Chat with Brian Bennett
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville.
Send your questions now and join Bennett in The Show at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday!
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
Happy Festivus, everybody. Let's talk college football, the Big East, holiday gift lists (I usually wear a medium, if you're doing some last-minute shopping) and whatever else is on your mind today.
Brian, What bowl games are going to?
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I will be going to the FedEx Orange Bowl. As cold as it is here, I can't wait to get to Miami
Chris (Wallingford, CT)
Curious....how did Rutgers do selling their allotment of tix for the International Bowl last year? And do you think UConn's poor ticket sales this year will hurt the program in the coming years? We all know how important the almighty dollar is in college football today....
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
The number the Birmingham News used today was 8,500 for Rutgers last year. Now, this UConn team didn't exactly thrill people with its finish, the economy is in worse shape and there are men's and women's basketball home games that same day. So to expect a huge crowd to go to Toronto on Jan. 3 is probably asking a lot. You'd like to see the Huskies bring at least 5,000, though. It will have an impact on future bowl selections, though I think bowl officials will understand the circumstances.
Two part question: 1Who do you see as an early season favorite next year for the Big East? 2. With the struggles the WVU had on offense this year, does year 2 of Jeff Mullen's system see better results? I can't think losing Pat White can in any way help an offense.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
1. Pittsburgh, in a big way if Shady McCoy stays. 2. Remember that the receivers and tight ends were very young this year, and I think they'll get better. It all hinges on the quarterback and who that might be. I think you'll see the Mountaineers try to incorporate even more of a pro-style passing game.
Christian - Brooklyn
Two part question 1. how does English get a HC job on the heels of what Rutgers did to Lousiville - complete with English whinning about it at halftime? 2. how big a blow was English's departure and the large ? mark it seems to have planted in all of the defensive recruits' minds to Kragthorpe and his efforts to turn that program around. Right now they are my pick for last place team in the conference next year.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Well, that Rutgers' game probably wasn't the first line on English's resume. But you can't judge a guy on one game, especially with so many starters being hurt. I thought he did a really good job improving Louisville's defense until late in the year when the Cardinals' lack of speed got exposed in Big East play. English is a good coach, but he's got a tough challenge at Eastern Michigan. We'll have to see about recruiting. Too soon to tell.
What does Brian Kelly have to do to repeat the Big East title? Do you think he can do it?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
If he does, they should just rename the Big East coach of the Year award the Brian Kelly Trophy. Bearcats lose a ton of starters and will be almost entirely new on defense. At this point, though, I will put nothing past Kelly.
Will J (Portland, OR)
Cold.......Alabama? Have you seen the rest of the country and their temperatures? Any how Boise St. or TCU tonight? Should be a good game.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I'm not in Alabama. But, yeah, I'm looking forward to that game. Best non-BCS bowl, at least on paper. I like TCU to win.
Matthew (Clifton Cincinnati Ohio)
I have heard tyrod taylor is a similiar QB to Pat white. What do you know about him and can Cincinnati shut him down just like they did pat white?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Tyrod Taylor is a nice young player. But Pat White? Not close. But few players are.
David Fairborn, OH
So you think UC is no longer considered a stepping stone college football program now that Kelly is staying around for a bit (pending the stuff with the facilities occurs)
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It's getting to that point, but it's not there yet. The program still needs continued success, not just two great years.
Vince (Austin tx)
How much of a factor is V. tech potentially losing 3 starters for the Orange bowl? Also, do you believe coach Kelly will utilize Isaiah Pead & his play-making ability more in this game than the rest of the season?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It's definitely not going to help. I'd be most worried about losing Marshman on that offensive line. Cincinnati's defensive line is really good and relentless, and Virginia Tech's offense wasn't that great to start with. Pead for some run in the Hawaii game, but I think that was as much about it being a meaningless, last game of the year. Ramsey and Goebel have been the main backs all year, though Ramsey has had fumbling problems.
Paul (Albany, OR)
I have seen Pitt play a couple of times this year and McCoy is awesome. However, the quarterbacks are not that inspiring. If Oregon State can pressure the quarterback can they force enough mistakes to win the game? Thanks. Merry Christmas.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
You're right. Bill Stull is steady but not spectacular. They don't ask him to do a whole lot, usually, except for the occasional deep ball. Pitt's offensive line has been pretty good all year, and I think the game plan will be heavy on McCoy in El Paso.
How do you see Rutgers doing next year??? They lose Teel and Britt(maybe) but the return their top 4 backs and all 5 starters on the O-line on O. And the D will be strong again.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
The Scarlet Knights had pretty strong representation on my Big East all-freshman team, which I posted earlier today. They lose some really key pieces, as you said, but Schiano has been recruiting well. The key will be finding a quarterback. Right now, no one has stepped up to be the obvious heir apparent to Mike Teel. They'll need to find that guy in the offseason, whether it's Natale, Jefferson or Savage
John (Boise, ID)
Whats your reasons on TCU beating Boise State? Do you really think that TCU is that much better than Boise State?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
No, I think it will be a very close game. I just like TCU's defense a lot and think it will be the difference. BYU's performance against Arizona did make me wonder a bit about the Mountain West's supposed dominance, though
Mike (LA, CA)
Tickets literally cannot be given away to the Orange Bowl; does this not tell Brian Kelly that he's fighting a losing battle at Cincinnati? No matter what he does the fan base just doesn't care all that much.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Not at all. Cincinnati should fill its 17,000 ticket allotment. It's just that if you add up both the Bearcats and Hokies' 34,000 allotment, that leaves a lot of empty seats. And nonpartisan fans aren't too excited to get to this game. Cincinnati has a small fan base, but it's growing.
Everyone keeps saying that the Big East needs better bowls which is true, However what can they do create more bowls? I can't see them bumping the BIG 10 or SEC for their bowl slots. What are their options? No has clearly explained what the BIG East can do.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
We can all hope they don't create any more bowls unless some are eliminated, because there are way too many as is. What the Big East can and will do is renegotiate its current contracts and look to get better alignments. There's nothing really wrong with the Gator, Sun, Meineke Car Care or even St. Petersburg games right now. The International has a bad stigma, though Toronto is a great city. The league needs to get out of Birmingham. Even the Motor City or Liberty bowls would be better than that one.
Matt (Monroe Falls,Ohio)
Who will win the Hawaii bowl ?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I've picked Notre Dame to finally win a bowl. But it's a road game, and Hawaii is no easy place to play. Ask Cincinnati, which needed a big comeback to escape.
Won't the Orange Bowl be like half emtpy?
Dan (Nutley, NJ)
How do you see the PapaJohns bowl playing out? Will NC State's secondary be able to handle Rutgers' receivers?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
NC State's secondary should be better than Louisville, Pitt and many of the other teams Rutgers saw late in the year. But Kenny Britt is a load, and I think the Scarlet Knights will have success throwing the ball. I like Rutgers to win by about 10 points or so.
Jason (Louisville, Ky)
The company line from the Louisville AD's office has been that "Louisville is rebuilding" since last year's syracuse loss. In his end of the year press conference, steve Kragthorpe stated that he wanted to build a fence around louisville and get recruits from a 6 hour radius from the city. But those statements don't really jive with what we've seen lately from the team. We're closing in on double-digit JUCO players for the second year in a row after striking out again with High school recruits. Last year we hired a quick-fix Defensive coordinator in English. Between the staff turnover, and all the jucos, the future looks seriously bleak for the Louisville Cardinals. I think the only hope is that after the disaster that will be next season, (3-4 win season) Jurich finally realizes that the Kragthorpe hire was a mistake and makes a change to try to reinvigorate the program. Even then, it looks like a 3-4 year rebuilding job, no matter who the coach is, to get back up to mediocrity after the KRagthorpe disaster. Sorry to say that we're the new syracuse, Jason
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
You're seeing JUCOs right now because the Cardinals badly need players to plug holes next year. Kragthorpe is in a bit of a Catch-22. He doesn't really have time to recruit all high school prospects, redshirt most of them and wait for them to develop, which is the best way to build a program. Next year will probably be rough no matter what. I'll really be looking to see what this team looks like going into 2010.
Casto (Washington, D.C.)
Brian, please remember that we're not exacly bringing back a nobody to start at QB next year in Morgantown. Jarrett Brown is 2-0 as a starter, and as much as I love Pat White; Brown is a MUCH better passer when healthy. We'll have a better record next year. In spring timing, PW was only .01 faster than JB in the 40.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I like Jarrett Brown. Can he do it as consistently as Pat White did? Time will tell. I'm also interested to see if Eugene Smith gets a look.
Do you think the Cuse will start to turn it around this year?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Depends on what you mean by turn it around. I don't see a winning season in '09, no. Could they get to maybe five wins and start to build some momentum? Maybe. Marrone still needs to get a quarterback and some big time receivers somewhere.
I read the interview with the Memphis AD. Do you agree with his 80% liklihood of joining the Big East. It seems like they are pretty far off in football, and aren't really improving. How are they going to do it? Even Tennessee has to go out of state to recruit.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Memphis seems so sure that it will get i the Big East. There have even been media reports out of the city a couple of times recently saying it was a done deal, except they were wrong. I think Memphis needs another conference shakeout to open up some spots. Right now, they don't really fit the Big East.
Brian any word on how close pitt is to selling out their allotment? I know my family of 4 will be there
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I have yet to hear a number on that. My understanding is that ticket sales were going fairly well. Remember that the Sun Bowl has smaller allotments than most bowls because locals take most of the tickets.
Brian, was it a surpirse to you that the Cuse took there scholarship back from the QB Barmas?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Not terribly surprising. The kid committed when he knew there was no coaching staff in place, so it was a weird situation to start with. Now they're saying he was recruited as a safety. Seems to have been some miscommunication somwhere along the line.
Nathan (Santa Cruz CA)
I've seen a trend in the Orange Bowl towards games that are not so big-time. Do you think if this continues that the Cotton will maybe bump the Orange down to the next tier? They are getting the Jones Mahal finished soon and next year's Cotton will be there.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
No, because the Orange has too much tradition and history and Miami is a more appealing place to visit than Dallas. However, I'm sure Orange Bowl officials aren't thrilled with their current tie-ins, since the ACC hasn't produced a decent BCS team this century
Tim Berkeley Ca
Who do you see winning the Emerald Bowl and how much of an advantage is it that its basically a home game for Cal?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Big, big advantage. I think Cal should win easily.
Keyatta Shade, San Francisco, CA
In your opinion, If Sam Bradford comes out and plays a dudd like Ohio State's Smith did a few years ago against the gators would that add proof that Tebow should have won the Heisman again, especially since he played against as good to great defenses as he did as well as having the bull's eye on his back the entire season?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
It's hard to throw out someone's entire season on one game. What if McCoy has a great game in the Fiesta? Does that mean he should have won the Heisman? He did come in second, after all.
Brian, what do you think about the matchup between UC and VT? Differential in talent, coaching, schemes, intangibles...? Do you and your colleagues feel that the ACC and BE are pretty comparable in quality this year (apart from the obvious greater depth in the larger ACC)? Is it fair to say that UC is, or might very well be, the best team VT has faced this year? Is it fair to say that VT is, or may be, the second-best team UC has faced this year (behind Oklahoma obviously)? Do you have a projection for the game yet, and your rationale for the expected outcome? What are you hearing from other knowledgeable observers about this game? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I think this will be a very close game and is an excellent matchup in many area. People may not be excited about it nationally, but I'm predicting that it will be one of the closest, if not the closest, BCS games. I like Cincinnati to win because its offense can generate more points.
Brian, do you ever see the pitt psu rivarly ever renewing, especially since joe pa should retire in the next few years? It was one of the best in the country.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I hope it comes back, especially if Pitt continues to improve. That would be a great game for the Big East and for all of college football. Is JoePa going to retire soon? Sure doesn't seem like it.
Nathan (Santa Cruz CA)
Part II of the previous question: When the BCS contract comes up in 2015, do they look at or change the tie-ins? I am hearing a lot of buzz around Texas that the Cotton will try to get into the BCS roto, maybe just taking the place of the NCG since the host city gets two big bowls.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I'm sure all that will be discussed and hashed out. Who knows, by then maybe Florida State or Miami is back to elite status and the Orange Bowl is happy again. The problem with the Cotton joining the mix is that the Rose Bowl was upset at potentially losing its traditional tie-ins but appeased by the potential of having a BCS title game every four years.
does ohio state win the fiesta bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Moe (Pittsburgh, PA)
Will Pat White win his 4th bowl making the team 4-0 in bowls with him as QB?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I like North Carolina in this game. I just think it's a bad matchup for West Virginia, with the way its offense played down the stretch. Look at what the Tar Heels did against Georgia Tech. I never count out Pat White, but he's got an uphill climb this time.
Brian: Based on trends in scheduling, conference strength, recruiting, and coaching changes, give us a prediction. We will have a Big East national champion in the year 20__. You don't even have to pick a team. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Boy, it's just so hard to predict. The Big East seems so far away from the cream of the crop this year, but just last season West Virginia was right there to go to the BCS title game. I don't see it happening in the next two years, I can tell you that. Beyond that, it's nearly impossible to predict what will happen without just totally guessing.
loved the white USF helmets against Memphis What are the strengths and weaknesses of teh Bulls next year. Pre-season top 25?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Strengths: Grothe back. Weaknesses: Lose four starting OL, possibly Selvie, secondary still questionable and offense needs overhaul. Top 25? No.
Tim Berkeley Ca
Saying that all the top juniors do leave for the draft (Bradford McCoy Crabtree tebow) Who do you see as a couple of the front runners for the Heisman? Does Jahvid Best have a spot in that group?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Well, McCoy isn't going to go, so forget that. I guess you're also assuming that Sanchez, Moreno and Stafford go. Pitt's LeSean McCoy and UConn's Donald Brown should be in the mix. Best? He could be a candidate, but I don't see him as a Heisman winner. And there will always be guys we can't see coming, like McCoy was this year.
FYI... for baseball fans..Tex signed with NY
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
And that just ruined my day.
Who do you like in the Chickfila Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I like Georgia Tech in that one. Was not impressed at all by LSU this season
With Rutgers recruiting getting better and better each year (should be a Top 25 class this season), is it that hard to imagine them becoming a consistant Top 25 team along with Pitt? I see Pitt and RU ruling the BE for years to come.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
They really should be at that level. If not Top 10, then at least hovering around Top 25 status.
everybody thinks State is gonna get demolished by Georigia, what do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I don't think Michigan State has enough offense to win.
Nell - Clearwater
Any idea which Big East teams will be rich in redshirt freshman talent next year?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Pitt has some good skill players we might see as soon as next year. Cincinnati was able to hold back some guys because of all its seniors. UConn always does a good job of redshirting and developing. To name a few.
If Javon Ringer goes off...
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Which is Sparty's only hope
Brian how do you think Kiffin will do in terms of recruiting..with the staff he has coming in I dont see it being anything but good!
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
He should have plenty of contacts from his USC days, plus he's building a good staff as you noted. Tennessee always has to recruit nationally to succeed, and now it's competing against Nick Saban and Urban Meyer in the region. So it won't be easy.
MWC Commish (SLC)
If the WAC and MWC merge, the Big East is in trouble as an auto-bid BCS conference don't you think? Or would the BCS award one of the current at-large bids to the merged conference?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
The Big East is not in trouble. The league has won three straight BCS games. Meanwhile, BYU, which was supposed to be a Mountain West titan, can't beat Arizona.
Casey (Tupelo, MS)
Do you think the TCU/BSU will be a low scoring game or will the offense shine?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I'll say around 23-20ish
is michigan gonna rebound nicely next year and get into a bowl game or will it take a few more years?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
It's really hard not to make a bowl game. But it will probably be at least two years until Michigan is really Michigan again.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
OK, that's all my time. Thanks and have a happy holidays, everybody!