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. I'm here for the next hour, so we can talk about all things in the conference, or the St. Louis Cardinals' playoff chances of last night's Breaking Bad
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
But mostly just Big Ten football. Fire away!
Maybe my head is in the sand, and maybe I'm just a little sour after how the Huskers played, but I think the Huskers and Badgers and pretty much mirrors of each other...minus the one position that matters most - quarterback. Swap quarterbacks and I think Nebraska is the one in control of that game. Any team can shut down another when you can tee off on its single dimension and count on the opposing QB to throw it right to your defenders...
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Dan, I agree that Nebraska played much better when it was running the ball and that it got away from its game plan by having Martinez throw so much. At the same time, though, I just wasn't impressed with the Nebraska defense. They had no answers for the Wisconsin O-line and let the Badgers score repeatedly in the second half.
It's always great to beat the Buckeyes, especially since we have not beaten them since 1999. But that was brutal and as ugly a win as Ive seen. If the Sparty wants to be a legitimate Big Ten contender, they have some issues to work on starting with Kirk Cousins and the offense, which is ironic considering this was supposed to be their strong suit.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I agree, Shawn. That defense is legit, maybe the best in the league, especially up front. But the offense has trouble running the ball against better teams, and Cousins has to be sharper than he was against Ohio State. The Spartans may have to win some 17-14 type games.
Jon (Kzoo, Mi)
So this 2 QB formation Michigan showed last week, is it anything more than a gimmick or is this something they could actually use a lot of this season?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I think it's more of a gimmick. There's a lot of moving parts to that play and it didn't work all that great last week. But it gives opposing defenses one more thing to work on/worry about. And it looks cool
Who do you think has the best chance to beat the badgers
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
The road game at Michigan State is the biggest road block. Maybe the only one. Adam and I are going to tackle this very topic in our podcast this week.
Phillip (a stadium near you)
Brian, Illinois has won the last three games by three points each.They are winning the close games.Last year they were losing the close games.What have you seen to be the difference so far this year?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
The defense made big plays the first two games, and then the offense came through last week. The biggest factor, to me? The games have been at home. Don't underestimate that. Illinois probably loses two of the past three if those were road games.
Mark (Dubuque, IA)
Brian, are you looking forward to Iowa's up tempo offense vs. Penn State's defense like I am? Should be entertaining!
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I really am. I always like those games where there is a clear strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness matchup. (Of course, I thought that about MSU-OSU last week, too. I hope we don't see another 10-7 game).
Kamadeva ( )
BB, why are people hating on Martinez, but not Robinson? Both are great runners who dominate non-conference cupcakes, and both are poor passers. The only difference is the Martinez played a real team already, and Robinson's toughest game so far was a mediocre ND.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Um, well, Denard Robinson's team is 5-0. The two QBs are similar, but Robinson has made plays when needed to win games (admittedly, as you said, against a weaker schedule). Your team loses, the QB usually gets criticized. That's just how it is.
TJ (Dayton, Ohio)
Brian, after the bad showing in Miami and against MSU this past weekend....and pretty much having possibly the next 3 games as losses due to an inept offense, theres no way Luke Fickell remains as Ohio State coach next season. Who do you place your odds higher on as the next Ohio State coach Jon Gruden? or Urban Meyer? Ohio State has no other option than to let the current coaching staff go because of fan apathy towards the coaching of this team.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I'm not liking Fickell's chances at the moment, and I think that's a shame. He was handed a virtually impossible situation. One thing to remember, too, is that he's a defensive coach. The Buckeyes' D has been very good. So it's hard to blame him for the offensive struggles. Who knows about the next coach, but I doubt Gruden would be realistic. Will the Buckeyes make a run at Pelini? That would be fascinating
Is 7-0 realistic for the Illini? If they cut down on penalties and turnovers what do you see as their ceiling? From what I've seen of the conference 10-2 and 11-1 is becoming more of a possibility.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
They should be 6-0 after this week and then a struggling Ohio State team comes to Champaign. This team could end up at 10-2 or so and really not be all that great.
Nate (A Combine in the Field)
Ok, now that Nebraska has had their underwear exposed. What is going to happen in the Legends Division? And assuming Wisconsin wins the Leaders, can anyone in the Legends compete with Wisconsin??? If I had to bet the $200K machine I am sitting in right now on a B1G winner... I'm picking the Badgers! Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Wisconsin is an overwhelming favorite right now. The Legends looks wide open, with Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and even Iowa. Northwestern won't be an easy out, either. That race should be a ton of fun to watch.
Wren (Bottom 10 Barrel)
Who would win this Big Ten pillow fight if they were to play: Minnesota vs. Indiana?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
All of us would lose as spectators
HawkFanBeau (none of your Business )
I know KF said he would use more two minute hurry up on O. But with the Weather we get here in Gods country I don't see him going away from the Pro style burn the clock up for more than 20% of the total plays. What do you think Iowa would/Should do against PSU?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
The Hawkeyes now know they can use the hurry-up as a weapon, especially if they need a spark. But I don't think they're going to become Texas Tech or Oregon. I would like to see them mix it in a little bit against Penn State, because that defense is very good. One advantage to the no-huddle is you tire out the defensive linemen and prevent substitutions. That could be a big help for Iowa.
Would Minnesota vs Indiana really be a bigger loss to us spectators than the legendary MSU-OSU game this past weekend? At least we might see some offense...
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Good point. I went to the Horseshoe, and a Rutgers-Syracuse game broke out.
You and Ritt have PSU in the ticket city bowl. We just tripped past Indiana, so mind telling us where you guys see two more wins for my Nits?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Well, Penn State plays Purdue at home. If it doesn't win that game, there are serious problems. There are no guarantees on the rest of the schedule. I could see another 7-5 type year.
Come back to the Big East blog!
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
After seeing UConn lose to Western Michigan and Louisville fall to Marshall, I think I'll stay here for the time being. But thanks
A national writer said in a chat today that either Bama or LSU would shut down the Badger O. I think the O-line is underrated and while they would be slowed, they can't truly be stopped. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I think Bama and LSU are playing on an entirely different level than everyone else defensively. They're scary good. That said, Wisconsin would score. But it might be hard to get to 21 points. Remember the Badgers struggled to do much on TCU in the Rose Bowl last year
John (New York)
Is there a single bright spot for Husker Nation right now? Or are we rightfully in panic mode?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
The bright spot is they won't have to play Wisconsin again until Dec. 3 at the earliest. Seriously, though, I liked the way Rex Burkhead ran the ball again. I still think this team will turn it around and that defense has to get better. It can beat anybody in the Legends Division (though it could also lose to the top teams there, too)
Folically Challenged (Hamiltucky, Ohio)
As a Purdue fan, I'm not despairing at the poor performance against ND Saturday night. Rather, I'm despairing because it's been 3 years since they've even been remotely competitive. Is this a problem that can be fixed with new coordinators (a la Illinois), or does Coach Hope himself need to go to get things turned around?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I feel your pain, FC. You could blame injuries and youth for the last two years, but that was an embarrassingly bad performance in a circle-the-wagons moment for Purdue against ND. The team just looks lost, with no forward momentum whatsoever. Danny Hope has got to start feeling some pressure if things don't improve
Brian, do you see the quarterback competition opening back up at OSU, given neither Miller or Bauserman can seem to move the football? 2 other backup QB's wait in the wings that probably cant do worse than these two have...
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I don't really. The staff seems to think there's a clear gap between Miller and Bauserman and Guiton and Graham. I'd stick with Miller and let him grow, but they may have to keep rotating Bauserman in there to help the passing game. It's ugly
Rusty (Alexandria, VA)
9 wins for Michigan this year?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I think so. I really see a 7-0 start for this team. And not playing Wisconsin is huge.
TJ (Dayton Ohio)
Brian your right Fickell is a defensive coach. However, when your the "head coach" you have to be in charge of all aspects of the game. Urban Meyer would be considered an offensive coach but he always has had good defenses. Problem with Fickell is game management....There's still a LOT of talent on that OSU team however Fickell isn't head coaching materal IMO.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I just don't think anything Fickell could have done with his game management would have made a difference in the two losses. He's been playing with one hand behind his back with all the suspensions and the lack of experience at QB. If you want to blame somebody, blame Jim Tressel.
Jimmy (Ann Arbor)
Buy or Sell Michigan State? The MSU/OSU game albeit boring to watch, doesn't give me any indication on how good either teams are. Since OSU won't be back to full force, I will wait to pass judgement on them. However, MSU's defense can possibly be the real deal (elite) or just looked very good playing some poor quality teams. Cousins looked mediocre, their running backs looked good but they had to create a lot for themselves with no help from their line whatsoever. So is MSU a contender in Legends?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I talked about the Spartans earlier and absolutely think their defense is the real deal. That alone will help them contend. They have as good a chance as anybody to win the Legends. Looking forward to that Michigan game in two weeks in East Lansing.
Paul Bunyan (Minnesota)
I was disappointed that I can't sip from my little 'ol Jug for another year. What changed, talent wise, from the team that could beat Iowa and Illinois last year, to the team that can't do much this year?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I'm surprised at just how bad Minnesota is. I know there was a coaching change, and Kill's situation has to have been a major distraction for the players. But they shouldn't be this hapless. Forget last year -- what happened to the team that had a chance to beat USC in the opener?
Pavlov's Dog (Russia)
Sorry Brian, it seems you and the rest of the experts are under estimating Wisconsin. I am impressed with LSU and Bama but you and the rest of the media are making them out to be unbeatable gods. Everyone is mortal Brian and every dog has his day.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I don't see how I'm underestimating the Badgers. I think they're one of the five best teams in the country. I just see Bama and LSU as being on a different level athletically than everyone else. If you've seen what the SEC has done in national title games recently, that's hard to dispute
Where does the notion that Wisconsin struggled against TCU come from? Sure they only put up 19 points, but they rushed for 226 yards (4.9 per) and had 385 yards of total offense (84 more than TCU). The self inflicted wounds of a missed field goal and dropped pass inside the 5 were devastating, but they weren't shut down by TCU.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Struggled to score. I was at that game. The Badgers got away from their strengths and passed too much.
Justin Verlander (Detroit MI)
I hate the St. Louis Cardinals! They ruined 2006!
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Would love a chance to do the same thing again in 2011, JV
Wren (Bottom 10 Barrel)
You dissed on UConn and Louisville, but Minnesota and Indiana are worse than either of them. Sure you don't want to go back to the Big East?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Minnesota and IU are bad, but UConn is the defending Big East champ and Louisville was supposed to be a program on the rise. And they only have eight teams this year, who knows how many next year. Big East football is struggling. I take no joy in that. It just is.
Why does Fitz insist on running the ball so much? In the past few years, when we have excelled, teh pass has been our bread and butter, yet we have gone away from it with limited success against Army and Illinois, two teams that we destroyed with the pass but stalled with the run.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Persa wasn't available against Army, and Kain Colter isn't a great passer. The passing game was working just fine until Persa got hurt last week, and the offense put up 35 points. That should be enough to win, especially with a 28-10, second-half lead.
Adam and yourself need to start pointing out obvious flaws in BIG teams. Michigan has zero defense and has strived off turnovers against below average teams and they still can not pass(only against east dakota). Nebraska has no passing game. MSU has offensive line troubles. Illinois is somehow getting by against below average teams. UM loses 3, MSU loses 2 more, Illinois loses 3. There really is no way around it. You simply can not be one dimensional in the BIG and you have to play defense. The last 2 decades have proven this.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Here's the thing, though, Jared: Every team but Wisconsin looks pretty flawed right now. So who are these teams going to lose to?
How can Breaking Bad possibly go for another season, so much is happening? Also, with his micro-managing abilities would Gus Fring make a good coach?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I love this question. I'd fear for my safety if I didn't play well for Coach Fring.
Steve (Windy City)
Brian, the coaches seem to like MSU (have them up to 20 in the coaches poll) but the AP didn't even rank them. Are you more inclined to go with the coaches or the media?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I believe I have the Spartans at No. 21. Big believer in the defense. But the poll is really a crapshoot after the Top 10 right now.
D.W. (Unhappy Valley)
Brian, I think the QB controversy at PSU has gone on long enough. At this point, I think the offensive struggles are an indictment of the Offensive (pun intended) coaching staff. The defense continues, as always to perform at a high level. However, the offense continues to struggle. The qb's are clearly not improving and the offense in general continues to make the same mistakes week in and week out. A team, in this case the offense, that does not improve from week to week is a sign of poor coaching. I believe it is time to make some major changes to the offensive coaching staff...your thoughts?????
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I understand your misery, D.W. I think it's time to give McGloin the job and see what he can do. He's clearly outplayed Bolden, though neither has been spectacular. The offensive line is not great, either. No matter who is QB, Penn State should have been able to run the ball down IU's throat and it could not do so. That's very troubling. At the very least, Penn State needs a serious reevaluation on offense.
Brian, allow me to look ahead to potential bowl match-ups. Do you think the match-up of an undefeated Stanford and an undefeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl would qualify as a de facto national championship in the event both are shut out of the title game?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I think the actual title game would be the de facto title game. But I'd like to see that matchup. Luck vs. Wilson? Two physical, hard-nosed teams? Sounds fun
Lil BeauPete (Mote, IA)
Why haven't you answered my Iowa questions yet? It must be true, you hate us. Do you think our defense, which has looked shaky at times this year, will have a chance to look good against PSU? They don't really seem to have much momentum and Iowa could really use a good game against a decent team to get their swagger back.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Right. I hate Iowa. Haven't figured out what possible motivation I'd have for that yet, though. Anyway, if you can't look good against Penn State, you've got issues. Heck, Indiana's D looked good against Penn State and held the Lions to eight fewer points than North Texas scored against the Hoosiers.
Brian (New York)
You have Michigan going 7-0...so that means you have them beating Sparty. Interested in what your keys to victory are in Michigan winning that game?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
You know what? I skipped right past that game and saw the Purdue game, even though I talked about Michigan-Michigan State being next week. Duh. Let's make that, at least 7-1. As for keys, it's pretty simple. Michigan is going to have to run the ball against a very stout front, and Denard is going to have to throw well.
What will it take for Indiana to get another win this season? More importantly, what will it take for you to answer one IU question in this entire chat?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I'll answer the second part first: Yours is literally the first IU question I've seen today. Anyway, the Hoosiers did some positive things against Penn State, and they're playing so many young kids they're bound to improve. The Northwestern and Purdue games are probably the only realistic shots.
Heard an interesting question today I thought I would throw your way. If you're a Buckeye fan would you rather have Tressel or Pryor back on the field at this point, from the standpoint of this season?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Pryor. This team would be a lot better with even a mediocre quarterback.
Do you agree with your coworker Ivan that the transfer rule that encourages academics that sent RW to Wisco is hurting college football?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I do not. I respect Ivan a great deal, but I don't see the problem, especially since NC State all but told Wilson to get lost.
Bob (Somewhere over the Atlantic)
Is it possible that too much success has bred a "me first" attitude at OSU? I'd have thought that after the pre-Sugar Bowl investigation, guys would have gotten smarter about what is and isn't allowed, but then three additional players got suspended to start this season. Now there's a story out there that Herron and Posey might not be elligible until after the Nebraska game. Are the OSU players just extremely selfish, extremely stupid, or is the compliance office there in name only? Should OSU outsource their compliance to the NSA to ensure this behavior doesn't happen again?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
It appears to me, and this is observing mostly from afar, that there is a great sense of entitlement among star players there, and a whole lot of hangers-on who want to enhance that sense.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
If you had to pick a favorite in the legends division right now, who would it be?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
It's very tough. I'm going to stick with my preseason Nebraska pick, but Michigan and Michigan State are right there.
Brian - Seriously tired of the PSU hating... they clearly were in the game versus Bama and then had a potential let down against a defensively good temple team... yes the Indiana game was alarming but... lets stay a bit calm here, IU had that game as a must win to turn their already horrible season around,so they were up for it where I think PSU sleep walked abit and looked sloppy... not saying they are going to be great, but seriously just wait till after the Iowa game until you write them off... remember this is the same coachiing staff that produced some very good (2009) of not great offenses (2010) so lets try and stay calm. I would hope to see more about how big a sham Nebraska has been... Welcome to B1G! The Small-12 North look pretty good right about now!
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Tom, it's not hating. The Penn State offense has been just plain brutal, and after five games it's pretty clear that's not a fluke. I'm not writing them off by any means because the defense is really good and the league as a whole is not that imposing. But I think the Lions are due to lose some games here soon.
Mochila (Grand Rapids)
Last question from me, I swear. People complain about not getting their question answered, but we also don't know how many you get during the course of an hour, on average. If it turns out that you get hundreds, we might be more forgiving and less passive aggressive.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I can tell you I'm well over 400 questions so far
what you heisman ballot look like now
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I've got Russelmania No. 1 this week.
Here is the scenario.....end of the season is here and unbeaten teams are an SEC champ, Wisconsin and Boise State....Do you think in a perfect world Boise State gets the nod over Wisconsin for the NC. Although last year is no predictor of the current year but didn't TCU prove a point for the non-AQs last year. Or are we still going to keep neglecting the non-AQs?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I think Wisconsin would get the nod over Boise. The Broncos have the edge right now in the polls, but I think that would be negated as their SOS goes down. Wisconsin will need other Big Ten teams to play well and it wouldn't hurt if Oregon State and Northern Illinois finished strong. That nonconference schedule will be highly criticized if your scenario plays out.
Brian - Is it just me, or wasn't the Brown penalty sort of a metaphor for the entire NU-UI game? As an IL fan, I'm disgusted by that behavior...also he did it with two refs within 5 feet...no wonder they are making so many mistakes - they seem to lack discipline and that's on the coaches.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
These things tend to happen in heated rivalry games, and I think Brown just got a little too caught up in it. Still, that was the cheapest of cheap shots and can't be excused. Surprised he wasn't ejected.
Towel dispenser (Dane county airport)
That was a sucker punch! Brian, can I get a rematch with Chase Rome or the Huskers?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I want some details. Was this one of those automatic dispenser things but the sensor was off? Or was it a manual dispenser that was jammed? Or was it out of towels? Those things frustrate me too. Hey, at least the Nebraska defense hit something before leaving town
Brian, we would like to apologize to you, Wisconsin and the BI6 Ten for Saturday. That was simply pathetic and below our acceptable standards. I will refrain from posting any additional questions until we put a team on the field that is representative of the NU brand.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
You don't owe me anything, but I'd sure like to see that powerful Nebraska D I heard so much about. Fact is, the Big Ten needs another powerhouse team.
Pavlov's Dog (Russia)
Brian, AR called the ACC pansies last week and you need to call a conference out now (other than the B1G) to show you are just as tough.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That Sun Belt sure is soft!
Matt Green (Ann Arbor)
Reading too much into Michigan's blowout victory and current #11/12 ranking is an absolute mistake. I have full respect for Jerry Kill and the program that will one day come to fruition ; however, the Gophers are currently comprobable to a mid-tear FCS school at best (especially without their starting quarterback). Bottom line: until they've beat a competitive B1G team ON THE ROAD, Michigan better realize how little they've accomplished. Do you feel Michigan is warranted in their top 12 ranking?
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Minnesota is bad. Real bad. Still, I like the way Michigan is playing. Is this a Top 12 team? Probably not, but very few teams have distinguished themselves so far this season. I'm starting to believe more in the Wolverines. Ask me in two weeks.
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
Hey, I've exceeded my time for this week. It was fun. Let's do it again next Monday.