Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 (12:00 PM)
Hey everybody, I'm here. Let's chat!
With Ohio State losing to MSU and not playing for the NC, does Wisconsin's loss to Penn State really change the bowl game that Wisconsin is now in, or would they have landed there regardless?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
They would have been there regardless, Jonathan, which I guess takes some of the sting off the loss. But from talking to some of the Badgers' seniors earlier this week, they were really disappointed to go out like that at Camp Randall.
Collin (New Haven, CT)
Adam, I was initially very excited as an Iowa fan with the draw of LSU as our opponent as I think that we match up best against them defensively of any SEC opponent that we could have played. However, I am now beginning to think that this may be a lose-lose situation for both the Hawkeyes and the BIG in general. With Metenberger out, a win by the Hawks is shrugged off as "Iowa beat an SEC team without its leader, big deal" and if we lose, it will be simply another representation of the BIGs inferiority as a conference without mention of the fact that Iowa arguably got the toughest draw in the BIG by having to play so far up to their opponent. What is your perception of this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
I see what you're saying, Collin, but bowl wins often live independently of their circumstances. People might note immediately after the game that Iowa beat LSU without its starting QB, but as the weeks and months go by, Iowa will be credited with a 9-4 record, a bowl win and most likely a Top 25 final ranking. The momentum going into the offseason will be valuable, and Iowa will enter 2014 as a prime candidate to win the West division. A loss is a loss, and will be spun negatively no matter what. But a win would help Iowa going forward.
Braxton Miller should stay in college for one more season based on the depth of the QB talent coming out this year and his need to improve his passing but I worry that the loss of the entire OL may persuade him to leave early. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
I think other factors like family would spur an NFL departure, not so much the offensive line. Ohio State should be able to reload decently there, and I think the draft evaluations he'll receive will indicate he has some improvement to make as a passer.
Jeff B (Chicago, IL)
Hey Adam! I've never been happier to be a Spartan, and I'm psyched about our first trip to the Rose Bowl since before The Simpsons debuted on TV. If MSU beats Stanford in the Rose Bowl, how much will that tell us about the program's readiness to compete for the national championship next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Love the Simpsons reference, Jeff. I think a Rose Bowl win will show more about the current team and the current program than anything about the 2014 team. Keep in mind that Michigan State loses a lot of key pieces on defense as well as some offensive linemen. I'm not saying MSU can't win a Big Ten title next year, but I don't think the Spartans will be on the national championship radar after losing Dennard, Bullough, Allen, etc. We'll see. But a win would show that this program truly has arrived on the national stage.
GI Joseph (Virginia)
Any danger of Meyer jumping to Texas...loyal Buckeye that he is? How poetic he was just beaten by Tresselball...would Dantonio be the replacement target at this point?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
A lot of ifs there, GI Joseph, Real American Hero. I doubt Meyer is going anywhere, and I expect Michigan State to pay up big time for Dantonio and his assistants, who are among the lowest-paid in the Big Ten.
Mitch (Hawkeye state)
Thought s on the USA Today chart of assistant coaches pay.. B1G wasn't as far from the SEC as their continued poor showing would suggest.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Putting together a post on it now. There's still a pretty big gap in total staff pay between Ohio State/Michigan and the rest of the league, especially in relation to the SEC. Bret Bielema left Wisconsin in part because he kept losing assistants. Well, Arkansas is 10th in total staff pay, while Wisconsin is 28th. That tells you something.
Adam, who do you pick in the Outback Bowl this year - Iowa or LSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Haven't decided yet but if Iowa can limit LSU's run game, the Hawkeyes will have a shot. LSU has a lot of speed, though. Will be a handful for Iowa, even without Mettenberger.
Jesse (Columbus, Ohio)
Some have said that the past two years Borges has focused on implementing the pro style offensive system that they want to run rather than running a system that may be better suited to his players like he did in his year 1. If he had continued to run more of a pure spread would it have hampered the development of the recruits they had coming in? And how long can it be expected to take to make a change in offensive style?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
This is one of the global questions around Michigan's program right now, Jesse. I think sticking with more of a spread system would have yielded more consistent results. Then again, if Michigan's young offensive linemen were going to struggle so much, the system might not have mattered. As long as Borges is there, Michigan will move closer to a pro-style system, but he can't be stubborn about the things that work best, many of which we saw in the Ohio State game.
Jabber (Des Moines)
On January 1, 2014, Adam will be where?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Pasadena! Just found out, actually. Who's joining me?
Jeff W. (Madison)
I think Wisconsin was the best team in the Big Ten this year based on various computer rankings such as the F+ rankings and the Sagarin Predictor. I think my Badgers were just unlucky. Am I off base with my thinking?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Not after the Penn State loss, Jeff. That changed my perspective on the Badgers. When you don't show up on senior day, you get what you deserve. They have to prove something now against a good South Carolina team in Orlando. Michigan State was the Big Ten's best team this year. The Spartans proved it on the field.
Anthony (New York, NY)
I see a lot of parallels between Michigan 2013 and Michigan State 2012. Both teams lost a lot of close games (MSU lost 5 within one score, UM lost four within one score) and won a couple close games too. Is there any reason to be hopeful that Michigan could make the same leap next year that MSU did this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It could happen, Anthony. The difference is Michigan State had a nationally elite unit (defense) in both seasons. Michigan's defense is OK but far from elite, as Ohio State showed in The Game. Like MSU in 2012, Michigan must fix some issues on offense and establish a true identity going into next season. The schedule won't be easy with trips to ND, MSU and OSU.
Dave (State College)
Let's talk Maryland/Rutgers - seems no one is talking about them joining the conference next year. Which team fares better in their first year in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Dave, I need to study the teams a little more closely heading into next year, but both will be challenged in the loaded East division. Rutgers recently made some coaching changes, including defensive coordinator, as that unit really struggled. Maryland probably has more overall talent but didn't do much in a so-so ACC.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Brian Bennett is hanging off a cliff. You can save him, but if you do, you'd lose your job as an ESPN Big Ten Blogger forever. What do you do?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Wish him well on his flight (kidding, kidding .. or am I?)
Did Illinois blow a redshirt season on Aaron Bailey this year? I really expected to see him get a few of his own drives in the last 4 games, but I guess the team also desperately needed a win. Also, how do you think that QB race goes next year at Illinois? Lunt and Bailey seem like front-runners, and I don't think the fans would be impressed with O'Toole after what they have seen.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Cameron, I think Illinois needed to see what it had in Bailey, who provided a change-of-pace with Scheelhaase. If Lunt wins the job next year, Bailey should still be part of the mix in some way because of his athleticism. I'd be really surprised if O'Toole emerged as the starter next year.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
The Pac-12 just added another big time coach in Chris Peterson at Washington. If the Big Ten is going to regain its glory, don't they have to start attracting some top notch coaches to increase the overall depth of the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
I think so, Aaron. I'd like to see more proven coaches coming into the Big Ten. Aside from Urban Meyer, when was the last big-splash hire in the Big Ten? RichRod? Bill O'Brien clearly is working out at Penn State, and Jerry Kill seems to be a good fit for Minnesota. But even a guy like Brady Hoke wasn't a hire that made waves nationally. The Pac-12's recent run is very impressive. I've talked to a lot of national writers who look at the Big Ten's coaching ranks as being underwhelming overall.
LouKyHusker (Louisville, KY)
Adam,What expectations should Husker fans have for their defense next year? Georgia or Nebraska in the Gator Bowl?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
The expectations should be high for the Blackshirts in 2014, Lou. We saw some improvement later in the season from younger players, and Randy Gregory provides some star power as a pass rusher. Nebraska once again has looked to the junior-college ranks for some help on defense. There are some holes to fill in the secondary, and linebacker depth remains a concern, but I like what Nebraska brings back in the front four. I haven't made my Gator Bowl pick yet. Still thinking it over.
Craig (St. Paul, MN)
Surprised that Scherff is going to spend another year in Iowa City?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Maybe a little, but not as much as I would have been if Bulaga or Reiff had stayed. They were both definite first-round picks. The feedback I've received from coaches is that Scherff is a nice player and very strong, but not overly athletic. Wonder if he can improve there as a senior while leading the Iowa line.
Will you guys be previewing Maryland and Rutgers for their upcoming bowls? When do the officially join the B10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
John, we usually don't transition teams to new conference blogs under after national signing day. We'll have a stronger Rutgers/Maryland coverage presence in spring ball than we will for the bowls. So keep checking the ACC and AAC blogs for now.
the starting QB for Northwestern in week 1 against Cal next year will be whom? Alviti or Siemian? or do they rotate QB's again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
I could see a rotation, but I really think Siemian will be the main QB for Northwestern, which should run more of a pass-driven offense like it did from 2008-10 with QBs Bacher, Kafka and Persa. Alviti should be able to get on the field, maybe a lot of snaps, but Siemian wasn't healthy for most of this season and looked good in the last game. If he can turn the page and develop under Mick McCall, I think he'll lead the Wildcats' offense.
Leo (Sioux Falls, SD)
There's no way that Pelini is really going to be back in 2014, right? Surely the AD has something up his sleeve...?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I don't think so, Leo, unless the Texas coaching situation sets off a crazy domino effect and someone comes available. I don't see the reasoning to keep Pelini through the bowl and then make a change. Nebraska has been recruiting well in recent weeks. Well, that could fall apart with a late coaching change. If you're going to pull the trigger, do it now.
Is Michigan going to get rid of Al Borges? With the inconsitencies of the offensive production as well as offensive line, I'm curious to know if changes should happen and if they will?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Should and will are two different things, Nick. I thought it was interesting that AD Dave Brandon didn't mention Borges in his blog post affirming support for Brady Hoke. But Hoke doesn't want to dump Borges and likely would have to be pressured to do so. I think if Michigan's offense performs well in the bowl game, Hoke/Brandon can point to the final two games and all the youth on offense and say another year is warranted. But if the offense sputters like it did against MSU/Nebraska, changes will have to be considered.
David (Iowa City)
Surprised by the lack of Iowa defensive players in first team at all? especially the DB's?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
There actually were a lot of good defensive backs throughout the B1G this year, David, especially at corner with guys like Dennard, Roby, Countess and Jean-Baptiste. B.J. Lowery is a nice player and received second-team honors, which seems about right. I would like to see the Big Ten have the flexibility to go 3-4 on defense as James Morris absolutely deserved first-team honors. He had an exceptional senior season.
Zach (THEE St. Olaf College)
As a Gopher fan it pains me to see us constantly passed over by bowls due to the perception that the fan base won't travel. Send us to Houston and of course most fans won't alter their holiday plans to take a trip there. Send us to Orlando or Jacksonville...well, I'd put in more work to make that trip happen.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
I hear you, Zach, but bowl officials typically are going to go with the proven team/fan base, especially the Gator, which took a 6-6 Ohio State team in 2011. When the Big Ten takes over the selection process next year, you'll see fewer (and ideally no) repeat destinations or opponents. But my advice to you would be to go to the Texas Bowl, as Minnesota won't change its perception without a stronger fan showing in Houston.
Why isn't anybody talking about Purdue? They'll be better next year, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
I think you know the answer to the first question, Purdue Pete. And yes, they'll be better next year because they can't possibly be worse. Danny Etling is the future at QB, but Purdue must get a lot better along the offensive line and replace some key pieces on defense. Huge offseason coming up for Darrell Hazell and his staff.
A what if question. Had Michigan State beat Notre Dame would they have gone to the National Championship over Auburn?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
I certainly hope so, Matt. The strength-of-schedule argument would have been used against MSU, but ultimately, the BCS rewards teams that go undefeated, and MSU won each of its Big Ten games by double digits. Maybe not quite as dominant as FSU, but not far off.
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
What can we expect from Devin Gardner and the Wolverines against that K-state defense and a month of prep from Coach Snyder
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
You would hope to see more of the same from The Game. Michigan really mixed up its play calls and attacked the perimeter with screens and misdirection runs. I also liked the way the Wolverines incorporated TEs Jake Butt and Devin Funchess into the plan. Let's see more of that creativity from Gardner and co., in Tempe later this month.
Chris (Fort Wayne, IN)
Badgers are early favorites (barely) against SC on the odds boards. Surprising to you? Looking back, Wisconsin could have potentially gone 12-0 or 11-1 if they had shown up for all 4 quarters of each of the 3 games they lost. Do you think they are the favorites? Would UW be better served as underdogs--as they often seem to play even better then?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
I don't think the Badgers care either way, but that's a little surprising given all the hype South Carolina received this season.
Paul Young (Wyo)
What are your top three frontrunners next season in both the east and the west division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I'd say Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State/Michigan in the East. The West is wide open: Would go Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska/Northwestern.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
You mentioned a boost in Michigan State coaching salaries, but do you think the Spartans will also see a bump in recruiting?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
No doubt, Tony. If you're an elite defensive player, why wouldn't you want to play for Michigan State, especially if Narduzzi stays as DC?
Hey Adam- Do you think Melvin Gordon will go pro? Personally, his late season dip in production suggests to me he's not ready. I really like Corey Clement and think he could be the best RB of the bunch. However, with James White being a senior and if Gordon left, would the Badgers be in a rare bind at RB under that scenario next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
I'm not so sure, Troy. It sounds like his family is a bit conflicted over it, but the Big Ten season indicates he could benefit from a year as the true featured back. The Gordon/Clement combo could be really dangerous. And if Gordon leaves, I still wouldn't worry about Wisconsin's RB situation as long as Hammock is coaching.
BCS System (College Football)
You'll miss me when I'm gone.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Northwestern turn the corner next year in the watered down Big Ten like fellow eggheads Stanford and Duke in their respective conferences?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Check back with me in a year. See ya!
Anthony (New York, NY)
You listed the top teams in the West as Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska/NW. Why not Wisconsin?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Ugh, got my division alignment confused. Yes, Wisconsin will be in that mix, too, but the Badgers lose a huge senior class. They're always in the mix, but I wouldn't say they're a clear favorite.
Adam, If PSU were eligible for the post season, which bowl do you think they would have gone to? Would another B1G team not have gone to a bowl or were there enough open slots for all eligible teams to go bowling (including a hypothetically eligible PSU)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
My guess is Buffalo Wild Wings or maybe Outback. Penn State has a great history playing bowls in the desert, and the fans will be motivated to travel.
How do you grade the big tens overall performance this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Definitely better than last year, which was historically bad. So some progress, but not enough to truly make a dent nationally. That's why the bowls are so important.
First B10 player selected in upcoming NFL draft?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. Would be surprised if it's anyone else.
Do you think the BIG perception is basically because of the struggles of 3 of the 4 brand name teams. It seems when your brand name teams are great, your conference is great nationally. No one seems to care when Iowa or Wisconsin is succeeding, because they always go back to the struggles of Penn State, Michigan, and Nebraska.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
John, it has a lot to do with it. When Penn State and Michigan are up, even if teams like Iowa, MSU and Wisconsin are down, the general perception of the Big Ten is higher. That's partly because of laziness and people not studying those other teams, but people gravitate to what they're used to seeing, and that's Michigan/Penn State and even Nebraska being good. Michigan is the real issue in my view. What has that program done in the past decade other than the 2011 season? Michigan has all the resources to be elite. It needs to start getting things done on the field.
Is Stave the answer for 2014?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
He has to prove he's the best guy in practice. In no way should that job be handed to him, even if he plays well in the bowl game. There should be a competition with Houston and maybe McEvoy, who will return to QB this spring. It's Wisconsin, so QB competitions are annual occurrences.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
You don't think a team might fall in love with Shazier or Borland and pick one of them before Dennard? I agree with you, just not so sure it's clear cut
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
I guess it's possible Jon, but great cornerbacks are more popular first-round picks than great linebackers. There's just more value placed on the CB position these days. Borland's size likely will knock him down a few pegs (even though it shouldn't). Shazier is a guy who could project very well to the NFL. Still, I'd be surprised if Dennard isn't the first one selected.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
To piggy back off of John's question, don't you think people would take more notice of Wisconsin's success if they had won one or two of those Rose Bowls? Even though the Badgers were underdogs in each game and I believe covered the spread in each, I think the 3 losses hurts their perception. Rather than saying Wisconsin had a good year, people can say and (fairly or unfairly) the Big Ten isn't as strong as it used to be
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Of course, a Rose Bowl win or two would have helped. Wisconsin should have beaten TCU in the first one but had a questionable game plan in my view (too much passing). I still can't believe the 2011 team managed to lose three games with Russell at QB. Last year's team had no business being there and played decently.
Michigan was pretty good in 2006 too but your point is valid.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Right, that was a really good team, but it still lost to Ohio State and lost in the Rose Bowl. Ultimately, Michigan has to contribute more to the Big Ten's perception because its Michigan. Win a BCS bowl game more often. Win a league title. Do something.
Justin (Whiteman AFB)
Being from Nebraska and living on the boarder of Iowa, I can understand why Nebraska/Iowa is a rivalry. But based on the normally one sided results, is this game really a rivalry? If not, do you think it ever will be? (when I say rivalry, I mean Texas/Oklahoma.....Bama/Auburn, not some watered down version)
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
I think if Iowa wins a few more times against Nebraska, the rivalry will grow. But Iowa has other rivals (Minnesota, Wisconsin), while Nebraska's biggest historic rival (OU) is in another league. Husker fans, why do you think it has been tough for Nebraska to establish many true rivals over time? Not hating, just curious.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Let's answer that question on the next chat, as my time is up. Enjoyed it. Let's do it again soon!