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. So much to talk about -- the end of the season, bowls, polls and coaching searches. So fire away with your best questions
Best and worst matchup for B1G???
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I assume you mean best matchups that the B1G can win. I like Michigan over Virginia Tech and Purdue over Western Michigan as the best. Just think the Hokies are wildly overrated, and WMU has already lost to 2 Big Ten teams this year. Iowa-Oklahoma is the toughest
Mike (Alexandria VA xandria, VA)
I understand that the Penn State players are upset with the low bowl placement and that they had a players-only meeting. When I played there in the late sixties we got to vote on the bowl, I remember we turned down one bowl in favor of the Gator Bowl. With the big money involved today don?t they get a choice? Practicing for a bowl gives the coaches a chance to look hard at next year?s team and benefits the players by being able to show more skills. This coaching staff is probably gone after the bowl. I am not sure that I would risk injury in preparing for this bowl. It was a great choice for the bowl; it might have one of the best match-ups that aren?t BCS.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I'm sure they're upset now, and the players deserved better. But why would the team turn down the chance at playing another game, especially the seniors? I actually like the Houston-Penn State matchup if the Lions are motivated. And remember the school is donating $1.5 million of bowl revenue to sex-crime advocacy charities
Bottomline is that it should not have come down to that running into the punter. There is no excuse for that semi Hail Mary on 4 and 7 -- those two defenders looked clueless on the play. That is what lost us the game in my opinion.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I agree that it's never just one play. Wisconsin could say the same with the Hail Mary on Oct. 22. Mistakes by Michigan State at other parts of the game were just as big.
Spartan Fan (New York, NY)
Hi Brian - What's your take on the "running into the kicker" call? Nortman may have acted a little, but Lewis did more than "nick" him don't you think?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Absolutely the right call. Lewis did make contact, and remember it was only the 5-yard variety of that penalty. Michigan State didn't really protest the call. Nortman did a good job of selling it to make sure he got the flag, which is what all punters should do
Peter Konz (Madison, WI)
I'll be back for the Rose Bowl and our O-Line will obliterate Oregon's defensive front. We'll run for 300+ yards and win the game. Chances?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I like Wisconsin's chances of racking up the running yards on Oregon. The key will be doing that and controlling the ball, because the Badgers' D will have a hard time defending the Ducks speed.
When people say Fickell will be the head coach for the bowl game, does that mean Urban Meyer will have no place on the coaching staff throughout bowl practice? Why wouldn't OSU want to get as many practices under the new coach as possible? I understand he has to recruit and assemble a staff, but if he is going to install an entirely new offense, it seems like it would be good to get as much practce as possible in the new system before next season.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It's interesting. Sine Meyer is already there, he could go ahead and coach the bowl game. I think he'll spend his time focusing on recruiting and hiring assistants, but he'll definitely be a presence in bowl preparations. Players and current assistants will be auditioning for him, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of his ideas tossed into the offensive mix.
mcs (state college)
How bad of a slight is it that Devon Still didn't make afca and how do you explain it?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Ken (Elkhorn, NE)
Any chance that Coach Pelini doesn't hire a defensive coordinator and takes over the reins himself?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I would tend to doubt it, especially with all the demands a head coach has. Especially if he could get a guy like Mike Stoops to come in.
Josh Matrella (Minneapolis, MN)
Hey Brian I want to thank you for all the great blogging you have done and giving me an excuse to not read art history. My question is, do you feel that Wisconsin was the best team in the BIG. As a long time Spartan and Gopher supporter I truly felt that the Spartans lost the championship game, rather than the Badgers winning it. With this said, the badgers did win and made the necessary plays, so I give them a ton of credit, but I feel that anyone that actually knows football would agree that the Spartans were #1 in the BIG this year.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It was a bad year to start division play if you're MSU, since the Spartans were the only team to go 7-1 in the league. But Michigan State won with a Hail Mary at home and lost by three on a neutral field. I thought Wisconsin outplayed Michigan State in the first game except for mistakes, and vice versa in the second. The two teams are very even, and I'd love to see a rubber match
Overall, I think Indy did a great job hosting the B1G game. The venue was awesome! The city is easy to get in/out of and parking available. My only lesson learned is that I didn't have a dinner reservation. The number of restaurants in proximity is good, but not unlimited as a larger city would provide. What's been your feedback on the fan experience in Indy?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
The fans I saw and talked to seemed to have a good time. Lucas Oil Stadium is incredible, and everything is very convenient downtown. I'd like to hear from more fans about what they thought. I'd also like to see the B1G at least give it a go in Chicago, though things would not be nearly as convenient there
How is a 6-7 UCLA team with a losing record allowed to play Illinois in the Kraft game?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
They got a special waiver. Talk about two teams that really didn't do much to earn a bowl bid. Whew.
Yinka Double Dare (Chicago)
Pretty disappointed in the Sugar Bowl - Boise State could have been fun, and with Kansas State at least we could make Power Towel and EcoKat wisecracks. VaTech played a lousy schedule, got hammered by Clemson twice, and stinks in BCS games. BOOOOOORING.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Totally agree. Even Baylor would have been better. This game will have zero national buzz
Tim (Newark, NJ)
With the 'Cats pushing hard for and getting a bid to Houston, did they bite off more than they can chew?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I don't necessarily think so. Texas A&M is talented but had trouble putting complete games together. And the Aggies fired their head coach and aren't exactly traveling far for a bowl, so their motivation is questionable
Brian, while I think RGIII Should win the Heisman, heres what I dont understand. Wisconsin players Ball (and somewhat Wilson) arent getting a lot of attention because they lost two games. That was always the excuse I heard. Meanwhile Baylor has 3 losses. What gives?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
An excellent question, Randy. I think one of the things that helped RGIII is that he got some major buzz right away in Week 1. It took a long time before voters really started to notice what Ball was doing. He was overshadowed by his own teammate for quite a while.
Jake (San Diego)
How good is Georgia? Will Sparty pull it together and represent the B1G well? I think they're easily the conference's most complete team.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Hard to really say about the Dawgs, as they won 10 straight games but played a really soft schedule by SEC standards. Their defense is really good, but their offense leaves much to be desired. I think MSu matches up rather well with them, and it should be a very good game. Spartans need to win a bowl. That's the next step
Jen (Washington D.C.)
I'm a little confused about Ball's chase of Barry Sanders record. Because the NCAA didnt count the post season back in '88, his actual TD total is 44 (counting OSUs appearance in the Coca-Cola classic). Does Ball need 2 TDs to break Sanders' record or does he need 7?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
The NCAA didn't use to count postseason stats, but now it does. So Ball would officially have the record with only two more, though he would have played in more games. Sort of like Maris beating Ruth's record in 162 games instead of 154.
Iowa/OU looks an awful lot like Iowa/Mizzou from last year...
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Yeah, I can see that. This Oklahoma team was supposed to have more talent -- remember when they were the consensus No. 1 team early in the year (though never higher than No. 3 on my ballot)? Plus, Iowa has been wildly inconsistent this year. Still, the Sooners have slumped down the stretch and may not be too motivated for this one.
Adam keeps dodging my questions on this, so I turn to you in exasperation: Who's the frontrunner in the Replace Ron Zook sweepstakes, and who should the Illini hire?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
It's a good question. Was hearing this weekend that the Illini really want an established head coach, but preferred targets like Kevin Sumlin and Larry Fedora have other, better potential offers. I think they should give serious consideration to Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi and Wisconsin OC Paul Chryst. If it were me, I'd hire one of those two.
Bruno (De Pere, WI)
Given your Clint Eastwood quote from Unforgiven in the blog today, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it," if MSU and Michigan finish with identical records (7-1 Big Ten, 10-2 overall) even with MSU beating Michigan, the BCS bowls will still take Michigan 19 out of 20 times, right?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Yeah, you're probably right. Certain circumstances could change that, like which team had been to the bowl more recently and how they finished the season. But Michigan is a bigger brand name than Michigan State. That's just life.
Mike (Paris, OH)
Ohio State-Florida, South Carolina-Nebraska, and Michigan State-Georgia all play at 1:00 PM on January 2nd. Why does this Big Ten and SEC do this to the fans? We want to be able to watch all these games!
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I like the traditional New Year's Day lineup (Jan. 2 this year because NYD is on a Sunday), but I agree that it would be nice to stagger those times a bit more. Tough on us bloggers trying to cover them all, too!
Jake (San Diego)
Except Ruth actually had more PAs that Maris...
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
And Ball will have had more TDs per touch than Sanders. Fun with statistics!
As a Michigan fan I'm disappointed with the Sugar Bowl match-up, even living in Virginia. But isn't calling the game boring going a bit far? Since when has a game with Denard Robinson ever been boring?? Even when he throws 3 INTs you have something to talk about.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
It won't be boring. Michigan is fun to watch, and Denard going against that Tech defense, plus watching Hokies back David Wilson, will be interesting. The game just doesn't have any buzz, and the Sugar Bowl could have and should have a more interesting matchup than this
Do you agree that OSU deserved the #2 spot? Alabama beating LSU on a neutral site proves nothing after losing at home
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I thought long and hard about it before eventually voting Bama No. 2 (in the ESPN poll; I don't vote for the AP or Harris polls and don't really want to). You can make strong arguments for both, but I just think Alabama is better, even though I'm not thrilled about a rematch
Brian (Eau Claire)
Good teams who have had time to prepare for Oregon's offense either in season openers or bowl games has had some success slowing them down (Boise St gave up 8, Ohio St gave up 17, Auburn gave up 19, and LSU gave up 27.) I know Wisconsin's defense is solid but certainly not great; will the extended prepartion time help Wisconsin or are they simply not athletic enough to slow down the Ducks?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
It's a good point, and one I made in our video that aired on the blog today (but great use of stats there, Brian!). Extra time helps teams prepare for that pace, and a long layoff often hurts offenses that rely so much on timing. So that could help Wisconsin a lot. The thing is, the Badgers just lack some speed on defense. So Oregon will score points
Adam (not Rittenberg) (BoilerNation)
While I'm disappointed that Ralph Bolden tore his ACL again, I'm excited to see Purdue's group of young RBs. Besides the two Akeems, do you think we'll get to see freshman Raheem Mostert in the offense? Also, can you give us a score prediction?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Brutal news about Bolden. I feel bad for him. I don't see why Mostert wouldn't be involved, especially in the screen game that has been successful for the Boilers. He's got great speed and vision. Won't have our official picks for a while, but I'd like Purdue in a high-scoring game
Hi Brian:Thanks for a lovely year.With most realists pointing to a +1 model being the only way of getting a playoff to the FBS, what do you think of that ever happening? And if it happens, don't you think it could pave the way for a full blown playoff?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I think we're getting closer to a plus-one system. The Big 12 is talking about it, and the results of this year should spur that on. Leagues need to understand that a plus one increases access to the title game, especially with the SEC hogging so much. I think a playoff is still a pipe dream at this point, but a plus-one would be an acceptable solution
Sam (New York, NY)
Hey Brian, do you have any other information on Dayne Crist's transfer possibilities? What's the likelihood of Bielema going after him? I would lean toward "no" since it would be hard to replace a person like Russell Wilson (on and off the field).
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Not sure even Crist knows at this point, but the smart money would be either on Wisconsin or somewhere out West close to his California home. Wisconsin will need a QB next year, especially given Budmayr's elbow problems. I like Crist a lot as a person, but he hasn't shown he can do it yet at a high level. Having the Badgers' O-line and running game could certainly help him, though
Why not keep the BCS with a few new rules? Don't allow the Big Six conference winners automatic bids. Take the top 10 teams in the BCS and let them play the five BCS bowls. Because what would have happened had UCLA magically beat Oregon for the PAC 12 Championship?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
There appears to be a growing sentiment for doing away with the automatic bids, and that may be a good thing. But it will make those teams that jumped conferences just for automatic bids feel silly. Which I hope happens.
How is it that OSU is being permitted to play in a bowl? Their violations seem from an objective standpoint to be considerably more serious than USC's, yet they're not being punished at all. Waiving last year's wins is nothing. This really seems blatantly wrong.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Omie, the NCAA hasn't ruled yet on Ohio State's case, though I do not believe a bowl ban is coming. I don't think I'd agree the Buckeyes' violations were more serious than USC's, though there were more players involved. And USC was hurt by its lack of cooperation and contrition with the NCAA, while Ohio State has taken an opposite approach.
So Purdue beats Ohio State and finishes higher than them in Conference play, yet OSU goes to better bowl. I understand they travel better but whats the point of the regular season than??
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Ben, don't you read the BCS propaganda? The college football regular season is sacred and is the playoff. That's why we have a rematch for the national title. Uh, yeah.
Sam (Reno, NV)
Maybe its too soon but indulge us a little: which team are you the most excited about for the 2012 season?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I don't know if excited is the right word, but I'm really intrigued by what Ohio State will look like under Urban Meyer, and what he can do with Braxton Miller
Nate (JAX, FL)
Brian, what are your 1st impressions on the NU/USC match up?? Do you think Neb will be able to shut down their SEC speed on offense or will their SEC speed beat Neb??
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I think it's one of the best non-BCS matchups out there. South Carolina's offense is not very good, while its defense is one of the best in the country. That will be a fascinating matchup against Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. Will the Huskers be able to run any option against that SEC defense? I could see this being low-scoring and hard-hitting.
Chase (Jacksonville, FL)
Hey Brian: Which Bowl victory would give the B1G it's biggest boost. It seems that we finally have the right match ups to make a statement against the SEC with Nebraska vs USC, Michigan St. vs Georgia, and even the 500 bowl of Ohio St vs Florida. Or is it gonna be a team like Iowa beating an over ranked Oklahoma. I'm a Badger fan who would love to beat the Ducks but I don't think thats the game that will get the needle moving. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I still think your reputation is built at the top, so if the B1G can win both BCS games, that would be huge. Nebraska over USC would be nice on a lesser scale.
Does it really matter how the Big Ten fares against subpar SEC teams this year? After all, its another year with an SEC team as national champion.
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Yes, but the SEC will finally lose in the BCS title game, too. (OK, I'm grasping here)
What's the upside for a Michigan State win over the Bulldogs? Aside from just 'winning a bowl game'. Is there one, or am I relegated to waiting for next year...
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Yes, I think winning a bowl game under Dantonio is an important step. The fact that it would come against an SEC team and give the Spartans an 11th win for the second straight year would be big as well. I think MSU can be really good again next year, but finding a replacement for Cousins, the WRs and quite possibly Worthy won't be easy
Chris (Santa Monica, CA)
I hear a lot from UM fans re their BCS Bowl and how Sparty got dropped to the Outback.. Could you ask the UM fanbase, which would they rather have.. 1- Division title and Outback bowl, 2- No division title, but BCS bowl..
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
That's a really interesting question. I think you'd like to win a championship, even a division one, and earn the right to play for the Rose Bowl. But going to New Orleans is sweet too. I'll be asking that question for sure.
Alan (Los Angeles)
How much did Jim Phillips have to do with NU getting to Houston? Is it considered part of an AD's job to push for better bowls for their schools?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I'm sure there was some lobbying, and Northwestern has some Houston ties. It's also true that the bowl did not want A&M and Penn State, two teams with interim coaches, or the storyline of A
Dave (Hawkeye Nation)
Was the Northwestern/Illinois game last at Wrigley a one-time-only deal? Are there any plans on doing it again, any plans on having other teams plan there? (Iowa-Northwestern) Or was the risk of hitting the outfield wall at full sprint enough for them to scrap any future plans?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Both teams have said they're open to playing there again
As much as it pains me to see Michigan go to the BCS, NO WAY would I give up the shot at the Roses and Division title for an at-large BCS bowl bid that can easily be chalked up to the flawed BCS system.
Brian (Ann Arbor)
Brian:You can tell your a Michigan fan!!
Unbelievable (Not Michigan)
It is disgusting how much of an MSU tool you are.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Well, which is it?
BB, any logical explanation as to why MSU owned the 2nd qtrs in both matchups like they did? Wisc significantly outgained them and outscored them 73-31 in the other 6 qtrs. Did Dantonio make superior in game adjustments but Bielema settled the team at halftime?? Is this something for Wisc to worry about going forward? Either way I think both teams have showed they can respond to adversity.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
It's very strange. I rewatched the first game this week and looked very closely during Saturday's game to try and spot adjustments, but other than some better help against the run by the linebackers, it was hard for me to tell. I do think that Wisconsin's style of play -- especially the strength and size up front -- is hard to get used to at first, and it takes teams a bit to adjust to it. I'd love to hear some better takes on that
Chase (Jacksonville, FL)
I must ask since you posted the you top 25 power rankings. How is that you rank Stanford ahead of Oregon, with Oregon not only winning the PAC 12 but also beating Stanford head to head? Was this due to Stanford only having one loss or to Oregon losing to USC?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Stanford also beat USC on the road while Oregon lost to USC at home. Head-to-head only matters so much, and clearly the Ducks are a bad matchup for Stanford. But Stanford has the better resume
Brian (Ann Arbor)
It's the third option - your a tool!
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Hey, Brian: It's "you're." But good first name.
Oh here we go.... 'wildly overrated' Brian, have you watched at VT game outside of the Clemson debacle this past weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Why would I want to watch mediocre ACC football? I have seen VT play but didn't need to do so to know they didn't beat anybody of note.
Randall L40 (Michigan)
So MSU gets punished for losing a game they EARNED THE PRIVILEGE to play in? They beat Michigan head to head, beat Wisconsin, have 10 wins, happen to lose in an extra game that the other big 10 team didn't earn the right to play in, yet for losing they get passed by Michigan in rankings and get passed up by Michigan for a BCS game? anyone who thinks Michigan should be ranked ahead of MSU is a fool. who even care that they got the BCS game because as far as anyone should be concerned if you're not in the national championship you're just deciding what place loser you are. How is this justified?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
As I wrote earlier today, Randall, deserve's got nothing to do with the BCS or the bowl system. That's just the way it is.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, this has been fun. Looking forward to talking more bowl stuff with you as we get closer. Enjoy your week!