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 Monday football chat. Football never ends around here. I'm yours for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions!
Why is Michigan being ranked so low in preseason polls? We finished 11-2 with a big BCS win and followed that with a top 10 recruiting class. We are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and of course with Shoelace back anything can happen.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I think Michigan deserves to be ranked around No. 10. If people are skeptical, it's probably because last year's schedule wasn't terribly difficult and because of the departures of Molk, Martin and Van Bergen. This team still has a lot of potential for 2012, though that opener against 'Bama will be a bear.
Jack (State College)
What are the chances one O'Brien (Bill) can convince another (Danny) to compete for the PSU QB job this season? and do you see him being the potential missing piece to take PSU to the BIG Title Game in 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
That's an interesting thought. And of course, O'Brien has those Maryland ties. I find it a little doubtful and wonder whether the Terps would release a player to a school that recruits the same area. Don't count out Wisconsin as a possible landing spot for Danny O'Brien, either.
Steve (Burlington, VT)
Hey Brian. I have been a die hard Spartan my whole life; watching games, and seasons, in agonizing spectatorship. But now the program is becoming successful, hopefully consistently. Can MSU build on its recent success? Will they be able to compete with Michigan and Ohio State in recruiting? Do you think that the Big Ten is becoming a stronger conference or, to my great dismay, will programs such as MSU and Wisconsin fall back into mediocrity?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
There's no reason to think Michigan State will drop down to mediocrity. Is recruiting a little tougher now that Michigan and Ohio State seem to be back up and rolling again? Sure. But Mark Dantonio has shown that he can identify, evaluate and most importantly develop talent in E. Lansing.
Brian, I think the most hated coach is easily going to be Dantonio. His head has gotten a little too big for his britches. The winning streak against Michigan is a mirage as 3 of them involved the worst teams in Michigan history, and this year was Hoke's first year. Hoke and Meyer are already cleaning up in Michigan and Ohio, so he won't be able to get the same players. His actions at places like the MHSAA event where he cut off a Michigan recruiter show that he is indeed an arrogant fellow.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I'll say that our poll for most disliked coach has been a lot of fun to follow so far. We're at nearly 5,000 votes after little more than an hour, and Bret Bielema and Urban Meyer are neck in neck at about 35 percent of the vote each.
Any rumormill material on whom Iowa's OC and OL coaches will be?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Just as I thought Phil Parker was the leading candidate for DC, I think Ferentz will go in house again for the OC. The smart money is on WR coach Erik Campbell being promoted, with Brian Ferentz coming back to coach the OL.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
In most cases doesn't "most hated" mean "most successful?"
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Very much so, Ryan. You wouldn't really dislike a coach if he never beat you at anything.
Korey (Springfield, MO)
What do you think the chances are that Nebraska can lead the Big Ten in rushing next season? With the three headed monster led by Burkhead and followed by Abdullah and Green (who I feel can a have a breakout season and surge onto the national stage).
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
It's possible. I'd like to see Nebraska reduce the workload for Burkhead and get some of the youngsters involved, and don't forget Taylor Martinez's own rushing ability. Martinez will need to be able to throw to keep defenses honest. Wisconsin would be the preseason favorite to lead the league in rushing with Montee Ball back
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Do you think it is smart for Purdue to have 8 qb's on the roster?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I understand why Danny Hope wants some more depth at the position after all the injuries he's dealt with there. The good news is that many of the QBs are athletes who can easily move positions if need be.
Jerry Kill (The Bank)
Bennett, I think my team really improved towards the end of the year. With 3 JUCO DBs coming in, great offensive line talent, and a freak of nature returning at QB, I think my Gophers will be the surprise team of the Big Ten this fall.I say we win 7-8 regular season games. What say you?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Seven or eight seems a bit high, especially with a lack of proven playmakers on offense. But I do expect improvement, and the non-con schedule (UNLV, New Hampshire, W. Michigan and Syracuse at home) is friendly). I could definitely see a run at 6-6 if things break right.
Krazy One (Durham, NC)
With Ohio State not being able to go to a bowl game this year, do you think Coach Meyer will take more chances to win games? Or do you think he will try to find this team's identity for the 2013 season?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Meyer is extremely competitive, so I don't think anything would change his mindset of trying to win them all. The one place it could make a difference is the season-ender against Michigan. That will be like Ohio State's bowl game, and the Buckeyes should be in a frenzy. But it's not like they wouldn't be fired up for that one, anyway.
What does your offseason look like? Practice reports, spring games? Whats next for BB and AR?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Spring practice is still a couple weeks away from really kicking off, but Adam and I will be hitting as many schools as we can, while following the developments everywhere. We won't be able to hit every campus, but having two bloggers should help us cover a lot more ground in the spring.
Curt (OP, kansas)
Do you think hiring phil parker as DC is better than hiring tom bradlee or jim hermann?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
That's hard to say without knowing how Parker will do. But clearly Bradley and Herrmann have far more experience running an entire defense. I can understand why Iowa fans were frustrated that it took so long just to promote someone on staff, but Parker is a veteran coach who deserves a shot to prove himself as DC
Obviously IU had a major problem with defense last year. Do you think the influx of Junior College transfers in the defensive side of the ball will be enough to see a significant difference?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I do believe the defense will get better. Kevin Wilson played a lot of young guys, and their experience plus the juco guys can only help. Still, I think this is probably the least talented overall defense in the Big Ten, so Wilson still has a long way to go.
With the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten alliance coming soon how would you feel about a couple of those games being played in Pasadena over the first week of the season as a sort of pre-season Rose Bowl similar to what Chick-fil-a does in Atlanta?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I like it. Both leagues have talked about using neutral sites. Why not a couple games at the Rose Bowl, a couple at Soldier Field and even some at Ford Field and Yankee Stadium? Just about anything you can imagine is possible with this agreement, and I think both leagues would be wise to turn these games into major events.
Rod (Colombia , South America )
Is this the year that Nebraska finally completely slips out of the top 25 . I see the offense being OK but lets face T-Mart is going to keep giving the ball up at the worst times and that defense is going to be worse this year
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
The defense definitely has some issues. It could be an odd year where Nebraska and Pelini really have to lean on the offense to try and win high-scoring games. But I definitely think there's enough talent on hand for the Huskers to be a Top 25 team.
With Jim Delaney's playoff proposal being dissected this past week, I've seen some national writers talk about how it needs to be the four highest conference champions/independents rather than the four highest teams. Do you see this as a possible tweak? I would think more conferences would want this tweak since it means that their conf. would have a greater chance at making it to the top 4. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I don't like it. Alabama clearly belonged in any type of four-team tourney this year even though it didn't win its division. Same would have gone for Oklahoma and Texas a couple years ago. If you're going to do a playoff, you have to include the four best teams.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Thoughts on the hires for Purdue's new assistant coaches?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
The Tibesar hire was interesting, to say the least. Intrigued to find out whether his CFL days actually helps him be a better college coach. Burns has an impressive resume. And I really liked the addition of Kevin Wolthausen, whom I covered at Louisville and always respected. Louisville's defense fell apart after he left there.
The problem with your playoff scenario is the 4 best teams are subjective. I agree about AL, but would rather have a system without polling.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I agree that polling should be taken out of it. I'd rather have a committee like the NCAA basketball selection committee. There will always be some subjectivity involved, but the best teams aren't always conference champions. Even in the NFL and MLB, a lot of championship teams were wild-card entries.
One thing I think gets overlooked by Meyer's flipping of so many recruits is the state of Ohio's program before he was hired. I would bet that a large percentage of those recruits would have gone to Ohio if it wasn't for the turmoil there. When they got the home-run hire, those kids probably ran to Meyer - he didn't need to do much to flip them.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Meyer did say that several of the decommitted players recruited him. I think a lot of prospects would have been interested in Ohio State but were scared of the instability before Meyer got there. And don't forget the problems at Penn State played a big role as well.
When is the earliest we could see the plus one format adopted?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
In 2014. At this point, it sure seems like we are headed for some major changes to the system. Thankfully.
Is Matt McGloin the likely starting QB for PSU next season>?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
At this point, I would sure think so. Bolden just hasn't looked good, and Paul Jones hasn't been able to get on the field. McGloin is the best option right now. We'll have to see how everyone performs in practice in an entirely new system this spring and summer.
Just to be clear, is that the 2013-2014 season or the 2014-2015 season?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
The 2014 regular season
WIll the Big10 Offensive Player of the Year come down to Dennard and Montee Ball, or will someone else emerge and win it?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
They certainly have to be your top two preseason candidates. I'd throw Rex Burkhead in there as well. And don't count out Braxton Miller. There are always surprises. No one predicted such a huge year out of Ball in 2011.
So your starting a new program from scratch, which BIG coach do you choose?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I don't see how you could go against Urban Meyer. He's the only head coach in the league who has won a national title, and he's got two of 'em. The only concern is his longterm outlook after his Florida exit.
Are you watching any NCAABB? What conference do you think is deeper? B1G or Big East? B1G seems to be the best in the country at this point.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Of course, and I think the Big Ten is the best league, top to bottom. I'm covering Syracuse-Louisville tonight, and that will mean I've seen No.s 1,2, and 3 in person this season.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is Edwin Baker a darkhorse for OPOY as well? Or are there too many question marks at QB to pub him there right now?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
He's a pretty dark horse, since he left for the NFL. Now, Le'Veon Bell might be an actual outside candidate
Phil (Winchester, VA)
I agree with you that selection comittee would probably be the best way of selecting the playoff teams. Definitely shouldn't be using the coaches poll. I wonder though if only allowing conference champs in the playoff would keep the "every game matters" feel to the regular season. It may also encourage more teams to schedule tougher out-of-conference games if winning the conference were the biggest factor to reaching the playoff.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
If home-field were to be incorporated, then I think the regular season would still have a ton of meaning. No way would an SEC team want to finish No. 3 or 4 and have to go up north, or vice versa. If there were neutral sites, suddenly it doesn't matter if you finish 2 or 3.
rayshawn h (columbus,ohio)
i know its way to early but who is the early favorite for the leaders division?? i think this division is so wide open anybody could pull it out.....
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I see it as a three-team race between Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State. Right now, I'd give the Spartans a slight edge, but not by much.
With Wisconsin's qb situation completely up in the air entering next season, what are the chances Bielema goes out to pursue an O'Brien, similar to the Russel Wilson scenario last year?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Wisconsin was clearly interested in Dayne Crist, so it seems highly likely that the Badgers will at least take a long look at O'Brien? Is he a good fit? I don't enough about him right now to say for sure.
Phil (Winchester, VA)
Steffon Diggs and Davonte Neal were two recruits that I thought looked like they could fill the Percy Harvin WR/RB roll in Urban Meyer's offense. I saw Meyer quoted that he thought the offense needed more playmakers. Who currently on the roster do you think could fill that spot? My first thought is Jordan Hall.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Adam did a post on that just a few minutes ago. Hall is the obvious choice, and then maybe Devin Smith could do some similar things. But that's a hole that really needs to be filled in next year's class.
Yasir (Farmington Hills)
Rayshawn said leaders, not legends. I was wondering the same thing about the LEADERS division
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
My bad. Had another question about Legends I was looking at as well. In the Leaders, obviously you have to subtract Ohio State. Who knows what to expect from Penn State? Illinois is in transition. Even though Wisconsin lost a lot, I think it is the favorite by default. Purdue is the sleeper.
Jabber (Des Moines)
Brian, what are you going to do when you're done with this chat? Eat nachos? Take a nap? Watch Slumdog Millionaire?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Make a few phone calls and then head down to the Yum! Center. Can't promise there won't be nachos involved there
Dave F (Virginia)
Can Iowa surprise and get to a BCS bowl in 2012? Each time they are pegged to be in a rebuilding mode, they seems to surprise. Which of their recruits have the best chance of contributing this fall?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I don't see it this year. That defense needs to be rebuilt, especially up front, and the team lost valuable playmakers in Coker and McNutt. Garmon appears the most likely to play and make an impact right away.
Andrew Maxwell (East Lansing)
With the top 3 recievers leaving from last year along with Linthicum, who will be my go-to-reciever next year?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
It might be Arnett if he's eligible. If not, it could very well be one of the freshman like Monty Madaris. The Spartans have plenty of options, but they're all young.
Will Montee have a year even comparable to last year or will there be a large drop off? Will the unknown QB situation hurt his chances with people less likely to respect the passing game?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Ball had historic numbers, so expecting him to repeat those -- especially with an unsettled QB situation -- is unrealistic. And even though Wisconsin reloads on the OL, losing Konz, Zeitler and Oglesby is a lot, not to mention a new offensive staff.
The Minnesota Secondary (Dinkytown)
Brian, we haven't had a D line create any pass rush since 2008. Kill raved about Thieran Cockran and a couple other young DEs, but we are still worried.We believe if the Defensive line can get any pressure we will play well. If not it's gonna be another awful year. Which do you think will happen?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
That pass rush simply has to get better. There were encouraging signs in the season finale against Illinois, but that Illini O-line was a total mess at that point. Improving the pass rush has to be the No. 1 goal in the offseason for the Gophers
Peter (Ann Arbor)
Does Michigan have any shot at all against Alabama? I was not very impressed by our sloppy play in the Sugar Bowl, which seemed to ruin the theory some Michigan fans have clung to about the offense constantly improving in Borges' new system. On the other hand, Alabama is losing a number of impact players on both sides of the ball. How do you see things panning out?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
A shot? Certainly. Alabama lost a whole lot and could be dealing with a championship hangover. Still, I think there's a significant talent difference between the two programs at this point and believe the Wolverines will be about a 10-point underdog.
Fan base you hear the most from? Fan base you hear the least from?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
The most depends on who's winning. The least would have to be Indiana fans.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, that's all my time this week, folks. Thanks for the questions, and have a great week