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, I'm here. Let's get chatty.
Colin (Sterling Heights)
What have you heard in regards to Andrew Maxwell and Michigan State's offense in general? I'm confident our defense will play well, but will we be able to put up points after losing so much on offense from last year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
There are certainly some question marks, Colin, and whether Maxwell can get it done on a consistent basis in games is one of them. He has drawn high marks in practice, and he has spent several years preparing for this opportunity. But he hasn't done it in games, so there are some unknowns there, especially with a new-look receiving corps. I do think Maxwell will get some help from the run game. MSU will be more of a run-focused offense this year with lead back Le'Veon Bell and an improved offensive line. That should take some pressure off of Maxwell.
Ok R-berg..here we are the second to last day in May....BOB said he would announce the psu QB starter by the end of May....any chance he shocks Nittany Nation and gives fan favorite Paul Jones the nod?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Yeah, I was hoping we'd get an announcement soon, but we'll see. I love that the guy who has never attempted a pass in a game is the fan favorite, but that how it goes with quarterbacks. I'd be surprised if O'Brien doesn't go with McGloin, at least to start the season. McGloin has the most experience and has the smarts to grasp the offense. I know O'Brien likes Jones, and the coaches really like incoming recruit Steven Bench, but I really would be stunned if he goes with Paul Jones to open the season.
Mike (Denver, CO)
Pick this apart....If you change the conference/Division format to actually crown a champion, wouldn't the national champ fall into line? (i.e. - In the SEC last year, Bama and LSU were tops right? In Pac12, Oregon and Stanford.... let them play again to prove who is best in conference.) Then those winners can play in a 4 team playoff. That way your regular seaon matters, your conference matters, the only thing you lose is the importance of divisional play. Why not? (can't say $$)
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
It's an interesting idea, Mike, and would definitely make for more compelling conference championship games on the whole. I can speak for everyone not a Georgia or UCLA fan in saying I'd rather have seen rematches between LSU-Bama and Oregon-Stanford than the league title games we were offered.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Then again, there are years where it doesn't work out so cleanly, with two teams clearly separated at the top of the league. Sometimes, you need a way to differentiate a pack of teams, and that's where division play can help.
Jack (Waterloo Washington)
Big Penn State fan here. How many yards does Silas Redd go for. Which WR's step up.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Jack, Silas should have plenty of opportunities to rush for 1,200 yards or more this fall. He's clearly Penn State's best offensive weapon entering the season. Justin Brown is your top WR entering the year, but I'm excited about the potential of Alex Kenney, who stood out during the practice I watched. He's a smaller faster guy who could flourish in Bill O'Brien's offense.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What do you think about Tulley-Tillman's actions and the response from the Buckeye Nation?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
It's disappointing to see fans sending threats to a recruit, and it's also a bit unnecessary for Tulley-Tillman to burn his letter and put it out there for everyone to see. It'd be better if recruiting issues stay off of Twitter and out of the spotlight, because fan emotions about recruits are seriously out of control. And that's not just an Ohio State thing. Many Big Ten fans I encounter are rational people who become absolutely insane about anything recruiting-related.
Who would you rank as the best player, regardless of position, in the Big10 for the upcoming season? I think it comes down to Denard, Montee Ball, and Gholston
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Montee Ball will be our No. 1 player on the preseason countdown, I can tell you that. He has proven himself to be nationally elite at his position. I can't say the same about Denard Robinson, who tossed 15 INTs last year, or William Gholston, who had some big games but wasn't as consistent as defensive ends like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus. Could Robinson and Gholston reach that elite level this year? Without a doubt. But Ball is already there.
Brock (Eaton, IN)
With a 1-11 team last year, obviously Kevin Wilson can't for sure set the depth chart early. Who do you have starting at QB for the Hoosiers this year? Roberson has to be the favorite, but Coffman can sling it, and I wouldn't look past Frosh. Nate Sudfeld either.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Brock, Roberson will be the starter entering the fall, but I like that he'll be pushed by some of the players Indiana has brought in from the outside. Coffman looks like an excellent pickup, and he obviously has familiarity with new Hoosiers offensive coordinator Seth Littrell. Sudfield looks like a player as well. I know this: Indiana thinks Roberson can be a very good player and a more complete quarterback. But the Hoosiers now have options they simply didn't have in 2011.
Trevor (Holt, MI)
Adam, I have long thought of MSU as a sleeping giant. How much credit do you give MSU AD Mark Hollis for waking up the entire athletic department and getting the Spartans back on the national scene?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Hollis deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the department, helping to hire an excellent football coach (Mark Dantonio) and keeping Tom Izzo in East Lansing. He gets a lot of pub for his creative marketing initiatives (aircraft carrier game), but he has put football in a position to succeed long term and follow models like Wisconsin and Iowa. The difference between MSU and Wisconsin/Iowa is that Michigan State is in a better area for recruiting. The drawback is that Michigan State must directly contend with a traditional power in Michigan, which is clearly on the rise again.
Andrew (Chicago )
Do you know where you'll be opening weekend? I know BTN got the MSU/Boise game but with all the excitement of Friday night lights mixed with the new scoreboards and plenty of hard liquor, I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss it before heading to a Saturday game (like an late night slaughtering of Michigan).
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Last I checked, Andrew, the MSU-Boise game will be on ESPN, not BTN. So there's a good chance either Bennett or I will be in East Lansing. Obviously, the two games I'd like to attend are Boise-MSU and Michigan-Alabama. But again, and I can't state this enough, Brian and I don't pick which games we attend. Our bosses do.
How is carlos hyde looking in the top spot at RB for the buckeyes offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Jimmy, Carlos will be in the mix for Ohio State, but Jordan Hall will enter the season as the team's top back. Now Hall clearly has more flexibility and could be used in a Percy Harvin type role in Ohio State's offense, but he stood out to the coaches this spring more than any other offensive player.
Rick (Valdosta, Ga.)
Hello Adam,It seems to me every conference commisioner has a different plan for the playoff. Scott is mentioning a plus 1, Delany is pushing for conference champs, and Slive is pushing for the 4 best teams. Is this going to happen with everyone on a different plan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Here's the deal, Rick, and it's really important folks from SEC country understand this (I'll explain it during a post at 2 pm). Delany is NOT advocating for conference champs only, but rather a hybrid plan that includes conference champions and at wild card spot for a top non-league champ or an independent like Notre Dame. Larry Scott isn't advocating for a plus-one; he just said we shouldn't dismiss that concept. Obviously, the SEC wants the "best four teams." What we'll see is either the best four teams (SEC) or a hybrid model (Big Ten), and I think the hybrid model has a better chance of being approved.
David (Washington, DC)
How was your Memorial Day, Adam? I know we all dream of covering college football but I bet it was nice to have a break.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
It was excellent, David. Last year's Memorial Day was no fun, thanks to the Tressel resignation. The final tallies: 16 hours worked, 18 posts, zero brats, zero beers. Not a great day. This year's holiday was much more fun.
Brady Hoke (WolverineNation)
Adam, I've taken a mediocre 7-6 team with one of the worst defenses in college football and turned it into an 11-2 team that capped off the season with a win over Ohio and a BCS bowl win. My eyes are on a B1G ten championship but how long will it be until I make that jump into the national spotlight and compete for a national title?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Brady, I think you'll be in the national spotlight during the next 2-3 seasons. It'll be tough this year because the schedule is so tough, but a win against Alabama in the opener raises the ceiling for Team 133. I also think Michigan will be a nationally elite team when your recruits have a little more time to mature and the offensive system Al Borges wants to run is put in place. That could take another two years. So it could happen soon, or it could happen a little bit down the road.
In your opinion, since you've talked and interviewed him before, do you think Brady Hoke likes the spats against Ohio from his verbal commits? I know he can't speak on actions of recruits until they sign their LOI, but he respects Ohio and the rivalry. I think he isn't pleased with it.Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Brady isn't the type who likes to see things blow up in the media, so I would say he's not too thrilled with the situation. He has a great deal of respect for the rivalry and knows it will always be heated. He also knows how his "Ohio" comments play in the press. But he's never been a guy to take a shot at an opponent, so I think he'd prefer this stuff stays quiet.
What? No realignment question yet? I'll start it off then...in your opinion who are the two best possible, realistic additions, and what two school do you think would be actually be added if the BIG did expand in the next 365 days?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Wouldn't be a Big Ten chat without one, right, Kirk? I don't think Notre Dame is realistic right now, although things still could change. I'd say the Big Ten would look to the ACC or Big East. Maryland is an intriguing option, and I'd expect the Terrapins to be a possible addition. As for the other one, I'd go with Georgia Tech or Rutgers. There was some support for Rutgers during the last expansion study.
If OSU gets all the bad press (before and after) cause they were sanctioned by the NCAA, where is the bad press about Miami, Oregon, North Carolina and the minor violations reporting about USC? Is ESPN as fair and balanced as Fox News??
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Yes, fans simply can't live without balanced negative coverage. There will be more about Miami, Oregon and North Carolina in the coming months as those schools are dealing with NCAA investigations. As for USC, I'd expect there to be some monitoring of how the school handles compliance issues. The Ohio State violations were reported by a local newspaper (Plain Dealer), which did its duty in monitoring all violations. The story got picked up nationally because of Ohio State's recent NCAA issues. Will similar stories surface about other programs? We'll see. But anything major will be covered here.
Adam (Boca Raton, FL)
As of today, who do you see as the top 2 teams in each division? Who do you think faces off in the B1G championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Adam, right now, I look at Michigan State and Michigan as the top two in the Legends, although Nebraska isn't far behind them. Wisconsin is clearly the top team in the Leaders, followed by Ohio State and Penn State. Right now, I'm leaning toward a rematch in the Big Ten title game (Wisconsin-MSU), but I wouldn't be surprised to see Nebraska or Michigan or even Penn State or Purdue reach the title game.
Was Texas ever a realistic expansion candidate for the Big Ten or was that something that was just tossed around for bargaining?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
I know some Big Ten folks were serious about adding Texas. Whether Texas felt the same way is tough to say. Texas clearly wants to be in a league where it has the most control, and that wouldn't have been the case in the Big Ten. Texas' philosophy and the Big Ten's don't really match up.
Will the B10 win the Rose Bowl this season? A potential opponent is USC. Can MSU, Mich, Neb, or Wisc beat them?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
The Big Ten certainly needs a Rose Bowl win, Kevin. The record during the BCS era has been very ugly. I'd peg USC to reach the national title game, not the Rose Bowl, but if the Trojans are in Pasadena, the Big Ten would need to counter with a strong defensive team. Michigan State comes to mind. The Spartans D is a notch above Michigan's, Nebraska's and Wisconsin's.
Adam, you've often mentioned the Big Ten has 4 brand-name programs: UM, OSU, UN, & PSU. What does it take to acquire a brand-name this day and age, and which other Big Ten school is closest to achieving that distinction?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Patrick, that's a great question. I think winning a national championship or several major bowl games can move a program closer to that brand-name distinction. The most interesting case in the Big Ten has been Wisconsin. The Badgers have been a good to great program for the better part of the past 20 years. But are they a national brand-name program? Not quite. A national title would help, and some Rose Bowl victories after the recent stumbles. But it's hard to match the histories of programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. It takes sustained success at a very high level.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Adam, What is the predominant styles of offense and defense in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Craig, the spread has become the dominant offense in the Big Ten, as most teams run some version of it. But what really struck me this spring in talking with Big Ten offensive coordinators is the emphasis on operating at a faster tempo. Whether they run a spread or a pro-style offense, these coaches want to run as many plays as possible to prevent the defense from getting set. The feeling is that defenses have caught up to the spread, so the way to stay one step ahead is to prevent them from getting lined up. The base 4-3 defense remains the most common system we see in the Big Ten, although there are some unique schemes at places like Nebraska.
Oh come on, that is BS. OSU was covered from the moment the tat five stuff happened to the as recent as today. No other school gets that much coverage. OSU did not get downtime while the NCAA investigated. Stores about cars (true or not) , golfing (true or not) were published all the time. I am glad ESPN will cover major events like smoking smokeless cigarettes on the sidelines and wishing a recruit good luck in passing.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Last question on this topic. Ohio State gets covered because Ohio State is a really big deal in college football. There are a select few programs that merit this level of coverage, positive and negative, and Ohio State is one of them. USC got a lot of negative coverage, too -- it was just spread out over a very long period of time. Penn State received a lot of negative press coverage after the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal (still ongoing). Will North Carolina get the same coverage? Probably not, because North Carolina isn't nearly as big a story in college football. I know Ohio State fans feel their team is getting picked on, but this is the way it goes when you're a constant news-making program. Would it be better to be less relevant?
Seth (College Station, TX)
Do you think Ted Roof can sustain the level of success PSU's defense has seen in recent years, especially with Vanderlinden and LJ staying on as position coaches? Or do you see a slide there without Scrap?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Seth, this is a really interesting topic. I had one Big Ten coach tell me Penn State's defense will be dramatically different from what Scrap ran. Roof has to be careful because Penn State's defense hasn't been a problem. The Lions do what they do well, and they've been consistent over time. Every new coach wants to establish himself and put his own spin on things, and Roof is no exception. I do like that he kept LJ and Vanderlinden, two of the nation's best position coaches. But the unit as a whole has some question marks, particularly in the secondary and at defensive end.
Rick (Valdosta, Ga.)
Do you think it would be a good idea to have a "kickoff classic" at a neutral field in the Midwest featuring a top B1G and another top team from another conference? Maybe at Soldier field or even Lambeau in September?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Rick, I think it's a great idea, and the Big Ten is interested in having more of these early season showcase games. You'll likely see more of them in Pac-12 territory at a venue like the Rose Bowl, and it makes sense to have a similar game at a place like Soldier Field or Lambeau.
Mike (Denver, CO)
Adam, agree with your brand response. But wouldn't you have to add non-football related activity as well. MSU is closes to joining the others and it's mainly due to B-ball. Brand is not limited to football, just ask Duke and Cuse, and UCLA for that matter
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
I see what you're saying Mike, but a great football brand is the most important thing a school can have. Duke football is irrelevant, and Syracuse and UCLA have been heading in that direction. While Michigan State's basketball success has, in my view, helped the football program, the Spartans will only be a national brand if their football program wins at the highest level (national title or BCS bowls).
Jeff (Lincoln, NE)
How do you feel about the off-season and having to answer nothing but reallignment and playoff scenario questions? If I had access to a time machine it would be used to fast forward to next years football season after the NCG!
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Ha, well there's a reason I won't be chatting for the next few weeks. The offseason is what it is. It shows me how excited people are for football, but it'd be nice if it went by a little faster.
So if the SEC gets its way again and it's the 4 best teams, I ask this- if your conference is assured of haing two of the four teams playing for the national title, and they are matching up in your conference title game. Why on earth would either coach play their best players when they still have two games left to play for the national title?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
TJ, I see what you're saying, but I don't know how often two teams would enter the title game "assured" of being in a playoff. What if one of those teams gets blown out by 35 points? That could be enough for the team to drop out of the top 4. To in the top 4, you need to be excellent in most weeks and, in most cases, avoid a convincing loss. So I think in almost every case, you'd see two coaches trying to win the league title game.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Adam, do you think Wisconsin's non-conference schedule hurts their national recognition? A lot of Big 10 school play big name opponents (Notre Dame, Bama, Texas, etc) in the non-conference, while the biggest non-conference game in recent years that I can remember for Wisconsin is Oregon State, who isn't nationally recognized either.
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
You're absolutely right, GBK. If you asked a casual college football fan what they know about Wisconsin, they'd talk about the great running backs, the great offensive lines, the Rose Bowl appearances and probably the weak non-league schedules. It's definitely a thing for the Badgers, and part of their regional and national reputation. They have been unlucky at times in scheduling (i.e. Oregon State and Arizona State), but they haven't exactly stepped out and scheduled Oklahoma or USC, either.
Colin (Sterling Heights)
If Notre Dame was forced to join a conference, why WOULDN'T they join the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
For starters, the Big Ten has made two attempts to add Notre Dame and been spurned each time. Notre Dame also wants to remain independent in football, and I don't think the Big Ten has any interest in adding ND if it's not a full member. There's also the feeling that ND would fit better into the ACC rather than a league filled with major public research institutions. Lastly, Notre Dame makes no secret about its desire to be a national program. Joining the Big Ten would regionalize Notre Dame to a degree.
As a follow-up to GBK, why is a team like Wisconsin penalized for a weak non-league schedule but Florida can stay entirely in-state and get a pass on their non-league games? It's not like they're playing the FSU teams of the mid-90s anymore.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Florida can afford to schedule the way it does because of the SEC's strength. It avoids the backlash because most media types say, "Well, they're playing in the toughest league in the country, facing Alabama, LSU, Georgia ..." Wisconsin doesn't have the same luxury in the Big Ten, which is viewed as a mediocre league. Big Ten teams need to beat the best from other leagues to show they're good nationally. SEC teams just have to beat each other.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Which hyped quarterback was a bigger disappointment for Michigan-Notre Dame fans, Ron Paulus or Drew Henson?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Hmmm, interesting question, Tony. I'd go with Paulus, given all the hype he had coming into South Bend. But Michigan fans might disagree.
Do you see any coaches that are livin large such as Bielema or Dantonio leaving for a higher prestiged job or NFL . or will they retire from positions there?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Both men are very happy where they are, David. I really think Dantonio finishes his career at Michigan State, especially since he likely won't have a chance to go to Ohio State any time soon. Bielema loves Wisconsin and has a great situation with Barry Alvarez as AD. Then again, both men run systems similar to what is used in the NFL. Both men have produced a decent number of NFL players. I think they would listen if a pro team came calling, but I see them in their current positions for a while longer.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
how do you see ND and the mid major conf voting on the playoff scenarios? we already know what the BE/ACC/B1G/PAC think.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Those groups obviously want some type of "Wild Card" access, which will be granted under the Big Ten's or the SEC's proposal. Obviously, the "best four teams" plan creates potentially more openings for teams from those leagues, although leagues like the Mountain West and WAC have produced champions that finish in the top 6.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK everyone, time's up. I'll be taking a break from the chat for a few weeks -- Brian will be with you Monday afternoons -- because of BCS meetings and the like. I'll be back later next month.