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 (12:01 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm just finishing up a post about Penn State's coach search. Will be back in a few minutes. Thanks for your patience ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
OK, everyone, thanks for hanging on. Let's get started.
Ed (Queens Village)
Penn State looking for new head coach. Who will be new guy to lead them? Do they have time frame when they want new coach by?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
AD Dave Joyner said this search will move much faster than the last one and that many good candidates already have reached out. It would be wise to have a coach in place by the end of next week to salvage what's left of recruiting. Names to monitor: Al Golden, James Franklin, Jim Caldwell, Greg Schiano, possibly Greg Roman although I don't know if PSU would go the NFL coordinator route again.
OSU almnus, are you as pumped to see OSU and MSU in the same division as I am? Not going to like the stress in games, but, man alive, should be some fantastic games coming in the foreseeable future.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
It's great that those two teams will play every year, Mark. Wisconsin and Ohio State unfortunately won't, and that was a great rivalry. Michigan State sort of replaces the Badgers as a legit challenger to Ohio State in the league. LIke it.
Three BoB-related thoughts/questions: (1) Does Hackenberg stay or go? Is it worth it to Hack to have to sit out a year? (2) Why haven't I heard Pat Narduzzi as a possible head coach? His D at MSU was awesome this year and he deserves consideration. (3) Best wishes to BoB. I think he would have had an amazing career at PSU, but if this isn't where he wanted to be, then I'm okay with him being gone!
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Steve, I like your attitude on the last point. No need to be bitter toward BO'B. Hackenberg's future is really tied to the next coach. I assume PSU will hire a pro-style guy, but he wants someone who can develop his game like O'Brien could. Narduzzi could enter the mix at PSU, but I think they'll look first at guys with head-coaching experience.
How come that Tommy Armstrong pass to Quincy Enunwa isn't a 104-105 yard touchdown pass, not 99 yards?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Um, because plays take place from where the ball is snapped, not from where the throw or run originates. Nebraska didn't snap the ball halfway into the end zone. Punters don't get credit for the extra 14 yards where they line up, either.
Andy (State College)
What assistant coach in the Big Ten do you feel most deserves a promotion to a head position?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
This one's easy. Pat Narduzzi. He's one of the best defensive coaches in the country and seems ready to make that jump. Waiting for the right job.
David (Springfield, IL)
After watching the Big Ten Bowl games yesterday (Wednesday), did you see an improvement in the Big 10 perception from previous seasons?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
The Rose Bowl definitely helped, David, as a Big Ten team stood toe to toe with a great team from the Pac-12 and got the win. If Ohio State wins the Orange Bowl, this is a good bowl season, 2-0 in BCS games. The other games really shouldn't matter.
Dave (Rhode Island)
If Ohio State wins Friday, and with Michigan St and Nebraska winning along with Iowa and Wisconsin being very competitive against SEC schools, will the big ten finally get a little more respect going into next season despite its bad loses by michigan and minnesotta?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
We've seen that leagues don't get respect for being competitive in bowls. It comes down to wins and losses. Two BCS wins would help the Big Ten's perception, but you're not going to get many points for Iowa and Wisconsin. I thought Wisconsin had a really bad game, actually. Poor end to the season.
Adam, I know I shouldn't take much from Michigan's bowl game, but it's hard not to be frustrated with the playcalling in the 2nd half. It seems like every time a play works, they go back to the well way too often and it gets stuffed easily (quick shovel to Gallon, tackle over plays all season, etc). I know Borges of capable of calling great games (ND, OSU), but it's too inconsistent. What do you expect next year from the Michigan offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Borges has been in somewhat of a tough position with the personnel, but Michigan needs to figure out what it can be, even if it's not exactly what Borges and Hoke wants. Play to your strengths. But Michigan didn't lose the bowl because of offense. The defense never showed up to help a young QB.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
I think the Gophers loss was directly attributable to their lack of depth at wide receiver. It hurt them against MSU and Wisconsin too. I don't think three weeks of practice is enough to get freshman up to speed.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
It definitely played a role, Craig. Minnesota certainly could have used Engel. But wide receiver has been an issue for a while there. Not enough players have been developed. I like the potential with Wolitarsky and Jones, though. Bigger issue is QB.
Tad (Raleigh, NC)
Weird question from Erik. I cannot believe you even let that one through! Anyway, what do you think about Ameer Abdullah's chances of returning for his senior season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
It will be a very interesting decision from Ameer, Tad. I know he loves Nebraska and would love another run at a league title, but he's a smaller guy who plays a position with the shortest NFL shelf life. You can never blame running backs for making the jump, and Nebraska fans shouldn't blame Ameer, who has been an absolute warrior for that team.
Steve (San Diego)
I know Pelini gets a ton of criticism and he doesn't help himself out with sticking his foot in his mouth, but I think NU could be poised for a break out season next year- the defense is going to be really good and the offense should be manageable. I also think it's safe to say- for all of the ups Martinez provided- Big Red may be better off with a less aloof leader. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Could be true, Steve. It's nice that the defense has stabilized with this young core of talented players. I think there's room to build there. Nebraska still turns it over way too much for my liking, but the program has some positive momentum for the first time in a while. Good to see.
Adam - James Franklin is actually from my hometown. I personally believe that he would be the best hire moving forward, he has familiarity with the recruiting region and made Vanderbilt a fairly relative team. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
From a recruiting standpoint, he'd be a grand-slam hire. Penn State would clean up in the Maryland/eastern PA/New Jersey corridor, especially if Larry Johnson also remains on staff (which I'd expect). There are some character questions, though, after the Vanderbilt football rape case, as text messages from coaches are being sought as evidence. Could be an issue after what Penn State went through two years ago.
Narduzzi question for you. Having served as Dantonio's DC for the past 10 years (first Cinci, now MSU) how big of an impact to is it to MSU when he does leave?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
It has an impact, especially since Pat is such a great play-caller, but the defense won't change going forward. I would expect Dantonio to promote Barnett or Tressel to the job and maintain some continuity there. But Pat would be a big loss, no doubt.
How can you say this is a good bowl season for the Big Ten? No matter what happens with Ohio State, this is still the 11th consecutive losing bowl season for the Big Ten. How can anyone start to respect a conference that is still a loser?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
The losing records can't be denied, but if other leagues played lineups like the Big Ten's, they'd have plenty of losing records, too. The Big Ten has set itself up for failure in the bowls year after year, especially with sending two teams to BCS games. A record around .500 with two BCS wins is a success in my book when looking at the matchups. But your statement supports my long-held belief that the Big Ten goes overboard with the difficulty of its lineup.
Tomorrows game worries me given the defensive playmakers for osu being ruled out. It will on the other hand give us a chance to see how good the young talent on defense is going into next year. I know bowl wins are huge factors in preseason rankings going into the next season. If ohio state goes down in this game because of bad defensive play, how much do you think it will affect perception of ohio state being a NC contender next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
David, I think the bigger factors are whether players like Braxton Miller and Ryan Shazier remain for their senior seasons. If Miller somehow departs -- I think he'll stay -- Ohio State can't be considered a legit national title contender. I would probably put MSU as the Big Ten favorite no matter what happens with the Buckeyes, although from a talent standpoint, they might have the edge. I'm very excited to see how Bell and some of the younger guys fare in a very tough test against Clemson.
Every Badgers Fan (Madison)
Do we have any hope with Bart Houston, DJ Gillins, and Austin Kafentzis of having a good quarterback? Also how does our receiver position look?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Houston certainly will push Joel Stave for the starting job this spring. I wonder if Tanner McEvoy will get back into that mix as well. Wisconsin's quarterback problems have hindered the program since DangeRuss left. Receiver is a huge mystery with Abbrederis gone. I'm interested to see if a guy like Wheelwright takes a big step during the offseason.
Adam, your thoughts on the possibility of Braxton Miller going pro ... I don't think he should ... He needs another season to (1) play a full season, (2) show improved pocket-presence, and (3) mature. If he goes to the NFL now, I think he's 2-3 years away from seeing a meaningful snap at QB ... might even be more of a running back or Wildcat QB at the next level. Your thoughts?
If he doesn't get an NFL HC job is Jim Caldwell as at least a possibility for the PSU job? The resume of QBs he's worked with should appeal to Hackenberg.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Caldwell is an interesting candidate. Former Penn State assistant who played at Iowa and has a ton of Big Ten ties. But does he want to go back to the NFL? That's a potential problem for Penn State after O'Brien. The school can't be a steppingstone for coaches who want to go to the NFL. PSU could run into the same issue with a guy like Greg Roman.
Why the Negative Perception of the Big 10?Nebraska beat Georgia.Iowa stuck close to a very strong and higher ranked LSU team.Wisconsin, while losing its QB stuck close to a higher ranked SC team.MSU beat Stanford.again. 2-2 on Jan 1 with the two losses being to stronger teams with a better record to begin with?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I don't know how to make this clearer, Andrew. You DO NOT get credit nationally for staying close with teams. Wisconsin was favored to beat South Carolina and played a sloppy game. Those seniors had nice careers but typically flopped in the biggest games. Iowa struggled to score points but played well defensively. The bottom line is you get credit for wins. Nothing else matters when it comes to league perception.
Does Dantonio's new contract put an end to the Texas rumors?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Rumors never die, Chris. They'll remain until Texas introduces its new coach. But I'd be stunned if Dantonio leaves MSU. He has a great thing going, a great boss in Mark Hollis and a comfortable situation for his family. MSU is paying big-boy money, which is good to see.
When will Michigan State's success bleed over into recruiting? Is Ohio State and Michigan the only B1G teams that can recruit at an elite level?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Good question, Tim. I think you'll see an upgrade in recruiting for the 2015 class, and possibly the end of the 2014 class. Michigan State has shown it can be elite, especially on defense, and players can flourish there under Mark Dantonio. Some of the changes to the recruiting staff (Curtis Blackwell) also should pay off with in-state recruiting efforts.
Do you realise that other leagues send two teams to the BCS every year? No one talks about how tough their bowl games are like the Big Ten. The 4th best team in the SEC West just beat a division winning team in another AQ conference. Did the Big Ten have any mismatches that big this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Mike, the Big Ten consistently plays up in bowls, which are essentially road games for the league. How would the SEC fare in a January bowl game at Ohio Stadium or Wisconsin? I'm not saying bowls should be played in the Midwest because no one would travel, but the Big Ten has some inherent disadvantages. We've seen the No. 6-7 B1G team play No. 3-4 from the Big 12 in the past. The Big Ten-SEC matchups have been fairly even, but a lot of the matchups at the bottom of the lineup haven't been good.
Hey Adam! Happy New Year! What a great season by Sparty! Are they the favorite to win the Big Ten next year or will the Big Ten poster child Buckeyes be favored yet again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Happy New Year, LP. When you look at the two teams, MSU could and should be the favorite next year. But the default perception likely will put Ohio State in that position. MSU has a lot to replace on defense but really has it rolling right now after a 13-1 season.
TJ (St. Paul)
Adam, Early in the year it looked like Minnesota had 2 capable QB's, but after the last 1/2 of the conference season and the bowl, I am worried the Gophers have none. What do you see happening with the QB's in 2014? Will they default to Nelson because he was a high profile recruit? Does Streevler get a shot?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
You have to give Streveler a shot, TJ. That competition should be wide open this spring, as neither QB developed as much as they should have this season. Minnesota will have a good defense as long as Claeys is there, but it needs to get the offense on track. Very disappointing bowl loss.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
I imagine the Penn State fans jumped all over Tim's comment about OSU and Mich being the only elite recruiters.
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Penn State has shown the ability to recruit at an elite level. The school has been limited by scholarships but still pulls in some strong recruits. Hiring a coach like Franklin would put PSU closer to the Ohio State-Michigan category.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
It's a new year, let's focus on next season. Who is the early favorite out West, Wisconsin or Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
The West will be wild, Jon, with no clear favorite. I'd give Nebraska the nod right now as Wisconsin has some serious issues at QB, WR and maybe on the defense as well. Iowa could contend as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if Northwestern really turns things around after a season where everything went wrong. Will be a fun race.
Steven Wright (Ohio)
Do you really appreciate your job? I think your job is second only to retired male Kentucky Derby Winner.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Days like yesterday make me really appreciate this job. The Rose Bowl is simply spectacular, every single year. Incredible setting. But nothing really compares to being a derby stud.
With their two rivals a combined 25-2 this year, what is your projection for Michigan next year? Can they compete in the East yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Pivotal offseason coming up, Nate. Michigan needs some of these star recruits to blossom on both sides of the ball. It needs a true identity on offense, catered to the strengths of the personnel. We'll learn a lot about Brady Hoke and his staff this offseason, as Michigan State has completely bypassed Michigan. Another 7- or 8-win season could and arguably should cause Michigan to consider a change.
Steve (Prattville, AL)
How do you see Maryland and Rutgers performing in the next few years? Sure wish the B10 had gone after Louisville instead of Rutgers, but I realize the money play was in the northeast.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Right, and Louisville simply doesn't fit in academically with the Big Ten. It will be tough for those two in the East, which features MSU, OSU, Mich and PSU. Both teams have shown the ability to recruit well, but translating it to the field has been tough. Rutgers is going through a bit of a coaching transition on Kyle Flood's staff. Both Flood and Edsall enter 2014 on the hot seat.
Coming from a guy who lives and breathes everything southern, I am truly impressed with MSU. They have to be the B1G favorite for next year right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Josh, if you study the Spartans, you can definitely make that claim. Connor Cook and all the offensive skill guys return. The defense losses a lot, but the group has been elite for years. The problem is a lot of folks don't study the teams and simply assume Ohio State will be better because it's Ohio State. Ultimately, preseason favorites don't matter.
Will we see a QB competion at MSU between Cook and Terry next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
The Damion Terry situation will be fascinating, Ryan. He nearly played this season and could have emerged as the starter if not for an injury before the South Florida game. But how can you go away from Connor Cook after what he did? First two 300-yard passing performances in the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl? That's phenomenal. MSU will need to work Terry into the offense, maybe with a package of spread-y plays. But Cook has to be the guy going into the fall.
Spartan Nation (East Lansing)
Autzen Stadium, September 13. You coming?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Man, I would LOVE to go to Oregon for that one. Unfortunately, I might have to kill Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell to get there, since they live closer. Hmmm ...
How do you grade Coach Andersen's first season performance? An increase in wins from last year, but their best victory may have been against the Gophers. They certainly didn't play well down the stretch.
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Yeah, I think he did OK, but he inherited a great group of seniors and a team ready to compete for a championship. The end of the season gives me a little cause for concern, but I always felt we'd learn more about Andersen and his staff next year.
With Kevin Wilson at the helm will we be content to be in a lot of 48-40 games and hope to win a couple more or will there be an attempt at building a defense that can at least slow teams down a little?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
The thing is, Hanson, Indiana doesn't have to be great on defense. A mediocre Hoosiers defense gets IU to a bowl this past year, and in most seasons with Wilson's offense in place. It won't take much to get the unit respectable. Then again, Indiana has been so bad for so long on that side of the ball. I'm interested to see if the supposed upgrades in recruiting pay off for the Hoosiers' D.
Paul (Columbus, Ohio)
I disagree with you in saying that the other bowl games shouldn't matter. I think the BCS games are the most important but when you still go 1-2 against the SEC, that's still a problem. We are always compared to the SEC (fairly or not), so we need to win BCS games and the bowl games against the SEC. And since, most people only analyze surface deep, having a winning record that shows up in articles I think is also important. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Paul, if you've read this blog for years, you've seen me criticize the Big Ten's bowl lineup and commissioner Jim Delany for putting it together. Delany's objective is noble -- he wants to play the best teams -- but when you craft a lineup where the Big Ten almost always will be the underdog, you're going to have losing seasons more often than not. Sure, beating the SEC is important and a winning bowl record would be nice, but to me, the BCS games show your best product. A 2-0 mark would be strong for the Big Ten.
Jake (State Farm)
Deion Barnes tweeted that he and many other PSU players would love Larry Johnson as a head coach. Any chance of that happening?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Jake from State Farm? You wearing your khakis today? No, I'd be stunned if this happens. Joyner sounds like the next coach will have previous head-coaching experience. He seems pleased with the candidate pool. While he can't eliminate Larry, I can't see Penn State promoting him.
With all the talent in Ill high schools can Illini keep some talent and at least get back in the top half of the BIG10?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Talent wasn't the issue under Ron Zook. Illinois didn't get the necessary player development it needed. Tim Beckman hasn't recruited as well, but if some of these JC players can perform as advertised, Illinois could contend for a bowl berth next year. The offense definitely got on track under Bill Cubit.
Over under for OSU/Clemson? I'm sitting at about 85 points right now.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I had Buckeyes 41-38, so I'm a little on the under side. But it wouldn't surprise me if both teams eclipse 40 points. Should be a fun shootout.
Jake (State Farm)
So Allen Robinson is 99% gone now right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I think he was gone no matter what. But O'Brien's exit probably cements it for A-Rob.
of all the bowl games i'm most disappointed in wisconsin. they seem to let the conference down every year in their bowl game. the badgers are supposed to be one of the elite teams in the conference yet they can't ever win their bowl game which not only hurts them but hurts they're conference. if they would have just held on we'd be 2-1 against the sec instead of 1-2. what it it about the bowl season that makes wisconsin forget how to play football?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
I'd add Michigan to the most disappointing category as the Wolverines didn't show up in their game. But Wisconsin has let the Big Ten down by losing big games in the postseason. They had an excellent chance to beat a good but not great South Carolina team and couldn't capitalize on opportunities, especially the SC fumble early in the second half. Wisconsin struggles to play from behind and has won the games it should, but not many of the toss-up games in recent years.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK guys, time's up. Thanks for your patience today. Next time we chat, we can wrap up the entire 2013 Big Ten season. Happy new year!