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 1 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (12:02 PM)
Adam will now be joining us at 1 p.m. ET! Keep your questions coming!
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Hey everyone, thanks for your patience today. Let's chat!
John S. (Madison)
What have you heard about Matt Canada??
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
John, Canada has been an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten before, at Indiana (his alma mater). He also has had two OC stints at Northern Illinois, one as a pro-style coach (2003) and another as a spread coach (2011). Although he has been a spread coach as of late, he'll run a pro-style system in Madison. Should be interesting.
Barking (Up a Tree)
Michigan vs OSU...THE Game. Can we Wolverines fans expect it to be a competitive game every year from now on? OSU will always have the pick of Ohio's players (they have no in-state competition) but in the last 44 years the series is quite even...even with the OSU dominance the last 10 years (before this year). I'm hoping you say yes Adam.
Adam Rittenberg (1:04 PM)
I'm very excited about the potential for The Game in 2012 and beyond. Although the 2011 game was entertaining, Michigan had a superior team, while Ohio State had the far superior team the previous three seasons. The two squads should be evenly matched heading into the 2012 contest in Columbus. Should be a lot of fun going forward with Urban and Brady.
Are the Wildcats going up or down next year? What are the chances of the defense improving? Colter or someone else as Persa's replacement and/or Colter playing QB/WR/RB? Are the latest recruitment developments a sign that the Cats will be getting commitments from more 4 and even 5 star recruits?
Adam Rittenberg (1:05 PM)
Mark, the Northwestern defense can't get much worse, although the Wildcats lose their only serviceable defensive backs (Peters, Mabin). They have some young players in the front seven who need to step up. The offense should be OK as Mick McCall typically gets the most out of his quarterbacks. I think Colter will be the guy and he'll improve significantly as a passer, as Persa and Mike Kafka did. But the defense is the big question mark. If it's not better, Northwestern won't make a bowl.
What is your take on the Nebraska coaches as recruiters?
Adam Rittenberg (1:07 PM)
Josh, I'm interested to study the Huskers' assistants going forward as they try to get a stronger foothold in Big Ten country. Papuchis is a strong recruiter and there are several young coaches on Bo's staff who should get after it. But this year and next are critical.
Adam, Please lend me your expertise: Did the hiring of Urban Meyer save Gene Smith's job? I was at the OSU/IU BBall game this weekend and when Gene was doing the intro, the amount of Boo's sounded about as loud as TSUN entering The Shoe. Lend me your wisdom!
Adam Rittenberg (1:09 PM)
Yeah, Ben, the receptions at the basketball game were interesting. Judging by the crowd, Luke Fickell still has an excellent chance to be Ohio State's coach some day. As far as Gene Smith, he still has the backing of president Gordon Gee and other influential folks at OSU. But he cannot afford another major scandal. Anything like what we've seen recently likely would spell the end. It hasn't been a good year for him.
How many years until Ohio State wins a National Championship?
Adam Rittenberg (1:10 PM)
Ohio State could be in a position to contend in 2013. The Buckeyes have a lot of young players on the roster, and Urban Meyer is recruiting extremely well. I'd be surprised if Ohio State isn't in the title mix by 2014.
Addison (East Lansing)
What should Spartan fans expect out of Lev'eon Bell for the upcoming season? The dude is a beast who blocks well and catches well out of the backfield. Big Ten First or Second Team RB?
Adam Rittenberg (1:11 PM)
A lot depends on the offensive line and the quarterback, Addison. I definitely think MSU will be more run-oriented on offense in 2012, but Andrew Maxwell also has to provide a threat in the passing game. I love Le'Veon Bell's potential and his physical running style. He should benefit from a more seasoned offensive line in 2012, but he'll also be working with a first-year starting QB.
Bucky (Lake Tahoe)
Adam, cut to the chase, what do you and the experts think of the Canada hire? Like or dislike? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (1:13 PM)
It's not a big-splash hire, but Canada is a seasoned offensive coordinator who has worked both in the spread and in the pro-style. It'll be interesting to see how much spread he incorporates at Wisconsin, or if it will be strictly pro-style. I covered him at Northern Illinois in 2003 when Michael Turner helped the Huskies win 10 games. He also did a great job with the NIU offense in 2011. I'm more intrigued by the hire than anything because of Canada's varied background.
Dave (State College)
Do you have a win prediction for Penn State in 2012? The transition could pose a problem, but look at what Michigan did in 2011 with Hoke.
Adam Rittenberg (1:15 PM)
Dave, it's far too early for me to make a wins prediction for Penn State. Too many variables. And there will be some bumps along the way, as there are with most transitions. But I love what PSU has coming back on defense, and if O'Brien can upgrade the QB play and the O-line, the Lions could make some noise in a wide-open Leaders division.
So what's your excuse for running an hour late?
Adam Rittenberg (1:15 PM)
Conference call with the powers-that-be in Bristol. They call the shots.
Nate (Jacksonville, FL)
So what is your take on the Blackshirts for 2012? Do you see any newcomers that catch your eye? Thanks1
Adam Rittenberg (1:17 PM)
Nate, Nebraska has had some good luck with juco defenders as of late, particularly a guy like Lavonte David at linebacker. I'm interested to see if Mohamed Seisay can fill the shut-down cornerback role vacated by Dennard. Seisay has really nice size for a CB. But the bigger issue for Nebraska is the linebacker position, as the Huskers showed little depth there behind David.
Ryan (Grand Rapids)
WHy hasn't Michigan been able to use their current momentum with recruits? They haven't added significant pieces since beating OSU and winning the Sugar Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (1:18 PM)
Ryan, to be fair, Michigan had such a strong start to 2012 recruiting that the class is pretty much wrapped up. I'd expect the Wolverines to add another big piece or two before signing day, but the initial push took place last spring.
As an Iowa fan, I'm fed up w/ the attrition, and Derby is just the latest symptom. I've always liked Ferentz, but the constant transfers are starting to remind me of Steve Alford, and at $4 million a year he should be able to keep players and win more games. Talk me down off my ledge.
Adam Rittenberg (1:20 PM)
Calvin, I understand your frustration, and it's easy to group all the departures and say it's part of a bigger problem at Iowa. I think in AJ Derby's case, he wanted to play quarterback and saw he wouldn't be doing so at Iowa. Can't blame him for wanting a fresh start. The RB issue is a problem, and Iowa has to be careful with the guys it recruits. The Marcus Coker situation remains the one that baffles me. Iowa has provided so little information about the departure of arguably the team's best player.
are you looking forward to the big10/pac 12 games coming in the future?
Adam Rittenberg (1:21 PM)
Absolutely, Brian. The partnership will feature a bunch of intriguing matchups between the leagues. In fact, we'll get a Big Ten-Pac-12 preview this fall with games like Cal-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Oregon State, Nebraska-UCLA and Illinois-Arizona State.
Do you see Urban Meyer's dismissal of two players as trying to get out ahead of the reputation he earned at Florida? I can't imagine he'll be given the same leeway when it comes to legal problems given the recent history at OSU
Adam Rittenberg (1:23 PM)
That could be part of it, Jon, but both of those decisions seemed pretty obvious after the players got in legal trouble. Dominic Clarke had more than enough chances to get his life on track and kept blowing them. DerJuan Gambrell was arrested a week before his dismissal for assault and unlawful restraint. So these weren't exactly tough calls for Meyer, but credit him for making the right ones.
ways the bigten can catch up to the SEC? I think a lot of it is already done with the addition of nebraska, championship game etc....just going to take a few years
Adam Rittenberg (1:26 PM)
A lot of it has to do with expanding recruiting more to the south and southeast. Big Ten schools also are showing a greater willingness to pay assistants big bucks. We've seen this at Ohio State and Michigan, and most recently with MSU retaining Pat Narduzzi. The biggest thing is for the Big Ten to put more programs in that elite group year after year. It can't just be Ohio State, like it was from 2007-2010.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
As a Penn State fan, should I be rooting for the Pats to win the SB (recruiting help)? Or do I want them to lose so O'Brien can get to work at State College?
Adam Rittenberg (1:28 PM)
Cosmo, I threw this question out on Twitter last week and got mixed responses from Penn State fans. Some were rooting for Tebow so O'Brien could devote all his time to PSU. Others want to see him show off a Super Bowl ring to recruits. I really think the earlier a coach can devote himself to your program, the better, particularly during a unique transition like the one at Penn State. But I also can't fault Penn State fans if they don't want to root against their new coach.
Do Iowa fans complain more than any other school on your blog? As a hawkeye I try to stay positive, regardless of whats going on. I always have high expectations and hopes for my hawks, but its not like we are contending for national titles every year. We are a good program and most commentators on ESPN and the B1G network say good things about what Ferentz has done. Help me with my continued optimism in 2012...throw me a reason for hawk excitement as we countdown to another season of college football! Thanks Adam. Here's to a great year on the blog!
Adam Rittenberg (1:30 PM)
Thanks, Mark. Iowa fans are certainly among the most vocal on the blog, but I don't know if there's more complaining out of them than other fan bases. One reason to be optimistic about Iowa is that most people won't be. Iowa always seems to thrive when it's off the radar and even a bit disrespected entering the season. I think James Vandenberg will be better at quarterback, and while Iowa keeps losing running backs, it also develops them very well. The big issue is whether the defense can return to 2009 levels under a new coordinator.
What's the rationale behind the UofM and Bama match-up this fall? Am not a UM fan but am having trouble understanding it.
Adam Rittenberg (1:32 PM)
Would you rather see Michigan play a cupcake team at the Big House? I see this as a great showcase opportunity for Michigan, an aggressive move by an AD (Dave Brandon) who understands branding the program and what it takes to compete at a national level. If Michigan is indeed back, what a great opportunity to prove it against the defending national champ. I wish more programs would take this approach in scheduling.
Wilson (Des Moines)
Who do you see as the front runners for DC at Iowa and Purdue?
Adam Rittenberg (1:34 PM)
There are reports out of Montreal that Alouettes DC Tim Tibesar will take the same job at Purdue. Still not confirmed. As for Iowa, it's been real quiet. This seems like a long time to wait to promote a guy like Phil Parker, so we'll see what happens.
I agree that the B1G really needs to get better assistant coaches. Nowhere is that more apparent than at Nebraska. Now that Carl is gone, looking at that list of assistants is depressing. Especially considering how tempting a job at this kind of program would be. Can you think of any rationale/logic behind Bo's mediocre coaching staff.
Adam Rittenberg (1:36 PM)
Bo has hired guys he knows and trusts, and he doesn't care if they're from big programs or not. He has several coaches whose potential is still not known. I like John Papuchis a lot. He might end up to be an excellent defensive coordinator and a future head coach. But we just don't know yet. Same goes for a guy like secondary coach Corey Raymond. Tim Beck is another guy who could end up being a future head coach, but the jury is still out. Bo is betting on potential a bit with his staff.
How tough of a game will Boise be for the Spartans to start the year? BSU is losing a lot of seniors as well.
Adam Rittenberg (1:38 PM)
It would be a tougher game for MSU if Kellen Moore still quarterbacked the Broncos. Both teams are going through some transition, and Michigan State should benefit from being at home. Then again, Boise State lives on beating teams like MSU on the road in early season games. It'll be a challenge for sure.
Steve (Elkhart, IN)
Will Indiana ever be more than a bottom tier team in the B1G? They have spent a ton of money on the football program the last few years with nothing to show for it.
Adam Rittenberg (1:39 PM)
I think Indiana can get into the middle of the conference. Bill Lynch wasn't too far away from making the jump in 2009. But it all comes down to the defensive side for IU. Indiana simply hasn't had enough Big Ten-level defenders over the years. The Hoosiers have been bad to horrendous on defense for more than a decade. So the defense has to be the primary focus for Kevin Wilson going forward.
Steve (kansas city)
Now that Nebraska has one year's experience in the conference, do you think there will be a lot of adjustment as far as strength and conditioning go? Do you think the Huskers could push to 10 or 11 wins just from knowing better what they're going to face in 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (1:41 PM)
Good question, Steve. I think Nebraska might stress some different things in its offseason program -- bigger linebackers, perhaps? But where I think you'll really see adjustments is in recruiting and even in scheme. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck recently told me how difficult it was to prepare for so many new teams. He had no idea how Big Ten squads would defend the Huskers. He'll have a better sense going into the 2012 season.
Mike (Ann Arbor)
I don't quite understand why the B1G would back off the 9 game conference schedule. The teams with traditional OOC rivals would still be able to get at least 7 home games every year (4-5 conference, either OOC rival or PAC 12 team, and 2 other OOC teams). Seems to me like that would be a pretty good system.
Adam Rittenberg (1:43 PM)
It could be done, Mike, although it would be tricky because you're trying to create home-game balance with another conference and with some regular OOC rivals. But I honestly think the Pac-12 partnership can help the Big Ten improve its national reputation more than extra games against one another. If you go out and beat USC and Oregon, you'll get national respect heading into the bowls. Also, the 9-game league schedule creates greater imbalance with the league schedules. Certain teams would have easier roads to Indianapolis than others.
Urban Meyer (CBUS)
Which big time recruit already verbally committed to another team should I go after next?
Adam Rittenberg (1:44 PM)
Haha. Maybe check out some of those SEC teams, Urban. We both know they'll try to oversign anyway, so convince one of their blue-chippers to come to Columbus.
What are the chances I get my hardship waiver and make a significant contribution to the upcoming season? Look out Bennie Fowler, I have all the tools to be MSU's #1 receiver this year
Adam Rittenberg (1:46 PM)
DeAnthony, I learned long ago not to predict whether the NCAA gives hardship waivers or not, but you certainly deserve one. And if you get it, you'll have an excellent chance to start for Michigan State in 2012 as the Spartans lose their top two wideouts.
With Monte Ball coming back next season, what are the chances Wisconsin is headed back to the Rose Bowl? And also, does he have a chance at the Heidman trophy?
Adam Rittenberg (1:47 PM)
Montee will have the preseason Heisman hype that he lacked last season, which should help a bit. But he'll need his quarterback to be at least adequate, and he'll need his offensive line to replace several studs (Konz, Zeitler, Oglesby). So it'll be tough. As for Wisconsin's Rose Bowl chances, I like the Badgers' chances to win the Leaders division because of Ohio State's bowl ban. But I don't see Wisconsin winning in Indy again. I think the Big Ten champ comes out of the Legends division.
do you think devin gardner will get his redshirt? why is it taking so long?
Adam Rittenberg (1:48 PM)
Jeff, are you really in Antarctica? If so, very cool. As for Gardner, I need to double-check this, but often redshirt decisions are made after a player has finished his eligibility. So Devin might only find out after he completes his "senior" season whether he gets a sixth year.
Adam with a 4 team title playoff prob coming do you see any Big 10 school making it in,or do you think they will just beat each other up again and still get left out.
Adam Rittenberg (1:50 PM)
Jason, it depends on the year. If Wisconsin hadn't stumbled at both MSU and OSU, the Badgers could have worked their way into the top 4. There will be some years where the Big Ten champ will have to run the table to make it into the top 4. Other years, the Big Ten champ can lose a game and still make it. But I definitely think it's possible.
Any update on the WR transfer from USC (can't recall his name off the top of my head) that was considering three Big 10 schools? It seems like he'd have to decide soon in order to get into classes in time to participate in spring ball.
Adam Rittenberg (1:51 PM)
Jon, while you make a good point about enrolling in classes, Kyle Prater hasn't made a decision yet. A source with knowledge of his recruitment told me yesterday that nothing has been finalized. It'll be interesting which Big Ten school -- Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois -- lands his services.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
So, I presume that in the new B1G bowl alignments, there will be rules in place so that Penn State can not be invited to any bowl higher than 7th in the selection process, right?
Adam Rittenberg (1:53 PM)
It'll be interesting, Lou. There were restrictions on more bowls during the Big Ten's last bowl agreement than there were on the one announced in 2010. The Big Ten typically wants to give its bowl partners as much freedom as possible. I doubt we'll see a situation quite like Penn State's again.
Any word on where Marcus Coker will be transferring?
Adam Rittenberg (1:54 PM)
Neal, haven't heard much out of the Coker camp. I'd think ACC schools will be all over him, as he comes from Maryland.
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
Does Silas Redd have the potential to end the 2012 season as the Big Ten's best RB?
Adam Rittenberg (1:56 PM)
Bryan, he does, but he'll need help. He seemed to wear down late in the season, and there's only so much you can do with an average offensive line and virtually nothing from the QB spot. Bill O'Brien can help out Redd by developing the quarterbacks better and getting the offensive line to upgrade its play. Redd can be a workhorse RB, but Penn State needs to show more balance in its offense.
what do you mean by "just Ohio State from 2007-2010"? Penn State was one bad PI call away from playing MNC game. they were BCS #2 until week 9 or 10
Adam Rittenberg (1:57 PM)
Sure, and Iowa was a Ricky Stanzi injury away from possibly running the table. And Penn State was a second away from beating Michigan in 2005. There are a lot of ifs, but the bottom line is Ohio State has been the only Big Ten team that has appeared in the BCS title game. The Buckeyes also have made more BCS bowls than any other Big Ten team. My point is you need more dogs in the fight, year after year, like the SEC has.
Greg (South Bend)
How many B1G teams are ranked in the preseason Top 25?
Adam Rittenberg (1:58 PM)
Think we'll see five: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State. Maybe there will be only four, but I'd be surprised if there aren't five. I'd also be surprised if there are more than five.
Nate (Denver, CO)
Who are your very early preseason defensive and offensive players of the year for 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Ooooh, interesting question, Nate. Got to go with Montee Ball as the preseason offensive player of the year, although his production likely will go down a bit. William Gholston from MSU is my pick for preseason defensive player of the year.
Adam Rittenberg (1:59 PM)
Also might consider Gerald Hodges from PSU as preseason DPOY.
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
OK, last one ...
Mike (Ann Arbor)
If a playoff does happen, why limit it to only 4 teams? I think 16 would be best when you look at some of the amazing Cinderella stories that take place in March Madness every year. Since the other football divisions can pull it off why can't the FBS do it?
Adam Rittenberg (2:01 PM)
Mike, I think four or eight teams makes sense. I'm not that big on seeing the Cinderella stories in college football. I don't need to see a 16 seed upset a 1 seed. I don't need the Sun Belt champ in my playoff. Just want to see the best teams play, including Boise State and TCU, if they merit it.
Adam Rittenberg (2:01 PM)
OK, time's up. Thanks for your patience. Talk to you next week!