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)
Greetings and welcome to the Big Ten chat. Do we have anything to talk about? Slow news time in the Big Ten, huh?
Terelle (The Ninth Circle of Hell)
If OSU's meeting with the NCAA is postponed until after the season starts, could the NCAA impose a mid-season championship game/bowl ban?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
There would be pressure on the COI to render a decision on penalties as soon as possible. The Big Ten wants to know whether Ohio State will be eligible for postseason play and the league title game. It's also fair to Ohio State and the players to get a decision as soon as possible. Typically, these decisions take 6-12 weeks.
Chad (Chicago, IL)
Adam -- any update on the Northwestern facilities' overhaul? With Northwestern reeling in recruits recently, Cat fans are anxious to see how and when improved facilities might improve the talent coming in to the program? (And while you're at it....any news on Persa's recovery?)
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Chad, Dan Persa has had no setbacks and will be participating fully in the team's summer workouts. I'll need to check on the facilities plan, but Northwestern is still in the evaluation stage. I would say the priorities are practice facilities and Welsh-Ryan Arena, with Ryan Field behind the other projects.
kyle (madison, wi)
Would the addition of Russell Wilson to the Badgers give Wisconsin a chance to make a National Championship run in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Wilson would help the Badgers be a better team. How much better? It's hard to tell without seeing how he would grasp the offense (in limited time to do so). Keep in mind Wisconsin has some tough road games this fall, including trips to both Ohio State and Michigan State, two places the Badgers typically struggle. That said, a lot of folks view Wisconsin as a team that's a quarterback away from being truly elite.
Rick M (Louisville, KY)
How is the conference stacking up to the others in respects to recruiting? Which team(s) are leading the B1G in recruiting? P.S. Love the Blog.... Go Big Red!!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Rick, I haven't studied recruiting outside the Big Ten too extensively, but the big story so far within the league is Michigan and its fast start to 2012 recruiting. Michigan already has 16 commitments for 2012, as Brady Hoke and his staff are really getting after it. ESPN Recruiting has the Wolverines' class ranked No. 6 nationally. Penn State and Ohio State are also ranked. One team that has made a good early recruiting push is Wisconsin.
I'm looking at the most important position on the field (QB) and feel pretty confident about the ILLINI bowling two years in a row. Do you think they can achieve this minor feat (major in ILLINI fan's minds)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Carl, it certainly is a major feat because of Illinois' struggles to string together two good seasons. Nathan Scheelhaase is undoubtedly the biggest reason to feel good as an Illini fan. He had a very good freshman season and should only improve over time. He's also the type of leader Illinois hasn't always had on offense. I think with a much more favorable schedule -- no Mizzou, five straight home games to open -- Illinois has a great chance to go bowling again.
how do you see Huskers faring in first season in Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
A lot depends on how well the offense adjusts and how Nebraska fares in unfamiliar settings against new opponents. But this is a very good football team led by a championship-level defense. Nebraska absolutely can win the Big Ten in Year 1, and while the schedule is challenging, the Huskers get several of their top division opponents in Lincoln (Michigan St., Northwestern, Iowa).
Bob K. (Lancaster, Pa.)
Does Pitt/Penn State game resumption have anything to do with Pitt considering a Big10 entrance? It seems fishy to me that they would pick up this game after saying for a decade that it made no non-conference sense to play it. Since 9 conference games and a playoff is in the air, How can they play Pitt now if not in the past? I thought PSU needed two for one! PSU didn't just pick up the phone and call for no good reason.
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Interesting theory, Bob, but I think the two schools finally realized it made too much sense not to play. The 9-game conference schedule won't go into effect until 2017 at the earliest, and Penn State gets Pitt at home that year. I would hope this series could continue because the fans love it and teams should challenge themselves a bit in non-league play.
Adam, I hate to keep ragging on Luke Fickel, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. However, he stood up in his first news conference and told a huge lie. Assistant coaches don't notice poor college freshmen driving around six different sports cars in less than three years? I guess he said exactly what he had to say, but still leaves me uneasy, it is hard to believe that he was the honest guy living in a culture of liars. you take?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Lance, while I know that might seem hard to believe, calling Fickell an outright liar without evidence to the contrary is wrong. How much did Ohio State assistants know about potential violations? It's tough to believe they knew nothing, but without evidence (emails, etc.), we need to take them at their word for now.
The Pitt-Penn State home-and-home (though far off) brings me great joy. Do you think absence of any quotation or mention of Paterno in the press release was conspicuous? I wonder if Curley even told him about it before the deal went through.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Kyle, great to hear from you and stay safe over there! ... I'd hope Tim Curley would run any scheduling decisions by JoePa, because who knows when Paterno will end his legendary run at Penn State? I think the decision to end the series was more about the changing dynamics of budgets -- need to have X number of home games, etc. -- and less about Joe not wanting to play Pitt. But it will be interesting to get his take on the situation.
Jason (New Albany, OH)
Hi Adam, you've seen in the past that Gene Smith has said Ohio State will not bid for assistant coaches. Who knows if he'll be the AD in the future, but there certainly is a great disparity between what OSU pays assistants and what SEC schools pay assistants. Wouldn't this be a negative for someone like Urban Meyer (not being able to bring in his own assistants without questions)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Jason, this is a really good point. While Ohio State assistants aren't poor, they're not raking in the big bucks like their colleagues from comparable big-time programs. I think Ohio State must be willing to pay up for top assistants going forward because it could be the difference in hiring an elite head coach or not. You can't tell me Ohio State doesn't have the money to pay top-of-the-line assistants, and given the uncertainty around the program, the school can't let this issue become an obstacle with the coaching search.
OSU fan and alumnus (Manhattan)
Which is better for the B1G:a) One BCS bowl and a better bowl record (seems more likely now with the championship game)ORb) Two BCS teams and getting clobbered in the lesser bowls by SEC teams (looking at you, state of Michigan)
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
I've thought about this question a lot the past few years, OSU. Ultimately, the only way a league gains national respect is by winning the national championship. But bowl record has this incredible lasting effect because of the long offseason, and if the Big Ten could point to a 6-2 mark rather than a 3-5 mark, it would help the league's perception. The BCS bowls haven't been the problem the past two years. You can't perform as poorly as Michigan State did in the Cap One Bowl. And you can't go winless against the SEC.
Eric (New York)
What team do you expect to be a suprise in the Big 10 this year that is flying under the radar right now?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Illinois is an interesting team, Eric. As I mentioned earlier, I like the way the schedule sets up for Ron Zook's crew this season. The offense should be solid -- though Nate Scheelhaase must stay healthy -- and if Illinois can plug some holes on defense, it could challenge for the Leaders division. Purdue and Michigan are also potential surprise teams.
Mickey (Battle Creek, MI)
Over/Under 7 wins for Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Mickey, that's a tough question because I think Michigan will finish right around seven wins. I'd predict Michigan anywhere between 5-9 wins right now. But you want an answer, and I'll give it to you. Let's go with the over. Think Michigan sweeps non-league play again.
Aaron (Riverside, CA)
When do you see Paul Chryst jumping ship at UW to take a D-1 head coaching opportunity? Is he really that happy being Bucky's Offensive Coordinator?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Aaron, while Chryst is happy at Wisconsin (his alma mater) and in Madison (his hometown), he wants to be a head coach and soon should get that opportunity. I thought he might have a chance at the Pitt job this past offseason. Chryst is an excellent coach and a great guy. My only concern is whether he'd be good at all the other stuff coaches must do these days (alumni functions, camps, etc.). But he'll get his shot soon.
Hi Adam! How likely is it that the Iowa-Nebraska game determines the winner of the Legends division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
That would be pretty exciting, wouldn't it? While I think Michigan State, Northwestern and possibly Michigan might have something to say about the division, Nebraska has to be considered one of the favorites and Iowa could be a very dangerous team this fall. A lot depends on how Nebraska's offense adjusts to a new system, and how Iowa's defense adjusts to new personnel.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Be back in just a minute ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
OK, I'm back ...
Ron (Carrollton, TX)
As you know, Al Borges has a West Coast offense at Michigan. Have you heard anything on the progress the Michigan players have had with this system since the dreadful spring game? Are they starting to get a hold of this system better?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Well, Ron, as you know, voluntary summer workouts are critical for a team to get more accustomed to new schemes. Denard Robinson is the leader of the offense, and he'll need a strong summer as his teammates will be looking to him this fall. I don't think the adjustment will be too dramatic for the receivers, and the running backs should actually be pretty excited about Borges' system.
I know matchups can make a coach's/schools bowl games results somewhat misleading, but is it fair, especially after last season's debacle, to say Mark Dantonio has a little bit of pressure to win a postseason game? Four bowls in fours years is nice, don't get me wrong, but if he goes 0-5, it's going to be hard not to take notice
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Patrick, you make a good point. Both Mark Dantonio and Pat Fitzgerald need to show they can bowl games. Both men have provided stability and success at their respective programs, but they're a combined 0-7 in bowls. The matchups for both teams haven't been overly favorable, but that's the way it goes with the Big Ten's bowl lineup. It's important for both coaches to get it done in the postseason.
Adam! What's up! Great job on the blog. I think Nebraska and Michigan have potential to be big rivals. Both historically great programs, and we have 1997. Who do you think would've won the National Championship if the BCS existed? Those Cornhuskers keep trying to steal the championship, but the most important thing about the game would be: Charles Woodson. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Mark, can we go back in time and see that game? That would be amazing. The rivalry potential certainly is there with Michigan-Nebraska. Both programs have enjoyed elite success, both had a downturn under a coach who didn't really fit (Rodriguez, Callahan) and both are striving to be nationally elite again. I'd love to see Woodson go up against guys like Ahman Green and Scott Frost.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear AdamWhere could you see Northwestern this sesaon?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
The Wildcats are an interesting team, Chioke. They should have one of the Big Ten's top offenses, but there's a legit question about how star QB Dan Persa looks after a long rehab from surgery. Northwestern was undoubtedly a different team with Persa on the field last fall. Defensively, Northwestern has something to prove after getting shredded down the stretch last year. Will the Wildcats be better in the front seven and apply more pressure? That could be the difference between 6-6 and 9-3.
John (Clinton Township, MI)
So you're saying, you think Michigan will start 4-0 with a win against ND?? How do you see the ND game going under the lights?? Brian Kelly will be pretty strong in his second season, especially with that defense they had at the end of the year... Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
John, Notre Dame will be a tough game for sure, especially since it looks like Irish star WR Michael Floyd will play. The intangibles definitely favor Michigan -- first night game at the Big House, throwback unis, etc. Notre Dame should be an improved team, but I'm just not sold on either defense heading into this one. I'm not saying Denard Robinson replicates what he did last year in South Bend, but Notre Dame will have a tough time stopping him for a whole game.
Thoughts on Washingon v. Nebraska this season? Both teams beat each other last year (regular season and bowl season). Who takes the game this year and why?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Wonder if these teams are sick of seeing one another. Nebraska will be favored heading into the game, and you can bet Bo Pelini will have his players ready after a very poor showing in the bowl game last year. I'm excited to see the running back matchup, as Washington's Chris Polk goes up against Nebraska's Rex Burkhead. Should be an interesting game.
Is there a realistic shot iu can land gunner keil ove Ou?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Sammy, Kiel obviously has IU ties with his brother Dusty, who could enter the season as the Hoosiers' starting quarterback. But I don't see him ending up in Bloomington. Too many big fish are after him.
I really don't understand the love affair with Michigan. They don't have much on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame has alot more talent on defense and a very servicable offense. Irish win this game by double digits.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Curt, you could be right. If Michigan's defense doesn't make considerable strides and Notre Dame gets better on both sides, we could see a lopsided result Sept. 10 in Ann Arbor.
Adam, concerning the Big10's new premiere coach. Obviously Kirk Ferentz is not a bad choice, but it seems like Iowa can never get over the hump and may have perhaps reached their ceiling. I think if we give Fitz some time, he will prove to be the league's best new coach, there appears he has already done so much with much working against him. Based on future potential, he seems like an easy choice to me. Agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Lance, you might be right, but Fitz has to show he can put a team in the Big Ten title mix and win bowl games. Northwestern always will be somewhat limited from a recruiting standpoint, but the Wildcats have shown they can compete with the league's best at times. Ferentz has made Iowa a consistent winner with a few great seasons sprinkled here and there (2002-04, 2009). While he might not be coaching Iowa as long as Fitz is at Northwestern, Ferentz still could do some big things.
It's too bad that Tressel won't be around for 'The Game' this year. Don't you think with Hoke's approach to the rivalry would've made it feel like Woody vs. Bo the sequel?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Will, it would have been fun to see Hoke and Tressel match up. Luke Fickell certainly has a similar passion for the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, but no one prepared his team for The Game as well as Tressel. There will never be another Woody or Bo, but I hope the matchup gets a little more life in the coming years after Ohio State has dominated the past three games.
Jake (Madison, WI)
In response to the above question, BECAUSE Nebraska's schedule is so tough, if they do win them all as well as the B1G championship game, wouldn't that put them close to a national title run? It just seems like so many tough venues and ranked opponents. Frankly the same may be able to be said about Wisconsin... In a related note, how much does adding the B1G championship game increase the B1G appearances in the National Game? I always felt that the SEC championship gave the winner one more strong opponent in their belt which is why they were always in the Title game
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Jake, regarding the championship game, the SEC isn't hurt by it because there's a perception that the SEC champion will be in the BCS title game year in and year out. That's what five consecutive titles won by four different teams does for you. The championship game could help an undefeated Big Ten champion, but it also could ensure the league has no unbeaten teams. The Big Ten champ doesn't have the same sort of guarantees as the SEC champ when it comes to the title game. ... Regarding Nebraska and Wisconsin, while the schedules will help, the only way the teams can ensure a spot in the title game is by going undefeated. I'm not sure a 1-loss Nebraska or a 1-loss Wisconsin team reaches New Orleans.
JL (Warrenton, VA)
Adam: In the coaching changes at Nebraska this off season, a new recruiting coordinator was named and his goal was to get more and better early recruits. Yet the Huskers have signed few and no top recruits so far. Has this been a flop if judged at this early date? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
JL, I think it's too early to judge Nebraska's class, although I expected a few more commits by this point. Nebraska isn't expected to sign a huge class, so the Huskers can be careful with their scholarship offers. I know there was a ton of panic about Penn State's class last summer and fall, and the Nittany Lions ended up doing alright.
Paul (Rockford Il)
Hey Adam ,Lots of buzz on the wire today about will or won't Wilson head to Wisco..You hearing anything out there . I think he'd be the missing link to a pretty good run for Bucky this fall !
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Paul, colleague Joe Schad reports that Wilson is struggling with the decision, not so much Wisconsin vs. Auburn but football vs. baseball. He really wants to play both sports, which is admirable. The Rockies clearly want him to stay on the diamond and hone his skills there. I'd love to see this kid playing football somewhere this fall, but I understand why he's struggling with what to do. It's not clear cut.
Adam, the recent OL commit to Wisky from Cleveland, OH....do you think this is some evidence that 2012 recruits are staying clear of the 'mess' & controversial uncertainty @ OSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
It could be a sign of that, Derek, but it's too soon to call it a trend or a problem for Ohio State. Obviously, the Buckeyes want to keep their best talent at home, and losing a top recruit to a division rival (Wisconsin) doesn't sit well. But he's only one player. Ultimately, we'll get a better read on the scandal's effect on recruiting after the NCAA imposes penalties.
Adam McKay (East Lansing)
As a Michigan State fan I am becoming a bit annoyed as to why you think that Michigan is going to win 8 games or more. I have them pegged at 5 wins right now, and have predicted there record within one win the last three years. I just don't see one thing from their entire team that says they will be a 8 win team and everything says another bad season. Nothing new on defense besides another new system and coordinator, a offensive system that doesn't fit Robinson (look at the spring game), and not to mention perhaps there only few bright spots on the lines are going to have to be taught new techniques and blocking patters. Not to mention no proven running game and there number two WR gone. So how do they end up beating so many proven teams to get to 8 wins or more?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Adam, you could be right. Michigan could finish with only five wins this season. But I think the Wolverines will be pretty solid on both lines, and the defensive front could see a significant upgrade because of the new scheme and some experience up there (Martin, Van Bergen, Roh). The defense has a long way to go and will make its share of mistakes, but unless another injury wave hits, the unit will be better in 2011. The offense is a bit of a wild card, but Robinson still can damage defenses, and there's enough depth at receiver even if Stonum is out.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Also, Michigan's schedule isn't overly daunting to me.
Adam, Here's a big hypothetical for you... IF OSU doesn't keep Fickell the head coach in December, and IF Mark Dantonio were to be offered the OSU job, and IF Dantonio accepted it ... could you see MSU pulling Don Treadwell away from Miami(OH) for the head coaching job at Michigan state. (I count 4 IF's and I'm not really worried about Dantonio leaving, but what else is there for me to stress about during the offseason?) thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Haha, you're like me, always looking for something to worry about. ... Let's see how Treadwell fares at Miami, a program that appears to be very much on the rise. But he could be in the mix at Michigan State if Dantonio bolts. Treadwell certainly held his own last year filling in as head coach during Dantonio's absence.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Ryan (Huntington Beach)
Adam, has the Penn State quarterback situation become any more clearer?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Not really, Ryan, although it's a good sign that all the quarterbacks are back on campus for summer school. I think Penn State will make a decision on a starting QB fairly early in fall camp, and then the picture should clear up quickly. I highly doubt we'll see the competition go as long as it did last year.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, guys, great chat. Thanks for participating and sorry to those whose questions weren't posted.