Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big East 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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Hey, everybody. Here to talk some football and glad we have actual games in the bank to review. Lots of good questions in the queue already, and I'll try to get to as many as possible
Great coverage from opening weekend but I gotta get on you a little but. How do you and the so called "experts" from game day like your crow? Its pretty obvious that UC replacing 10 "starters" on defense was just a tad overblown. The only question that really remains is can anyone in the league keep it within 14 of them now that coach Kelly has the offense where he wants it.
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
Hey, I admit it, I was wrong. I really liked Cincinnati from what I saw in training camp and was very tempted to pick them to win the game, but since I had stuck my neck out with the Rutgers Big East pick, I had to stick with it. Anyway, yes, the Bearcats looked great. But let's not get too chesty yet. Long, long way to go, and teams will make adjustments.
Brett (Austin, TX)
Is this Syracuse team for real or was the "almost win" on Saturday a fluke? After what you saw do you think they stand a chance against either of their next two Big 10 opponents?
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
Depends on what you mean by "for real." Offensively, they really didn't do anything special and actually had fewer total yards than what they averaged under Robinson. Defensively, they were solid. I see a team that can be competitive, especially at home, if it stays healthy and continues to improve. Winning at Penn State is a long, long shot, but perhaps Northwestern at home will offer an upset possibility
Bobby (Clifton, NJ)
Brian, what would the RU-Cincy score have been if Tom Savage started?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
Interesting question. It's impossible to say if Savage would have been more nervous starting the game rather than coming in for the second half of a blowout. Cincinnati wins that game regardless. But a little better quarterback management could have at least kept Rutgers close and allowed it to run the ball more.
Assuming ND beats Michigan this weekend and MSU next weekend, they should be 5-0 heading into the USC game?
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
Absolutely. They should not have a problem at Purdue, although Washington could be a little tricky.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Brian, Tony Pike was pretty impressive. Best QB in the conference?
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
I've been saying that all offseason and still think so. Matt Grothe is impressive as well, but Pike is the better passer and NFL prospect
So what did we learn about Pitt on Saturday? I love the Wannstache, but he does ? and doesn't do ? things that drive me nuts. No passes to Baldwin in the first half? Running on 60% of downs in a "preseason" game? So their lines can dominate a smaller and inferior opponent. Why not try to work out the kinks in areas that were weak last year? The long ball, pass protection, accurate routes, passing with timing, involving all your best playmakers not named McCoy, etc. I thought Cignetti would inject life into the offense, but I'm doubting myself on that one now, too. Will Dave ever really grasp the modern college game? I've been an ardent Wanny supporter in Pittsburgh ? one of few ? but as time goes on he seems like the guy who will spend ten years building a foundation that a new, young, forward-thinking coach will take to new heights when handed the reigns. (Alex Van Pelt? Yogi Roth? Rod Rutherford? The administration here loves the "Pitt guys", after all.) I'm sorry, I know we won 38?3.
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
Well, let's reserve judgment. Pitt purposefully didn't show much on either offense or defense because it didn't have to. No sense in giving other teams film material while playing an FCS team, especially with a new offensive coordinator.
Not to take anything away from Cincy, because that was an impressive beating regardless of who they were playing, but is this a case of Rutgers just being massively overrated (as I contest they have been for the past few seasons...who'd they beat other than Pitt)?
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
I don't know if they were overrated by anyone other than me. Still, let's not forget that Rutgers won seven in a row last year, and once they got going they were as dominant as any team in the league. This team has talent, and I expect the Scarlet Knights to bounce back.
Brett (Austin, TX)
What are the odds the Big East goes unscathed in Out-of-Conference play this weekend?
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
Not good at all. I don't see any way Syracuse wins at Penn State, and North Carolina is going to be a tough challenge for UConn.
Bobby (Rhode Island)
Jordan Toddman looked pretty good on Saturday night and so did the Dixon. Is UConn going to have the best running game in the BE again?
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
It's quite possible. That's a good combination there, and they certainly know how to run the ball behind that line. Let's see what happens against North Carolina first, though.
Black Eye (ACC)
How bad is it that we lost to two 1-AA teams last weekend? Does that make the Big East look better?
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
Pretty bad. At the end of the day, though, I doubt anyone is going to base the ACC's strength on Duke and Virginia. It will be what the teams at the top do. And don't forget there are several ACC/Big East games coming up in the next three weeks.
How many more "week one" type games will Pike have to have before he gets any Heisman votes??
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
He'll have to do it against Oregon State and have his team win. And Cincinnati will have to stay undefeated well into October. Still going to be hard to leap Tebow and McCoy, though is sure looks like Bradford is out of the race for good.
Tom (Fredon, NJ)
To boo or not to boo...That is the question.Rutgers fan here. I sat through the debacle on Monday from kick-off till the last second of the 4th Quarter (like always) and did not boo. Unlike what you wrote (and other media reps also) the booing is NOT directed at the players but rather coaching/play selection. Which is worse, booing or leaving early from the game???? The act of booing is reactive to a team in a negative way like applause is reactive in a positve way. At least it is fan reaction. Leaving early is abandonment and a sign of NO fan support which I feel is worse. What do you think?? As an aside, how about booing the other team when they take the field with their huge flags, cheerleaders, etc. Is booing OK then??
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
As I've said before, it's really hard to selectively boo. The players on the field don't know your intent; they just hear the home fans booing them. It's a free country, and you can do so if you want, but just understand the effect it has. As for the other team? Let 'em have it.
One more question Brian. If ND beats USC and Clausen performs well in the upcoming games including the SC game, should he be in serious heisman consideration?
Brian Bennett (4:17 PM)
Most definitely. If Clausen keeps his stats up and the Irish beat USC, I'd say he's one of the top contenders.
How on earth does Cincy keep Brian Kelly after this season?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
That's a good question. If he's not on the top of every schools' wish list, I won't understand it. Cincinnati will do everything it can to keep him. It will come down to what he wants to do.
Eric (Bowling Green)
So louisville beats, arguably, the worst team in any subdivision of college football by 20 points... How bad is it going to be this season?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
Pretty bad, I think. 4-8 is probably the ceiling. I've seen this team a lot up close, and I just don't know where the wins are coming from.
Aside from the knuckledhead interception at the end, Greg Paulus played very well for basically a true freshman. After week 1 would you now rank him above a few other QB's in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
I might rank him above Louisville's guys, but that's about it for the moment. Paulus did a decent job, but they really didn't ask him to do too much. A lot of short passes, and there were a few I thought should have been picked off. The touchdown pass was wide-smoking open. Not bad for a rookie, but not earth shattering either
I know it's early, but judging by the way that Cincy played both offense and defense, do you think Pitt has the best chance at beating Cincy in conference? Being that they can generate a pass rush with only the front 4 allowing them to drop more into coverage and hopefully keep the ball away from Cincy with a strong running game against a smaller Cincy front 7.
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
That game's at the end of the year, so I think if you told the Bearcats they would be unbeaten in the Big East until then, they might take it. Look, Rutgers for some reason never changed up and got in dime or quarters coverage. Other teams are going to defend Cincinnati a lot differently, I can promise you that.
Chris (Pittsburgh, PA)
How are you feeling about WVU overall this year? And are you as curious as I am about how Coley White performs on the field?
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
I'm really curious to see this week's performance against East Carolina. I love the Mountaineers' skill players, and their defense should be better than it was against Liberty. But I want to see their toughness, and see if they can knock out a good opponent at home. As for Coley White, the name alone is intriguing. But right now he's the No. 3 or even No. 4 QB, so you might not see him for a while.
Alot of people are being very critical of Zach Frazers play last weekend, but don't you think they need to give him more of a chance? I think he has thrown more touchdowns than Tyler Lorenzen this year already and the recievers only need a couple more TDs to match last years totals.
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
Well, sure, everyone deserves more than one week. But the turnovers are very troubling. Three more against Ohio. Edsall won't stand for that very long.
John (North Carolina)
Are Michigan's and Nevada's offense's similar enough to assume that ND's defense will be able to handle Michigan as easily as they handled Nevada?
Brian Bennett (4:26 PM)
I'm not sure how easily Notre Dame handled Nevada's offense since the Wolf Pack averaged better than five yards per carry and had a lot of big plays. The Irish got stops when they needed and some key turnovers, but it wasn't quite as dominant as the score suggested, defensively. That said, I think facing a running QB with spread and veer elements opening week is an excellent way to prepare for Michigan.
Dru (Denver, CO)
If so many people are considering Tim Tebow to go down as possibly the greatest college player ever and he is suppose to break all the records this year why isn't he even in th top-10 of any of the mock drafts I have been seeing? I mean if he's the greatest player ever why wouldn't everyone want him? Or is the hype just overrated?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
Because college and the pros are two different games. Christian Laettner was unquestionably one of the greatest college basketball players of all time but was mediocre (at best) in the NBA. That doesn't and shouldn't take away from what he did in college.
UConn is able to unearth the sleepers and diamonds in the rough at many positions, but not at QB. Why is it so hard for a Division I program to recruit a QB that can throw and a WR or two that can catch? Seems like the forward pass hasn't worked since Dan Orvlosky.
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
One thing is, it's tough to recruit at a place known for running the ball. And the great pass-and-catch combos don't usually come from UConn's backyard because of the weather. Edsall said this week that running the ball is always going to be the first option for a Northeast team.
Herbstreit, Maisel, Schlaubach, May.....all of them picked Rutgers to win the Big East. The beat writers picked them 5th. Is it fair to say that those at ESPN don't particularly pay close enough attention to the Big East to give an educated prediction?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
Well, I'll say this: I've seen more Big East teams up close in practice and in games than anybody, and I picked Rutgers to win. So there.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Most overrated team so far...South Florida?
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Well, first of all, who has rated them highly (other than Jim Leavitt)? Second of all, they blew out Wofford in the second half. We're really not going to know much about the Bulls until Week 4 at Florida State.
Pete (Cupertino, CA)
Are both Michigan and Notre Dame in a no-win scenario this weekend? It seems that a win by either team could be put down to playing an over rated opponent.
Brian Bennett (4:33 PM)
I look at it the other way. It's a big swing game for both. If Notre Dame wins, it could be 5-0. If Michigan wins, it could be 4-0. Coming off tough years, either one would be very happy for the win and a good start to the season.
Dave (Bridgewater, NJ)
What did you think of Rutgers' stadium expansion? The one bright spot in an otherwise forgettable day.
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
I thought they did a nice job. It's not overwhelming, but it has more of a big-time atmosphere, and the fresh red paint everywhere really made the place pop. Too bad the fans couldn't enjoy it for long
Mike (Storrs, CT)
I don't think Edsall unleashed any of his new offense last weekend. I'm expecting this weekend's tilt with UNC as much more telling about where the program stands. You agree?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
I don't know. His comments before the game were that he wasn't going to hold anything back. They only won by 7, on the road. I;m sure there are some wrinkles we haven't seen, but I don't think the Huskies were totally vanilla, either.
Anthony (Star City)
Can Noel Devine be an NFL running back? And who are the best pro prospects at RB in the conference?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
Sure, though perhaps not an every-down back. It's funny, because this league has so many small guys playing tailback: Victor Anderson, Dion Lewis, Jordan Todman, Devine, even Lindsey lamar now at South Florida.
stephen (Morgantown WV)
Can the mounties win this year with that awful kickoff team
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
It is really bad. Stewart made some changes in personnel late in the Liberty game that seemed to help a little. But for it to be this bad for a second straight season suggests to me that there's more than just poor execution responsible for the struggles.
Brian, you said in your "Yankee Bowl" story that the BE was talking with several games; can you say which games they were? If you had to guess, what is your BE bowl line-up?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
My understanding is that they have basically presented their case to every bowl that is looking for a team. So that would include the Music City Bowl, EagleBank, possibly the Liberty. Still a lot of dominoes to fall in this big bowl shuffle.
Who do you think is a football better conference at the moment Moutain West or Big East
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
As I've said, the Mountain West looks much stronger at the top, but it's quite a dropoff after the top three. Big East is more balanced and deep. Depends on what you prioritize when ranking overall strength of a league.
Donald (Kansas City)
Why does everyone give Florida a hard time about there non Conference schedule. They played Miami before and they play Florida State every year plus a championship game!!!!!!
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
Uh, maybe because they never leave the state's borders, as if there's a warrant out for them?
I know you said that PITT didn't want to give away their offense in a game they didn't have too, but do they really have a passing game? What did you see out of the receivers in practices?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
I really like their receivers. I think they've got a little of everything: size, speed, deep guys, slant guys, plus good tight ends. The question was and remains: Can the QB get it to them?
From what you saw from them against Wofford and what you saw from FSU against Miami, any chance South Florida will upset FSU on the road in week 4?
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
It's comparing apples to apricots. No way to compare a game vs. Wofford to one vs. Miami
I dont know about other Pitt fans, but I thought Pitt looked really fast..... Are they that athletic or is it just the fact that they were playing Youngstown State
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
They're that athletic. When I saw them in practice earlier this year, I was very impressed.
RAY GORDON REID ( TALLAHASSEE FLORIDA 32306)
QUUESTION TO BRIAN BENNETT AT 4.55 PM OK BRIAN BENNETT WHO 2009 BIG EAST FOOTBALL CHAMP
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
ANSWER TO RAY GORDON REID I'M NOT SURE BUT CINCINNATI HAS TO BE THE FAVORITE RIGHT NOW
Baron (Large, PA)
Why on Earth would you answer any Heisman questions after one week? Thanks
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
Because people are obsessed with the week-to-week machinations of the Heisman "race"
Willy Wonka (The Chocolate Factory)
Allright...both ND and Michigan were cellar dwellers last year. This year, they both played cupcakes and won big. Now the media is going to constantly cover this game and beat it into us all with entirely too much coverage this weekend. I ask why is there such short term memory from the analysts and why do they suck up so much for Michigan and ND?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
You might not like it, but these programs always matter. Plus, Nevada was no cupcake. The Wolf Pack may not be Florida, but they've been to four straight bowls and have a good offense
Chris (Pittsburgh, PA)
After this first week, what top 4 best represents the teams to beat in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
I'll stick with my power rankings. 1. Cincinnati. 2. Pitt. 3. WVU. 4. South Florida
Bobby (Rhode Island)
Can the BE play a non North Carolina team this year at the Car Care Bowl?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
It's all about selling tickets. Always remember that.
Chris (Pittsburgh, PA)
Do you have a twitter?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
There is an ESPN Big East blog Twitter feed that has all my blog post links, but other than that, I do not tweet.
Do you see Notre Dame putting up similar offensive numbers against Michigan this week?
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
Michigan will be better defensively than Nevada, for sure. But the Wolverines' secondary wasn't that good last year, and that could be an area for Clausen, Floyd, Tate, et al to exploit.
Do you think if WVU can put on a good performance against ECU, like cincy handled rutgers, they will jump into the top 25?
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
I doubt beating East Carolina at home will impress the average Top 25 voter, unless a lot of ranked teams lose this week. However, if the Mountaineers then win at Auburn next week, I think they'd be ranked.
Chris Monti (Toronto, Ontario)
Hi Brian. Love the Big East Blog. Transplanted Rutgers fan here. Love that Greg Schiano has brought RU to 4 straight bowls and made the concept of going to Rutgers a realistic option for 3, 4, an 5 star recruits. However, after Monday's home blowout loss to Cincinnati, under what scenario can you see Schiano being replaced by another established or up an coming coach? Missing a bowl game in 2009 AND 2010? Having the program get nailed with a rules violation? Or has Mr. Schiano earned the credentials to stay at RU as long as he wants to stay. Starting to wonder if RU needs a different coaching staff to take them to the next level. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
No matter who you are or how well you do, if you stay long enough, fans will get sick of you and want somebody else. But Schiano has built that program and has one of his former players and broadcast partners as AD. I'd say he's about as safe as any coach in the country at this point.
Shouldn't Pitt, WVU, and USF just be tied for 2nd in power rankings? I mean they scored about the same amount of points against weak teams. Also, I still don't see how Kansas is ranked in the top 25 and USF isn't. Both ended with the same record last year and USF beath KU. Explain that!
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
There's not much separating the three at this point, but Pitt never had any problems rolling over Youngstown State, while WVU and South Florida had to work a little harder. It's too early to really tell. As for Kansas, who knows why voters vote the way they do. I guess because Kansas beat Missouri and then Minnesota to close the year, while South Florida did not close strong.
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
OK, that's all the time I have today. Thanks for all the great questions once again.