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 (12:01 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
Ashley (Lincoln, NE)
I know you're used to dealing with rabid fan bases, but are you sure you've adequately prepared for the onslaught of Huskers fans you're about to receive? You may want to ask Ubbs for some advice about dealing with us...
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
I definitely will do so, Ashley. But it's not as if the Big Ten fan bases are tame. Iowa fans aren't the quietest folks on my blog, and neither are those from Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan ... the list goes on.
BWG (Kenosha WI)
Danny Hope at Purdue has appeared to upgrade his staff this offseason, added plenty of speed with the recruits, and will hopefully get Bolden, Marve, and Keith Smith back. Could Purdue flip their record and be 8-4 next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
It's possible, BWG. Purdue was a popular sleeper pick in the Big Ten last year, and while some might have more apprehension about the Boilers in 2011, they could be very strong on the offensive side. My big question marks are defense and special teams. Purdue loses Kerrigan and still makes too many major mistakes in the kicking game. If it can tidy up those things, it can make some noise in the Leaders division.
Jake (Madison, WI)
Do the badgers have a chance to eventually make a run at the title or is Bielema not a good enough coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Not sure if you mean national title, but Wisconsin wasn't far off the radar in 2010. And the Badgers won a Big Ten title with Bielema last year. I know BB isn't the most popular coach among a section of Wisconsin fans, but you have to acknowledge that the guy has grown into the role the past two seasons. He has recruited well and developed players at a good rate.
Do you compare him to ocho and t.o. but does he belong in the nfl level. I think he is a fourth round pick but very valuable wr.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Talent always wins out, and DJK has enough of it to play at the NFL level. The league is full of receivers with big personalities, and DJK is a truly unique individual. He might drop to the later rounds but I'd expect him to be drafted.
Why did so many coaches jump from IU so quickly? Isn't that odd?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Sammy, it's a little unusual, but clearly Kevin Wilson was going after some hot names in the assistant coaching ranks. Corey Raymond and Jerry Montgomery were guys coming from smaller programs who a lot of people thought could make a big jump. The Brent Pease situation is different because he never would have left Boise had he known offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin would jump to Texas.
Patrick (Ann Arbor, MI)
Adam, I know its long time till the Norte Dame vs Michigan game happens but what do you think a night game at Michigan will feel like?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
It's going to be amazing, Patrick. I'm a huge fan of night football and wish the Big Ten would schedule more games under the lights. Having this game early in the year when the weather is nice will only add to it. Despite Michigan's up-and-down season in 2010, the Big House got loud at times and will be absolutely insane when the Irish come to town.
You see Penn st and Ohio St playing teams like Alabama, USC and Miami FL. When is michigan going to bring an Elite team to the big house or have a home at home series with another power house program. Michigan vs Flordia home and home or Maybe Oklahoma. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Um, Josh, Michigan is opening the 2012 season against Alabama at JerryWorld. Alabama ain't a bad program, I hear.
John (Del Mar, Ca)
How do you think Penn State will fair next season in the league? They have all their skill players coming back and their QB's will have some experience. Not to mention the return of Curtis Drake. Their defensive front seven should be solid, especially if Devon Still plays like he did in the bowl game. I think they can make a run at the Big Ten title next season, what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
John, I'm definitely beginning to warm up to the idea of Penn State challenging for the Big Ten title this fall. As you say, the Lions are well stocked at the skill positions. To me, it comes down to line play. Can the offensive line improve its toughness and consistency? Can the defensive line identify a premier pass rusher or two? If the lines improve, Penn State should be in very good shape as long as the QB position isn't a disaster.
Adam - have you heard anything out of the OSU camp about which of their QB's has impressed so far? Something tells me the Graham kid will be our starter this year...am I crazy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Brad, I think it's too early to put odds on the QB situation at Ohio State. Let's let these guys go through spring practice and face a talented defense on a daily basis. Right now, it should be a pretty wide open race. Graham will have to show a lot this spring to have a chance to start, but he should get an opportunity to do so.
Adam, is 2011 the year that Michigan State finally actually wins one from the big boys? I love what Dantonio has done but it's time to show up against legitimate powers instead of being blown out.
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Totally agree, Dave. Dantonio talks a lot about "measuring up," and while the program has improved under his watch, the Spartans need more signature wins like the one against Wisconsin last season. Michigan State gets no gimmes on the road this season (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern), so there are plenty of chances to measure up.
What are you thinking Hokes offense looks like? Shotgun based for Denard or a mix, like an actual pro style?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Justin, I'd expect it to be more of a mix. You can't run a strict pro-style with Robinson, but he's also a guy who can make throws when he needs to. I'm trying to talk with coordinator Al Borges soon and will have a better idea of the plan after that conversation.
Red Grange (Wheaton, IL)
Any reports on who may replace Dan Disch as inside LB coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Red, there has been some buss about South Florida co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach David Blackwell. He would help Illinois in the Sunshine State, where Disch had a lot of recruiting ties.
Do you view Nebraska's coaching overhaul to be a positive or negative heading into the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
From an offensive standpoint, it'll be a positive because Nebraska has to figure out a clear identity on offense. The Huskers lose two very good defensive assistants, but it's hard to see that unit backsliding too much. A lot of this comes down to the personalities Pelini brings in and how they blend with the players. This will be an interesting story to watch leading up to the season.
I keep hearing how OSU is going to go undefeated the 1st 5 games and that's with the suspensions. That doesn't say too much about their supposedly tough schedule. Plus I wouldn't count the game against Miami FL a automatic win
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
I wouldn't count the home game against Michigan State as a W, either. Ohio State faces three teams from BCS-AQ leagues in the first five games (Miami, Colorado, Michigan State). The Buckeyes will have to make some adjustments on both sides to win these games, but Jim Tressel has won before going conservative on offense, playing stout defense and winning the field-position battle.
Does OSU lose the appeal or will they get it reduced? I say 2 games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Bobby, it'll be very, very interesting. The NCAA took a ton of heat for the Cam Newton situation and letting the Ohio State players participate in the Sugar Bowl. I can see the suspensions being reduced to four games but no more than that. I also won't be surprised if the suspensions stay at five.
Do Big Ten fans realize that they don't have the SEC monkey off their back just yet? Arkansas is not considered one of the 3 or 4 powers of the SEC...that belongs to Bama, Florida, LSU, and Auburn/Georgia. The BCS bowl win was a pseudo-removal of the monkey.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Bryan, you're right to an extent. The Big Ten won't remove the monkey until it wins a national championship. In terms of perception, nothing else matters, including winning three BCS bowls in the past two seasons. The Big Ten beat LSU in the 2010 Cap One Bowl, but it probably needs to beat one of those squads in the title game to rid itself of the SEC talk.
Ashley (Lincoln, NE)
I know you won't know your travel schedule for a long time, but there's no way you miss Nebraska's first ever Big Ten game @Wisconsin, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Ashley, if it's up to me, I'll be in Madison on Oct. 1. But where I go each week is not up to me, so we'll see what happens.
Whats the latest on Forcier's transfer? Any updates?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Larry, he's visiting Miami and the Hurricanes appear to be the early favorite. Not sure it's a great fit from a location (read: distraction) and a scheme standpoint, but we'll see.
Justin (Ann Arbor)
In a recent interview Brady Hoke said if they don't win the championship they failed. Is this a realistic goal to have for his team regardless of coaching.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Is it realistic for 2011? Probably not. But it's what Michigan fans want to hear, and it's what a program like Michigan should aspire to be. You don't want to hear Hoke come in and talk about aiming for 8-4 and the Insight Bowl. He's not going to be vilified if they don't win the league title in Year 1, so there's really no harm in saying that's the goal.
Steve (Findlay, OH)
adam, do you think a running back will emerge from the crowd for OSU during boom's suspension?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
I do, Steve. There seemed to be a lot of buzz about Roderick Smith during bowl practices. Ohio State also has Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde. Of all the suspended Buckeyes, I think Herron might have the toughest time regaining his role after sitting out.
Do you think Kirk Cousins will be a household name by the end of next season? I see a lot of potential there, especially if he just learns to not force things.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
He could be, Jacob. Kirk will be a three-year starter who has seen just about everything in the Big Ten. He'll have almost all of his receivers and running backs with him from 2010. The big question is whether the offensive line protects him as well as it did for much of 2010. The Spartans need to elevate that offensive line to an elite level, and it'll be tough without guys like D.J. Young and John Stipek.
So as a Husker, I'm not sure about this SEC monkey totally. What exactly is it? And I'm not to worried about them, they are just on a lucky streak and will soon get put back into their place.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Haha, Zyro, ignorance is bliss in your case. Nebraska hasn't had to deal with the SEC stuff as a Big 12 member. But you'll hear plenty about it now that you're part of the Big Ten.
Adam, all of the Zook haters have seemed to crawl into a hole for the time being. Did he do enough last season to keep himself safe for a while, or does he need a big season to keep his job this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Lance, there are some interesting variables at play regarding Zook. One is the future of athletic director Ron Guenther, who hired Zook and chose not to fire him after the disastrous 2009 season. If Guenther retires and a new AD comes in, Zook could face some heat if the team slips this fall. Even if Guenther stays, it's important for Zook to show continued momentum after an impressive bowl victory and a solid recruiting class.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Do you think Mike Munchak will be a viable option to replace Joe Paterno down the road? Most would think there's only a year or two left of JoePa roaming the sidelines (we've been saying that for a quarter century, mind you), and who know's if Mike Munchak is just Bud Adams' fill in until the labor situation is sorted out and 2011 and 2012 are played.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
I'd hope a guy like Munchak gets a fair chance to coach at the NFL level, and I doubt he'd want to leave an NFL job, even for the Penn State position. So I guess it depends on Munchak's situation at the time JoePa retires. If the Titans are thriving under his leadership, he's not going anywhere. If he's not an NFL head coach or about to be dumped, maybe he makes the move to State College.
Bryce (Twin Cities)
Hearing that MSU-UNC are going to play a hoops game on an aircraft carrier. Do you see any football team doing something crazy like that ever?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Haha, it'd have to be a pretty big ship to fit a football field. I'd like to see field goals and PATs being kicked into the ocean.
How likely is it that Nebraska could beat all teams in the Legends division, but lose two games to two of the teams in the Leaders division (They play Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State), and not win the Legends division. A legends division team with one loss to Nebraska would win it if Nebraska loses to two teams in the Leaders division. Or if Nebraska beats all Legends teams but loses to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State, then another legends team could win it with two losses
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Jerome, some interesting points here. It's a scenario that certainly could happen involving the Huskers. Nebraska got no favors with its initial Big Ten schedule. The good news is Nebraska hosts Ohio State in what could be a transition game for the Buckeyes following the suspensions. The trips to Madison and State College won't be easy, but you can argue Nebraska boasts a stronger team than both Wisconsin and Penn State entering the fall.
Matt (Sterling Heights, MI)
Based on the way he's already salvaged one class, is Hoke the type of guy that can compete with the Alabama's and LSU's of the world and consistently bring in a top 5 class year in and year out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Matt, I'm not sure Hoke will recruit directly against Alabama and LSU that much. He has talked about wanting to focus mainly on the Midwest. To get a top five class -- I know Big Ten fans don't love hearing this -- you HAVE to recruit the south and the southeast. Will Michigan do well enough in those regions every year under Hoke? We'll see. But he's off to a pretty good start.
Mark (Tiffin, Iowa)
After reading your post of all the assistants at Big Ten schools moving to new jobs, it really made me appreciate the stability at Iowa. Do you think this is what made it possible for Iowa to get higher profile recruits from the East Coast?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Mark, coaching stability always is a good thing, especially because those coaches have ties to certain regions. Iowa was able to capitalize off of the relationships its coaches have with programs on the East Coast.
Graham (Dallas TX)
I know you write about college football but who is your favorite NFL team?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Da Bears. Although grew up a big 49ers fan. Waking up Sunday morning and watching the Niners kick somebody's butt was a big part of my childhood.
Can Michigan shut Sparty up this year? They beat us during our worst years of all-time and I'm tired of little brother running his mouth. We beat them in hoops already and I'm ready for Michigan to get on to bigger and better things.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
You'll have to do it on the road, Kyle, which won't be easy. And Michigan State's offense shredded the Michigan defense last year in Ann Arbor. You'll need to find a way to slow down Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell, who I think will have a huge sophomore season. You also need Denard Robinson to be smarter with his decision-making against what should once again be a pretty good MSU secondary.
Adam, how does a dorky looking guy like you land a great job, get to live in Chicago, and report on B10 football 365 days a year? I'm jealous.
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Haha, try doing whatever ESPN asks of you for seven years as a freelancer. But it's a great gig, no doubt.
Any feel for the QB situation in Madison? Given our line and RB play, and hopefully better defense, I think it's a good situation to bring around one of the youngins'
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Justin, very interested to see who emerges in the QB race. It sounds like Curt Phillips won't be back until the fall, so Jon Budmayr has every opportunity to take hold of the job with a strong spring. Budmayr created some buzz two springs ago but looked a little shaky out there last season.
Jim (Denver, CO)
Would Hoke's ties to California help him in recruiting? The Golden State is a recruiting hotbed as well. Will we see UM grab more California kids?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Jim, that's an excellent point. Michigan is one of the Big Ten programs that always has recruited California well, and it's imperative that Hoke utilize his connections there to help Michigan going forward. Like I said earlier, he can't ignore the southeast, but California could be a critical area for Michigan.
Adam, they is no SEC monkey on the Big Ten. Ohio St. has the problems in the bowl games. The rest of the conference has done just fine.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Disagree, Stephanie. Illinois and Penn State getting stomped by USC in the Rose Bowl doesn't help. Neither does Wisconsin's loss to TCU or the performances by Michigan State and Michigan in this past bowl season. Ohio State takes the brunt of the blame, but the Buckeyes have held their own big time with back-to-back BCS bowl wins.
You got anything cool planned for this off season? Last year you had the traditions for each member school. I am wondering if you are planning something like that again.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Joe, I might revisit the traditions thing for the benefit of Nebraska fans. But if you've got a suggestion, I'm all ears.
Steve (Ankeny, IA)
So Adam, are you making all the rounds this year to the Spring Practices? Ala the BTN guys with their bus? Or will you be driving something more modest? BTW, what do you drive? Just wondering.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Steve, I'll definitely be making some stops at Big Ten campuses this spring. No tour bus, and I'm very jealous of Revsine and his guys about that. I'll work on getting one for the spring.
JL (Marshall, Virginia)
In regard to your looking dorky, you should get ESPN to update those photos of the bloggers. They're terrible. Not one of you looks the same in the videos. I'm pretty sure ESPN got Bruce Feldman's picture off the post office wall.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Ouch. We actually took new ones last May. I'll pass along your suggestion, but I always wonder why you people care so much how we look in videos and pictures. Why does that matter?
Adam, will Michigan ever show up for "The Game" again? It's been fun beating them and all but my kids think of Michigan like they do of Indiana.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Tom, I hate to say this, but "The Game" has become pretty lame. I don't know if I've had less fun covering a college football game than I did last year at Ohio State. Simply non competitive. Would much rather have been at Penn State or somewhere else. It's sad to say about such a great rivalry, but there's just nothing compelling until Michigan upgrades its program.
I like Adam's pic. Green eyes for my Spartans, right???
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
There you go, Stephanie. Ladies love the eyes.
More likely to happen, Joe retires after this year or Penn State starts a freshman for the second year in a row.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Wow, tough question, Brad. Will Paul Jones match his Blue-White Game hype from last year? Could happen. I think I'll go with Joe retiring, but we've all been wrong before about him.
Steve (Ankeny, IA)
I'd have to say Adam, the team no one is talking about winning the conference is Northwestern. Yes, they have some D issues with tackling but with Persa healthy they are a serious threat to win the Legends division.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Steve, the Wildcats are a team to watch in what I believe will be an extremely competitive division. The question marks on defense are very real, though, and coordinator Mike Hankwitz needs to see much better play from the front seven in 2011. The offense should be one of the league's best as long as Persa stays healthy, but the defense has hamstrung Northwestern too often in the past decade.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Chad (Allegan, MI)
Do you think Delany will ever reconsider the division names, and for that matter, even the division alignments themselves? I think a North/South division alignment would be better and more competitive. North: Penn State, Michigan, Mich St, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota. South: Ohio State, Indiana, Purde, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska. It doesn't make PERFECT geographic sense, but very close and more competitive
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Chad, I could see him reconsidering the names at some point, but the Big Ten will definitely see how things go with the alignment for several years before even considering a change. I think the league did pretty well, and geography shouldn't have been the main component in dividing things up.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, had fun today. We'll chat again soon.