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 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started ...
Kris Graewin (La Crosse)
Does Bart Houston get the nod at Quarterback next year for Wisconsin?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Kris, he'll definitely be in the mix. Houston was a decorated recruit who showed in bowl practices that he has the skills it takes to succeed at this level. He does lack experience and will compete for the job with more seasoned players (Joel Stave, Curt Phillips, Danny O'Brien). But it wouldn't surprise me if he gets the nod, especially with a new coaching staff entering the mix.
How does Chip Kelly's departure impact your thoughts on the national championship picture next season? Most have some combination of Bama, UF, Oregon and OSU in the mix. Does Oregon take a step back?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
Kelly certainly is a big loss for the Ducks, but his projected successor Mark Helfrich will keep the same system and structure in place. Oregon isn't going to get slower or start running a pro-style offense. So the Ducks should still contend for the national title.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Adam, I seem the report today by Forbes that the BIG 10 conference is the #1 conference in revenue. Where have you seen the greatest impact on the conference as a whole with this revenue in the last 5 years?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
Good question, Phillip. Different schools allocate the increased revenue in different ways, but one trend certainly has been facilities upgrades. We've seen them at every Big Ten school in the past decade. Schools have upgraded their game facilities, practice facilities and offices/headquarters. It'll be interesting to see if the increased revenue leads to higher assistant coach salaries (already starting to see this).
Wayne (Mesa, AZ)
What's the latest thinking on BIG10 divisions? ...will it be as simple as moving Illinois to the Legends, or more complex like Michigan to the Leaders, Wisconsin and Illinois to the Legends...No matter how the divisions end up, I think protected crossover games should end(see: SEC)
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Wayne, I like moving Michigan and Michigan State to the other division to add enough strength there with Ohio State and Penn State. Although Wisconsin has emerged into a Big Ten power, I think the Badgers are a better fit in a division with traditional rivals Iowa and Minnesota, as well as new rival Nebraska.
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
As for Illinois, although the Illini have rivals in both divisions, I think the ties to Iowa and Northwestern might be a little more valuable.
Kellen (Columbus, Ohio)
Why do your colleagues feel the need to bash the B1G in petty ways such as this: "Sadly, Delany and the Big Ten's athletic directors and presidents will pass on the most appropriate division names available: Rose Bowl Loser and Capital One Bowl Loser." I understand the B1G is down because of the lack of marque games but is all this 'cheap shot' bashing really necessary? Looking at the facts strictly (taking out the 'cheap shot' factor), I will give him the 'Rose Bowl loser' portion of it; as the conference has been horrendous in that game. But if you look at the Capital One bowl game, any way you slice it we have pretty much played even in that game since 2000. I believe all these unwarrented jabs at the conference are not helping in returning this conference to prominence and hindering any sort of progress that it is making (even if it is babysteps). Your thoughts on all of this? And, why do journalists constantly find it necessary to make these type of statements?
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
That's my guy Mark Schlabach. They say he's a national columnist, but he doesn't believe there's life North of the Mason-Dixon line. Or that the earth is round.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Even though you Cover the Big-10 in College Football,What is your Favorite NFL Team?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
I've lived in Chicago longer than anywhere, and the Bears were the one pro team I really didn't cover in my previous job. So I've adopted the Bears as my top team. Grew up a 49ers fan living in the Bay Area.
I can't believe that Pat fitzgerald doesn't get enough pub for the job he has done at northwestern. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
Jay, I think Fitz gets his due in the national media (many of whom are Northwestern alums). He has done a great job in Evanston, but remember that the program he inherited wasn't nearly as bad as the one he joined as a player in 1992. Northwestern had its breakthrough under Gary Barnett -- helped on the field by Fitz and his teammates -- and Randy Walker built a consistent 6- or 7-win team before his unfortunate passing. Fitz has taken a decent program and made it a lot better, but he still hasn't won a Big Ten title yet. That will be the moment when he'll really "arrive" as a coach.
Matt (Big Ten Country)
Hey Adam...... With new divisions being the talk of the Big Ten right now, if we split east and west where will those bubble schools (Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue) end up you think? And which division would be stronger? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Matt, it's a good question, and I might include Michigan and Michigan State in that mix of schools that could be placed in either division. You could split the Michigans and protect them with an annual crossover game. You can also maintain the Northwestern-Illinois and Purdue-Indiana series with annual crossovers, so it really comes down to those individual schools and where they fit best. Northwestern definitely fits better with the "West" division. Purdue and Indiana honestly could go either way. Illinois is the interesting one because it has rivalries both with East teams (Ohio State, Michigan) and West teams (Iowa, Northwestern).
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
There still seems to be many in the media that continue predicting the demise of PSU football in the coming years, including one columnist in your lunch links today. I'm an openly noted biased PSU alum and fan, but I just do NOT see this program, with its current coaching staff in place and the support it gets from its massive fan base and alumni network, falling below the likes of Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and the incoming Rutgers/Maryland on a regular basis. With its current non-conf schedule, I see 6 wins at LEAST every year during the sanction and in the few years beyond.
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
Rob, the more I look at Penn State's roster for 2013 and some of the progress in recruiting, the more I agree with you. Penn State certainly could win 7-9 games in 2013 if it stays healthy. Quarterback is a huge question mark, and I don't think the leadership will be quite as strong as we saw this past year (not a knock on the next senior class, more of a nod to the previous senior class). The big issue for Penn State will be depth. The Lions won't be able to afford as many key injuries as other teams. But if they stay healthy and get enough from the QB spot, they should be fine for 2013 and beyond.
So now that Drake Harris has reopened his recruitment, how likely is it that he will decommit from Michigan State and commit somewhere else?
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
John, it seems like Harris is saying that because he'll only play football -- rather than football and basketball -- he wants to look at all of his options. Ohio State definitely has entered the mix, and it's very hard for these recruits to say no to Urban Meyer. Although Michigan State still has a chance for Harris, I'd be a bit concerned if I were a Spartans fan. Wouldn't be surprised if Urban flips him.
Hank (Nations Capital)
Adam--Is Mr. Bennett bummed that Zooey Deschanel is now single and he's married?
Adam Rittenberg (3:17 PM)
Extremely bummed. He's currently in negotiations with his wife to see if he can escort Zooey to the Oscars. Will let you know how it turns out.
What are your thoughts on the hirings by coach Hazell so far?
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
Ted, I'll be honest. I'm a little skeptical. I love Marcus Freeman and think he'll do a great job both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Jim Bollman hire could work out, but Bollman's offensive lines seemed to underachieve toward the end of his tenure at Ohio State. My concern is whether Hazell is going to the Tressel/Ohio State well too much with his staff and not thinking for himself enough. But I want to see the entire staff in place before making any judgments.
Do you think the resurgence of the B1G lies with the coaches i.e. BO'B, Rockstar Urban, Hoke, and maybe even Hazell? Especially after the whole BO'B possibly using the NFL job to leverage the way things are done around the football offices at PSU
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Josh, a lot of people are attributing the Big Ten's recent struggles to a coaching issue. I think there's some truth to it, although I think the lack of coaching stability has hurt more than a lack of quality coaches. If the current coaches remain in their positions for a while, the league should see an overall uptick. I'm a big believer in continuity leading to success.
Adam do you think Akeem Shavers will be looked over in the draft? Because he wasn't able to be that workhorse back Purdue needed?
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
Tim, Shavers will need a strong predraft performance to put himself on teams' radar for the draft. The way he finished the season certainly helps his cause, and his versatility as a both ball-carrier and a receiver out of the backfield should help him.
Kurt E. (Chesapeake, VA)
Adam,You (and others) often mention Georgia Tech as a possible expansion candidate for the BIG. Remember, there is a bylaw with the conference that states any new member to the conference must border a state that is home to a current member. Theis would mean that Georgia Tech is most likely out as a candidate. So to me, the options are Virginia, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Kurt, although the contiguous states thing is important, it's hardly a barrier to adding a school like Georgia Tech if it was in the Big Ten's best interests. North Carolina technically isn't in a contiguous state, either, and the Big Ten would love to add UNC. A much bigger issue is AAU membership, which Georgia Tech, Carolina and Virginia all have.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Adam, are you a fan of the Mike McIntyre hire at CU?
Adam Rittenberg (3:25 PM)
I am, especially under the circumstances. The Colorado job isn't nearly as appealing as it was a few years ago, and the school's failed courtship of Butch Jones was a setback. To end up with a coach like McIntyre who made San Jose State into a winner isn't too shabby.
Tim (Columbus, Oh)
I think the issue with the Big Ten is a lot of school's recruiting philosophy is too regional, and doesn't stretch much to the south, where they're seems to be more talent. Urban Meyer seems to be one that recruits hard out of region. Shouldn't the other coaches follow suit? Even Brady Hoke seems to be wanting to recruit more regionally around Michigan and Ohio.
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Tim, I agree that Brady Hoke seems to be more Midwest-focused, but if you look at all the Big Ten rosters, you'll see teams that have tried to recruit the South and Southeast. Wisconsin, for example, has done very well in Florida. Teams like Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern have recruited Texas well. The key is my mind is to make the South and Southeast an even bigger priority going forward. Hire assistants with ties to the region and emphasize it more during the process. The talent is there. Go get it.
TGP, the Great Potrykus, predicted that before Gary Andersen is thru the Badgers will win a NC. Realistic or not?
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
I have learned to never, ever doubt The Great Potrykus. He is the oracle.
Matt (Midway, NC)
What are the chances of Carlos Hyde leading the B1G in rushing yards next season? Any realistic hope for him leading the nation?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
Matt, I think both possibilities are a stretch, only because Hyde's quarterback is such a good runner. If Braxton Miller were a pocket passer who never ran the ball, Hyde would have more rushing opportunities to lead the league/nation. I think Hyde will have another good year, but I don't see him leading the FBS in rushing next fall.
Alex (Moraga, CA)
I think you've mentioned you have roots in the Bay Area. Care to give an early forecast on how my Golden Bears will fare with NW and OSU coming to Memorial Stadium in September? Thanks!
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
Hey Alex, actually grew up in Berkeley going to Cal games. Can't wait to see the new stadium! ... It'll be tough for Cal in both games, as both Ohio State and Northwestern will enter the season in the top 20. Both teams can run the ball well and both are improving on defense. Cal will need the element of surprise under its new coach (Sonny Dykes) to work to its advantage to have a chance to win either game.
Adam--while I love the Pelini's loyalty and commitment to developing young coaches, do you think it gets us in trouble sometimes? It seems like there are a number of games where we don't know how to adjust the game plan. Would it be better to go with more veteran coordinators?
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
Herbie, this is a common belief among Nebraska fans, and there could be some validity to it. Pelini isn't a old man himself (45 years), and he seems to look for young, up-and-coming coaches like he was. I think we can agree Tim Beck has worked out very well as offensive coordinator. Nebraska puts up big yards and big points despite too many turnovers. John Papuchis has a rough year as defensive coordinator, but I still think he's a bright coach with a good future. He'll need to show improvement in 2013 after the defense hemorrhaged points and yards in the four losses.
Devin Gardner (A-Squared, Michigan)
Do you think I can lead my team to 10 or more wins and a possible Heisman for myself next year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
Devin, as Brian Bennett pointed out Tuesday, if you maintain the production pace we saw late in the season throughout the 2013 season -- and lead Michigan to the Big Ten championship game -- you should get some attention for the Heisman. The Michigan quarterback, no matter who he is, will get noticed nationally, so if you have success, people will know about it. You'll need your offensive line to perform well (big question mark), and you'll need more playmakers to emerge at receiver and running back. But you seem to fit Al Borges' system well, and if you can win big games on the road, 10 victories certainly is possible in 2013.
Economy (of the United States)
How many hours of productivity do you think you and your colleague have sapped?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Great question. I'm terrible at math, but it's got to be in the tens of thousands.
Alex Collins (South Plantation)
I want you to be the first to know that I am committing to the University of Wisconsin. On Wisconsin
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Uh, thanks, Alex? Not sure this is really you, but thanks.
Please rate the following reasons from 1-5 for why the B10 has fallen behind:- Head coaching talent- Assistant coach's pay- Style of play- Speed- Ebb and Flow of sports
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Vladimir, I would list recruiting changes/population shift as the No. 1 reason before any of those. After that, I'd go speed, assistant coach pay, head coaching talent, ebb and flow of sports, and style of play.
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
I think the claim that the Big Ten's "style" is behind the times is lazy and ignorant. Big Ten teams have been running the spread offense for nearly 15 years. It's not new to this league.
Everyone says the OSU defense is rebuilding, which is true to an extent. But guys like Spence, Washington, Grant, etc. saw big increase in playing the last 2-3 games of the season. Will they be better at the start of the year than people think?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
Jared, they could be and they'll need to be for Ohio State to contend for a national title. There's no doubt the talent is in Columbus, but Ohio State needs 4-6 of its young defenders to take significant steps during the offseason.
Wally (Woodbridge, NJ)
Give your projections of Rutgers and Maryland--can they be competitive or will they be "doormats"?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
Both programs can be competitive in the Big Ten, but both need to invest more in their programs as they move to a football-first conference with multiple traditional powers. Both programs have tasted success in recent years, but it'll take more to get it done in the B1G.
Pelini vs Dantonio. Both defensive coordinators for national championship teams where the defense was key to that team's success. Both have been modestly successful as head coaches. Who has the best chance of taking their current program to the next level and why?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Really good question, Bernard. Pelini is coaching at a true traditional power in Nebraska and has truly top-notch facilities, but he faces some challenges in recruiting because of the school's location. Dantonio finds himself closer to recruiting hotbeds like Ohio, and he has done a better job of putting his stamp on the program than Pelini, whose teams still seem prone to breakdowns. It's a tough call, but I'll lean slightly toward Dantonio.
Decker (Winston Salem)
Is Brady Hoke ever going to bring UofM a national championship or is he more like Bret Bielima was at Wisconsin with great teams that are never quite good enough?
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
Decker, I think this is a fair question. I think the better comparison might be Hoke's former boss, Lloyd Carr, during the last decade of his time at Michigan. Although Carr won a national title in 1997, he had a hard time getting back to the biggest stage -- coached a lot of good teams that went to Rose Bowls but didn't really contend for the national title again (aside from 2006).
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Hoke needs to show he can take the Michigan program past where it was under Carr from 1998-2007. His recruiting efforts suggest he can get it done, but it wouldn't shock me if Hoke's Michigan career mirrors Carr's from 1998-2007.
Do you think Gordon will be the number one back over White for the Badgers next season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
Joel, it'll be an interesting competition. James White could start for 95 percent of FBS teams and probably set some records with his production. But as far as upside, Melvin Gordon is pretty tough to beat. He might even be better than Montee Ball when all is said and done. I think they'll split carries for the most part, but White needs to show why he should be featured ahead of Gordon. Could be tough.
Adam, Top 3 story lines for spring ball?
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
1. Quarterback competitions (namely Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State) 2. New head coaches at Wisconsin and Purdue 3. Ohio State's depth and whether the Buckeyes have enough to compete for a national title
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
How would the four-team "pod" system work when the conference expands to 16? Would there be a mini-playoff where the winners each playoff for the B16 Championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
Not sure, Lou. From talking to Big Ten ADs and administrators, I can tell you they're only focused on a 14-team model right now. If/when they go to 16, a pod system could come into play. I don't think we'll see a mini-playoff, but there would have to be a clear system for identifying two teams for the Big Ten title game.
Gene (Auburn Hills, MI)
Adam, what are the chances Mattison leaves for the NFL in the near future? Brady Hoke has been great for us but I definitely feel Mattison has been a bigger part of of Michigan's turn-around with his work on the defense and recruiting trail.
Adam Rittenberg (3:55 PM)
Gene, slim to none. Mattison has no intention of leaving Michigan. He loves it there and views it at most likely his final coaching stop. Michigan is special for Mattison and he wants to see this process through for at least a few more years. I don't see a jump to the NFL.
Tim (Columbus, Oh)
The Ohio State defense doesn't have to be great, considering the offense should average around 40 points per game. An offense like that allows the defense a lot of leeway with it's learning curve.
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
Tim, you might be right, but some of the better defenses -- Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin -- held Ohio State's offense in check last fall. There will be some games where the Buckeyes don't score 40 points or more, and they'll need their defense to win. It happens every year. The Buckeyes might not need a top-5 defense to get to the national title game, but they'll need to be better than they were this season.
Benny (New York)
Do you even care if the Big Ten is good or not?
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
Benny, I like covering good stories and big games, so in that sense, a better league helps us. We were on the road a lot less last season in part because the Big Ten was down. So in that realm, we benefit from the league doing better because we're out on the road more doing our jobs. But a common misunderstanding is that Brian and I are paid to promote the league or advocate for the league. That's simply not true and never has been. We don't work for the Big Ten. We cover the league.
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Its early but any thoughts on night games for next next year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
David, I'd need to look closer at the schedule, and there aren't as many great crossover games in 2013 as there were in 2012. I think Ohio State-Northwestern in Evanston would be a great night game. Same for Wisconsin-Ohio State in Columbus. But Nebraska has no obvious night game choice in Big Ten play (UCLA might be a good one in September). And Michigan will only play Notre Dame at night.
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
OK, everyone, thanks for the chat. Talk to you soon.