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 and welcome to another Big Ten chat. I'm going to have to cut it a little short today because of a conflict but will get to as many of your questions as possible
Mark Dantonio (East Lansing, MI)
I've been having a lot of nightmares about Kinnick Stadium. Got any tips for me vs. Iowa this week? Any advice to help me get some sleep?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Well, you players don't have to worry about doing interviews this week. I don't understand why Michigan State is so much worse offensively on the road. If I were you, Mark, I'd put it in the hands of my defense and running game in Iowa City
Scott Solomon (State College)
Hey Brian, Im a die hard Penn State fan and have been going to the games before I could walk and I am truly shocked about the allegations made on Sandusky. Do you foresee any punishments on the football team or is it strictly a legal matter? How do you think that these distractions well effect them this week in a big home game against Nebraska?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
We're going to stick to football in this chat, so I won't be talking much about the legal case. But I will answer about the distractions. This is a difficult situation, because it's a huge game and it's senior day, but there will be tons of national media in town asking uncomfortable questions. It can't help but be a distraction, even if none of the current players are involved with this
Hey Brian, just want to talk about my Huskers for a quick second. Is this loss really a bad thing for Nebraska? I mean, we seem to choke in Championship games, after all. We've been so up and down lately, which do you think would be better? Win a couple more games and go to a mid-tier bowl and win convincingly, or win out, somehow finagle the system and make it to a BCS game with a B1G Championship and probably lose the bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
You always want to finish as high as you can, and a BCS game is the goal after a shot at a national title is gone. So, yeah, it's bad. Nebraska still has a ways to go before it can recapture the glory days.
Garret (Sacramento, CA --> Iowa City, IA)
Hey Brian, just recently read the article on the front page of ESPN about a lack of either B1G Legends or Leaders. Sorry for being blunt, but what's with that crap? Who cares? I'm tired of hearing about a lack of B1G competition; it's one of the oldest conferences in the NCAA and has one of the steadiest and cleaniest track records (even with recent issues). College football fans and media members seem to be some of the most fickle group I've ever seen; we'll hail a team's heroics one week and curse their failures the next. Tell your main-page friends to relax: the B1G has been around for a while and has won plenty of quality matches - and they will again eventually. I'll be happy to wave at their "super" teams as they pass by me on the road to destruction because their conferences cannibalize and eat each other all for the sake of a few green papers.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Um, OK. Well, I wrote that story, in case you didn't notice. Anyway, the tradition is nice, but we're talking about this season. And the truth is, the league is pretty mediocre this year. Not terrible, and there are quite a few good teams. But no great ones
Josh O (Madison, WI)
Is there a reason Montee Ball isn't being talked about for Big Ten player of the year? Or Heisman? Numbers wise he's better than Richardson from Alabama (obviously Richardson's the better player in a better conference though).
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
The two losses killed any Heisman hype. And the love for Russell Wilson overshadowed Ball. But he's having a monster season and is definitely in the picture for league offensive POY
shady (Findlay, OH)
how would you compare the B1G's best back silas redd with the freshest back boom herron? and what can we expect from those 2 in the remaining 3 games?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Herron looks great. He's not only very talented, but like you said he's fresh, and I also think he's highly motivated after the suspension. He's had much less of a workload than Redd and, I think, a better offensive line. But the Buckeyes have even less of a passing threat than Penn State
WHy didn't denard scramble at all against iowa. They need to get rid of those designed run plays for him and just let him do what he does best. I know denard wants to prove he can be a quality pocket passer but he can do so much more with his legs when that pocket breaks down.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It was interesting. Robinson may have been a little banged up -- he had a shoulder problem during the game and apparently wasn't 100 percent going in. On the last series, I would have liked to have seen at least one designed run. But Michigan didn't have any timeouts. Credit Iowa for stepping up on defense
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Jerry Kill is obviously rebuilding things quickly up north. Do you see Minnesota winning again this season?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Not this weekend, but if the Gophers play like they have the past two weeks, they'll have a chance against Northwestern and Illinois
How do you think the Big Ten matches up with other conferences this year? It has a lot of depth but no elite team. I'd say 3rd or 4th.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I think that's about right. I'd put it behind the SEC and Big 12 but ahead of the Pac-12 and ACC
Nathan (East Lansing)
Why are all Big Ten teams getting killed by the computers? It'd be different if it was just one team, but it's the entire conference! What does MSU have to do, besides win out, to jump up in the computers?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It's surprising. The nonconference schedules have not helped the league out. Penn State played Alabama, but even the Lions aren't getting much love by the computers.
shazor (Findlay, OH)
i dont want to sound stupid, but do the buckeyes even need to pass the ball more than 10 times a game anymore this year? perdue is horrible against the run, penn state is going to be low scoring about any way i can think of it, and my jury is still out on michigan's defense, marcus coker looked pretty good against them though, what are your thoughts bennett?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I think Ohio State has made it pretty clear that it will run the ball as much as possible. I expect Penn State to be a defensive war. Braxton Miller will at least have to keep Michigan honest with a few throws, though. The Wolverines front is pretty good
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
I think PSU can handle Nebraska this week, although they may be pretty fired up after their loss to NW. After this game, who do you see giving the Lions the most trouble?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
All three games are trouble for Penn State. The finale in Madison will be very tough. Can't see PSU winning there
Brain I am starting to think that Carl Pelini is not a defensive genius and needs to go. In 08 and 09 Bo was in charge of defense, in 10 and 11 Carl has been in charge and we have fallen on defense. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
You really think Bo would let his brother go? I think it's the players more than the coaches right now.
Le'veon Bell (East Lansing)
Brian-- am I FINALLY going to be the premier back at MSU, or will Baker continue to get carries when I'm clearly tearing up defenses with my killer spin moves...
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Bell had a nice performance, but I'd still like to see Michigan State consistently run the ball well, especially on the road. Don't forget Edwin Baker's big game against Michigan, either. The Spartans ought to be able to run the ball on Iowa
How about them Wildcats?!? Why couldn't NU put it all together like this throughout Big Ten play?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
An excellent question. Offensively, of course, they've been good all year. What was surprising was the defensive play. I think it helped that they didn't play a big time passing team in Nebraska, because Northwestern's biggest weakness was its pass defense
Chad (Iowa City)
What are the best and worst case scenarios for the first B1G Championship game in terms of league expsosure? I imagine the hype surrouding an MSU vs. Wisc rematch would be right up there.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
That or Wisconsin-Michigan is probably the best case scenario. I'm not sure the league wants the type of attention that having Ohio State or Penn State in the title game would bring right now
I may be a bit biased due to my location but i am exctied about the future of Braxton Miller. Any chance that the Miller to Smith Connection can take us to a National title appearance?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Really like what I've seen out of Miller. He's not only a terrific runner but has tons of confidence and poise. The key will be whether he develops into at least a decent passer. Ohio State should always be in the conversation for national title hopes with its talent
Everyone knew that the Illini weren't as good as a 6-0 record would indicate but i didn't think they were as bad as the last few games make them look...what the heck happened???
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Part of it was the schedule. But the troubling part has been how bad the offense has been the past three games. The offensive line in particular has not been very good. And special teams haven't helped much
It is settled. Northwestern gets to go by NU and Nebraska has to go by UNL.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
The Big 10 race has been very exciting this year but a little too close to what happens year in and year out in the Average Coast Conference for my taste. Do you see this trend continuing or does this have to more to do with so many Big 10 teams especially the traditional powers?OSU and UM first year coach; Nebraska?s first year in conference?in a state of flux which results in less dominant teams at the top?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
It's all cyclical. Just happens to be one of those years. I do think the addition of Nebraska will make it tougher for any team to go undefeated, but there will be elite teams again
Would it shock you to see Iowa win out the rest of this year?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Yes, only because Iowa hasn't shown much consistency all season along. So for them to win four in a row seems like a stretch, especially with two on the road. Hawkeyes haven't been very good away from home
Do you and AR continue to project PSU as the team to come out of the Leaders division simply because of the backlash that would come from Penn State fans if you didn't? Or do you actually think they have the best chance of getting there?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Penn State has a two-game lead with three to play. The Lions deserve to be projected into the title game for now.
What's the chances UM rebounds this week, and beats the Illini on the road?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Good, even though the Wolverines have a lot to prove on the road. Illinois isn't exactly playing great now, either. Really interested in the matchup between the Illini D, which is underrated, against Denard Robinson and Co.
Adam Johnson (Waukesha, WI)
I can't really gage Wisconsin this year. Do you believe the Badgers a good team who had two pathetic weeks, or a mediocre team in a strongly divided division?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I wouldn't call those losses pathetic. They lost to good teams on the road on last-second plays. Wisconsin is just much, much better at home and probably should have tested itself more in the nonconference. And special teams mistakes have taken a toll
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
After Cokers start to the season, how surprised are you by his recent surge? And a bonus question.. Do you think Iowa's D flipped a huge page by there performance last sat?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Not surprised by Coker, since I thought he would have a huge year. The surprise was the slow start, but he did get hurt in camp and that played a role. Like Northwestern, I think Iowa benefited by not playing a big passing team. The Hawkeyes played inspired on D, especially Broderick Binns, but I don't think the problems were fixed overnight
Was I the only one that thought LSU/Alabama was a totally boring game? Yes, the defense was great but "yawn."
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I wasn't bored, but I was also thoroughly unimpressed by the QB play. I do not have any interest in seeing a rematch
Do the fans Booo Joe this weekend??
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Wow. Hadn't even thought of that. There is the possibility it's his last home game as head coach. I can see Penn State fans being very conflicted, but ultimately supporting JoePa.
Jon (Norwalk, CT)
Hi Brian, Let's say the Badgers win out, but don't make it to the Big Ten Title Game. Do they make it to a BCS bowl game?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
They'd have a good chance, but they need those computers to help them so they can climb in the Top 14 and be eligible. That should happen with three more wins, but beating Minnesota and Illinois won't do much to impress pollsters and spread sheets.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
OK, I've got about five more minutes
Brian J (Chicago)
OK, so if two highly ranked Big 10 teams played a 9-6 game with missed FGs and underthrown passes would the college football media be calling it a "great game" or "one for the ages"? Look, I'm not arguing that the SEC isn't better than the Big 10 but the fawning gets ridiculous. If that were two Big 10 teams the ripfest would be on.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Agree. The defenses were ferocious. But if LSU is so hard to score on, how did West Virginia and Oregon do it?
Any comment toward Martinez's performance Saturday? Would've been nice to have the coaches stick with his hot hand, even if the receivers had dropped a few, when the O-line couldn't find a way to keep NW from clobbering Burkhead in the backfield...
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I thought Martinez played really well, but the coaches obviously liked the way Burkhead had played the past month and wanted to stick with what had worked. It was windy, too, which probably didn't inspire a lot of confidence in the passing game. But attacking Northwestern's secondary should have been a main focal point
John (U.S. Air Force Academy, CO)
Who is your pick for B1G coach of the year?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Boy, it is wide open. I said Hoke last week, and Michigan went out and lost. Right now, you'd have to give it to JoePa, but we all know there are reasons to think that won't happen in the next three weeks
Nathan (East Lansing)
I appreciate you being the first person to ever answer one of my questions, but as an MSU fan, I need to know who to be rooting for these last three weeks of the season! Thanks Brian
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Pretty simple, Nathan. Just root for your team. If Michigan State wins out, it's going to Indy. I think you'd rather see OSU or Penn State on the other side instead of a rematch with Wisconsin
Jake (Columbus, OH)
Indiana really impressed this weekend--they didn't play like a 1-8 team (now 1-9). What do you think their record would be if they played the whole season like they did this past Saturday?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
They played very hard and I was impressed with the improvement. Indiana could have won at least two more games with that kind of effort. Certainly should have beaten North Texas and Ball State.
peter (ashville, nc)
Brian, let's get to it - Junior Hemingway's catch at the end of the Michigan/Iowa game - should it have been ruled a TD? Don't equivocate. The world wants to know. Says here the refs got it dead wrong and i don't even care. Just want some referee accountability for once.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I thought he was inbounds but wasn't sure whether he had control of the ball when he fell, because it looked like the point of the ball hit the turf. I'd like to know what the replay official based his decision on.
Are you really comparing what is happening at Ohio State to what is happening at Penn State? Look I hate the Buckeyes as much as anybody but what they did is minuscule compared to PSU.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I didn't compare it at all. But does the Big Ten want a team that could be getting NCAA sanctions right before the title game going to Indy? Probably not.
if Michigan State beat our backups by only 3 why would they want a rematch with 3 of the best players in the country at their position now playing (Adams, Posey, Herron)
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I think Michigan State matches up better with a low-scoring team like Ohio State or Penn State. And Wisconsin's motivation would be off the charts. But I could be wrong.
Joe (South Bend, IN)
I find really sad that ILL PSU got ripped for their defensive game a few weeks ago and LSU ALA get propped up, saying it was a battle of athletes. I am sorry but look at the athletes Penn State has put out staring in the NFL right now: Bowman, Sean Lee, Poz, Odrick, Hali, Cameron Wake. Not even getting into decent players like Dan Connor or Maybin who has played well with Jets. What is with all the bias?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
A fair point. I did see a slightly different level in Tuscaloosa, but both Penn State and Illinois have some really good defensive players as well.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
OK, folks. I apologize for having to cut this short today, but thanks for the many great questions. Enjoy your week!