Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Excited to be back in the chat room and talking Big Ten here for the first time. Notre Dame questions are welcome as well
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions!
Joe (South Bend)
There are breaking reports that JoePa was just injured at practice. If the injuries are serious and he's not able to be on the sidelines and a part of the team, how do you see the season playing out for Penn State?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
We're hearing that the injuries aren't serious enough to require surgery, so hopefully Joe will be back on the sidelines quickly. Still, you have to wonder whether this is starting to be bad for his health. Maybe he should find a safer place to stand during practices.
Caleb VanZee (Fowler, MI)
Hey Brian. Do you think Denard Robinson will still be able to put up huge rushing yards in a pro-style offense?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I highly doubt we're going to see Shoelace rush for anywhere near 1,700 yards again. Hoke said at media days that Michigan will go with some two-back formations, and they want to lighten the load on Denard. Still, you don't want to take away from his greatest strength. He could still lead the team in rushing, but I expect those numbers to go way down.
Donnell (Baton Rouge)
Brian, on a neutral field do you think Wisconsin or Nebraska has the talent and atheletes to compete with the likes of OU, LSU, or Alabama. Your opinion please.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Well, we saw OU and Nebraska play in the Big 12. I think the Big Ten's best can line up and play with the SEC. Look at last year's Sugar Bowl. The problem is, the league hasn't been winning those games at the highest levels, but there isn't that much difference.
Sparty (East Lansing)
We beat Michigan 3 years in a row. Why aren't we relevant on the national scale.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Getting there. You're ranked in the preseason Top 15. You just have to do it consistently. The bowl game performance certainly didn't help. (Also, beating Michigan the past three years wasn't all that difficult).
brian, think osu will get any bowl bans?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
No, based on the NCAA notifying the Buckeyes they will not be charged with failure to monitor or any additional allegations. I still think some scholarships could be taken away, but that is likely the worst of it.
john billings (michigan)
What do you think of the different approaches between Hoke for Michigan and Kelly with Notre Dame on two players same situation (DUI), Kelly with full reinstatement Hoke redshirt for a year in your opinion who made the better decision?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
That's an interesting question. Look, coaches know their players better than anyone, and each coach has a different take on how to handle discipline. As a first year coach, I think Hoke was under a little more pressure to send a message to the rest of the team than Kelly. Ultimately it comes down to how these guys respond to their punishments and whether they make positive changes. I like that neither coach threw the player overboard, which is the easy way out.
Kyle (Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Greetings from Hong Kong. Its three am. I want to know if you project iowa to improve from last year stay about the same or drop off and why?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Get some sleep, Kyle! I actually like Iowa's chances to improve. I think the schedule gives the Hawkeyes a chance to get off to a good start. Their division is tough, though.
Michael (Saint Louis)
Brian, I'm hesitant to jump into ND's hype for this season because I feel the last 4 games were pretty lucky for ND... in that Utah had just gotten smoked, Army wasn't much of a match, USC's season wasn't going anywhere and they weren't playing for the postseason, and last Miami had just lost their coach.... Do you think top 15 rankings are realistic?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
There is some truth to that. Utah was wildly overrated. But all four of those were bowl teams. Given how much Notre Dame has coming back and the fact that it's Kelly's second year, I think a ranking of between 18 and 20 is about right. Anything higher than that is being optimistic.
Les Go (Wisco)
So I feel that Bucky has a target on his back. We went for two against Minnesota last year, dropped 83 points on Indiana, and gave the buckeyes their only loss last year. Do you think we might drop a few games we shouldn't have just because of revenge? Let's say they just play us tough instead and we win, do you feel that a lesser team could beat us? Kind of like James Madison after VT played Boise, and Washington after USC played tOSU?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'm not sure Minnesota or Indiana will be good enough to do anything about it. But I am curious to see how the Badgers play with high expectations. That sometimes can be a burden. As for upset games, I'd watch out for Oregon State in Week 2. Could be like the ASU game a year ago.
Brian, excuse the slightly non-football related nature of this question--but are you single? I am an attractive young woman who loves football, babies, and redheads. :-D
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Sorry to break it to you, but I'm not a redhead.
Sean (Tampa, FL)
Hey Brian, how do you see Notre Dame's defense evolving thru the season? And how important is Cierre Wood to the teams success?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I think the defense will be the strength of the team, and it should get even stronger once guys like Lynch, Tuitt and Ishaq Williams get up to speed. A big key is if the outside linebackers like Fleming, Shembo and Spond can become real difference makers. The key concern is cornerback depth. Wood is important, but I think he'll be fine. I'd be more worried about Jonas Gray and the lack of depth, because I'm not sure how much of a load Wood can carry by himself.
Dan Bugay (Columbus, NE)
Regarding Nebraska and the fact that Bubba Starling not practicing with the team until he makes his decision, What do you think the chances are for him to remain a husker over inking a HUGE deal with the Royals?!?! And what is you opinion about how Bo and the husker staff is approaching this?!?! Shouldnt they be trying to dazzle him a little to sway his choice?!
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I know I would have a hard time turning down that baseball money. You're talking about financial security for your family, and you can always come back and play football and get your degree is baseball doesn't work out. As for Bo, I like how he's handling this. If anything, it should show recruits that he cares about the players' best intentions.
Bob (Big Easy)
Brian, so much is being made of the QB position @ Ohio State, but do you really think, all things being equal, there's a question who should start? I've watched or attended every OSU game for the last 30 years, and B. Miller gives us the best chance of having a "special" year. Yes, we can win 9 or 10 games with any of the four, but Miller brings the "X" factor. your thoughts. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
He's probably got the most upside of anyone, but it's tough to start a true freshman quarterback on a team expected to contend. Even Pryor didn't start right away. My feeling is we'll see Miller brought along like Pryor was; he'll get in some games early as a backup and could be starting by the middle of the year.
greg (Knoxville, TN)
How are you and Adam going to split up the league in terms of visits? any camp visits planned?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
We don't do a whole lot of travel for fall camps, but Adam and I will probably hit one or two schools each. As for the season, we'll split up the games according to interest and importance and go where our editors tell us to go.
Hey Brian... What's the 411 on the Penn State QB situation? I heard Newsome transferred which leaves the team thin to begin with and now I hear Paul Jones is on academic probation. Doesn't JoPa and Co. HAVE to go with Boldin and hope that he has made strides?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Things are thin right now, but I don't think you can just hand Bolden the job because you're scared he'll transfer. If McGloin outplays him in camp but isn't picked as the starter, the team will see what's going on. I think Penn State coaches really wants Bolden to emerge as the frontrunner. It's up to him to do so.
How does the Big 10 fare against Notre Dame this season?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I say 1-2. Notre Dame beats Purdue and splits with Michigan and Michigan State
FFX (Washington, DC)
I'm hearing a lot of pre-season hype about Wisconsin and Nebraska, along with OSU and MSU. However, these teams all play each other? Don't you think that improves the chances of a team like PSU or Iowa getting to the CCG?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
True, but division play is going to have a huge say in who gets to Indy. Nebraska can lose to Wisconsin but still sweep the Legends division and be fine. To your point, though, I do think Iowa has a chance to at least finish second because of Michigan State's schedule
Just admit it, Brian. You are a ginger.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Nothing wrong with that, and I have some close friends of the redhead persuasion. I am just not a member of that club, though in certain light my hair can look reddish.
Brian what do you think of the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry being called the Heroes Game?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I appreciate what they're trying to do and like that some ordinary folks who do good deeds will be recognized. At the same time, it feels a little generic and not really intrinsic to either state. Give me a pig or an ax trophy any day.
Brian (Omaha, NE)
What do you think Nebraska's biggest adjustment will be entering the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I think it will be adjusting to a more physical style of play. So many teams in the Big 12 played more wide-open offensive styles, and while the Big Ten isn't three yards and a cloud of dust anymore, the teams still play better defense and run the ball more, generally speaking.
With some big holes to fill (OL and LB's) and a nasty schedule, I think MSU could actually be a better team this year and go 8-4.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I agree with that. At Notre Dame, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Iowa, at Northwestern. It doesn't get much tougher than that.
Josh (Austin, Texas)
when do you think Wisconsin will get their first highly rated running back recruit
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I feel like they've been doing just fine with the guys they've been getting
Patrick (Washington DC)
Admitted anti-ND fan here (I'll cheer for whoever plays against them). But here's my question: assuming you're in close with the ND crew- do you really get the feeling that allowing their WR back (was Floyd his name) with no loss of games was because they feel he's changed, or do they realize that they need him to win. I really, really, REALLY hope it's the first, but I still think it's completely unacceptable to say that a player with 3 alcohol violations gets off pretty much free. So he missed spring camp, he's still going to start.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Certainly a fair question, and I don't know if the same leniency would have been applied to a less important player. I guess the test will be the next time an Irish player gets in similar trouble, especially if it's a backup or more expendable guy. I don't have a huge problem with Kelly's disciplinary methods as long as they are consistently enforced.
Bigger game for the league: Penn State hosting Alabama, or Ohio State @ Miami?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Penn State-Alabama. Any SEC matchup is huge for the Big Ten, and this is on home turf. Penn State has to at least compete for some league pride. Miami hasn't been very good, and Ohio State has some ready made excuses should it falter down there.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Hey Brian do you see Illinois relying more on its passing or running game this season? The running game as been one of the Big Ten's best these past few years, but Scheelhaase has become a good passer, looking to build on a tremendous finish to last season. Your prediction?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
As someone who covered Paul Petrino at Louisville, I know that his offenses are going to be balanced. The Petrino philosophy is a power run game coupled with some spread elements and enough balance to keep you guessing. Sounds like Petrino really likes the freshman RBs, who are pushing Jason Ford, and Scheelhaase is a good runner, too. The running game will still be the basis of the offense
Brian for future reference how many Notre Dame questions should we expect each week in the Big 10 Chat?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I just try to take the most interesting ones and sprinkle some ND in. Haven't chatted about the Irish in a while and was just in South Bend, so maybe a little heavier today than in the future.
Bob (Big Easy)
Brian, one last question......if it's possible, could the rest of the conference be sleeping on Columbus? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I think the teams and coaches know not to sleep on Ohio State because the Buckeyes have beat them up pretty good the past few years. But Ohio State is being slept on a little bit too much by the national media, I'd say. This team is still very much a legit Big Ten contender.
Evan Hayden (Kearney, Neb)
Will rex burkhead be able to take on the role of the starting running back?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I don't see why not. And there are some promising looking freshmen behind him. Throw in Martinez, and Nebraska has a lot of options for running the ball. Not worried one bit about that part of their game.
Why has Purdue gone downhill so quickly? Is Coach Hope the answer?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
It's a good question. A rash of injuries have definitely played a big role, though it's hard to make excuses. The jury is still out on Hope. This is a big year for him.
What do you see as the toughest game for Wisconsin this year?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I don't think I'll shock anybody by picking Nebraska and Ohio State. Of the two, Ohio State may be even tougher because it's on the road, the Buckeyes will be back to full strength and they'll have revenge on their minds
Gray (Bloomington, IN)
Coaches at Indiana have been saying that the talent level is not much different from Oklahoma and Nebraska. Do you think they actually believe this or are they just saying this because it is what they need to say to motivate their players?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
In terms of offensive skill players, it doesn't seem that far off. Indiana has some excellent receivers. Defensively, the Hoosiers seem way behind those types of programs right now.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Penn State saying JoePa will be released from hospital in the next 24 hours. Good news.
So is someone else going to be taking over Notre Dame then? If you are only taking one or two questions then?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Who said anything about only one or two? For being just one team, ND will get plenty of attention in the chat
Big East Fan (Purgatory)
We miss you brian... is the feeling mututal?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I've got nothing but love for the Big East. I think the league bounces back this year.
Pipeline (Salem, OR)
Will the real NU please stand up. NEB or NWU? How are we gonna settle this Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
If there's room for two UT's and two USC's, surely Nebraska and Northwestern can agree to share
Why do you hate on PSU so much?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
When in the world have I ever done that?
Curious your thoughts....lets say Persa recovers fine from his surgery and has a year at about the same level as last year. Where will he go in the NFL draft??
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I worry that he's just not big enough. It will be tough to ignore 70 percent completions, and he's smart and very strong (I know this thanks to my new seven-pound purple weights). But the NFL is so obsessed with body types. I'm no draft guru, but I doubt he'd have any chance of going in the first few rounds
Brian when you talked to Manti T'eo he looked so much bigger than you. was it the camera angle or are you like 5'5"?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I'm 5-9. Manti is a big, big dude. Even tougher talking to Derek Moye, who's almost 6-5
What are the chances of a heisman coming to the Big Ten? There has been a lot of talk about Cousins and billboards about Persa. I just don't get the Persa hype. He did beat my Hawkeyes and paid for it dearly but I for one don't think Persa has a shot being that he is from Northwestern. What are your thoughts? Maybe even Martinez sneaks in there for a cheap Big Ten heisman!
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I agree. Your team almost has to go undefeated or at least be right in the BCS title mix to have a shot. I don't think any Big Ten players win it this year
Hi Brian, I saw you were at the ND 'media day.' do you notice much of a difference in attitude or aura in that team this year from last, or would you say it was just business as usual?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Just a general air of more confidence. I could really see it in the first practice, even though we only got to watch about 30 minutes. It was just a lot crisper, as guys knew where to be, and players were having more fun because they knew what they were doing
Anthony (Canton, Ohio)
who has a cooler throwback uniform for the "under the lights" game. UofM of ND
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I prefer Notre Dame's. Michigan's look a little too busy with the big M and the number. Just a personal preference
Have you witnessed Jump Around at Camp Randall yet? Are you as excited for it as the Huskers?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
One of the great tragedies of my life to this point is that I've never been to Madison. Hoping to correct that in very short order this fall.
Josh (Tucson, AZ)
Who do you think will be favored on the Nebraska vs Wisconsin game of both teams are 4-0 coming in? And whats your spread?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I'm not a Vegas guy, but Wisconsin would have to be favored. The Badgers are ranked higher and are at home.
With a new AD, is Zook on the hot seat if he does not take the Illini to a bowl game?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I think that's a fair assessment, especially given the advantageous schedule for the Illini.
Jacob (Decatur, Il)
Whats your 40 time???
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Too slow, but I'll challenge you to beat my half-marathon time!
Re: Kelly's discipline - see the Mike Ragone marijuana issue...he's been consistent so far
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Good point. Also a first offense for Ragone, as far as we know, while Floyd had other problems
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
Russell Wilson choose Wisconsin over Auburn, which is a huge symbolic victory for Wisconsin. I tend to think Wilson will not be quite as good as he is being hyped up to be. How do you think Wilson will do in 2011?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I'm high on Wilson's stock. I watched him play a couple Big East teams the past few years and was always impressed. He doesn't have to run the whole show because of the strength of the line and the backs, and that should really help him.
If the B1g coaches were to have a battle royal who would win
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Since Fickell was a wrestler and has the young legs, I'd take him
Rugbytim (Chicago, IL)
Brian,Do you see any of the young defense players Notre Dame recruited this year such as Tuitt, Williams or Lynch getting any playing time?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Lynch and Williams will definitely play. Tuitt is a beast -- 6-6 and 295. Couldn't believe how big he was this weekend. You don't put a guy like that on the bench
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time. We'll make this a regular weekly thing, though. Thanks for a fun hour.