Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Greetings, everyone. Back from trips to Lincoln and Iowa City. Let's chat!
Jake (Lincoln, NE)
I think the idea proposed by Jim Delany and the BIG's concern with continuing their relationship with the Rose Bowl is horrible. This has only further strengthened my belief that the BIG is stuck in the 1930's. There has to be some forward thinking here. As a Husker fan and a new member of the BIG this is hard to defend.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
My sense is that many Nebraska fans feel the same way. But Nebraska fans don't have the same ties to the Rose Bowl that other Big Ten fan bases do. That said, I sense that most Big Ten fans want to see a real playoff with a good format and would oppose this. It's important for the Big Ten brass to connect with its fan base here.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Adam, I hope you enjoyed your visit to Hawkeye Country! I was just curious as to why there is so much buzz about Ohio St this year? Yes, I know Urban Meyer is there and I understand that might be the driving force behind all the buzz. But for 1, they are not eligible for the post season this year, and the other thing that bugs me is the hype of Braxton Miller. What are people seeing with this guy? Hes an average passer at best, he doesn't make good decisions, and the offense was horrendous with him last year. Why all the hype for Ohio St and Miller?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Ryan, some pretty harsh words for a guy who played as a true freshman. Miller showed very impressive athleticism, and when he wasn't playing in a phone-booth offense, he showed some promise as a passer against Michigan and Florida. He made several nice plays against Wisconsin and Nebraska as well. There's buzz about Meyer because he's a rock-star coach, and he brings in an exciting offense, which is a departure from what we've seen at Ohio State. Think it's worth giving Miller a longer look before making those judgments.
Is Beckman a good fit for the Illini? how soon can he turn around the program?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Dennis, it remains to be seen whether Beckman can get it done at the Big Ten level. But he seems to be fitting in well in Champaign, and the players have taken to him well so far. I really liked his D coordinator hire (Tim Banks), and keeping D-line coach Keith Gilmore was important. Beckman's own defensive track record is certainly debatable, but Illinois should be OK on that side of the ball. It'll be interesting to see if Beckman can upgrade Illinois' recruiting in the next few years. Recruiting has dropped off since 2009.
Adam, I would love the idea of Rose Bowl stadium serving as the permanent host of the national championship game, a la the old Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha for NCAA baseball. I know this is unlikely, but thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Patrick, I'd be all for it, but I'm a bit biased as I think the Rose Bowl is a much better setting than the other three. While I don't mind trips to Arizona, New Orleans and Miami, those settings don't come close to the Rose Bowl. That said, there's no way this would ever happen. Think there will be a bidding process and a rotation of existing bowl sites and new ones.
Barry (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania)
Do you think the new strength and conditioning program will pay off for the guys in the fall Adam? Early reports say some of the players are getting pretty big
Dan (Corn country)
Why does the B1G and PAC insist that their conference champions are the ones playing in the Rose Bowl? If either make it into the top 4/selection committee/draw names from a hat, then pick the next team in the conference rankings to represent the conf. This is all assuming the Rose Bowl isn't part of the playoff.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Because that's been the tradition, one revered by the brass in both conferences. Jim Delany hates losing Rose Bowl access. Hates it, hates it, hates it. But I'm fine with having the No. 2 team in the Rose Bowl in some years. Can still be a good game and a great event.
We know about KK Short and the corners for Purdue, but who has a chance to step up on the defensive side of the ball?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
It'll be interesting to see if Will Lucas takes the next step at linebacker. The coaches really seem to like him. And Purdue needs more from the defensive end spot. Ryan Russell is a guy to watch.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Also, regarding Barry's question from earlier, talked with safety Malcolm Willis on a conference call and he says the PSU strength program has made players more explosive and stronger in their core.
Tim from Ann arbor [via mobile]
Hey first timer wanted to pick your brain about Spartans. Now I've read a lot about this an that, all I'm hoping isn't media hype leading into a disappointing season this year. Do you see state with the ability to beat the competition and have a true shot at the legends division championship again? Or is it more likely that Michigan will take the legends?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Tim, think the Legends race will be captivating as MSU, Michigan and Nebraska all are leading contenders to reach Indy. Michigan State will need to be a defense-driven team, and I still love the talent on that side of the ball. Spartans boast a bunch of difference-makers. Michigan State also will need to be more run-driven on offense behind Le'Veon Bell, Larry Caper and a more seasoned offensive line. Michigan likely will be the popular pick to win the Legends, but right now, MSU has a slight edge in my book.
I think one of the biggest problems for Wisconsin's defense is the lack of explosive playmakers at defensive end so when I read about one of our higher ranked d-line recruits recently (Will Herring) getting moved to D-Tackle, I am a little concerned. Is there a concern from the coaching staff or do they feel there is young talent that can help out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Good points, Jon. Wisconsin can't expect another JJ Watt to walk through the door, but the Badgers certainly missed No. 99 last year. Badgers had a nice run of pass rushers with Watt and OB Schofield for a little bit. I wouldn't worry too much about one player being moved, but it'll be interesting to see how the D-ends progress this spring. I'm interested to see if a guy like Brendan Kelly can take the next step.
The D (D-troit)
Why is it that so many big cities seem unable to support big time college football teams? You'd think that Northwestern would be a powerhouse just simply because they're in Chicago. When you look at cities like NYC, Boston, etc, it seems like they should have power programs. Since LA is the exception, do you think it has to do with the presence of pro teams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
There are a lot of factors, D, but being in or near a major city brings some challenges as there are other sporting options. Northwestern also faces challenges with history, resources and alumni base (smallest in Big Ten by far), but the school is only now making a dent in the Chicago market. We had a great feature on this topic last year. Here's the link to it: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=maisel_ivan&id=6676377
Have you had a chance to watch Michigan's offensive and defense lines so far during spring practice? With most of the rest of the team set with returning players, the lines are what keep me up at night. Are they going to be good enough by September to keep the Wolverines in the opener with Bama?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Adam, other than brief video clips, I haven't been able to see the Michigan lines. Brian will be in Ann Arbor next week, so he'll get a good look. Molk's departure is a big loss for the offense, but I think the group will end up being OK. The D-line is a bigger concern as three seniors depart. Martin and Van Bergen ended the season playing as well as any D-linemen in America, so filling the gaps there will be critical. It's a big spring for guys like Campbell, Roh and Jibreel Black.
From top to bottom, which division of B1G is more talented legends or leaders?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Dennis, I think it's the Legends. Would be a bit surprised if Big Ten champion doesn't come out of the Legends this year. MSU, Michigan and Nebraska all very good. Iowa shouldn't be overlooked, Minnesota should be better and Northwestern is younger but more talented. Too many question marks in the Leaders.
Nate (Jacksonville North Carolina)
How do you think James Vandenberg will compare to other QB nationally? He is probably one of the better ones in the big ten agree? And how does the LB and secondary look for Iowa?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
James has the ability to put up big numbers, and he did at times last year. But to become nationally elite, he needs to be a lot better on the road and against elite defenses. He really struggled against Nebraska and OU at the end of the season. But he works very hard and some nice skills. LB should be a strength for Iowa this year. More questions in the secondary, and the Hawkeyes need a big year from CB Micah Hyde.
Matt (Grand Rapids)
Do you think any freshman will crack the lineup for Michigan? It seems like there are opportunities on the lines as well as WR.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Matt, the coaches showed last year that they aren't afraid to use young players, and Michigan signed a great class in February. There are opportunities at wide receiver for sure. Not as sure about D-line, but linebacker is a spot where guys like Bolden could play right away.
Adam, i will have to say that this year there will be an elite pass rusher for UW? David Gilbert. He would have made an nice impact if not for the foot injury.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
David, that's a really good point. Gilbert has a lot of experience and should help the Badgers immediately when he returns from injury. But like Louis Nzegwu, he needs to take the step from solid player to great one.
I just want to put this out there: PUT PATERNO'S NAME BACK ON THE TROPHY!
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Really can't see this happening any time soon, Lincoln. Penn State will pay tribute to Joe this fall, and that'll be more important than any Big Ten tribute in my view.
From your recent visit to Nebraska, how was progress going on their new stadium expansion? Did you get a hard-hat tour?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
I did not, Jerome, but I saw the construction on the east side of the stadium from the outside. Seems to be coming along well. From inside the stadium, you can't really notice it yet, but that should change.
Adam, has there been any talk of having the semi-finals or finals for a national playoff in a cooler part of the country? All the BCS bowls are in warm climates, and while I'm not sure if it helps other conferenes being acclimated to the temperature or not, it certainly doesn't help the Big 10 schools.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
There absolutely has been talk, Phil. And the most recent report with the BCS proposals includes the possibility of having semifinal games on campus and bidding out the national championship game all over the country, which would bring venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and possibly Ford Field into the mix.
Josh (Galesburg, IL)
I think Delany has done an awesome job with the development of the conference title game, Big Ten Network, and his infusion of ideas about a college football playoff. However, the Big Ten needs to adopt a playoff policy which will benefit all conferences (including the Big Ten)!
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Josh, I agree with everything you wrote. Delany has done a lot of great things for the Big Ten and put the programs in position to succeed, despite the dearth of national titles. But his stance on the playoff and his affection for the Rose Bowl have undoubtedly hurt him publicly.
Hank (Washington DC)
Do you think Fitz Touissant will be a Heisman contender? I think he could have a big year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Interesting question, Hank. The biggest force working against Fitz might be the guy with whom he shares the backfield. It's hard to get noticed when Denard Robinson is a few feet away. A similar thing happened last year with Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, especially with the way Wilson started the season. But Michigan's schedule gives Fitz several showcase opportunities on the national stage. If he gashes Alabama and Notre Dame, people will know his name.
Adam, how important is a Heisman to a college players legacy? Let's say Montee Ball duplicates 2011, but doesn't win the award. Does that mean he wasn't one of the greatest college players of all time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
That's a really interesting question. What if another Wisconsin back, Ron Dayne, hadn't captured the Heisman as a senior after putting up big numbers the previous seasons? He's regarded as one of the game's greatest backs, but the Heisman undoubtedly helped his legacy. I don't know if Montee can reach that level because he shared carries in 2010 before breaking out last year. But if he replicates his 2011 production, I'd think he'll have a great chance at hoisting the trophy.
Is Ricardo Allen good enough to leave for the NFL after this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
He'll need to take several steps forward this year, Gregg. He seemed to take a bit of a step back in 2011, but he certainly has a lot of ability, and I love his aggressiveness. His size might be the biggest concern for pro teams, but he has a lot of great qualities.
What I've been saying all along seems to be coming true: while Ohio State having a bowl ban this season hurts, in the long run it'll help because it'll give the offense more time to learn the system and get proficient at it
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Chris, I don't see how it "helps." Wouldn't 15 extra practices in December plus an extra game help Ohio State get even more comfortable with the system before a potentially big run in 2013?
Was there anything surprising when you visited Lincoln. I know a lot of people are commenting that some of the players are working on losing weight after "getting bigger for the Big 10" didn't really help. Did we look lean and mean?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Phil, a lot of interesting things. Players looked in shape, although Nebraska remains a bit on the small side from what I see elsewhere. The big thing was the high expectations echoed throughout the team, as players were openly discussing the national title. That's notable. And it just seemed like everyone is more comfortable with the schemes and being in the Big Ten. Could translate to a better season this fall.
Is the indoor Practice facilty complete in Iowa city? What is left if not complete?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Matt, the indoor facility won't be completed until the summer. The outer shell is up and it's coming along, but it'll be a bit of time until it's ready. Right now, the team is practicing in the stadium or in the bubble as the outdoor fields aren't available b/c of the construction.
@mattconfer1 (Pittsburgh Pa)
Adam, If bolden cant make it at qb, can he/will he be a wide out or tight end?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
I guess anything is possible, Matt, but Bolden has make it pretty clear he wants to be a QB, whether it's at Penn State or somewhere else.
Tim from ann arbor [via mobile]
Is there hopes for a Michigan season if Robinson were to be hurt? Because as bad as he was at passing he still won those games and was a true warrior on the field. Without his playmaking abilities what would they have to fall back on?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Devin Gardner isn't a bad No. 2 option for the Wolverines. Robinson certainly would be missed, but Gardner has some experience and the coaches like what he can do. While you want Robinson in clutch situations, Gardner might cut down on the mistakes that easily could have led to more losses last year.
Would a repeat of the B!G championship help or hurt the conference image? MSU v UW
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
David, unless one of the teams was in the national title hunt, I think it'd hurt the league's image. As good as the title game was in 2011, and as good as the two MSU-UW games were, people want to see the title game mean something in the national championship race. They also want to see some variety and a brand-name program. Not a shot at Wisconsin or Michigan State, but that's just the sense I get regarding interest in the game.
Rich (Boston, MA)
How much of Urban's Buckeye analysis are you taking at face value? Do you think he's postulating at all about the Buckeyes he inherited??
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Rich, Urban's comments sound similar to what you often hear from first-year coaches. It's rare when a new coach walks in and gets exactly what he wants from the players. Transition brings some obstacles, and Ohio State will have some bumps along the way this fall. First-year coaches also are careful about managing expectations, although Urban seems to embrace the always-lofty expectations Buckeyes fans have.
Tim from Ann arbor [via mobile]
While gardner is the perfect pocket passer to fall back on in the program. He is heavily inexperienced being sidelined for 90% of every game. Michigan in my own opinion has been dynamic offensively because of denards option abilities. I truly believe other teams main focus against Michigan is his insane option abilities.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
There's certainly some truth to that, Tim. But keep in mind that the offense is trending more toward a pro-style system, which it will be after Denard graduates. Michigan has a solid RB in Toussaint, and Al Borges wants to be a downhill running team. Would Gardner make as many "wow" plays as Denard? No. Few QBs do. But I really think Michigan was fortunate that Denard's mistakes didn't hurt the team more in 2011.
Howdy Adam,Delaney seems to be high on doing the things that make monetary sense for the conference (for obvious reasons). Does the affection for the Rose Bowl perhaps stem from that direction too...I'd guess the support for keeping the RB relevant is driven more by the older generations, which might have deeper pockets for donations, traveling, etc...thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Dave, while there's a monetary component to treasuring the Rose Bowl, it's not like the Big Ten would lose cash with a playoff system. Just the opposite. It has more to do with the tradition of the league and how close the Big Ten brass is with the Rose Bowl's leadership. For Delany, Rose Bowl week is akin to Super Bowl week, and despite his league's poor performances in the game, he'll always prop up the event and its value.
Paul Bunyan (TCF Bank Stadium)
Will Tim Brewster ever say something nice about Wisconsin? They've had my ax for years and seem to be taking great care of it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Ha, it was good seeing Brew on before the Big Ten title game last year. Was a little worried about him having to interview Bret Bielema, but all went well. I know he respects what Wisconsin has been able to do on the field, despite his struggles in the Axe game.
Ben (Omaha) [via mobile]
Who do you see stepping up this year for Nebraska? I'm a little wooried after losing David Crick and Dennard.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Ben, while there should be some emerging stars for the Huskers, I think you'll see better collective performances from the units. There's more depth in the D-line, for example, and it seems like there are more defensive backs who can contribute at a high level. Will Compton is having a nice spring at LB, and there's no doubt he's the leader of the defense right now. I also think the defensive end spot will be a strength with Meredith, Ankrah, Martin and Carter. But I don't know if we'll see a Huskers defender replicate what David did the past two seasons.
Will (Boston, MA)
Besides Michigan (for obvious reasons...), which B1G Squad is the most vulnerable for a week 1 upset. Minnesota at UNLV and Penn State hosting Ohio struck me.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Not sure how many would be major upsets, but you can't forget Michigan State hosting Boise State. Northwestern travels to Syracuse. Could be a tough game. Nebraska hosts a Southern Miss team that won C-USA in 2011. Western Michigan could be tricky for Illinois.
Lou (Gaithersburg MD)
Adam, in thinking about it, am I wrong in thinking that McGloin will benefit the most from O'Brien's offense which will involve a lot of shorter passes in the slots? Bolden was always better with the long ball, and McGloin's arm strength isn't his strength, so seems to me, just based on that, Mac has the edge.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Lou, you could be right. Malcolm Willis was talking today how the new offense really allows the athletes to be athletes, getting them the ball in space where they can make things happen. The throws shouldn't be overly difficult, and McGloin has shown at times that he can pass the ball well. While Penn State hasn't shown much depth at WR, did the previous scheme really allow those players to blossom?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, time for one more ...
Will (Boston, MA)
Whenever I read about the ideas to integrate the Rose Bowl into a playoff system, I always think back to 2007 and how ticked off both Michigan and USC were to be there as opposed to the BCS Championship. Michigan had just lost to OSU and USC to UCLA (I think...). That game, in paticular, has to be the modivating factor. That and the fact that the Rose Bowl will almost always sellout (unlike other BCS games *cough* *cough* Orange Bowl)
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
Good points, Will. It's sad to see what has happened with the Orange Bowl in recent years. I think in most years, the teams are extremely motivated to be in the Rose Bowl. If it was a semifinal, the motivation would be there. And even if it was a league champion against a No. 2 team, there would be something to play for. Think USC-Michigan was the exception, not the rule, but it's still worth bringing up in this discussion.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
Thanks for your questions today. Hope you have a great week!