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 Big East/Notre Dame football. Fire away with your best questions?
Peter (Atlanta, GA)
Can I actually believe that Syracuse will be a contender in the Big East for the long haul?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I still think Syracuse needs a couple more recruiting classes to really be a year-in, year-out serious contender. But with no dominant teams this year, why can't the Orange win the Big East?
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, looking to go to Pinstripe Bowl this yr....Who do you expect to be playing at Yankee Stadium this yr? Is ND or Tex a poss. or is this just wishful thinking? Could they play each other?
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
I think it's either going to be Syracuse or Rutgers from the Big East side. No way does Texas fall that far -- their fan base assures that some bigger bowl will snatch up the Horns. Notre Dame can only go if the Big 12 does not qualify enough teams, which looks doubtful at this point.
Sammy (Tampa, FL)
Brian, on your last bowl projections you had South Florida staying home. I was curious if you were planning on them going 5-7 or if you thought they would get to 6-6 and get snubbed ... and if that is the case, you really think the St. Pete Bowl would take someone else who wouldn't bring fans?
Brian Bennett (4:05 PM)
I think the Bulls will lose to Miami, so that means they have to go 2-2 the rest of the way in the Big East to qualify. They've always had trouble with Rutgers, they've never won at Louisville and Pitt will be a tough game So right now I have them staying home.
Chris Monti (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Considering how bad the Rutgers OL has been this year, how young the team is overall, and the Legrand injury, would a 7-5 regular season record and a bowl game be considered a successful year for Rutgers or a disapointment? I think the emergence of Chas Dodd as a challenger to Tom Savage and receivers other than Sanu catching the ball over the last few weeks can be seen as positive developments and could set up Rutgers for a Big East title in 2011 (based on who they play at home next year and the assumed development of the young players on their roster). Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
I said at the beginning of the year that this was a very young team that was probably a year away from being serious contenders. So in that respect, just making a bowl would be OK, though any season with a loss to Tulane at home can't be a major success. Rutgers needs to be contending in '11 and '12.
First, loved the Friends reference about a "moo point" last week. Well done.Second, while I understand that Brian Kelly had a great team while he was here last season, he was playing with Dantonio's defense. The recruits that he brought in, albeit young, seem to really struggle playing defense this season under Butch Jones. Is there a chance that Kelly has a flaw when it comes to recruiting defense? Or is this more Butch Jones coaching staff and their inability to teach defense?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
I'm not sure it's fair to say last year's team was Dantonio's defense, seeing as how it was Kelly's third year. Right now, the defense is awfully young -- the Bearcats started eight sophomores against Louisville. Give it time to develop.
Jon (Syracuse, NY)
What is the affiliation between the Big East and Liberty Bowl and what circumstances are necessary for a BE team to get invited?
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
It's basically a deal where the Birmingham and Liberty bowls can swap out teams to create the best matchup. There's no real set criteria other than trying to make the most compelling game for teams and fans.
Given that Louisville's team this year is loaded with senior talent and taking into consideration the recruits Coach Strong has coming in next year. Do you think the Cards will be better next year than this year or about the same?
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
That's a good question. I'm not sure who will play quarterback. Will Dominique Brown be ready, or will Strong hand over the reins to true frosh Marcus Smith? No Bilal Powell either. So there's a chance they take a small step back, but I see big things for Louisville in the future
Brian Bennett for president!
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
I'm already commissioner of my fantasy basketball league. That's enough responsibility
Any chance you see the Bearcats winning out? And if Anderson gets the start for the injured Collaros will he be able to enough to win this saturday?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
No. I haven't seen nearly enough consistency with this team, especially on defense. I think Cincinnati can win with Anderson, but it becomes a whole lot tougher.
Do you think that West Virginia can still win the Big East Conference even after a loss to Syracuse ?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
Sure. The schedule is still pretty favorable. Cincinnati has to come to Morgantown, UConn and Rutgers are scuffling. Could all come down to the Brawl.
Against Stanford and Navy, Brian Kelly said they employed schemes his staff hadn't seen nor prepared for, and therefore had no answers. ND got blown out both games. Did I overestimate BK's coaching prowess?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
Didn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence, did it? I think in some respects Kelly was taking the bullet for the players. They still have to stop the fullback dive. But Kelly isn't winning any coach of the year awards this season either.
My understanding is that Birmingham, pinstripe and beef-o-brady don't really have a picking order. It is more like a smokey room handshake type of picking order.
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
They all work together with the Big East to try to come up with matchups that make the most sense, and to try and rotate teams so they're not repeating the same bowls
For the past few years there have been rumors everywhere of Randy Edsall moving to a bigger program. Do you think this season's struggles means Edsall will be at UCONN for a while?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
Well, Edsall's stock certainly isn't as high as it was at the end of last year, and if the Huskies finish 6-6 or worse he'd be a tougher sell for some AD at a big program to make to his alumni base. I also don't think he wants to leave the program he built this way.
Nate K (Orange Park, FL)
Brian, do you think Notre Dame will win enough games to get into a bowl game this year? Brian Kelly didn't seem to sure about it....
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
I think the Irish will beat Tulsa and Army, so 6-6 should happen. Not going to be a great bowl, but there will be a bowl.
I hate the continued talk of all the things going wrong with the WV program after Saturday's loss. I for one am not high on the OC and the O-line is as weak as a box of kittens and need a good kick in the arse to put it mildly. The offense has continued to stall as has been the case for the last 2 and a half years. But forget all the complaints I just want victories. Last Saturday is gone and its time to move on. But most (fans) are still hanging on to what should have been done and who needs to be fired. What's the chances we take all this whining and crying up to UConn and lay another egg? My prediction: Dub V shows up and turns it loose on the Huskies.
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
I tend to agree with you, HC. I still like West Virginia's matchup against the UConn defense. I expect a bounce-back performance on Friday night.
Mike Tranghese said a while back that it is important for the success of the Big East to have both Syracuse and Pittsburgh be successful programs. Does it matter which programs are winning and which are not? Even in a down year is it good for the Big East in the long run to have Syracuse back?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
In an eight-team league, it's hard to have any programs that are really struggling the way Syracuse was. I mean, the Orange were one of the three or four worst BCS programs there for a while. So for the bottom to come up -- and this includes Louisville -- helps the league overall. But the top still needs to be stronger than it is this season.
Scott (arlington va)
if pitt runs the table to finish 7-0 and win the BE, where do you see them ranked heading into a BCS bowl?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
That would make them 9-3, but I think voters would be skeptical still from the nonconference performance. So I could see a ranking in the lower part of the Top 20. Pitt hasn't been consistent enough to this point for me to think they will win out, though
Hey Brian, will louisville have victor anderson for the pitt game saturday?
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
Charlie Strong called it a 50-50 chance Anderson would play. So it sounds like he won't be near 100 percent even if he does go.
Given the lack of production from the running game, could it be that Coach Stew and Jeff Mullen have tried to hang their hat on something (the passing game), but things really haven't worked out? I have a hard time believing the offensive line is really that bad and that Noel Devine isn't one of the better running backs in the league. Could it be a case of coaches wanting to establish their own identity...one quite different from the legacy left by Rich Rod?
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
I think the passing game has been fairly successful, except that Smith had a bad day against a good Syracuse scheme. The offensive line hasn't been great for the last couple of years, and Devine is still healing.
I know you'll make your prediction later in the week, but what do you see in the Cuse-Cincy game? The Cuse offense has scored 13, 14, and 19 points in BE games this season, and I don't think that'll be good enough to beat Cincy. I'm not sure the offense has a 30-pt game in them, which is what it might take to win.
Brian Bennett (4:33 PM)
The Cincinnati defense can make a lot of offenses look good. South Florida scored 38 at Nippert last week after doing nothing most of the season. And Cincinnati might not have Collaros, and certainly won't have him at full strength. I think this one will be close.
If Big East does not fill its 6 bowl slots, is there a chance that 6-6 Notre Dame goes to the Beef-Bowl or the Birmingham Bowl, or will another bowl snatch them up long before the Beef-Bowl has a pick.
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
Those bowls basically become free agents if the Big East can't fill them, and you can bet every bowl with a chance at Notre Dame will take its shot. Can you imagine the Irish in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl? They might have ended up in the Motor City last year had they not turned down the bowl invite.
assuming both are healthy, who does schiano start next week at qb? and do either of them really want to be out there with that o-line "protecting" them?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
I would think Dodd stays the starter. But you're right, with that line I'm not sure anyone wants that gig.
Do you think that the Big East will end up in a conference championship mess at the end of the year? Like a few years ago when it was Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech.
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
Not sure what you mean. There could be a tie, for sure, but there are clear tiebreakers for the league title.
With the level West Virginia's defense plays at, all the offense has to do is get into the 20's to almost guarentee winning in the conference games. With all the playmakers they have why can't they manage to scrape together 3 touchdowns a game when they need to? One thing I have noticed is that, although they throw more now than they used to, they don't seem to try enough passes deep downfield. Remember the first touchdown against USF. The man was wide open on play action, but they don't do it enough. It's almost as rare as a trick play to see WVU throw deep.
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I agree with everything you say, Daniel. The only thing I would add is, outside of Starks, there aren't a lot of true deep threats.
Kevin (Tulsa, Ok)
What are the chances Tulsa pulls the upset against ND?
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
Tulsa can score in bunches -- it's averaging 38 points per game -- so I'd say it has a puncher's chance. Would anything really surprise you with Notre Dame any more?
Well, last week I asked why it was assumed that WVU and Cincy were better than Pitt despite the fact that they had not beaten anyone of substance either. No need to talk about that anymore. Only one way for the Big East to salvage its rep now, must win the BCS game. How in the heck can Syracuse be getting votes in the polls?
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
I agree. The league's BCS rep, whoever it is, can't get blown out. As for Syracuse, I assume voters just looked at the Big East standings or saw the WVU score. The Orange are playing well, but you can't rank them ahead of a Pitt team that just beat them 45-14 at their place.
I have NEVER bad talked Coach Stew and have been on your side when it comes to defending him to outrageous claims that he should be fired but he had horrible time management at the end of the Cuse game right? No sense of urgency with around 5 mins left in the game and past midfield. Am I crazy for thinking Bill shouldnt put all his eggs in one basket?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
It was a bad loss, no question, and criticism is warranted. Let's see how the rest of the season plays out, though. What if Syracuse ends up an 8- or 9-win team?
Nick ( Atlanta)
As far as I'm concerned, if Brian Kelly can't turn ND around nobody can. I know this is supposed to be a rebuilding year though BK won't admit that and they are also riddled with injuries to key players on the offensive side of the ball. Still, they should not lose to teams they are supposed to beat like NAVY right?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
Let's give Navy some credit. They have built a solid program that's capable of beating a lot of people. Still, Notre Dame should never be down 35-10 to Navy. That was embarrassing.
Where will you be this weekend BB?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
I'll be at Nippert Stadium for the Cincy-Cuse party
Stan (Greenwich CT)
Brian - can you believe all the misguided UConn fans calling for the school to fire Edsall? If UConn had a competent QB, I think the team would be doing much better.
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
Any UConn fan who thinks that is an idiot. I mean, seriously. Who exactly do they think UConn should hire instead of Edsall? Unbelievable.
Dave (Glens Falls)
Can Louisville stay within striking distance of Pitt and make it a game?
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
Pitt coaches think this is the best team they've faced yet in the Big East. Louisville is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Pitt has more talent and should win at home, but don't be surprised if it's close.
SerraQuse (New Jersey)
Brian: You sounded so defeated talking about the Big East mediocrity this year. Are you depressed or are you just tired from trying to figure it out?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
I cover college football for a living -- how could I ever be depressed? It is a little disheartening thinking about the possibility of a league where almost everybody is 6-6 or 5-7, though. I sure hope that doesn't happen.
Phil (Charleston, WV)
Is there an offensive line guru out there to help some of these big east schools? it seems that half of the league is having offensive line troubles, is youth, coaching or not having the players?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
Are you volunteering for the gig, Phil? Because I think you could make some good money doing it
Dayne Crist has shown flashes of brilliance along with a multitude of "what was he thinking" moments. Do you feel that Dayne Crist will be able to fully develop in Kelly's system, or will BK have to look elsewhere for a spread quarterback?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
That's the real question, isn't it? Crist is such a smart, dedicated player that you've got to figure he gets it soon. But playing quarterback isn't easy, and he needs to start making better decisions.
Prediction: Syracuse finishes 9-3 ranked at #25, WVU finishes 9-3 ranked at ranked at #22 and Pitt finishes 9-3 ranked at #16. All three win their bowl games for 10-3 top-20 finishes and all three start off next year ranked. Go Big-East!!
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
I admire your optimism.
Brian, how do you compare Coach Kelly with Coach Weis. Seems like the defense is equally as bad but the offense isn't as potent..your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Weis also had a third-year starting quarterback last year, plus Golden Tate.
How much confidence do you think Butch Jones has in Chazz Anderson? I know Anderson will be the guy if Collaros can't go but I would personally rather see Kay get the chance.
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
Anderson has been the No. 2 guy all year and I thought he did pretty well on that last drive, coming in cold in a really tense situation. He's won games before, as well.
Would you attribute the unpredictability of this year's Big East (and Notre Dame) in part to the coaching turnover of the past few years, particularly last year? Will things "settle down" in the coming seasons as there is only one coach (Strong) that will likely get a shot at a bigger/better program?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
I don't know that coaching turnover can explain Pitt's early struggles, or Syracuse's rise, or UConn's trouble. Young quarterbacks and shaky offensive lines are a big part of it as well.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
OK, that's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for the questions and have a great week.