at Chicago's Soldier Field. That's probably it.
What is MSU chances of beating Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
It will take Michigan State's best game to win. The Spartans need to control the line of scrimmage and complement their play-action pass game with running from Edwin Baker and others. Michigan State also needs its linebackers to be at their absolute best against Ingram and Richardson. It'll be a tough game, but MSU can win.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Noles Fans (Everywhere)
Top QBs to watch next season?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
I'll speak for the Big Ten, which has plenty of them: Denard Robinson, Dan Persa, Kirk Cousins, Terrelle Pryor, Taylor Martinez, Nathan Scheelhaase. And if a guy like Robert Marve comes back strong from injury, the league will be even more loaded at QB.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Thanks for a great chat with some great questions! Talk to you soon.