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)
Let's get started, I'm here.
So Adam, a lot of people don't have high expectations for the hawkeyes this season. Yet every time I look at the schedule I don't see a game that Iowa cant win. Is it wrong to settle for nothing less than a division title and a trip to the B10 championship game? Or do we have to much rebuilding to be that successful this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Mark, as a fan, you can set your expectations as high as you'd like. If it's title or bust, that's your choice. I'd imagine most folks will set the bar lower for Iowa, but I agree with your schedule assessment. Iowa also tends to do better when it's more under the radar. Although there are some significant holes to fill, I think the Hawkeyes could be very dangerous this season.
Adam, What is your take on the RB position for Penn State next year? I personally loved Silas Redd's explosiveness and big play ability which is something I thought Stefphon Green would have too but it hasn't developed over the years. I also liked Brandon Beachum a lot the last time he played before being hurt. Then there's also Curtis Dukes who is a good back as well. I am hoping for a Beachum-Redd combo but wouldn't be dissappointed with Dukes either.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
It should be one of the deepest running back groups in the Big Ten, which is saying something after Royster's departure. I'm very excited to see what Redd can do in a featured role, and we shouldn't count out Green or Beachum as both have been effective when healthy. Durability seems to be the biggest issue for Green. I'd need to see Dukes in a game before making a full assessment of his ability. Bottom line: If Redd stays healthy and takes another step in his development, the PSU rushing attack should be very strong.
Between Marve, Henry, TerBush, and Robinson, what's your guess at Purdue's QB depth chart order to start the season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Very interesting question, Kevin. Marve can't be a shoo-in starter after back-to-back ACL surgeries, but I still tend to think he'll be at the top of the depth chart. So I'd go Marve, Henry, TerBush, but TerBrush could make a move this spring.
Has any head coach brought along as many assistants as Jerry Kill did?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Brady Hoke brought several from San Diego State, but the defensive staff is new. It shows how important staff continuity is for Kill. He clearly has a core group of guys he trusts, and he wanted them to join him in Minneapolis. Formula has worked for him at S. Illinois and N. Illinois.
Matt (St. Paul)
Poisoning a rival's trees??? That's only something that someone in SECland could dream up, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Matt, I hope it's an isolated incident and we don't see something similar in the Big Ten or anywhere else. While I can't imagine Big Ten fans doing something similar to a rival school, things can get pretty nasty around here as well.
Jeremy (state college)
Adam, even if Rob Bolden wins back the starting QB role with the team respond with him as their leader given his antics after the bowl game? Also, it seemed that the play calling was much different for Bolden and McGloin. Very conservative with Bolden and much more open with McGloin. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
I think the team will respond to Bolden (post coming on this later today). As for the play-calling, McGloin took over later in the season when some parts of the offense seemed to be coming together. Bolden was out there in the evolution stage, so the play calls tended to be more conservative. I would expect that no matter who wins the job, Penn State will be more willing to open things up. The skill position talent and depth must be used this fall.
What are some of the games that you are looking forward to next season? Also, any rumblings about potential prime time games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Very excited about games like Nebraska-Ohio State, Michigan State-Ohio State, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Notre Dame-Michigan (first night game at Big House), Alabama-Penn State, Iowa-Nebraska. The prime-time schedule should be finalized fairly soon. I'd expect the Huskers to get some prime-time love early in October, but we'll have to see what happens.
Adam, have you heard anything about Mark Dantonio's health? I assume everything is good because we haven't heard anything but I still worry that his heart may be an issue in the future.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
It's a legit concern, Dave, but everything appears to be good with Coach D and his health. He didn't have any setbacks after returning to the sideline and has continued his duties without interruption since October.
Do you think that if Ohio St. reaches the Big Ten Championship Game, Tressel will finally win coach of the year? I think he would deserve it considering the players that will be sitting out for the first 5 games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
I think he'd finally win it, Alex. In a weird way, the suspension situation provides the story line Tressel needs to win the award. Media are hesitant to vote for the coach favored to win the league every year. And while Ohio State likely still will be the preseason Big Ten favorite, Tressel has to navigate the first chunk of the season without four offensive starters. If he does so successfully, media members likely will be more willing to vote for him.
Dave (Aurora, NE)
Our Huskers are use to having an annual "Friday after Thanksgiving" ball game. Any chance you can sway your co-horts at ABC to make some magic happen with the Iowa game? Oh ya...make it a prime-time broadcast while your at it. Wouldn't that be a ratings getter! Thanks Adam
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Dave, as you and your Nebraska fans soon will realize, I have ZERO power over scheduling. Thanks for thinking of me, though. But the Big Ten has no plans to play games on the Friday after Turkey Day.
Bruce (Los Angeles)
With the news of Hoke putting a countdown clock to both the Michigan State and the Ohio State game, I'm wondering if you think it's a good idea to focus on both of these games. With the Michigan State game seemingly more of a possibility this year, why not focus on winning that game (and the state of Michigan) back first, then move on "The Game." Certainly, with a win over Michigan State, a lot of people would think Michigan has turned a corner toward being good again. Are two "must wins" too much for this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Bruce, I understand your thinking, but you don't want to tell a team, "Let's focus on Michigan State and then be satisfied." As a competitor, Brady Hoke wants his team to value those two games and focus on beating both. How much would it mean to beat Ohio State in his first year as coach? It'd be huge for the Michigan program, bigger than beating Michigan State.
Frank (Minot, ND)
Adam, Really pumped about the upcoming season for Nebraska. Even with Beck talking about a complete overhaul on offense, I think Nebraska will be a major contender in the Big 10. The Defense i'm sure will be a force as they were the past few years, and I am pretty confident that the O will come out and really suprise people. what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Although I wouldn't read too much into Beck's comments about starting over, I'm interested to see what changes he makes to the Huskers' scheme. I agree that Nebraska's defense will transition well to the Big Ten, while the offense must make strides after a poor finish to last season. Nebraska's league title hopes could very well come down to Beck and the offense.
Would you say MSU is a football or basketball school?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
I know Tom Izzo always says it's a football school, but I disagree. Michigan State basketball is a national powerhouse program, a program that is relevant year-round. The football program has done some nice things, but I don't think MSU football captures interest nearly like MSU basketball. I sense this when putting together lunch links. I don't find much on MSU football these days, while I'm sure there are links on hoops year-round.
Will the Big Ten sweep the Irish this year? Would love to see UM, MSU and PU do that.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Doubtful, Bob. Notre Dame will be an improved team under second-year coach Brian Kelly. The Irish will really test Michigan, MSU and Purdue with their offense. The Spartans have to visit South Bend, which won't be an easy trip. I see 2-1 or 1-2, not 3-0 or 0-3.
Nathan Scheelhaase (Champaign, IL)
What is the biggest step I need to take this offseason to take the Illini back to a bowl without Mikel Leshoure and put myself in the consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Build on the passing performance you displayed against Baylor in the Texas Bowl. If you can establish yourself as a consistent passer, it will take a ton of pressure off of Jason Ford and the other running backs. My main concern for you, Nathan, is to limit the amount of hits you take as a ball-carrier. Illinois needs you on the field, and one way to stay there is to throw more and run less.
Brandon (Oakfield, NY)
Everybody is saying this is the year Penn State will get a great recruiting class and experts have many top players in the 2012 class coming from Pennsylvania. How important is it (especially for this year) for Penn State to keep guys in state and land a top ten class?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
It's very important, Brandon. Penn State's 2012 recruiting always was more important than its 2011 recruiting, primarily because of all the in-state talent. The staff has started fast on 2012, but a strong season on the field undoubtedly will help the cause.
Jackie (Madison, WI)
Much has been said about the Badgers ablity to recruit great badgers for their system, and get the most out of recruits even if they dont rank highly coming in. That being said, the one position where the badgers always excel in recruiting and play is RB. Have you heard people worrying about RB being a continued strength given the departure of RB coach John Settle?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Jackie, I think it's a legit concern because Settle did such an outstanding job in Madison. The good news is that Wisconsin should be a coveted job for top running backs coaches. Who wouldn't want to come in and inherit two dynamic young backs in Montee Ball and James White? I think Bret Bielema will aim high in finding a replacement for Settle, but Settle is a big loss, no doubt.
Hey Adam, do you see the Hawkeyes pushing for a run-based offense for the most part next year behind Coker and a few younger recruits as backup, or will they have enough weapons to balance a decent passing game with Vandenberg; if so, who would be his main targets outside of McNutt?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Tony, I think it's important for Iowa to have a balanced attack because Coker remains a young back and there isn't any proven depth behind him. Vandenberg in 2009 showed some good promise, and Iowa shouldn't shy away from the passing game. You mention McNutt. Brad Herman and C.J. Fiedorowicz both return at tight end, and Keenan Davis could complement McNutt well at WR. The receivers will be an interesting position to watch, but Erik Campbell does a really good job.
Tyler (Grand Rapids, MI)
Adam, we love our hoops but c'mon, MSU is a football school no contest. Top 25 in attendance every year for a mostly average program. Just wait in a few more years with Dantonio and you'll see. It's the Detroit media that's always trying to hold us back.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Tyler, thanks for your take on this. It will be interesting to see if the buzz around Michigan State football increases in the next 2-3 years. Your attendance point is a good one, and if Michigan State continues to recruit well in state, it will only help the program's local profile. Perhaps the model for MSU is Wisconsin, a school that has a lot of buzz for both football and basketball.
Not to be too negative on NU's defense after having only a couple REALLY bad games (without much of an offense as well), but is there a point were Hank needs to prove that he has what it takes to consistently improve this unit? Could the same be said with our running back coach as well?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Sam, it's a big year for Mike Hankwitz. The guy is a veteran coach, but he has bounced around enough to indicate that at times, he has struggled to sustain success. Northwestern took a significant step back on defense in 2010 and must get back to its 2008 form this coming fall. The running backs are another group that needs consistency, but the offensive line is the one group that must show more in 2011.
Adam-Any opinion on what Nebraska will do for their QB position? Martinez is considered to be number 1 but when you have a guy like Bubba Starling coming in, and a new offensive coordinator, do you think Bubba could take the starting position? Also we can't forget about Cody Green. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Joe, I think Nebraska has to approach things with Martinez as the top option. Starling very well could pursue baseball and remove himself from the mix. Green has been decent but will need to prove more in practice. Let's not forget what Martinez did in the early part of last season when healthy. I think it's good he'll be pushed by others, but he's still the guy in my view.
East Lansing (Michigan)
We're a football school. Signed, Everybody.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
There you have it.
Any word on when the Big Ten will release the 2013 and 2014 conference schedules? Originally it was to be released in Nov or Dec 2010. Does the hold-up have to do with expanding the number of conference games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Steve, it should be soon but these things tend to take longer for various logistical reasons. I don't think we'll see an increase of conference games until at least 2015, but this will be a topic of discussion going forward.
jj (outside chicago)
Adam, I'm looking ahead to the inaugural B1G championship game and seeing MSU and OSU. Your thoughts
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Could happen, J.J., but keep in mind that one of the teams will have a conference loss because they play a crossover game Oct. 1 in Columbus. The team that loses at The Shoe likely would need to sweep its division games to qualify for the championship game.
I'm already confused by the NU-NU thing, in particular Sam's comment about NU's defense really threw me for a loop because Nebraska doesn't have a Hank on the coaching staff. Can we call the teams something else, heck I don't even care if you call Nebraska "The Real U"
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Miami might be ticked if I do.
Dan Persa (NW)
What are my chances at B10 POY? Heisman??
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Better chance for Big Ten Player of the Year, Dan. Former Northwestern QB Brett Basanez shared the award with Michael Robinson in 2005. You are more of a national name than Baz was entering your senior season, but you'll need to put up some insane numbers to get on the Heisman radar. You'll also likely need to play on a Big Ten title contending team.
Whats your take on the new Big Ten logo? It seems a little cheesy. Why do they always have to fit the number into the words?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Wasn't a huge fan, but I will say that the B1G is catching on with many fans. I get emails every day from fans who include "B1G" in their comments. That element seems to be resonating. But I know most of us expected a lot more with the logos.
Why is it that Penn St. never recruits a safety to play safety? We always seem to convert a linebacker or receiver to play safety and the lack of athleticism at the position always shows. Walk-on Drew Astorino is a 3 year starter, and is listed at 5'10", 193 lbs, which I think is being very generous. We can't compete with the Alabamas and Ohio States with players like this as our last line of defense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Matt, a lot of safeties are players converted from other positions, so Penn State isn't alone. There aren't a ton of elite high school prospects who are clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it safeties when they arrive. You can certainly argue Penn State should look for some bigger safeties, but the Big Ten has featured its share of smaller safeties who do quite well (Bob Sanders and Mike Doss come to mind).
Tyler (Eden Prairie, MN)
Does Nebraska have the best defensive lineman, linebacker, and defensive back in the Big 10 with Jared Crick, Lavonte David, and Alfonso Dennard?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Crick and David are the Big Ten's best returning players at their positions. As for Dennard, I'd put Iowa's Shaun Prater and Wisconsin's Antonio Fenelus in the discussion at cornerback.
blue (new jersey)
adam, how much improvement does Michigan's D see in it's first year under Mattison and Hoke? do we go from 100's into the 50-60"s ranked total defense or is that wishful thinking?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
It would be a significant jump, Blue, but it certainly could happen. I'd expect a much stronger season from Michigan's D-line, which will be the focal point of Mattison's scheme. Mattison told me he likes the way the DBs hit people last year. If they can maintain that aggression and really improve their fundamentals, the unit will make strides.
Adam, can we add Danton Lynn to the discussion of best BIG10 corner?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
He's in the mix, Lance. Had some nice performances this past season, especially at Minnesota.
Adam, if OSU winds up winning the Leaders division and advancing to the conference championship, that means that either Michigan, MSU, or Nebraska may have to beat OSU twice to win the conference crown. Next to impossible?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Not necessarily, Lance. If one of those teams loses to the Buckeyes in their first meeting and still wins the division, it only needs one win vs. Ohio State Dec. 3 in Indy to win the crown. But it's undoubtedly a difficult task, as Ohio State has proven under Jim Tressel.
For Nebraska fans, last season was a real shame. Not so much for the disappointing way it ended, but because it was plagued by so much drama, tension and contentiousness from day one. I really felt like we got gipped out of an enjoyable football season. Many of us were actually glad when it was over, which is pretty much unheard of for a 10-win season. I'm confident that this season will be much better in terms of enjoyability, especially with all the marquee games. But my question to you is: do you forsee much tension or drama, being Nebraska's first dance in the B1G with such a murderous schedule?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Alex, thanks for the perspective. Interesting stuff. From what I sense about Nebraska fans, they don't want to see the drama carry over into 2011. But as you point out, a tough schedule, a new offensive coordinator, Bo Pelini's demeanor, a bunch of new opponents and other factors could contribute to more drama. Nebraska will be under a microscope in 2011, so I envision a bit more drama for Big Red.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Michael (St. Louis)
Do any Big Ten schools have good pipelines from states outside of Big Ten country? (As a Nebraska fan, I want some hope that we can keep pulling from Texas.)
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Illinois, Penn State and most recently Iowa have done well in Maryland. Ohio State has done well in Florida and Georgia. Northwestern really recruits nationally and has had some success in Texas. Wisconsin has pulled James White and others out of Florida. Michigan used to recruit California well and got some good players out of Florida under RichRod. Purdue had a good Texas pipeline under Joe Tiller and now focuses most of its recruiting on Florida with Danny Hope.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, enjoyed the chat. Talk to you soon.