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)
Happy BCS championship day and welcome to another Big Ten chat. We're going to talk about the Big Ten for the next hour, but I would like to know who you're picking tonight and whether you plan on watching.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Let's get this thing started. Fire away with your best questions.
Who is your early pick to make the 2012 B1G Championship Game and who do you think will win?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Wow. A hard question off the bat! I'm working now on our early 2012 power rankings. It's pretty wide open. If I had to pick now, I'd probably take a Wisconsin-MSU rematch. Badgers have the edge because OSU can't go and Penn State is in transition. I give the Spartans a slight edge over Michigan, but it's very, very close
Chris (Council Bluffs, IA)
Hey Brian, just looking into the future for a bit. After Nebraska's loss it seems like everyone is looking to next year for a turnaround. I, however, am not one of them. I expect we'll have about the same somewhat disappointing results as this year. I'm looking forward to the 2013 season. Martinez is a Senior, our defense will be reloaded, and we're playing and extremely promising schedule, especially with the lack of Wisconsin and Ohio State. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I tend to agree with you. The offense should be strong next year, but the defense needs some time to reload. Having a year's worth of experience in the Big Ten should help, but it might be 2013 before the Huskers are ready to win it.
Brian, I'm concerned about what appears to be a mutiny from the UW staff. Is this being caused out of a disrespect for Bielema, or is it fairly common? Talk me off a ledge.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I don't see that at all. It's a case of Chryst getting a head-coaching job and some of his friends going with him. Bostad and Huxtable each got promotions, while Rudolph is going back to an area where he's comfortable. No reason for conspiracy theories here
BOB (Foxborough, MA)
Whats the over/under for wins in my first year in State College?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Can't wait to see what this team looks like. Defense should still be strong, especially with the retention of two top defensive assistants. Offense simply has to improve with more modern coaching on that side. Losing Alabama off the schedule helps immensely, though going to Virginia could be tricky. I'd be conservative and set the over/under on 7.5, allowing for the natural bumps in the road for any coaching transition
Who's lining up in Iowa's backfield to start 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Seems to me that if Coker were going to be dismissed from the team, we would have heard about that by now. I think he gets a second chance and is your starter at tailback again in '12
Ken (Columbus OH)
Brian,As a Michigan fan living in the heart of Buckeye country, do you see MSU's streak ending or must we suffer another year in the rivalry? I think Michigan will be able to win it this year with the offensive firepower and the vast improvements that happened on defense this year. What is your take?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Michigan should have a good chance of ending the streak. For one, the game is at the Big House. MSU will have a new starting QB and some fairly green (pardon the pun) receivers. That Spartans defense is still going to be tough and has made Denard Robinson's life miserable the past couple of years. That's the Wolverines' biggest obstacle
Shawn (Allentown, PA)
Taking into consideration Bill O Brien's offensive/quarterback background. Do you think he can make anything out of Matt "Gunslinger" McGloin or Rob "Fastball" Bolden? Will Morninwheg still come now that he is the coach?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Clearly, Penn State needs to upgrade its talent at the position. I think O'Brien can do some things with McGloin to be successful, but he won't be able to do all the things he wants to do. I haven't seen anything out of Bolden to justify faith in him as a good QB. What QB recruit wouldn't want to come play for the guy who coached Tom Brady? That should be a big plus for the Lions in the future.
Not much on here is posted about my boilermakers. With OSU being banned from the BTCG, the turmoil at PSU and Wisconsin losing a few coaches and players, what are the keys for us to make the BTCG?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Purdue will bring back as many if not more starters than anybody in the division, and like you said, just about everybody else is dealing with issues in the Leaders race. So it's possible. Purdue is going to need better quarterback play, and the return of Rob Henry could help. Looks like a new DC is on the way as well, and that side of the ball needs to get better. More than anything, this program needs to find some consistency under Danny Hope.
Mike (St. Louis)
I haven't seen any comments from you or Adam about the reports that Northwestern's coaching staff is remaining completely intact. I mean, c'mon! Really. What has Hank and Coach Brown done to allow such a reprieve?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Well, certainly Northwestern has to improve on defense to have any shot at contending. Fitzgerald has faith in those guys, and I'm not sure it is the coaching so much as a lack of upper-shelf talent on that side of the ball. Still, they need to justify Fitz's faith in them. Another year like '11 on defense is unacceptable.
Sean McKenzie (Van Wert, OH)
I picked LSU 20-17 in overtime.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Thanks, Sean. That's a lot of scoring for this game!
Tim (St. Louis, MO)
When will the B1G challenge the SEC for National Titles and should I watch the game tonight?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
If you're a college football fan, you have to watch. It's the BCS title game, and as much as I dislike the rematch, I have little doubt these are the two best teams in the country. As far as the Big Ten, give it two years. Urban Meyer should have Ohio State up and running, and Michigan, MSU, Nebraska and Wisconsin have it going pretty well. Multiple contenders increases the chances that eventually one will break out and become elite.
Hey Brian, love the blog. I know its only been one B1G season for you, but which stadiums do you think are underrated as far as difficulty to win at? We all know the playing at PSU, OSU, Neb, and madison are pretty tough.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Your list is pretty good. I'd say Spartan Stadium is underrated. Fans get rowdy there and MSU plays so well at home. Ask Wisconsin.
Any predictions for MarQuies Gray as far as production goes? Can he top 3500 all purpose yards with that receiving corps?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Gray nearly topped 2,500 this year, and that was with a lot of missed time. I expect him to be a lot better in 2012 if he can stay healthy. He's a guy who can easily put up 300 total yards per game with his running ability. I'd put the over-under a little lower than 3,500. Maybe about 3,000. Still needs better weapons around him.
Going with LSU 6-3 in another SEC snoozer
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Would love to read the columns on that if it happens. SEC apologists would say it was great
Scot (New Sharon,Iowa)
Reports are that Bradley was in Iowa for an interview for the DC position, do you think this something he would want.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I think any team would be very smart to hire Tom Bradley. He's an excellent coach. Why wouldn't he want that position? He needs a job. Seems like a great fit.
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
What do you think will be the biggest "revenge" game for the 2012 season? I'd assume MSU-Wisconsin and OSU-Mich would be near the top.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
MSU-Wisconsin is going to be huge after the two epic clashes we saw this season. I'd also say Michigan-MSU, especially given the extracurricular stuff that occurred in that game in '11
Brian, are you picking the Michigan man or the former Spartan in the title game tonight?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
As I said in the lunch links, I've got 'Bama by a 17-14 score. LSU has had the better season, but I think Alabama has been stewing about the earlier loss and will get revenge.
Whats been the reaction around the country to the B1G partnership with the Pac-12? What Non-con game is in the most danger due to this?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Most people I've talked to about it think it's a brilliant idea, and I concur. It is going to make scheduling a challenge, and Delany was right to scrap the nine-game conference schedule as an idea. Teams still will want guaranteed home games, so that second game against a BCS AQ team could be in danger. For Iowa, it could spell trouble for the Iowa State series. I think teams will continue their rivalries but add in two really easy games at home whenever possible.
Edward Williams (Omaha, Nebraska)
LSU is the BEST team in the nation. Alabama isn't even a top 5 team. All they proved this year was that they could Lose to LSU. They got ran on by Georgia Southern for goodness sake. STOP putting Alabama in the same league as LSU. They DON'T belong. Geaux Tigers!!!With that said do you think Wisconsin could've beaten Alabama if there would have been a playoff this year? Monte Ball Versus Trent Richardson. Now there's a game. I say 34-24 Wisconsin
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
LSU easily has the best resume, but don't forget that Alabama outplayed the Tigers in Tuscaloose but couldn't make a FG. Would have loved to see Wisconsin take on an SEC defense, but no way anybody is scoring 34 on Alabama.
Brian I respectfully disagree, I don't think you have to watch tonight if you're a college football fan. OK State should be there, and if you use the first game as any sort of measure tonight's game could be really boring. just saying.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Really, the same OK State team that should have lost to Stanford if the kid makes an easy FG (or more accurately, if David Shaw doesn't take the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands)?
In 4 of the last 5 NFL drafts the first B1G offensive player taken has been an OT. Yet of the 8 players named in your offensive breakout column for next year you have 4 QB's, 2RB's, and 2 WR's. This league is know for it's line play, not it's QB's. Show some love to the big guys already!
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
You're right about the offensive linemen. Two things: 1) it's pretty hard for offensive linemen to become true stars. 2) projecting the development of OL guys is extremely difficult. So that's why we went with the skill guys.
Hey BB,Lifelong Gopher fan here... Do you think the Pac-whatever and Big-whatever conference partnership will be a positive or negative thing for teams like my Gophers that are trying to become consistent bowl teams? Will the increased exposure be worth giving away the "free win" in noncon play?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
It's going to be one more difficult game, but Minnesota usually schedules a tough nonconference game anyway. It really wouldn't have bee any different than this season, when the Gophers opened at USC. Minnesota will have to be smart about how it schedules its other three non-conference games.
Where is Edwin Baker expected to be picked up in the draft, and was it a smart decision seeing as he was not even a starter this year? All he showed this season is that with an inexperienced offensive line, he is unreliable at creating his own holes...
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
A guy who got passed on the depth chart his junior year isn't going to get draft scouts too excited right now. But he can impress in workouts and possibly get in a position to be drafted in the late rounds. Running backs have short shelf lives, so if he's going to play in the NFL, he might as well get started. But I was surprised by the decision
Les (Baton Rouge)
We already beat Bama at home, how does anyone think they have a chance against me in my own town? Bama game was closer, but at least Oregon lost at on a neutral field.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Oregon was down 40-20 before a meaningless late TD. Alabama should have won. End of debate
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Brian, Al Borges seemed to struggle during the year with his playcalling, especially in the losses to MSU and Iowa. The offense seemed to get better in the last three games, but in the Sugar Bowl it looked like the struggles returned. Was that more the VTech defense or Borges trying to get too cute?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Robinson's arm injury probably had more to do with his struggles during the season than we realized. In the Sugar Bowl, I thought Virginia Tech's speed on D neutralized some of Michigan's strengths, though it was a bit distressing to see Robinson throw up some of those wobbly jump balls. Somehow, he made it work.
Lets start it now... Who's on the hot seat this offseason/2012?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I can't really see anyone having too hot of a seat in the Big Ten. Danny Hope definitely needs to win next year, but he bought himself some goodwill with the bowl victory.
Brian, did you enjoy your first year covering the B1G blog, it has to be better than attempting to make the Big East look like a BCS conference
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Ouch. Hey, West Virginia represented. I always maintained that covering the Big East beat the ACC, which is full of frauds. But, yes, I greatly enjoyed the Big Ten blog and was rewarded with some very good games. Now if the league can just get me to a BCS title game someday ...
Andrew Maxwell (East Lansing)
Big shoes to fill here in East Lansing. Will my defense be able to hold me up against Boise, ND and the early part of the B1G schedule?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
That's the key question for MSU, as the defense should be top-notch. Le'Veon Bell should help Maxwell by providing a strong running game, and Maxwell learned under Cousins. A lack of proven receivers hurts as well. I would look for the Spartans to ride that D and maybe be a little more conservative on offense to start the year.
Do you like the idea of spreading out the Big Ten-Pac 12 match ups or would you rather they all be the same weekend in order to draw attention to the series and really make it an event like the Big 10-ACC challenge in basketball?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Having 12 football games on the same day is a lot harder to follow than in basketball, where the games are spread out over three days. Also, this gives teams more flexibility with their schedules. So it seems like the best route to go, especially if all three weekends can have at least one headliner game
Brian, in order for the Big Ten to truly catch the SEC it will have to over sign and lower its academic standards. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I think that while that has some validity, those are excuses. Man up, get better.
Looks like we're finally setting the trend instead of reluctantly following it. (B1G vs. Pac12) Any chance the other leagues follow suit?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
The SEC has no need to do something like that, as that league doesn't have to play tough nonconference games to get to the national title. So that leaves the ACC and Big 12, basically, since the Big East isn't much of a factor. Those two leagues don't have nearly as much shared history as the Big Ten and Pac 12. I expect this to be a unique partnership
Any Intelligent College Football Fan (USA)
Seriously? No doubt in your mind that LSU and Bama are the two best teams in the country?!?! Typical ESPN reporters swallowing that SEC eh*hem. I think the polls showed there is plenty of doubt who the second best team is not to mention the fact that the computers' rankings probably don't even have the correct data entered into their equations. OSU is arguably if not clearly the better team than Alabama and would have given LSU a better run for their money than Alabama will. I love how everyone loves to rag on Wisconsin's schedule. How bout taking a look at Alabama's schedule and try not to die laughing from it being such a large joke. Sincerely Fans Everywhere
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I've never been an SEC apologist. Far from it. But from an objective standpoint, I think Alabama is far better than Oklahoma State. That Cowboys team has no defense. LSU's worthiness is beyond question, and Alabama gave LSU by far its best game of the season.
When will the first Big Ten/Pac 12 games be? Will they indeed be scheduled for competitive balance?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
2017 in football. Delany and Scott said they hoped to make competitive balance one of the key factors in matchups. But these games will have to be scheduled in advance, and you never can predict how strong a team will be a couple of years down the road.
MSU should probably only expect to have Pat NArduzzi as DC for one more year at most, right?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I thought Narduzzi deserved a head coaching job this year, so to have him even one more year should be looked at as a bonus. Big win for the Spartans to keep him.
Let's say, hypothetically Notre Dame joins the ACC under Delaney's tenure as head of the Big 10. Would his career be defined as the commissioner that let Notre Dame get away or for all of the advancements he's made for the conference?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I think his legacy is already rock solid, given the Big Ten network and the addition of Nebraska, among other achievements. Notre Dame would be the crowning accomplishment but is not necessary to guarantee the league future success and stability. Right now, I really believe the Irish need the Big Ten more than the Big Ten needs them.
Michigan's D Line will be a big question next season...can Mattison and Hoke get Will Campbell to play to his 5 star billing?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Good question. Don't underestimate the loss of Martin and Van Bergen, who were huge this year. But Mattison and Hoke are D-line specialists, so I think they'll keep that position strong. And the LBs and DBs should improve too
So Wisconsin's defense has been pretty suspect under Brett Bielema. If Tom Bradley doesn't get his head coaching job chance, do you think he'd be a good fit/situation for Wisconsin also taking to account Wisconsin's recent history of coaching turnover?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Wisconsin already has co-defensive coordinators, and I don't see Bielema making a change there. There's nothing wrong I see with Wisconsin's schemes or game plans. They just need some more elite athletes on that side of the ball.
Spartan Fan (Lansing)
Do you think that the partnership with the PAC-12 could eventually lead into a super conference...? West division would be PAC-12 and East Division being the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
As Delany said, this is kind of a way to expand without expanding. I don't see an actual merger anytime soon. But isn't the Rose Bowl kind of the leagues' championship game anyway?
Why is Montee Ball returning to Wisconsin? I think he is NFL ready
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
The NFL advisory board told him he was a third round pick, and he heard he needs to get stronger and work on his pass blocking. And he likes school. If I were him, I'd go to the NFL because there are only so many carries in an RB's body, and RBs don't get drafted that highly anymore anyway. But Ball made a very informed decision and I respect it. Happy we get to see him again next year in the Big Ten
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Any insight/thoughts into the guys O'Brien has hired so far? Any word on who DC will be? Vanderlinden/LJ Sr, or outsider?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
So far, I've been impressed. Rumors of Friedgen as his OC are fascinating. He made a wise move in keeping Johnson and Vanderlinden.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for the great questions. See you next week.