Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big East college football blogger Brian Bennett will stop by to talk some football.
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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
Hello, everybody. I'm here to answer your questions about Notre Dame and Big East football. I'm fired up. Let's go.
Joey (Hartford, KY)
What do you think Notre Dame's record will be this year
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
I'm on record predicting 9-3 for the Irish. Anything less than that, and things get interesting for Charlie Weis.
The consensus seems to be that Notre Dame is about a 9-3 team this year. After USC, where do you see the other losses coming from? I realize the mos talented team doesn't always win, but ND should be favored against all but USC, shouldn't they?
Brian Bennett (2:02 PM)
I'm saying they'll lose to Michigan State and Pitt, though I think the Michigan game could be a toss-up. And the finale at Stanford could be tricky
What's the word out of South Bend on NDs top Freshmen (T'eo, Wood, Evans, etc.)... any pushing for playing time?
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
I blogged about this just within the past hour. Here's the link: http://myespn.go.com/blogs/ncfnation/0-10-256/Weis-on-freshmen-who-will-play-for-Notre-Dame.htmlLooks like outside of Te'o, there are several who will play as backups and on special teams
Alan (Hurricane, WV)
What do you think SU will do with Paulus running the offense this year? It has to be an improvement over the past couple years.
Brian Bennett (2:04 PM)
I can't help but think he'll struggle. The guy's had a little more than one week of college practice and hasn't played in four years. How's he going to pick up blitzes? Plus, he doesn't have great talent around him. It's a great story if he does well, but I'm skeptical
Does ND need to go undefeated to play in the BCS title game?
Brian Bennett (2:05 PM)
I think so. The schedule isn't going to impress anyone, especially if the one loss is to USC. Plus, the Big 12 and SEC champs are going to be tough to surpass even if they each have a loss.
I follow your blog everyday and really enjoy it...but could you explain how WVU is not the heavy favorite. They return the best defense in the conference, arguably the best skill players in the league, and a quarterback with as much potential as anyone else in the league. THe only question mark I've seen is the O-line, where's the other problem?
Brian Bennett (2:07 PM)
Three reasons: the O-line, as you said. They replace Pat White, and could only tie for second last year with him. Third, the schedule: at Rutgers, at Cincinnati, at South Florida all look like doozies.
Brian (Raleigh, NC)
Hi Brian - nice name! Am I being too paranoid about Nevada being very capable of beating ND right out of the gate...or not paranoid enough? This is a good team looking to get national recognition with nothing to lose. Dual-threat QB, clock control running game and look how SDSU almost won in South Bend last year. Why is everyone skipping this game on their schedule are a possible loss?
Brian Bennett (2:08 PM)
I agree that it is a dangerous game. Nevada is good, and their running game plays right into the soft spot of the ND defense. The main reason I like Notre Dame is because it's the first game and there's plenty of time to prepare.
Jeff (Mishawaka, Indiana)
Notre Dame is getting more talent every year thanks to Charlie and his staff's recruiting. How would you rank them as recruiters compared to the USC's, Florida's, etc. Also how close to each of those teams in terms of talent do you feel ND is right now?
Brian Bennett (2:10 PM)
They've done pretty well on the recruiting trail, though USC and Florida seem to be almost on autopilot now, picking and choosing whomever they want. I don't think the Irish's overall talent and speed compare with those programs yet, especially in the trenches or at linebacker.
joe (south carolina)
Brian, the Oline: sure they're expierenced, but theyre only experienced at being a terrible oline. why should i believe theyre going to be better?
Brian Bennett (2:12 PM)
That's a fair question. We always tend to overrate experience. Still, in the college game, being older, wiser and more physically mature usually translates into good things. There's no doubt, though, that this line has a lot to prove.
Brian (Hillsborough, NJ)
How do you feel about the Big East no. 2 going to the Champs Sports Bowl. Seems like a downgrade from the Gator (even though it was a hybrid deal). I don't like the Big East not playing in a New Years Day game for its no. 2 team.
Brian Bennett (2:13 PM)
I thought it was a good deal if the No. 3 was going to the Sun. But with that out of the picture, if the Big East doesn't line up a good game for its No. 3, then it's overall a slight downgrade in terms of prestige. For fans, going to Orlando instead of Jacksonville is a plus. But the Big East No. 2 might be playing a lesser opponent than it used to see in the Gator or Sun as well.
You say 9-3, but you know Notre Dame is gonna lose to BC once again. They have total domination of this rivalry. I can see ND going 7-5 with their only wins against subpar teams. ND is NOT a championship contender, people...
Brian Bennett (2:14 PM)
I can't argue against BC's recent dominance. But it sure seems like they're in for a tough year with all their personnel losses and unsure QB situation. And the game is in South Bend.
Melissa (Albuquerque )
How do you feel about Charlie Weis resuming play calling duties?
Brian Bennett (2:15 PM)
I think that's where he feels most comfortable, so he should go for it. He's got his people in place, so let's see if he can live up to his genius tag. The defense should be in good hands with Jon Tenuta.
Boose (Louisville, KY)
Any less then a bowl game and Kragthorpe is gone right? Please don't make us sit through another year of this.
Brian Bennett (2:17 PM)
I don't think it's bowl game or bust. I think as long as the Cardinals show progress -- that is, they're competitive in the Big East and against Kentucky -- then Kragthorpe could be back even if it's only a 4- or 5-win season.
Finny (ATl, GA)
Here is a scenario. ND goes 10-2, goes to a BCS bowl game and gets blown out like 40-10 by lets say the Big East Champ(could be anyone really). Do you think the BCS will somehow figure out a way not to include ND in the mix for a BCS game, especially bc tey have such a weak schedule. If I recall, 10 wins gets ND in the BCS correct?
Brian Bennett (2:19 PM)
Notre Dame gets an automatic berth if it's in the Top 14 of the BCS standings and is eligible if it's in the top 14. Performance in the bowl doesn't really matter. The number that matters is TV ratings. The reason ND has its lofty status is because people watch the Irish play. Plain and simple.
How is ND schedule any weaker than one of the Big East teams? They don't have the Big East bottom feaders on the scedule.
Brian Bennett (2:20 PM)
You mean a bottom-feeder like Syracuse? What was the score of that game again?
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Brian, should Charlie coach from the booth or field?
Brian Bennett (2:21 PM)
I think the head coach needs to be on the field with the players. But as the playcaller, he'd better have eyes in the sky to help him out on the headset, because it's harder to read the defenses from the sideline.
Jordan (San Diego)
Expectations for Jimmy Clausen this year. He made some maddening mistakes last year and had too many turnovers, but everyone ready to dismiss him as overhyped forgets that he was a true sophomore. Was the Hawaii Bowl him turning the corner into an elite college football QB?
Brian Bennett (2:22 PM)
I wouldn't declare him the next great QB after the Hawaii Bowl. Let's not forget that Hawaii was pretty bad. But I do think he should turn the corner this year. He's older, more physically mature, has an experienced line and good receivers. He needs to make better decisions with the ball, and the running game has to be better to keep defenses honest.
Come on, Syracuse was last season. I am in Phil's camp. If you line our schedule up against a team like Penn State, for example, it's hard to argue that our schedule is "weak".
Brian Bennett (2:24 PM)
Just a little ribbing. I'll say this for the schedule: When it was made, no one could have known how bad Washington would be, or that BC would appear to be in for a tough year, or that Michigan is coming off a 3-9 year, etc. But with eight home games and only one preseason Top 25 opponent (USC), you have to say it's favorable for the Irish.
How likely is it that Cincinnati will fly under the radar to win the conference once again? It seems like they thrive on being underestimated.
Brian Bennett (2:25 PM)
It wouldn't surprise me at all. I'm not sure the Bearcats can be under the radar after winning the league last year. They're going to be good. Everybody questions the defense, but it looked pretty solid to me when I went to their training camp on Monday.
Baron (Large, PA)
Thoughts on the seeming disconnect between Wanny and the OC on the QB position? What would you do at that position? Thanks
Brian Bennett (2:27 PM)
I'm reading a little between the lines here: I think Wannstedt wants to boost Stull's confidence and give him every chance to succeed. And why not? He's a senior who led you to a nine-win season. Behind the scenes, I think Cignetti wants to keep the competition going, knowing that they'll be able to make a change quickly if need be. I'd start Stull but keep him on a short leash.
Dennis (Airville, PA)
Brian: Isn't it true that comments/complaints, etc., about weak schedules are things of the past? A few comments about strong schedules (such as Miami, VA Tech) might be in order, but for anyone to complain about a given schedule being weak seems to me to be out-of-line since it is such a common, ordinary thing these days.
Brian Bennett (2:28 PM)
That's a fair point. I think people are talking about Notre Dame's schedule in comparison to some of the past Irish schedules. When Michigan is down, it makes a big difference. But what if the Wolverines rebound this year?
Last year it seemed like USF was the sexy pick to win the Big East. Have they lost that much to not be considered one of the top two or three teams in the conference?
Brian Bennett (2:30 PM)
I just think the right thing to do with them is to be skeptical. We saw how they fared in the Big East the past two years: 2-5 and 4-3. Now they've got some O-line issues and a lot of young players in the two-deep. They've got talent, to be sure. It's consistency that is lacking.
If your going to knock the notre dame schedule, look at the rutgers schedule. Im pretty sure don bosco prep has a tougher schedule.
Brian Bennett (2:31 PM)
Can't argue with that. It's pathetic. And it's why I picked Rutgers to win the Big East.
Aaron (DeLand, FL)
Who's the top Heisman candidate out of the Big East/ Notre Dame?
Brian Bennett (2:32 PM)
I'll give you three:1. Clausen2. Noel Devine3. Tony PikeBut I don't think any of them get to New York.
Leo (Cedar City UT)
Let's assume Rutgers wins the conference and they end up facing a BCS buster (TCU, Boise St. or BYU) in their bowl. Would they stand a chance against any one of those 3 teams?
Brian Bennett (2:32 PM)
Let's wait and see what they look like in Week 1 before we start doing hypothetical matchups in January
There's been a lot of talk about the two Irish star receivers, Floyd and Tate. How good do you think they can be with a skiddish QB Clausen tossing them balls all year?
Brian Bennett (2:33 PM)
There's no reason why they can't be great. Floyd might have surpassed 1,000 yards last if he didn't get hurt for a couple of games. One's got size and strength, the other's got pure speed. And don't forget Kyle Rudolph at tight end. He looks great right now.
What about Golden Tate in that sub-Heisman talk?
Brian Bennett (2:34 PM)
It's tough for a receiver to win the Heisman. Heck, Crabtree and Bryant couldn't even get to New York last year. So that's why I'm not including him. He'd need to have a big year returning kicks as well.
Dustin (Windsor Locks, CT)
What do you think uconn's record is going to be?
Brian Bennett (2:35 PM)
UConn is kind of a mystery team for me. I need to see how this new offense works. But I don't like the schedule. North Carolina, at Baylor and at Notre Dame will all be tough. I'm thinking probably in the 6-6, 7-5 range.
What is the score of the Neavada Notre Dame game?
Brian Bennett (2:36 PM)
I believe it's 0-0 right now. I'll let you know when that changes.
Patrick (New Brunswick, NJ)
Brian, you are picking Rutgers to win the big east because their schedule is weak ? Instead of picking them because they are better than the other big east teams ? I'm confused ... On a side note, I have a bet with my friends that Notre Dame at least wins 9 games .. and they'll have to pay my bar tab for one night .. it's a lock right ?!?!
Brian Bennett (2:37 PM)
Patrick, I just think the Big East has so much parity this season that the schedule is the thing that will separate the contenders in the end. And all the best teams have to come to Piscataway. It's really anyone's race, though.And I'd feel a lot better about your bet if you'd said 8 wins. That's my over-under for the Irish.
What are your thoughts on the Big East adding schools to the football conference in order to reach the 12 teams needed for a championship game. Which schools do you think should be tapped to help them get there?
Brian Bennett (2:38 PM)
12? That would be four more. They just need one more for scheduling purposes. Problem is finding a good fit.
Mike (Altoona, PA)
What's wrong with Notre Dame's running game? The starters will be experienced and all were highly regarded coming out of high shcool. Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and Jonas Gray were all highly regarded as well. Does Weis need to make more of a committment to the run game?
Brian Bennett (2:40 PM)
That's a really good question. Given how bad it's been, I think you have to spread the blame to coaching, the O-line and the running backs themselves. Now Vertucci may bring some new ideas, and Allen looks pretty good in the short glimpses of practice we've seen. And the O-line should know all it needs to know by now. As good as the passing game is, there's simply no excuse for the Irish not to be able to run the ball at a competent level.
Dan (Columbia, MO)
What are your thoughts on rb at Pitt? Obviously it is going to be hard to replace McCoy but how much of a drop are you expecting?
Brian Bennett (2:42 PM)
I'm hearing good things about Lewis, Graham and Burns, but I don't think any of them are as good as McCoy. It will probably be a tandem or committee situation. On the plus side, the passing game should be better, provided that the quarterbacks step things up. Because the receivers and tight ends are really good.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
As good as the ND passing game is or appears to be on paper, Brian? Just going back to your comment on the Nevada-ND score. We really don't know how good or bad any team is in any aspect of the game just yet.
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
Fair point. I like the talent they have to work with, though. No reason it shouldn't be good.
Clint (Fort Polk, La)
Im not bold enough to blame 2 of last years loses on the kicking game however they sure didnt help win the Syracuse game and the Pitt game. Think we will see some improvement this year?
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
Hard to say definitively, because I don't know how you predict those things. I can tell you that Weis said today that Walker/Tausch is too close to call right now at placekicker. Competition might cause some improvement.
Kris (Hollidaysburg, Pa)
Brian, in talking about the prestige of the Big East, is any program in the league able to prop up the good name of the conference better than WVU? 2 BCS wins in the past 4 years goes a long way, in my opinion. A team like Cincy winning the leaugue just doesn't seem to resonate with the public as much as West Virginia winning it, especially since WVU almost single handedly propped up the league's name lately. Do you think the league would benefit the most from WVU emerging as the clear-cut champion, or is parity worth more to the voters?
Brian Bennett (2:46 PM)
West Virginia is good at carrying the banner. But honestly, I just think it's important for whatever school wins the league to go and play well in the BCS game. Had Cincinnati beaten Virgina Tech, it would have finished in the Top 10 and would probably be ranked in the preseason.
Brad (Findlay, OH)
Brian...like most Irish fans, I always try to come up with an after every season since Holtz left as to why the Irish are gonna be better and more dominant the following year. Yet things always come up short...most time...FLAT! Is there anything concrete that you have seen that allows us to breath any sigh of relief?
Brian Bennett (2:48 PM)
It's pretty simple to me. This team brings back just about every key player. Almost every starter has a ton of experience. The schedule, as we said, is, um, manageable. If it's not going to get better this year, I don't know when it will.
Do you think that ND will use many 2 TE sets? How does Ragone look? Also, how do your compadre's (Mike Golic) kids look at practice? And what is your score prediction for ND-Nevada at the end of the game?
Brian Bennett (2:50 PM)
Weis has said that Ragone looks fine and that will allow him a lot more flexibility if he wants to use two tight-end sets. I don't think that will be their bread and butter by any means, but it may help the running game. Weis didn't mention Jake Golic today and instead talked about Tyler Eifert at tight end. Then again, nobody asked him about Golic.
All I hear about is Notre Dame's offense, but how good is their defense?
Brian Bennett (2:51 PM)
The secondary should be one of the best around. The linebackers, they need some more athleticism, which perhaps Te'o can help. The defensive line is a little bigger and older but needs to play better than it has the past two years. Still not a fearsome defense by any means, but should be enough to keep the Irish in just about every game.
Joshua B. (Literally 50 feet from the Carrier Dome (Barclay Law
Syracuse has weapons, they have a good group of RBs led by Delonte Carter, a play-maker WR in Mike Williams, not to mention an enigma in Paulus. Yes, the O-Line has questions and the defense outside of Art Jones is poor, but this team could surprise someone big, right?
Brian Bennett (2:52 PM)
That team has a lot of question marks right now, including depth. I don't know who the second-best receiver is behind Williams, and I'm not sure if Doug Marrone does either. But I do think they can spring one surprise this year.
How do you think Louisville will fare in their out of conference games, specifically at Utah?
Brian Bennett (2:53 PM)
I think they will lose to Utah and Southern Miss, have a toss-up game at Kentucky and could have a tougher-than-expected challenge from Arkansas State. They probably need to win three of those to have a shot at a bowl.
how can notre dame be in the top 25
Brian Bennett (2:54 PM)
By getting more votes than all but 24 other schools.
John M (Elk Grove)
What if everyting goes to plan where do u see notre dame going to a bowl
Brian Bennett (2:55 PM)
I'm picking them to go to the Gator Bowl. Just missing BCS eligibility.
This is a Big East chat, and yet all I hear about is ND, who, as far as football goes, want nothing to do with the Big East (officially). They already put their BB team over there, can you see them at some point in the future either stepping up and joining the BE, or being pressured/forced to join the BE by an outside force (say the BCS)?
Brian Bennett (2:56 PM)
Today was our Notre Dame (and MAC) preview day, which is why we're chatting about the Irish a lot. And no, they're never going to join the Big East in football, not as long as NBC keeps paying the bills and they can keep all their BCS money. What possible incentive would they have to change things?
Which Dome will you be at September 5th? Golden or Carrier?
Brian Bennett (2:57 PM)
Golden. Then I'll be at Rutgers-Cincinnati on Labor Day
Since you forgot to answer Nate's question about Louisville at Utah, I'm going to assume you'd rather not answer. :) Go Utes!
Brian Bennett (2:58 PM)
Read that again, Steve. I said they'd lose to Utah. I don't even think there's much doubt about that.
If everything goes badly this year for Notre Dame, is the job much more attractive this time around because of the talent that has been assembled? What names would be on the potential hire list?
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
Look, I don't like to speculate on new names when there's a coach in place. I will say this: I think the Irish are in much better shape in terms of talent and facilities than they were a few years ago.
what are people making their opinion on that notre dame is top 25 material
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
OK, obviously I was joking earlier. The big thing is 18 returning starters. Preseason polls almost always are based on returning personnel, because there's not much else to base projections on. Most voters don't see many teams in the preseason besides the one or two they cover.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
OK, folks. I'm out of time. Thanks for all the good questions. Talk to you again soon.