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)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's talk some Big East/Notre Dame football. Fire away with your questions.
Sean (Hopewell, PA)
Brian, it seems that most people, (including me), overlooked Pitt's lack of returning starters and figured the star power would overcome the inexperience. It hasn't quite worked out that way, but I think this will still turn out to be a good season when all is said & done.
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I don't know about returning starters in general, but we definitely underestimated the problems on the offensive line and the impact losing both tight ends would have on the offense. There is still time to turn it around, but that seems more like an 8-4 season than 10-2
Dennis (Tampa, FL)
Hey BB,I was at the USF-FAU game. I was stoked to see the playmaking of our Special Teams unit. Still against a poor FAU, I witnessed BJ not take an oppurtunity deep, opting to through a short pass, that was STILL too low. when is this guy going to come around he's killing me.
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
He's just a sophomore in his second year of starting and is a new offense. He also hasn't had many experienced receivers to work with so far this year. Patience.
Bobby (NY, NY)
Brian, given that Coach Schiano has built a superb defensive unit, how do you explain the fact that Rutgers' offense has never been able to reach similar heights?ABS
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
I would say that the 2006 offense was pretty good and the offense was rolling at the end of the 2008 season. But it's more a matter of philosophy. This is a team with a defense-first mentality and probably always will be that way.
Chad (The City of Salt)
If the Big East (or to a lesser chance ACC) champ finishes outside the top 25. How does this look for the BCS? Does it flame the fire of some of these topics congress has addressed in the past?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
It would not be good. But the Big East can survive it because it's had some good years in the past. I think the league champ will be in the Top 25, but maybe not the Top 15
Is Cincinnati ready to turn the corner? Can that Oklahoma game be a turning point for Butch Jones?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
It can be. They need to sustain that momentum. Next four games are against Miami of Ohio, at Louisville, USF and Syracuse, so the chance is there to get on a little bit of a roll.
BB, Do you think the majority of people didn't really take into account the inexperience of the the QBs in the BE when making their preseason BE rankings?
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
We talked about that at length in the preseason, but I'm not sure that's been the issue. Sunseri hasn't played great yet, but Smith and Nassib have. Savage was the most experienced guy in terms of starts and hasn't produced, while Zach Frazer was a senior and got lifted. So I don't think that alone can explain things.
Tom (Long Island, NY)
Brian, if the eventual Big East Champion goes 11-1 regular season, where do you think they will be ranked at the end of the year? (Considering that no teams in the BE are ranked this week)
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
If West Virginia can win out, I think it can finish in the Top 15. Its only loss would be by six points at LSU, which is respectable even though I think LSU is going to take at least two losses before the season ends. Syracuse and USF are the only other two schools who can go 11-1 at this point, and I don't see either of them coming close to that
The real season starts Saturday when the BE teams play for that BCS Bid. Everybody is 0-0. My take is that the league is kind of balanced more than ever and the team w/the best QBs will rise to the top. With that said I see Zach and Geno as the two best prepared to lead their team to the BCS. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
I would say you're probably not far off. I still think UConn is a factor, and probably Pitt. Wondering about USF still.
Brian, I get the sense that Notre Dame's defense is starting to gel. Do you think the Pittsburg game will be a good barometer?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
The defense played well against Boston College, but that was a bad and basically one-dimensional offense. Still, outside of the Stanford game, the defense has been good enough to put the team in position to win. I expect the same this weekend.
Justin ((Looking at the future))
With a Pitt win this weekend over ND how huge would this be for the BE not just because its a win against ND. But looking forward at the ND schedule this would make them 2-4 with a shot at 2+ more losses would a 6-6 ND team take the New Champ sports bowl spot from the BE?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
I wrote about this very issue this afternoon. Check the blog in about 20 minutes.
Am I going to look back at 2010 as a lost season amongst good ones, or as the beginning of the realization that Greg Schiano isn't getting me to the promised land?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
I'll say this: With young players like Savage, Sanu, Deering, Thomas, Lowery, Wright, Beauharnais, Ryan and the good recruiting that's been done, the Scarlet Knights have no excuse for not contending in '11 and '12. If you want to write this year off because of youth, fine. But that can't be used next year and beyond.
usf old school (tampa bay)
Who do you think has the best rushing attack in the league? Who would bhave thought South Florida would have a top 25 rushing attack with offensive line run blocking at will over the competition.
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
I would have thought it when I saw three of the first four games were against Stony Brook, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic. The running game is improved, but it's not one of the league's best. UConn remains the gold standard.
Jack Price (Martinsburg WV)
Well the talk and the newspaper articles have seemed to disappear from the scene regarding Big East Expansion (especially in regard to TCU). In your opinion has this died, or perhaps was the whole thing simply a rumor?I really feel the Big East will be dead if anymore expansion comes about and that is too bad.
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Because it's really, really early in the process. Basically just at the idea stage right now.
Brian, has any other Big East Team beat the Cuse five straight times. Have they had any competitive conf rivalies in recent years? I know they beat Rutgers last year pretty bad.
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
The 'Cuse has lost eight straight to West Virginia. Louisville is the only team of late Syracuse has competed well against consistently in league play
Stew (Kansas City)
Brian: Do you think the religous aspect of ND hurts their recruiting? I honestly think it does.
Brian Bennett (4:26 PM)
I think it's more the weather and lack of much social life around campus more than religion.
Your thoughts on Syracuse going bowling this year?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
Remember they have to get to 7-5 to guarantee bowl eligibility because of two FCS opponents. Which means they have to win three league games and beat BC or win four in the league. That's a big leap from what they've done recently.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, I was critical off Rutgers sched before season started but figured they would still get 9 wins due to a pretty pathetic OOC sched., but now they can't even get beat Tulane...this doesn't look good for their Big E conf games! Do you see RU getting OVER 500 this yr?
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
I think they'll beat Army, which means the Scarlet Knights have to go 3-4 in the Big East for 6-6. I have a hard time seeing them do better than that in league play.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
What do you think about Adam Froman's resurgence under Coach Strong? Is it a product of the system he's playing in, the fact that he's had another year at Louisville to get familiar with the personnel around him, or is he just turning into a guy who makes the plays he needs to make. It's hard to believe he leads the Big East in all-purpose yards right now, and is behind only Collaros for passing yards.
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
I've been impressed considering that his receiving corps has been seriously depleted. I credit the coaching. Louisville looks so much better prepared and schooled this year with basically the same personnel.
I saw you comment to someone about why WVU isn't ranked by saying that there resume and schedule strength isn't good enough to be there while Nevada and Air Force have better resumes than WVU. I would say who cares. The way I would rank a team would be If these teams played each other at a neutral field who would you favor to win. And while these teams are capable of pulling off an upset of WVU I can't see WVU being underdogs to Air Force and Nevada right now.For what its worth my top 10 right now would be 1.Ala 2.Ore 3.Boise 4.Neb 5.Aub 6.Ark 7.Ohio St 8.TCU 9.Okla 10.LSU, and I think I would be hard pressed to find another top 10 exactly the same.
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
But how in the world would you know who would beat whom on a neutral field? That's pure speculation. I prefer to base it on who did you play and who did you beat.
Kevin (Steel City)
BB,I know this is a pie in the sky fantasy but with Jonny B's production in significant decline this year, any chance at all he comes back for 4th year to improve his draft stock?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
He could probably use another year, but no chance. I'm sure he feels this offense is holding him back. He should impress at the combine with his physical skills.
Am I crazy for wanting to see Trey Johnson and Shawne Alston at RB this weekend with around 12 carries a piece. Or am I just trying to see what we have for in the future, cause I think Tavon should move to slot next season. Am I wrong wanting to save Noel for conference play?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
First things first, West Virginia needs to win the game. The Mountaineers shouldn't have too much trouble, but they need to start strong. I'd limit Devine's carries if at all possible with a conference game coming up just five days later.
Tom Savage (Rye, NY)
Could WVU get a chance to play Michigan in a bowl game? Is it possible?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
Highly unlikely. The only place it could happen is in the BCS, and the only real place for that is the Fiesta Bowl. Plus, I think Michigan is going to lose a couple times here real soon
I'm a UC fan. But where is Bilal Powell in the Player of the Year rankings?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
He's high on the radar, for sure. Team needs to win some more games.
What will be the bigger factor to help Pitt this weekend. The offensive line changes that were made or Deccico at "LB" to help stop the ND passing game? Or do you see a bigger factor?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
I think it's potentially DeCicco. First and foremost, Pitt has to slow down the Irish spread offense, and they haven't had a lot of success against those types of attacks. DeCicco should help.
What is the biggest uncertainty you are looking to clarify when watching USF? (in relation to USF's ability to finish in the top two in the BE)
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
Mostly, it's on offense. Can B.J. Daniels avoid turnovers? Can the receivers make plays? Can the running game produce anywhere near what it did against weaker opponents?
Could this be the second consecutive year Devine finishes behind a Pitt RB in the O-PoY race?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
I think Ray Graham still has a lot to prove to win that award. Dion Lewis isn't going away and they will probably split carries.
Gwig (Upper St. Clair, Pa)
Why don't I see more two RB sets with Ray and Dion for my panthers? Why can't we get more production out of our tight ends this year, especially on 3rd down? I know Mike Cruz is not DD or Nate Byham, but it seems like our struggling QB would find comfort with throwing to a tight end?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
Part of the problem is they have to leave a fullback and a tight end in to run the ball. It's hard to that and have two tailbacks.
Is Robert Sands really the frontrunner for BE Defensive Player of the Year? Seems like his numbers aren't that great. He's only the team's 4th leading tackler and hasn't made very many big plays. Plus he's injured.
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
I've got him there almost by default as the leader of the league's best 'D.' But, yeah, he doesn't have many stats. Nobody has really distinguished himself as the No. 1 guy thus far.
Ralph (Beckley WV)
As always, really enjoy your blog and suppot of the Big East.With conference play about to begin, of course I'm happy to see my Moutaineers seem to be a favorite to win the title. But I'm really concerned about the future of the conference. It bothers me to think that if the conference eventually breaks up, WV will be left out in the cold primarily due to marketing. I've accepted that the all mighty dollar is what dictates most of what we see in sports today, but I almost find myself ready to give it all up.I'd just like to see WV get a national championship in my life time.Keep up the good work.
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
West Virginia will end up OK somewhere. Too passionate a fan base and too much money to be made off the Mountaineers to keep them on the sidelines.
Think Brian Kelly is regretting his decision to leave Cincinnati?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
Not when the checks roll in on the first and the 15th
What do you consider WV's biggest problems--the team not quite on the same page yet, or coaching issues or a combination of things? Geno looks to me to be a great quaterback in time and there is plenty of talent to support him all over the field. So what gives?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
WVU has one loss and it's on the road to LSU. I don't see a lot of major problems.
Will (Salt Lake City)
Why is Wannstedt startin Lewis over Graham? Is 4 games of Lewis struggling not enough? Same almost goes for the QB situation. Why is Sunseri still starting when Bostik clearly has more experience under pressure? I haven't been impressed with Sunseri... at all.
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
Wannstedt clearly doesn't think Lewis deserves to lose his job because of injury. He should get a chance to work out of his slump after the year he had last year. As for Bostick, go back and look at his stats. He is not the answer.
Bill (New Jersey)
What Big East coach is under the most pressure to win right now? Seems like Stewart, Wanny, and Schiano are all making their fan bases wonder if there are better options out there.
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
None of those guys is any immediate danger of getting fired, but Stewart most likely needs to have a good year to avoid the hot seat next season.
Did you see an improvement from the Pitt offensive line since Wanny shuffled up the starting line-up? I'm sure Nix will sure up the center of the line, but will that hurt his development into becoming the left tackle of the future? Any new updates on Romeous's status?
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
I think Nix immediately makes them better at guard, even though he's learning the position. Gibbs is a huge guy who should help with the running game, but he may have some trouble with the pass rush this week. The line is better but not necessarily "fixed." Romeus is just beginning his rehab. Several more weeks before a possible return.
To TCU or not to TCU?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
If TCU really wants to join the Big East, then yes, by all means.
Must pinstripe bowl take a b12 team?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
Yes, unless the Big 12 doesn't have enough eligible teams. Then the game can take Notre Dame or somebody else.
Will a win over a bad UNLV team put WVU back in the top 25, since they are right on the edge right now?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Only if some other people near the end of the poll lose. A UNLV win won't do much. Now, if USF wins to get to 4-1 and WVU beats the Bulls convincingly next Thursday night, that might get the Mountaineers back into the poll. Ultimately, it makes no difference right now.
Rocky (Ray Jay)
Hey BB, I hear a rumor that USF has the largest student section in the big east and that it's often sold out. How about some love for the USF students?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
David (Tampa, Florida)
OK--Bill Stewart made the statement earlier in the year that the Mountaineers would win a national title in 2011. What are your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
He didn't say that, to my knowledge. He said they'd be in position to compete for one. We'll see.
Not sure where the "shouldn't lose your job because of injury" attitude comes from - on my teams, the player who gives you the best chance to win "this game" plays - team game - Graham should play - who wins ND with a college offensive system or Pitt with an ineffective pro system?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
I agree the hot hand should play, but it's awfully hard to just give up on Lewis. I guarantee if Lewis has a slow start and Graham lights it up, Graham will get the carries as the game goes on.
Brian, when are they going to pull the AQ from the Big East and give it to a more deserving conference like the Mountain West
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
You mean the Mountain West that is losing BYU and Utah?
With the Big East "down" this year; if the Cuse miraculously pulls off a 6-6 or 7-5 season, will Marrone still get praise for getting his program back on track? Should he? Or will folks brush it off since the league isn't up to snuff?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
If Syracuse gets back to a bowl, Marrone should get a ton of credit no matter what the schedule was like
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
Thanks for all the questions, folks. Enjoy the games this weekend.