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 (3:00 PM)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten chat
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'll take some Notre Dame questions, too, if you've got 'em. I'm yours for the next hour. Fire away.
Rob in WI (Madison)
Hi Brian, thanks for the chat. We're days away from the actual football. UNLV seems to be a good first opponent for Bucky, but with a dynamic duo in Ball/White, will intriguing 3rd/4th guys like Melvin Gordon/Jeff Lewis get carries that count? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
UNLV should be a little improved in the second year under Bobby Hauck, but the Rebels only won two games last year and are very young. Wisconsin ought to build a big lead in this one and get some playing time for the young guys. The only reason I can see that not happening is because of first-game rust.
who do you think is going to be the starting quarterback for Ohio St this coming saturday?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I firmly believe it will be Joe Bauserman, but that Braxton Miller will play a lot too. The experience factor is too difficult to ignore right now, and Bauserman has had a decent preseason.
Hoosier Hawk (Indianapolis)
You guys just put Crick at #1 in the top 25 players in the B1G. Can he be as dominant in the B1G? Please justify the dynamic duos decision. P.S. Where was Martinez in all of this? Robinson will have to prove himself as a passer, while Martinez will be running wild.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
HH, we thought Crick was the most dominant player at his position, which is why he's No. 1. He'll be matched up against some really good centers and guards this year, but I feel like he'll still be a major force. As for Martinez, we felt like he needed to show a bit more consistency and develop as a passer to make the Top 25 -- though it's quite possible he's high on the list next year if he develops.
You just power ranked MSU #3 in the B1G. But you essentially said they will finish the season at 6. Can we get some consistency ?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I'm not sure I totally follow your line of questioning there, CPF. But I'll say this: our preseason power rankings are based on what we think the order of strength is right now to start the season. Michigan State is really good, but its schedule may prevent a high finish in the standings.
Mike (Parts Unknown)
Who is going to be the QB at PSU - when will we know?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
That's a great question. I don't get what's taking so long to make a decision -- Penn State coaches have had eight months to evaluate, and it's not like they need a strategic advantage over Indiana State. I went into this month believing Bolden would win it, but the longer this drags out the less sure I am.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Could the Rob Henry ACL tear actually help Purdue, while I am not happy about losing Rob, he was our third option for the passing game behind both Marve and Terbush. We have a good runnig game already and need to improve the passing game. I think Terbush can do that.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I don't know about that, Ted. It's hard to replace experience at that position, and though Henry wasn't a great passer last year, all reports indicated he was improving. TerBush has a lot of talent and could be a pretty good QB. But there will be a learning curve, no question about it.
Bennett Bryant (Hartford, CT)
Who's the head football coach at the University of Illinois on September 1, 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
First of all, great first name there. Ron Zook can't feel too comfortable, given his career record and the fact that a new AD was just hired. However, I think the schedule sets up perfectly for the Illini to win about eight games this year, which should be enough for Zook to return next year. Anything less than that probably means a change.
Do you think there's any cance that JoePa is playing possum in not naming a starting qb to keep Alabama off balance?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I don't see how that works when you play a game the week before. Besides, Alabama's defense is so good it probably doesn't care who's playing QB for Penn State
WHO DO YOU SEE MAKING A STATEMENT IN THE B1G IN WEEK 1??
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Easy there with the all-caps button, Rayshawn. There aren't really a lot of statement-type games on the schedule. I have a feeling Minnesota could play well at USC and show us something. Pat Forde is already calling a Gophers upset. I'm not ready to go quite that far.
Tom (Lincoln Park)
Brian, do you see Michigan running the speed option at all out of the spread? There is evidence that Borges has done this in the past at Auburn, and would definitely make Robinson even more dangerous.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I see Borges using every and all options to utilize Robinson's talents. I think he'll spend more time in the shotgun than originally planned
Blake (Iowa City, Iowa)
Hey Brian, James Vanderberg has looked sharp throughout the Spring. Is a Rose Bowl Bid to high to hope for the Iowa Hawkeyes?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
It's possible. I like Vandenberg and Coker as a backfield duo, and there's a chance the Hawkeyes could swipe the Legends Division title away from Nebraska and Michigan State.
How make or break is the BC game for Northwestern? Does your opinion change based on how much Persa plays?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I don't think it's make or break because it's not a conference game. It sure doesn't sound like Persa is going to play the whole game, or be anywhere near 100 percent. And against that defense, that's a little scary for Northwestern.
Do you see the big 10 making any expansion if it looks like only texas am and another acc/big12 team is going to switch to SEC? Based upon their past acquisitions (Nebraska/Penn State) it looks like the big ten only wants to take schools that move the national needle (see texas, oklahoma, kansas, UNC/Duke, Notre Dame) and there aren't any readily looking to move at the moment.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Those moves alone won't be enough to force the Big Ten's hands. I say the league expands again only if other leagues move to 16 and there's a feeding frenzy for "free agent" teams from the leftovers.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Better College football kick-off meal...Homemade Chilli and cornbread (or) spread of various Wings and the veggie tray!?Over/under on Vandenberg's passing yards against Tennessee Tech....275
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Chili when it's cold and wings when it's warm. I'll go with the under, just because Iowa shouldn't need to throw it around too much to beat Tech
Three best offensive lines in the B1G, go!
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. With Illinois and Michigan not far behind.
Blake (Iowa City, Iowa)
Hey Brian, I feel Michigan State is getting overlooked by Wisconsin and Nebraska. Do you think Kirk Cousins can lead Sparty for a trip to Pasadena even with their tough schedule?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
That schedule is brutal, and the Legends Division is stacked. Michigan State is a really talented team, but it will have to play absolutely great to come anywhere close to last year's record.
We are approximately 3 days, 4 hours, 46 minutes and 8 seconds from kicking off the B1G season. Can you FEEL IT BENNETT?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I can. At first I thought it was that homemade chili, but it's just football fever
Do you think there is an opportunity for Coach Kelly to use both Rees as a change of pace as well as Golson or Hendrix?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I don't see Rees being a change of pace. I think Golson will be that guy. Rees will strictly be the backup unless Crist struggles or gets hurt.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Rittenberg has come a long ways in the backdrops he uses for blogs from home....from Hello Kitty behind him to the new B1G logo banner. Any chances at San Rio characters appearing on your blogs from home?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
No, but you'll see some Simpsons and maybe Godzilla or Star Wars action figures from time to time
Jackson (West Lafayette, IN)
I think people are far too harsh about Purdue and Danny Hope specifically. Injuries were a huge factor...as well as youth...in the Boilers missing a bowl last year. Purdues offense should be interesting, but I think they have a chance to field one of the better Ds in the conference. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I agree, but I think most people realize how injury-ravaged that team was. The silver lining is usually that young players get thrown in and have to develop faster, and that creates more depth. I'm not entirely sold on the defense yet.
Josh (Lafayette, IN)
Do you think that Indiana is getting closer to (and someday surpass) Purdue in the football world? As a Boilermaker fan, I have always felt that Purdue has had an edge on the Hoosiers. However, now with a new coach and some big name recruits from the state going to Bloomington, I am concerned about the state of Purdue football.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
The Hoosiers are starting to build a little momentum, while Purdue seems to be stalled a little. So that could happen, but first Kevin Wilson needs to produce some big wins and bowl appearances to keep the ball rolling.
Dan (Big O)
The B1G logo has grown on me. Thought it was pretty plain and boring at first, but now it just seems pretty natural...suppose the same will be said after while about the division names?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I never had a problem with the logo. It looked a little simplistic but a logo is a logo. People will get used to the division names, but I doubt anyone will ever like them
Last night on the local call-in sports talk show they had another idea for the redesigned Cy-Hawk Trophy. The suggestion was to have the trophy be a 'Corn Belt'- like a WWF wrestling belt. 'The battle of/for the corn belt.' At first I thought it was a joke and that it would never be taken seriously... but then again the original idea was to put a family and bushel of corn on a football trophy. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
It's goofy, but at least it's original. Not all trophies have to look alike. If a pig and an axe can become venerable trophies, why not a belt?
Jackson Terry (Wisconsin)
Thanks Brian for the chat. Do you think my badgers can run the table and if they do they are a lock for the Nat'l Championship right?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
They have the talent to do so, but I don't think anybody in the Big Ten gets through unscathed this year. Playing Nebraska and then Ohio State and Michigan State in a four-game stretch will be difficult emotionally and physically. An unbeaten Big Ten team will have a great claim to the BCS title game but it depends on whether there are also undefeated SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 teams as well.
You taking ND questions, too? If so, looking back at last season, with all the injuries and odd losses (MSU, U-M, Tulsa), can't the case be made that ND was about a 9-win team last season? Yet you picked them 9-3 again this season against a similar schedule. What three games do you see them losing?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
You could also say they won close games against Pitt and USC that might have gone differently. And that's just it ... given the schedule, there are going to be a lot of games that could go either way and hinge on a weird play, bounce or injury. That's why I think the Irish lose three of them.
Dave (Bad Axe, MI)
With RichRod going down in flames, I have to ask Why won't a pure spread work in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
No reason it wouldn't. RichRod's problem wasn't offense, it was defense. You could say the same about Northwestern.
Is the Big 12 wishful thinking by throwing Notre Dame's name out there? Notre Dame is not going to the Big 12.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Agreed. No way, no how ND goes to the Big 12. But it doesn't hurt to ask.
How badly will Bama blow out PSU? And when they do will it affect anyone's opinion of MSU from last year?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I'd have to make Bama about a 10-point favorite right now, though remember that the Tide will be breaking in a young quarterback on the road in a very hostile situation. That's why Penn State has a chance. As for perception, it will mean more for the SEC/Big Ten debate than for MSU.
Frank (Alexandria, VA)
You forgot to mention that RichRod's offense fizzled against the better defenses. They only scored 7 points against Ohio State.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
But that's not an indictment of the offensive system. Every offense is going to have its struggles, especially against an elite defense like the Buckeyes have.
what do you expect from coach fickell and the bucks this season?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Expectations are going to be high because it's Ohio State. Given everything that's gone on with the Buckeyes, I think a 9-3 year is reasonable. Anything less than that, and Fickell might not be back for 2012. Harsh, but that's life at the top
Are you jealous of Joe Pa's computer?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Looks like a very nice Mac on JoePa's desk. I wonder if I can see his Spotify playlist.
David (Houston, TX)
Do see Brian Kelly trying to turn the USF game into a statement game for ND's 2011 season if he has the chance and pouring on the points against Skip Holtz USF team?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I see him trying to win the game by any means necessary and getting out with few injuries. Remember that Michigan and Michigan State are up the next two weeks. They won't care about the USF score.
Frank (Alexandria, VA)
Am I crazy for thinking Michigan could win 9 games this year?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Not crazy, but optimistic. The ND game is a big swing game for the Wolverines. Win that one and they're off to a good start. I'm still skeptical that the defense is good enough to lead to that much improvement, especially in a stacked division.
Hello Brian, Who is your front runner to win first ever Big Ten Championship Game?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I still like Wisconsin to win it. Hopefully I won't be regretting that pick Thursday night.
How will Nebraska's front 7 stand up against the power running game of Wisconsin, especially considering the struggles they had against the run at times last season?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
A really interesting question. The Wisconsin line has its way with a lot of teams. I think the Huskers D-line will be fine. I'm still wondering about those LBs and how they'll hold up against the big old Badgers. We might just see it twice this year
What do you think the Big Ten's record will be after week one?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Either 10-2 or 11-1. Reason I'm wavering is I haven't decided on Northwestern vs. BC yet. Our official picks are coming Thursday.
If you look at Nebraska's front 7, they look a lot like TCU's front 7 last year which gave Bucky fits in the Rose Bowl.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I wouldn't agree with that. I was at that game, and Wisconsin moved the ball just fine on the ground. The Badgers just seemed to get away from running the ball in that game for some unknown reason.
Sam (Ann Arbor)
How much will having a new defensive staff and Greg Mattison improve Michigan's defense? Other than Martin, depth at the line, and Woolfolk, the only thing we have going for us is experience. Illinois was able to improve in one year..is it possible for Michigan too?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I definitely expect improvement. The 4-3 is a better fit, and as a guy who used to cover the Big East and Syracuse, I was not a big believer in Greg Robinson. The question is how much talent and depth there really is on that side of the ball, and whether they make enough improvement to win more games. Looking forward to the Western Michigan game, because if nothing else that team can throw the ball around and present a challenge.
I understand Nebraska's D is pretty legit, but why does everyone seem to overlook their struggles on offense last year? They have not done much to improve (still don't have a proven passer) and will be facing much better run defenses this year in the B1G compared to the more pass happy D's in the B12. I see them struggling more than a 2-3 times this season to get more than 10 on the scoreboard, which will make it hard for them to end up with a winning record in conference. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's a very fair question. A lot of people are assuming Martinez gets better and stays healthy, which will make a huge difference. The offense was so different when he was on. Going to be fascinating to follow this year.
Is the 1 loss you have this weekend Minn against USC?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Brian (Grand Rapids, MI)
Do you think Northwestern or Illinois will surprise anybody if they can stay healthy this? If not them who do you think is underestimated this year and could surprise the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I think Illinois could surprise. That schedule is a coaches' dream, and the offense should be pretty good.
JP (Culver City, CA)
Hi Brian, Thanks for taking my question. I'm a huge ND fan, but I'm also objective in my views. I'm very concerned about all of the positive hype surrounding the football team, most of which is due to the 4-0 finish last year. However, when looking more closely at that finish, they beat a Utah team that was destroyed by TCU the week before, they beat Army, then USC without Barkley and Miami without a head coach. Is all of the talk just people being overly-optimistic or is this truly a new era in ND football?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
There's truth in what you say, but the reason for optimism is how the Irish played in those games --- with an emphasis on defense and running the ball -- and the type of athletes Kelly is recruiting. The Irish have the right coach in place, so better things should be on the horizon.
What does it tell us PSU fans that Glenn Carson breaks in the starting lineup late in camp and "pushes" Butkus candidate Michael Mauti to strongside LB?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I found that a little surprising, but the Nittany Lions look loaded at linebacker. I'm not worried at all about that position group. It's the defensive ends that concern me.
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
Do you think Notre Dame might ever decide to play additional Big Ten teams in the future besides Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State (barring ND moving to the Big Ten Conference)?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Well, sure. The Irish are playing Northwestern in the future and have played Nebraska. I don't see any more permanent series like the other three but certainly some occasional games and series.
If you had to choose this years NC competitor out of these two, which do you choose? OU or FSU?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Oklahoma. I know the Sooners have to go to FSU, but the Seminoles have disappointed with high expectations too many years in a row now. Oklahoma just waits until the BCS to lay its eggs
Hi Brian, let's say the Badgers, at 10-2 (MSU/PSU) play a 9-3 Nebraska team in the CCG, and win a trip to the Rose Bowl. Who gets the other hypothetical BCS bid, a 10-2 (WI/UNL) OSU team or the 9-4 CCG runner up?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
A very good question. I'd say the 10-2 team goes in that scenario. Reminds me of the SEC last year, where Arkansas went to the Sugar after South Carolina lost in the SEC title game
HERKY (Iowa City, IA)
So when you gonna come visit me at Historic Kinnick Stadium Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Don't have any game assignments beyond Week 2 yet, but I am excited to get to Iowa City at some point.
Pancakes (Pancakington, PA)
Who has the most lop-sided win this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I have a feeling Nebraska pours it on. Michigan State and Penn State should roll as well
Jake (Mexico City )
Where are you in Week 1 and 2? Will you and Adam always travel separately?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
My lips are sealed until Friday. Company policy. I'm sure there will be a time when Adam and I are at the same game but for the early going we're splitting things up.
Hi Brian, I see one of two things happening when the suspended Buckeye players return: as a bunch of veteran stars returning to provide a boost, or as an integration problem that will throw their team play out of whack. How do you see it?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I don't think it will be a problem for Mike Adams because he's clearly the best player there. DeVier Posey can add much-needed experience at receiver, where the touches can be divided. If there's any position where there might be some chemistry issues, it would figure to be at running back, especially if one of the younger RBs stars in the early going. But Herron seems to be popular with his teammates at that position.
ESPN Boss dude (ESPN HQ)
Brian, wrap it up.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
True story. My time is up. Can't wait until Thursday night and this weekend. Enjoy it, everybody