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 (12:01 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here -- and so is a playoff. Let's chat!
Kaden (Denver, CO)
Can Michigan really win the B1G, or is it just too much hype after last season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Michigan certainly can win the Big Ten, which is fairly wide open with no dominant team. But the Wolverines have to be a lot better than they were last year, when they beat a lot of average/good teams but very few great ones. The schedule gets substantially harder, and Michigan has to replace standout linemen on both sides of the ball. Obviously, a win against Alabama would be a huge springboard for the Wolverines and Brady Hoke.
Josh Kral (Marion, IA)
How does this new playoff affect the other BCS Bowls? So in years, that say, the Rose and Sugar host the semis, who's playing in the Fiesta and Orange? Is it still going to be a matchup of top ranking BCS teams that are just outside of the top 4? Are they played the same day as the national semis? I'm VERY glad they're still protecting the bowl system, but I fear these games will become obsolete with teams playing in the game that don't want to be there. Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Josh, it'll depend a lot on each game. I know that the Rose Bowl will continue to select Big Ten and Pac-12 teams in years it doesn't host the semifinal. If the champions of those leagues are released to the semis, they'll be replaced by others from the two leagues. Not certain if that will be the case in the other bowls, but there are conference agreements there that may or may not be continued. I know in the Orange Bowl's case, they'd like to have much better matchups than what they're getting, and the elimination of the AQ should really help the folks in Miami.
Was there any talk of moving the semi final bowls earlier in the bowl season and trying to get back to a January 1st or 2 nd national title game, this would do more to preserve that academic calendar the presidents are always talking about
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
I'm sure it was discussed, but the idea is to make New Year's Day a big deal again, and having more than one meaningful game on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 does that more than having just the national title game there. Also, bowl games wouldn't be too keen on moving their games up a week. The Rose Bowl, for example, wants to stay on Jan. 1 forever. And while there are bowls played on Dec. 24 and earlier, these would conflict with academic calendars for some teams, which would prevent them from being in town for the whole week and get the bowl experience.
@HuskerInsanity (Lincoln, NE)
Are you invited to Bennett's wedding?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Nah, he snubbed me, not surprisingly. I guess someone has to take care of the blog while he gets married and jet-sets around the globe. Big timer.
Adam: An word on how early the Championship Game bids will be set? Do the bids have to come from neutral cities or could a city like Columbus bid for the game in The Shoe and just hope the Buckeyes make it that year? (I could see that happening in many major college cities)
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
I'd expect the BCS to have the initial championship game sites set in the next 12-18 months. Technically, anyone can bid on the game, but you had better bring a good bid and most likely a track record of hosting major sporting events. It's why JerryWorld is in the picture. Same with Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. The BCS big wigs will want a proven option to host these championship games. Don't think a college city has much of a chance.
Steven (Baltimore, MD)
It's probably too soon to make a call, but is there any way the Rose Bowl would regain some glory if college football moves to an 8 team playoff (or plus-3)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
I'd say just the opposite, Steven. Unless the Rose Bowl were the permanent championship site or something, or maybe a permanent semifinal site, it will lose glory and prestige, not gain it, because of the playoff. Those games are going to get all the attention, and no one will really care about a game outside those seven (four quarters, two semis, championship). I've been told the bowls can survive with a four-team playoff, but not an eight-teamer.
How, if at all, does the 4 team playoff change the polls? Will they be used as a reference or be completely discarded?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
The polls likely will continue in some form, because they generate debate and promote the game. Remember, that was the original intent. But a source told me Monday that the selection committee could release its own poll in the middle or latter part of the season to give the public an idea of where the teams stand. This could be like the BCS standings, which only debuts in mid October, although it would be a more transparent document.
Andrew (New York)
While the Big 10 gained more opportunity to access the national championship game, as you and Brian have noted, the new agreement also guarantee that all semi-finals will happen far from the conference's footprint. This seems to put the Big 10 at a competitive disadvantage. Are there provisions in the agreement to prevent, say, a #1 ranked Big 10 champ from playing a 2nd place SEC team in the Sugar Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Andrew, the competitive disadvantage will continue in that all the meaningful games will be played outside the Big Ten footprint. But there will be provisions regarding the selection committee to prevent a higher seed from facing a lower seed at a site closer to the lower seed. You won't see No. 1 Ohio State facing No. 4 LSU in New Orleans. But because of the Rose Bowl ties, you could see No. 1 Ohio State facing No. 4 USC at the Rose Bowl.
I'm planning a visit to Chicago where my brother has Northwestern season tickets. Who is the Wildcats' most exciting player?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Definitely Kain Colter, the quarterback. Best athlete Northwestern has had in recent memory. Team's best ball-carrier, and if he improves as a passer, could be really dynamic in the spread offense.
Leon (Petaluma, CA)
This is a playoff in name only. Just because it is labelled a playoff does not make it a playoff. You have four selected teams. You do not have conference champions. You are not avoiding last year's fiasco in the national championship game. And no one has asked the SEC if they are so hell bent on the best four teams regardless of conference, why didn't LSU and 'Bama play in their conference championship game. I mean the beat team idea would work real well in the NBA, NFL, and Olympics. Sure, I can see it now. Let's tell the other track stars from the eastern hemisphere to sit out this Olympics. We only want the best runners to compete - a competition before the competition. *SMH*
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Leon, some good points here. It's hard to select the "best team" with such a limited playoff, but the counter to that is how often does the best team emerge from a larger playoff. The New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Were they really the best team in football last year? It's debatable. But the NFL playoff is large enough that it rewards division champions and also has room for wild cards. I don't think it's ever going to be nice and clean in college football with determining a national champion. But there's an argument to be made that a larger playoff (8 teams) would be a better move here.
Steven (Baltimore, MD)
I should have made myself more clear, but in my eight-team scenario the Rose Bowl would become a quarter final for the champions of the Pac-1X and B1G every year. Does relegating the original Rose to annual quarterfinalists take all of its mojo? What if it can still host the championship a week or two later?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Ah, I see what you're saying. It's tough to project whether a Rose Bowl, despite having the traditional Pac-12/Big Ten champion matchup, would have prestige as a "quarterfinal." Just that term "quarterfinal" seems to devalue a game. Having the chance to host a championship game two weeks later is beside the point in my mind, because it's truly a separate event. The Rose Bowl wants the Rose Bowl to be a big deal, and so do the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Having the Rose Bowl be a quarterfinal seems to devalue it, regardless of whether there's another game two weeks later that happens to take place in Pasadena.
Do you think Penn State would fire BOB if he has 2-4 seasons in a row of 6-8 win seasons? I think we should give him at least 3-4 years to get in the B1G championship picture, but if he has a losing season anytime before a championship he will definitely be on the hot seat.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
I disagree, Eric. Penn State isn't in a position to be changing coaches any time soon, especially after all it has been through. O'Brien will have time to get things right, and given all the uncertainty elsewhere at the university and the money that will be lost b/c of civil suits, I really don't think Penn State will be looking to make changes in football unless O'Brien completely fizzles.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Plus, the way O'Brien is recruiting right now, I think he deserves ample time.
As far as I can tell, the existence of a playoff was the distinguishing factor between the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision. With the adoption of a playoff to replace the BCS, is there any chance we can get rid of the HORRIBLE monikers FBS and FCS and just go back to Division 1A and 1AA? What was really wrong with that anyway (other than the fact it was simple and easily understood)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Simple and easily understood just isn't how college football rolls, JP. Look at the Big Ten: Legends and Leaders. Ugh. Anyway, the problem is that the bowls still exist, so the teams in the FBS are still playing in a division that has bowls. Like you, I'd like it to go back to D1A and D1AA, but we'll see.
Will the "committee" be selecting only the four playoff teams, or will they also pick the teams for the other (previous) BCS games? Hopefully this is the case and they will take the stance that you cannot play in one of these premier bowls unless you played in your conference's championship game. Losers of this game shouldn't be punished. I am still upset that michigan got a BCS bid last year when they lost to MSU and never played Wisconsin or made it to the championship game. (yes, I know it is all about politics and who can put more butts in seats)
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Ross, my understanding is that the committee WILL pick more than just the four teams in the playoff. One thing I've been told is that additional bowl games entering the rotation could be landing spots for strong champions of smaller conferences. So if a 12-1 Boise State team doesn't qualify for the playoff, it wouldn't have to play in the Las Vegas Bowl and could instead play in the Cotton Bowl or something like that. The committee would be able to ensure this. I've been told if it's between a second- or third-place major conference team and a good champ from a smaller league, and they have similar profiles and schedule strengths, the champ from the smaller league would get preference from the committee.
Leon (Petaluma, CA)
Would you agree the press on 4-team playoff has not reflected well on the Big 10 and PAC-12. One sportswriter said:?The Southeastern Conference got everything it wanted and then some as it ran over Delany (and, to a lesser extent, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott) like Godzilla trampling Bambi.?No doubt an SEC or Big 12 alumnus. IMHO, this has been a disaster and an embarrassment ? self-inflicted wounds by our respective conferences.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Those writers simply aren't doing their jobs or their homework and writing what they think they know, rather than actually researching and finding out what is actually known. It's buying into a lazy narrative, if you ask me. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had to give up some things for the playoff. But so did the SEC and Big 12. Both leagues wanted semis at neutral sites (didn't happen). The SEC would have been fine with the BCS formula (didn't happen). The bowl-sites component and the selection committee were very much Big Ten ideas.
I noticed in the homerun summer Mich St edition, it mentioned if maxwell and the receivers can form a competent passing game, then they would be tough to beat. If MSU does have a competent passing game this season, do you think they would lose a game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
It's not that simple, Kevin, and it's extremely hard to go through a season without losing a game. Michigan State's schedule isn't easy, as the Spartans have tricky road games at both Michigan and Wisconsin. Will a competent passing game help? Without a doubt. Do the Spartans need Maxwell to be poised in tough situations? Without a doubt. But to go undefeated, everything has to come together, and you need a lot of luck.
Adam, With the approval of the four team playoff for the National Championship I was thinking how will conferences take the approach with their championship games wont these additional games possibly knock out a top contender even before the selection. Say my Hawkeyes are champs with an 8-4 record and play the Badgers who are 12-0 and Iowa wins which could knock out Wisc from going to the playoffs. Your thoughs and keep up the good work!
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Ron, this is a valid question, but conference championship games aren't going anywhere. They're too lucrative -- at least in the SEC and the Big Ten -- and for a league like the SEC, it has become part of the identity. The SEC championship game is a huge deal in that conference. Also, when you have a 14-team league, you need a way to determine a champion, and the title game helps in that respect. Will upsets on championship weekend reshape the playoff? Without a doubt. But that's why the best teams need to take care of business in those games. What the commissioners didn't want to see was a repeat of 2003, when Oklahoma got crushed in the Big 12 title game but still made the national title game. That's not going to happen any more.
If a couple DBs make plays for UW last year (and they went on to win the games), would RW have been strongly considered for the Heisman given the comebacks he headed, along with the NCG appearance that would have followed?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Good question, Yooper. I think he would have. Although Russell wasn't as sharp in either the Michigan State or Ohio State game, his play down the stretch in both contests would have received a lot more national attention had Wisconsin come out ahead. The losses undoubtedly overshadowed what Wilson did in clutch situations.
Bigzx2 (Santa Monica, CA)
With SOS being "weighted" somewhat with the committee members making the decisions, would you rather schedule well OOC and hope to be recognized, or fill up with cupcakes and have a better record? To me, I'd take my chances going 11-1 with a weak SOS than 10-2 with a tougher one
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
That's a question athletic directors will have to wrestle with, Bigzx2. The strength of schedule component will be a big deal with this committee. The commissioners want to create better September games, not weaker ones. It might take a few 10-2 teams making it over 11-1 teams, but the message that you need to challenge yourself out of conference should be sent by this committee. If it isn't, we have a big problem.
So, what happens if in a year when they don't play each other during the regular season, a 12-0 Wisconsin team beats a 12-0 MSU team in the B1G championship game while a 12-0 Georgia knocks off a 12-0 Alabama team, particularly if the championship game losers are on par with the champions of non-championship game conferences?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
That will create an interesting scenario, Adam, and obviously a lot of controversy. If the championship game losers have similar profiles with champions from smaller conferences, and they all have challenged themselves out of conference, my understanding is that the conference champions would go ahead of the runner-ups. I think in the scenario you outline, one of the two title game losers would get in, but not both.
I have written a few emails asking for an article about the importance of MSU's special teams this year, seeing as all the talk is about their defensive prowess and offensive question marks. I think I may have better luck in getting you to answer a question about it in the chat... Who will have more points this season, LeVeon Bell, or Dan Conroy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Last year Conroy had 99 points and Bell had 78 points, so my money is on Conroy. I also think Michigan State will need Conroy's leg early in the season as the offense is establishing itself. Could Bell end up scoring 20 touchdowns? It's possible. But I'd give the edge to Conroy here.
Ryan (Badger in Michigan)
I don't know about all of the intricacies of schedules, but some teams have deals with others to play in the future. There is no way to gauge how those teams will be in the future. Assuming that SOS comes into play for the selection committee (which I'm sure it will), how does this influence scheduling future games and do you foresee any issues?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
This is a great question, Ryan. These games are planned so far in advance, and programs can be going through highs or lows when the games actually roll around. What I'd like to see is games scheduled not so far in advance, to provide ADs with a better idea of who their teams will be facing. But this would be a big change in how these contracts are drawn up.
If the playoff was around in 2010, is there anyway that No. 4 Stanford would have gotten in over the No. 5 Badgers. Stanford wasn't the conf champ and if I recall correctly the only reason that wisconsin wasn't 4 was because of a horrible computer ranking
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Cam, this would be an interesting case. The sense is the conference champ would get in over the non-champ if the profiles are similar. But Wisconsin's soft non-league schedule could have come back to haunt it in this scenario. Stanford didn't exactly face murderer's row outside the Pac-12, but its non-league portion was stronger than Wisconsin's. So the message to schools like Wisconsin is schedule harder.
If Narduzzi and the MSU defense have a great year as expected, is he all but certain to leave for a head gig, or will he stick around to become the next head coach in waiting for msu?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
No, Narduzzi will be headed to another school in the next year or two. Mark Dantonio isn't going anywhere any time soon, and Narduzzi is ready to be a head coach and doesn't need to wait around. It's great Michigan State retained Pat for 2012. If his defense has another season like 2011, I'd expect him to get his head-coaching opportunity elsewhere.
GI Joseph (Virginia)
With a (Red) Rose Bowl and a (Yellow) Rose Bowl (of Texas) eliminating two of the major conference champs from national contention, perhaps a plus one selected by committee might have been a better way to go per Nebraska's President. Seems choosing 1 & 2 might have been easier and less controversal with Rose Bowl Playoffs on Jan. 1st. Your comments?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
I don't really see that, GI Joe. The four-team playoff will feature teams from outside the SEC, B12, P12 and B1G in some years. By putting teams like Boise State and Florida State in the playoff, you're telling them that they're in a position to win a championship and what they need to do to get there. Having a plus-one would only work if all the elite teams had access to great bowl games. If Boise State had to play in a weak bowl, would it have any chance of being voted into a plus-one? At least by having a playoff, you're giving a team like Boise a chance to be part of it.
Has there been anymore talk about teams having to win 7 games to qualify for a bowl game
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Glad you asked, Brad. I've been told that while some leagues like the Big Ten still advocate a 7-win minimum, momentum has cooled from other conferences (SEC, Big 12). They see how hard it will be for some of their teams to get into bowls. One potential compromise I've been told is to allow a 6-win team to qualify if it hasn't been to a bowl in a number of years. Once it has made a bowl, it would have to go a certain number of years without qualifying to get the 6-win provision again.
To answer Bigzx2's question...if you're a conference outside the SEC, better load up on cupcakes and hope for undefeated. If you're the SEC, you can afford to lose a few...because you gotta face Kentucky and Ole Miss, sometimes in the same year!
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Jason, while you could be right, I really hope this cynical view isn't the case and the committee can evaluate teams and leagues for what they do and who they've played in a given season, not for what they've done the year before. If the selection committee is done right, an 11-1 SEC team that didn't win its league and played no one outside the conference should be left out if there is a comparable conference champion elsewhere.
What's going to happen to all those New Year's Day bowls that the Big 10 has a big presence in? If the "big 6" bowls are taking over Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, where does, say, the Cap One Bowl go?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Good question, Andrew. I'll try to find out more, but the Cap One could be one of the new bowls that enters the rotation. If not, you'll see some creativity from the bowls on when they're played and at what times, as they know they can't compete against a national semifinal. I do know this: the Rose Bowl isn't moving its date (Jan. 1) or its time slot (5 ET), whether or not it's a semifinal.
Mark (Boston, MA)
Would you rather see teams play 4 mid-level OOC opponents from a variety of conference affiliations, or one powerhouse and three gimmies? Which scenario do you think is more likely?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Great question, Mark. While I've always liked Ohio State's approach -- one blockbuster game and three so-so ones -- it's nice to see teams challenge themselves more than once in non-league play. Why can't it be one powerhouse opponent, one mid-level team and two gimmes? That'd be nice. Those thinking it'll ever be four mid-level teams are delusional. These schools have to make their money, and they do it through guarantee games against weak competition.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
With all of the hype recently about Penn St. recruiting (see Hack at the elite 11 and Atlanta 7 on 7's; the addition of a top o-lineman; maybe a top RB and WR to follow??) could we see a domino effect in years to come, especially since this is such a "dark time" for PSU...i know winning games will really help with this as well
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Winning always helps Josh, and I'd say some of the recruiting success is because of the newness surrounding Bill O'Brien and the staff. He's coming straight from the NFL, which gets recruits' attention. He's also taking a different approach to recruiting than the previous staff (more in the South). But ultimately, it comes down to winning and losing, and the on-field performance, good or bad, will shape recruiting in years to come.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, time's up. Thanks for stopping by.