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)
Hey everyone, it's high noon. Let's chat!
Jeremy (West Lafayette, IN)
Do you think Purdue has a shot at 8 wins this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
It's certainly possible, given how wide open the Leaders division looks. The Boilers will need to pull off an upset or two. Winning at Notre Dame certainly wouldn't hurt. But the talent is there in WL. Key is great consistency and eliminating the mental mistakes we've seen too often the past few years.
Of the playoff proposals being discussed, is the possibility of playoff games being played at Big Ten locales still being currently discussed; or, have the leaders of the BCS (which was co-created by a former high school football coach in East Lansing (I say this not debase BCS ruling committee but merely as interesting trivia)) taken that off the table? Or is that VERY intriguing idea still a real possibility?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Ha, thanks for the trivia, Steve. Having semifinal games on campus doesn't seem likely at all, and it's unfortunate. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman told me last week it's not being considered by the presidents, and a Big Ten coach told me this week that while it'd be great for the league, there's not enough support nationally. It's too bad. Would have helped even the playing field for the Big Ten in some years.
Lavar A (Silver Spring, MD)
Adam, I'm happy that my email spurred the blog yesterday on PSU v Nebraska's 1st years. And I enjoyed the answer. I was hoping you'd expound on the schools' reception into the B1G also and impact on other sports as well. I personally think PSU is far better off in most every other sport because of B1G participation. But I feel like Nebraska was "accepted into the B1G fold" better than PSU was, [probably based on geography.
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Thanks to you, Lavar. I think the move has helped both programs in multiple sports. You're absolutely right about Penn State's non-rev sports benefiting from being in the Big Ten, and the same holds true for Nebraska. If you're asking which program had more overall success in Year 1, I'd have to look back at some of the non-rev results from 1993 to give you that answer. I know Nebraska has captured some Big Ten championships but struggled in men's hoops and fared so-so in football.
Jason (Lewis Center, OH)
Adam, quick question. A lot of talk about the new kids, Big Hank, and John Simon this year on the OSU defensive line, and rightfully so, but I am curious to how well Nate Williams is doing returning from an injury. He was hands-down the best pass rusher on the team in 2010 and 2011 until he got hurt in week 2. Is he slowed by the injury, or can we expect the old Nate back rushing QBs this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Jason, this is a good question, and the answer is we'll find out this fall. Williams showed promise as a rush end for the Buckeyes and would have helped the pass rush last year had he stayed healthy. But he hasn't played a lot of football in a while, and knee injuries can be tough. Ohio State looks loaded at D-tackle, and Simon will play more end this fall. The Buckeyes could use more help at end, though, and Williams might provide a nice boost.
Mark (Santa Cruz)
Michigan-Alabama Can the Wolverines pull off a win? Got extra tickets?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Haha, I wish, Mark! Michigan certainly can win the game, and I think the fact it's the season opener helps the Maize and Blue, who return more experience than Alabama does. The keys: play stout defense, win the turnover margin and don't make mistakes in the kicking game. Can't see this game becoming too high scoring, so Michigan needs to execute extremely well and capitalize when it's in Alabama's end of the field.
Robbie (New York)
How much improvement do you expect from the Gophers this year? I don't expect a New Year's Day bowl, but a lesser bowl is within reach. Agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
A 3- or 4-win improvement isn't out of the question for Minnesota. The non-league schedule isn't overly taxing, although the Gophers will be tested in Big Ten play in what I believe to be the tougher division. I'm concerned about the lack of playmakers surrounding MarQueis and whether the defensive line can start generating more pressure. But there's no doubt the players will be more comfortable in Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era. Should translate to some improvement.
Adam: How do you rate the quality of Big Ten football coaches coming into 2013 versus best historic conference comparisons? Are we at a high period, low period? Seems like the SEC fortunes shifted upward when they started to seriously invest in their coaching staffs relative to other conferences.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
John, you bring up a good point about SEC schools investing more in their coaches (head coaches and assistants), and you're starting to see more of that in the Big Ten, which lagged behind a bit in paying top assistants. Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel obviously are big losses from a success standpoint. Urban Meyer, however, brings in a very impressive track record. The jury is out more on Bill O'Brien and Tim Beckman, but I think Brady Hoke is regarded as a much better coach now after turning around Michigan than he was at this time last year. I think the overall quality remains strong, but the Big Ten must continue to commit resources to coaches to keep pace with the SEC.
Hank (Washington DC)
Are there any Big 10 coaches on the hot seat this year? Danny Hope?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Hope might be, if Purdue can't get back to a bowl game and show real progress in Year 4 of his regime. Hope received a contract bump in the winter, but it was primarily for recruiting purposes. It's a big year for him, and he believes he has without a doubt his best team in West Lafayette. Other than that, can't see any other Big Ten coaches on the hot seat entering the year.
What is the ceiling of a Tre Roberson?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
He's one of the more athletic quarterbacks you'll see, Chris. He's right there with Braxton Miller in terms of athleticism, in my view. The key is whether Roberson can become a more consistent passer under Seth Littrell, an offensive coordinator who wants to throw the ball a lot (Mike Leach guy). Kevin Wilson will challenge Roberson to elevate his play as a passer, and some of the quarterbacks Indiana has brought in behind him will push the sophomore in 2012.
Hank (Washington DC)
How do you see the Wolverines faring in their non-conference schedule (Bama, Air Force, UMass, @ND)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
I think Michigan will go 3-1 or 2-2, and there's a huge difference between those two marks. A 3-1 record with Alabama, Notre Dame and Air Force on the slate is pretty darn good in my book. Alabama and Notre Dame both pose challenges, and Air Force is a really tricky game. My sense is Michigan emerges 3-1. A 4-0 mark would be outstanding and put Michigan on the radar for the national title.
Guy Duncan (Omaha, NE)
Adam, what your thoughts on the Huskers being able to dominate on Defense? Last year was a drop off, and for Pellini not a great year. Do you think the new recruits and change in secondary position coach will help? Also, what are your thoughts on the Linebackers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Guy, I think there's a strong possibility Nebraska displays more depth on defense this year, at least up front and in the secondary. I also think the emphasis on accountability and details should help the Huskers exploit what they believe to be a unique scheme (two-gap) in the Big Ten. Who will develop as stars? I think a guy like Daimion Stafford has great potential. Check the blog at 1 for a feature on Will Compton, who has been very proactive in his approach to leadership this offseason. Compton will anchor the LB corps, but as you know, depth remains an issue there for Nebraska.
Dave (Newark OH)
Any thoughts on the Spring Games this year? I know they are just exhibitions, especially when squads are mixed. With that said, I wasn't impressed with what I saw from most of the teams this year. OSU's offense looked better than I expected.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
That offense couldn't look much worse, could it, Dave? But yes, Ohio State will be more exciting and productive on offense this year, and the spring game provided some glimpses of it. I think Penn State's QB performance in the spring game was somewhat telling, but there's still a lot of evaluation left to do there. Michigan State's defense shined in the spring game, which surprises no one. There were some nice individual surprises, like Illinois RB Josh Ferguson, Ohio State WR Michael Thomas and Northwestern DT Deonte Gibson, but again, I don't put too much stock into one scrimmage out of a 15-practice session.
Mike (Back office)
Hey Adam, love the coverage. As a WI fan I've been hearing that Bielema thinks next years team could be the best ever at Madison and that RB Gordon is burning things up and will take the league by storm next year and then opt for playing on Sunday....Do you think WI could make the Natl. Champ. game next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Wow, that's a bold question, but you're right about Bielema's confidence in the 2013 Badgers. I'll have a better answer for you midway through this season, after I get a chance to see some of the younger players who clearly excite Bret and raise his expectations for 2013. Wisconsin always will be fine at running back and offensive line, but who emerges as an elite pass rusher like JJ Watt and O'Brien Schofield? More important, can Wisconsin improve its speed and athleticism in the secondary? Those are questions that should be answered this coming season.
Adam, who do you think are the candidates to be breakout players in the B1G in 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Watch out for Illinois DE Michael Buchanan and Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins in the Leaders division. Both men have very high ceilings. I think Fitz Toussaint can have a very big year for Michigan at running back. Not sure if Le'Veon Bell fits into the "breakout" category, but he's another guy who should have a big 2012 campaign.
Brian (Dayton, OH)
Adam, is it just me or does it appear that the balance of power may be shifting toward the Big 10 when it comes to recruiting? At least when it comes to Ohio State and Michigan!
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I don't think the power balance is shifting to the Big Ten, but Michigan and Ohio State both are upgrading their recruiting under new coaches. The key, in my mind, is whether teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa can take that next step in recruiting. Penn State is putting together a very nice 2013 class. Teams like Northwestern have made upgrades in recent years. But I think it will take Big Ten teams plucking more nationally elite recruits from SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 territory before we can say the power balance has truly shifted.
Nebraska was the last team to win a National Title, (and Michigan I guess) before the BCS formula took place. What are the odds that Nebraska, (and Michigan I guess) could win a title under the new system in 2014?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Ha, still bitter about that one, Kase? Michigan's schedule sets up more favorably for a title run in 2014 than it does this year. I just can't see the Wolverines running the table this fall -- or losing just one, for that matter. But Michigan will be molded more in Brady Hoke's image by 2014, and some of the team's recent elite recruits will be older. As for Nebraska, the Huskers should be strong offensively each of the next two seasons. The key is getting back to the type of defense we saw from Big Red in 2009.
Adam, always a good time during your chat and thankfully you don't get off tangent about the Derby like some do. Two quick questions. First, in regards to your PSU / Nebraska 1st year article, who do you think would have won a head to head game that year, and second, who is your pick for PSU QB this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Ha, go easy on my guy, BB. He had a rough weekend. Penn State's 1993 would have beaten Nebraska's 2011 squad in my view. The Lions had a better defense that year, which would have been the difference. My sense is Matt McGloin begins the season as Penn State's starting QB. Bolden's confidence has to be an issue right now, and while Paul Jones showed some promise this spring, I think Bill O'Brien goes with the most reliable option.
A few weeks back in one of your Lunch Links, the Detroit News said that MSU's defense is scary good, maybe even National Championship good. Is this even something to get hopeful for? Will a great defense be enough if the offense is mediocre?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Grant, I think Michigan State's defense is the single best unit in the Big Ten. But I don't consider the Spartans a national title contender this year. Could MSU make a run? Sure. But the offense will have some speed bumps along the way, and I don't know if the Spartans can run the table, which is what it will take for a Big Ten team to get to Miami and play for the crystal ball.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Adam, I see Michigan as being a couple years away from national title contention (lack of depth at important positions, youth). Do you see that as part of the reason Brady Hoke talks about Big 10 titles rather than the national title right now? This year most of the backups on the lines will be freshmen, and 2013 they will have a 1st year starter at QB.
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
GBK, I don't know if Brady will ever openly discuss national titles. That's just not his personality. He's a Lloyd Carr guy, a Bo Schembechler guy, and his focus always will be the Big Ten title and getting to the Rose Bowl. But I do think Michigan will be more reflective of Hoke's core values in 2013 and beyond. More of his recruits will be in key positions, and the offense won't look so much like a spread.
Just looked at Kipers big board for 2013 and saw that he has Hankins listed but not John Simon. Do you think it's accurate to have him listed as a better pro talent rather than Simon? Is Gholstons bust in the pros going to ultimately hurt simon considering they are similar players?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Drew, haven't had a chance to look at Mel's list just yet, but I'm not that surprised to see Big Hank listed ahead of Simon. Defensive tackles with tremendous size and quickness are top commodities in the NFL draft, particularly in the first round. Simon, meanwhile, is more a tweener, lacking ideal size for an end but being a bit too small to play inside. That's taking nothing away from Simon's ability, his work ethic, etc. But the NFL draft is largely about measurables, and Hankins is more desirable in that manner.
Hey Adam. Considering how badly their backfield has been plagued by problems, how competive will the Hawkeyes be this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
John, the good news, as I often tell Iowa fans, is that the team hasn't had trouble developing quality running backs. Keeping them healthy and on the field is another story. But if the trend continues, Iowa will develop a back or two who can handle the rushing load. The offensive line will need to be better in run blocking than it was a year ago, and the offense likely will be more pass-heavy at the start of the season. But it wouldn't shock me if Iowa ends up surviving just fine at RB. The bigger issue, in my mind, is a defense that took a step back in 2011.
Chris (Santa Monica, CA)
Watch out for MSU in 2014.. B1G conf games are: @UM, @Pur, @IU, @Minny, home vs ILL, Iowa, Neb, NW.. no OSU/PSU/Wisky
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Good point, Chris. Schedule sets up well for the Spartans to make a run. They'll have to go to Notre Dame, where they've stumbled the past two times, but the schedule isn't as taxing as, say, the 2011 slate was.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Of the three programs BOB mentioned, which would you prefer to see PSU match up with? My personal preference would be Alabama due to the history and mutual respect between fan bases.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
I'd never be opposed to a Big Ten-SEC matchup, and Alabama has been one of the few SEC teams open to scheduling squads from the Big Ten. That said, I'd like to shake things up a bit and see a different opponent face the Lions. USC would be my pick. The Trojans will be among the nation's elite in the coming years, and there's always some extra prestige that comes with facing USC.
Chris (Santa Monica, CA)
Actually in 2014, there is no @ND.. but it's replaced with @Oregon
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Ah, you're right, Chris. Was looking at the 2013 slate instead. A trip to Eugene is never easy. Just ask Michigan a few years back.
Everyone knows your stance on IU, sometimes good offense, bad defense. But can you breakdown the defense? Are there some areas where they're not as bad, some areas where they're terrible? Or is it all just bad?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Greg, I see a general lack of Big Ten-quality talent with Indiana's defense. That tends to be more exposed in the secondary, but when the front-seven pressure isn't adequate, often the DBs are left exposed. So the answer is the overall depth hasn't been where it needs to be. There have been some very good individual defenders at IU like Tracy Porter and Jammie Kirlew, but as a unit, the talent in all three areas hasn't been good enough. I remember seeing this in a game at Iowa in 2009. Indiana dominated the first three quarters but lost a few players to injury. Iowa then went nuts in the fourth quarter and ended up winning fairly comfortably. It's simply too easy to move the ball and score points on the Hoosiers. That needs to change.
Adam, After your interview with Perlman it is no surprise that the Big10 and Pac12 presidents are out to protect the Rose Bowl. But do you think they are willing to keep pressing the other conferences until tey are left out in the cold again? I remember the 90s with the Rose Bowl being seperated off from the other Bowl coalition groups and it seems to suffer somewhat, and that was just a small bowl coalition. Being seperated from a playoff via the rest of the country would seem near disasterous.
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Quintar, I think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany knows he'll have to make some concessions. Will the Rose Bowl be a nationally relevant game every year in the new system? I can't see how it is, unless it becomes the permanent site for the national title game (highly unlikely). So in some years, the Rose Bowl will be a major national event and in some year it won't. And that's OK, in my view. The Rose Bowl hasn't always been an incredibly prestigious game during the BCS era. Evidence: Ohio State has appeared just once in the game despite dominating the Big Ten.
Everyone knows Taylor Martinez is not a good passer. I hate how people think he's a good runner though. HE'S NOT. He is not elusive at all to make someone miss, he has never broke a tackle, and he can never see the hole. Everyone once in a while there will be a big enough hole that he can run straight through and get good yards. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Wow, that's a rough assessment, Caleb. Martinez might not be Denard Robinson when it comes to making people miss, but he can outrun most players on the field. He had some pretty impressive runs in the first part of the 2010 season until he got banged up. Think you're being a little harsh on his running skills. As a passer, Martinez certainly must make major strides. His passing has been flat-out ugly at times, but perhaps with some footwork adjustments and other tweaks, he'll be better this fall.
We're hearing about the Big 12s new tv deal with each team getting 20 million. With them getting an upgrade after losing four quality teams, one must think that the B1G will be getting some incredible money after adding Nebraska and a conf. champ game. When will this be renegotiated, and what type of money would they be looking at?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
The Big Ten's 10-year TV deal expires after the 2015 season. The money undoubtedly will be huge for a league that has some the largest fan followings in all of college football. When I asked commissioner Jim Delany how often he thinks about the next TV deal, he replied, "Every day."
Dan Roushar (East Lansing)
I know we are going to try and be a balanced team with our offensive playcalling, but with our lack of experience in our receiving corps, what will the run-to-pass ratio end up being at the end of the season? 60/40? 70/30?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Dan, I think you'll be a heavily run-based offense early on, maybe 70-30. But as Andrew Maxwell gets comfortable and his receivers log more games, the ratio should begin to balance out a bit. I still think Michigan State will end up running the ball at least 60 percent of the time this fall with Le'Veon Bell leading the charge and Larry Caper and Nick Hill behind him.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
OK, time for one more ...
How does O'Brien start off his tenure at PSU this season? And how does Temple fair in the Big East? Are they ready to compete there now or will it take time to adjust?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
We'll get a look at both programs, Trev, when Temple visits Happy Valley in September. I think the schedule sets up decently for O'Brien, whose team will encounter some speed bumps, particularly on offense. The big key for Penn State is to avoid the major mistakes (i.e. turnovers for points) and rely on its defensive front seven and run game led by Silas Redd. Temple is a program on the rise, and the Big East isn't exactly the SEC. But as we saw with Nebraska last year, any transition to a new league can be tougher than expected.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Time's up. Thanks for your question today!