Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's chat.
My prediction (of college football's future)
With the college football landscape shifting to four 16-20 team super conferences, I feel there will be a greater emphasis placed on conference games than non-conference games. So with that said, in order to play as many conference teams as possible, I could see all conferences adopting a 10 game in conference schedule, with only two non-conference games. This should greatly lower the chances of some great non-conference match ups, and teams will instead look to pad these games with easy, home games to boost both their record and revenue. The only time fans will be treated with such great non-conference match ups will be with the playoffs, which I believe will turn into 8 teams within the next 10 years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
You could be right. I think all major conferences eventually will go to 9-game league schedules. I certainly hope we don't see the elimination of marquee non-league matchups, and the popularity of one-off neutral-site games -- rather than home-and-homes -- could save some of them. But any more to a 10-game league schedule would likely spell the end of many appealing non-league games.
Hi Adam, Do you think Wisconsin needs one of its backs to become an elite NFL running back to cement its status as "Running Back U"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
That's an interesting point, Dan, and one I haven't thought about. Wisconsin seems to have more elite offensive linemen in the NFL than it does running backs. It doesn't change Wisconsin's reputation at the college level as an elite running program, but people do track NFL performance, and Wisconsin's backs haven't exactly been stars at the pro level. It'll be interesting to see if guys like Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon and James White can change things.
Murph (Missouri )
How much Do you think the media's perception of Bo Pelini is hurting the Huskers recruiting efforts? From the comments we get from his players he seems to be well liked and respected, so i hope kids that come on visits would get that message. I just wonder if national media perception is hurting NU on landing some of the more "hyped up" recruits as of late.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Murph, I definitely agree with you that Pelini is extremely well-liked by his players. He obviously has more respect for them than he does the media (which he should). Still, recruits see sideline demeanor and news conferences. Do those factors affect their ultimate choices? Probably not. But it's still something for them to think about. Nick Saban isn't the sunniest personality, and he has no trouble getting elite prospects year after year. Ultimately, it comes down to winning at the highest level. Nebraska is still waiting to get there under Pelini.
Hey Adam! Word on the street is Greg Davis is going to try and open up the Iowa offense next year as we begin the post Vendenberg era. Do you believe Iowa will open it up considerably, or do you think Kirk Ferentz sticks to his traditional conservative offensive ways?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
I think Iowa will open it up a little more. A lot depends on what happens at quarterback and the type of skills the starter has, but I get the sense Davis wants to run more spread elements than he did in 2012. James Vandenberg just wasn't a spread quarterback, and he struggled with the transition to Davis' system. I also think Iowa has to look at its talent -- or lack thereof -- on offense and put players in different positions to succeed. Will Ferentz have to loosen the reins a bit? I think so, but Iowa has had fairly aggressive offenses in the past (2009 comes to mind).
Who is the best pure recruiter in the B10? Who gets the most out of their recruits? I know Mich and OSU get all the high prized names but, who really gets the bang for their buck so to speak. I might be bias but, I believe its Mark Dantonio. If you look at his recruiting classes the past 5 years. The Spartans haven't had one year with more than 4 or 5 four star or better recruits per year. I know this year was a flop but the previous 3 years were very good years. What is your take?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Mark and his staff do an excellent job of developing players, but let's not sell short their recruiting, either. Michigan State took advantage of Michigan's downturn and upgraded its recruiting efforts for a few years. Michigan has restored itself, recruiting-wise, so MSU might have to develop more unheralded prospects now. That doesn't seem to be a problem for coaches like Dantonio, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and others. Who is the best pure recruiter in the league? Hard not to go with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
doug g (san antonio)
Adam-as a big10 homer, please agree that the SEC was not all that mighty in the bowl season. Yes we need to win more games and yes Alabam won...BUT, LSU and Miss St. lost, Michigan and Nebraska had USC and UGA on the ropes, etc. again, I need someone to agree with me. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Doug, I agree the SEC didn't have the best bowl season this year. But notice how no one's talking about that? All people care about, perception-wise, is the national title, and the SEC won another one thanks to Alabama. LSU's loss was disappointing, and you didn't even mention the biggest bowl flop from the SEC -- Florida getting crushed by Louisville. As for the Big Ten, it's hard to stump for a league that hangs its hat on close losses. As several Big Ten officials have told me in recent weeks, you ultimately need to start winning more of those games, not just coming close.
Ron (Jacksonville, NC)
Adam, Do see the B1G adding any additaional teams soon or more of a wait and see appraoach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Ron, it depends on how you define "soon." Will it happen today or tomorrow? Probably not, but you never know. Will there be additional moves before the 2013 season? I think it's quite possible. Ohio State president Gordon Gee told the school's athletic board in December that the Big Ten is in discussions with several schools. There's been smoke around schools like Ga Tech and Virginia already. So I think it's only a matter of time before we see the Big Ten act again and expand to 16.
Why have you had such a negative attitude towards Purdue football and Coach Hazell over the past month? We Boiler fans (who are close to the program) are actually very excited by what our new staff is doing!
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Uh, Mark, go ahead and re-read what I wrote about Darrell Hazell when he was hired. I really liked the move and like Hazell's potential as a major-conference head coach. He's dynamic, smart and comes from a good coaching tree (Tressel). My issues are more with the staff he has put together. The Jim Bollman hire doesn't excite me. I'm sorry, but I watched Bollman's last few years at Ohio State and he didn't do well there. Maybe it works out, but I'm not doing backflips over that hire. As for John Shoop, we'll see. I have bad memories of him as a Bears fan, but he did some good things at the end of his time at North Carolina. Bottom line: I love the Hazell hire, but I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with his staff as most of the hires don't excite me initially.
doug g (san antonio)
what a race it will be for the Badgers QB-Stave/Phillips/O'Brien/Houston. Who gets the nod and why?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Doug, as much as I loved watching Phillips late in 2012, I think it comes down to Stave and Houston. Stave was really improving before his injury, and Houston is the most talented quarterback on the roster. Right now, I'd say Stave starts the opener, but there's a very, very long way to go.
Charlie (St. Paul)
Adam,Scout and Rivals have Nebraska's recruiting class in the top 15. I don't think Pelini and friends have gotten enough credit for this class, what do you think of it? I know the loss of McWilson is tough (losing Walker didn't hurt in my opinion), but now with Martinez 2.0 committing we have three safeties in the class.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Charlie, I think the class is definitely getting better as signing day nears, even with the recent decommitments. Nebraska has received some nice pickups in the past month. Nebraska also might be the most intriguing program to watch between now and signing day as the Huskers are in on several undecided prospects. So the class could get even better and move up the rankings.
Donald (State College)
I really like what BOB is doing at Penn State with emphasis on run ons. In some way doesn't it remind you of Belichick's draft strategy? His habit of trading higher draft picks for more multiple lower draft picks has been very effective, and has enabled him to find quite a few diamonds in the rough. Of course it's not exactly the same and BOB is doing it as a necessity, but do you think it could prove to be an effective method of recruiting that might be worth continuing even after the sanctions are over?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Donald, some really interesting points here. As you point out, the key difference is that O'Brien is emphasizing the "run-on" program by necessity, while Belichick's strategy is more of a choice. But there are some similarities there. Penn State ultimately will need many of these run-ons to have success in order to combat potential depth issues because of the scholarship reductions. We'll have to see how these guys pan out, but I like the way O'Brien has emphasized the program. Penn State certainly could become a destination-type program for these players, depending on how things go in the next few years.
Adam, I don't know if you were for it or not, but you gotta admit the idea of Michigan and OSU rolling into Piscataway for a Saturday night game is pretty cool (Friday event in Times Square).
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Mitch, when did they build a stadium in Times Square? Kidding, kidding. I have no doubt Rutgers fans are excited about this, and they should be. The droves of Michigan and Ohio State fans in the New York/New Jersey area also will be excited. But it's hard to get fan bases used to playing in front of 100,000+ to get geeked up about a Saturday night game at Rutgers. We in Big Ten Country are used to truly big-time atmospheres for college football. Again, not trying to dampen the excitement of Rutgers fans, but I think at least initially there will be much more enthusiasm on that side than the Michigan/Ohio State side.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Adam would it be a fair pre-next-year assessment to predict that the B1G will have a fairly strong QB class? Northwestern, Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska all have solid QB's.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I think that's fair, Pavlov. I'd also add that Indiana has three capable quarterbacks -- Roberson, Coffman, Sudfeld -- and that Minnesota's Philip Nelson made big strides from the end of the regular season to the bowl game. Who knows, maybe a guy like Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, who boasts a ton of experience, also comes along next year. There are also several programs with major QB questions -- Penn State, MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue -- but I think the overall quality of play could be better.
The way I see it, the schedule with the most advantage to the individual universities is an 8 game league schedule. That allows each program to maximize the number of home games for revenue purposes, but still leaves room to play marque home-and-home match ups outside the conference. The obvious drawback being that due to conference size, the divisional structure makes it impossible to play everybody in the B1G at least once every four years. My question: are you hearing any creative solutions that move away from the current structure of two separate divisions? It would be easier to play everybody in the B1G at least once every 4 years if there weren't FIVE other teams that you HAD to play EVERY year. How about every team gets one or two protected rivalries, and then the entire rest of the conference rotates yearly?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
JP, I completely agree with you about the pros of an 8-game league schedule, the biggest one being the chance to schedule more appealing non-league games. The idea being floated out there -- mostly by fans at this point -- is to have a pod system if/when the Big Ten expands to 16. You'd have four 4-team pods that would play other 4-team pods and rotate each year. This way, you'd have only three required opponents per year (a good way to preserve annual rivalries) and more overall rotation. Still, listening to several Big Ten ADs in recent weeks, I think there's definitely momentum to increase the number of conference games, at least with the 14-team model.
How do you think Wisconsin will do against ASU this year? The game is at ASU and they seem to have a very good team shaping up this year. Any thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Arizona State will provide a very good test for Gary Andersen's first team. As pointed out on the blog, Big Ten teams have really struggled when heading West early in the season to play the Pac-10/12. Arizona State crushed Illinois last year in Tempe, and Wisconsin will need to put up points to keep pace with an up-tempo Sun Devils offense. It will be a different type of game than the one UW played last year at Oregon State, but Wisconsin has to make sure it adjusts to the time change and the heat. Won't be easy.
upper and lower [via mobile]
Do you think the concept of competively balanced divisions is overrated? What if the big ten goes to the other extreme and puts it 7 highest ranked teams in 1 division? would not that be cool?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Yeah, that's not a good idea at all. Unless the Big Ten is turning into English soccer and creating a relegation system, having two totally uneven divisions would make the league title game even less compelling.
Adam, which players from the B1G(if any) do you see actually having a chance of making it to NYC for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Matthew, you have to start with Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, who wasn't far away from making it to this past year's ceremony. Miller will enter 2013 as one of the ntaion's top candidates for the Heisman. I'd also keep an eye on guys like Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, who can put up huge numbers. If Michigan QB Devin Gardner continues producing like he did late in the 2012 season, he'll get noticed because of where he plays. Running back-wise, Northwestern's Venric Mark is a name, and others could work their way into the discussion.
Chris (New Haven, CT)
Adam with so much controversy over the number of home games played and realignment issues in the conference do the schools need to drop other sports? I know the SEC doesn't run as many sports as most B1G schools do. Also, does Title IX impact the ability to do this? I mean it's all based around profits and lets face it, women's sports don't turn a profit. Only men's bball and football do. How does this all shake out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Chris, good observation on the sport disparities between the Big Ten and SEC. It always gets overlooked. But I'll tell you this: the BIg Ten prides itself on having broad-based athletic programs and more sports funded than any other conference. While each school must make choices about cutting sports, I definitely don't see a league-based push to cut sports that don't make money in an effort to improve football. That goes against everything the Big Ten says it stands for.
Two questions: Does Gardner help Michigan finally get over that barrier they've hit the last few years? And does Damion Terry help MSU finally get to the Rose (I have full faith he will win the starting job by 2014)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
John, Gardner is the type of quarterback who fits what coordinator Al Borges wants to do on offense. If he can build on what he did late last season, there's no reason to think Michigan can't win the Legends division and compete for a league championship. There's definitely some buzz around Terry for Michigan State, but I prefer not to speculate whether a recruit who has never played a down in college will get a program to the Rose Bowl or not. Let's see how he does after he actually gets on the field in EL.
BigO (Columbus, OH)
Adam, with Ohio State recruiting so well at all around and Michigan only recruiting well on the offensive line, do you see the rivalry being close again anytime soon? Or will Ohio State continue to dominate?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
BigO, I don't think this is accurate. While many of Michigan's top recruits in 2013 are linemen, the Wolverines just added elite running back prospect Derrick Green and have other good skill players (Jourdan Lewis, etc) in the fold. Brian and I recently talked with Michigan recruiting expert Tom VanHaaren about whether the Wolverines are pursuing enough perimeter players in recruiting. He says there's no issue there, and that Michigan likely will branch out more to Southern states in the near future.
I'm not a huge fan of having earlier conference games. Four non-cons to start the season has always been a useful way for teams to work out some of their kinks early and get some experience before getting into the important league games. I think if earlier games become a trend we might see some upsets that could hurt the B1G, say if an experienced but mediocre B1G team gets to play a very talented but young B1G team early, have a huge and unwanted effected on the league race. Do you think this could become a problem?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
It could, Mallory, but I don't think a league should construct a schedule based on potential upsets, which also could happen in October or November. What the Big Ten should avoid is the snoozer Saturdays like we've had in recent years -- 8 MAC games, 4 FCS opponents, you know the drill. That's bad branding for the league. It makes the BIg Ten irrelevant on that day. Why not schedule 1-2 league games in Weeks 2, 3 and 4. You don't even need to have them for the season opener. But those matchups will get attention for the league. They'll help with TV, too. The Big Ten did this for years, and every other league does it now. I don't see the drawback.
Bleu Girl (Flint, MI)
Adam, who are picking to win the Super Bowl? Going with your hometown Niners?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
The 49ers don't lose Super Bowls. Time for another celebration.
AG (Milwaukee, WI)
How important was Alec James commitment to the Coach Anderson and the Badgers?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Very, very important, AG. Wisconsin didn't want to lose an elite in-state recruit because of the transition. We all know Wisconsin isn't loaded with top in-state prospects, so it's critical that the Badgers keep these guys at home. Andersen and his staff have done a good job keeping this class in place.
Georgia Tech has always finished the season with a rivalry game against UGA. Would the B1G take that game away? I know we aren't always competitive in it, but its a huge money maker.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
We've seen Big Ten teams play non-league games on the final regular-season Saturday, but I know the league would rather have a full slate of conference games. I think the UGA-Ga Tech game would need to be played earlier in some, if not all, years.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
With all that osu has lost on defense, including the entire d-line, why is it that they have so much hype for next year? Seems to me to be very similar to Michigan from last season. GREAT running qb and offense coming back but not much experience on defense.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Very fair point, Matt. Ohio State's defensive depth -- not just up front but throughout the unit -- is a huge question mark entering 2013. The hope is Ohio State's recent recruiting efforts up front will translate into younger players (Washington, Bennett, Schutt, Spence, etc) blossoming into stars and filling the gaps left by Simon, Hankins and others. Ohio State has a budding star in LB Ryan Shazier, and the secondary should be pretty solid with CB Brady Roby and others. The concern is whether Ohio State can survive injuries on defense. One big difference between Ohio State in 2013 and Michigan in 2012 is the offensive line. Ohio State brings back a stronger line next year than Michigan did entering 2012.
any thoughts about the Journey on BTN? marvelous show.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
It's terrific. Love watching both the football and basketball series. Those guys do an awesome job.
AG (Milwaukee, WI)
Who has the better season, Wisconsin or Arkansas?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Ha, this one will be fun to watch. Both teams lose some key offensive players, but I like Wisconsin's foundation on defense with a defensive-minded coach in Gary Andersen. Wisconsin also plays in a much easier division than Arkansas does, so I'll go with the Badgers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
OK, last one for the day ...
Adam, if O'Brien puts together another 8 win (or more) season next year, does the talk of the sanctions hurting PSU start to dwindle? Especially since we'll have young players at most all skill positions for the next few years?
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
I think it does, Steve. I remember the day the sanctions came down (was in Indy for the announcement), and we all thought Penn State would be down until 2020 or so. Bill O'Brien has changed that perception already, and another solid season -- especially the way Penn State is recruiting -- would make everyone reassess how much damage the NCAA sanctions really caused. The more I look at Penn State's roster for 2013, the more I like it. Lions could definitely have another winning season.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, guys, thanks for the chat. Let's do it again soon.