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 football chat. I'm here for the next hour, so take a break from filling out your brackets and let's talk some football
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions!
Sam (Rogers, AR)
Who will have a better team in 2012, Nebraska or Ohio State? What about Michigan or Michigan St?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Excellent questions, and close calls on both. I like Ohio State to make big strides under Urban Meyer, while I'm not sure Nebraska can improve upon its 9-win mark of a year ago. And the Huskers have to go to Columbus, so I'll give the Buckeyes and ever so slight edge. Michigan-Michigan State seem really close to me. I'm leaning toward the Spartans as my preseason pick, but I'll know more when I visit both schools for spring practice next month.
Seriously, Still is the #2 player? I agree that he was one of the best defensive players in the league, but there were several better/more important offensive players, including Cousins, Wilson, and Burkhead. Still was dominated late in the year (watch the Wisconsin game when he was handled one-on-one by the interior linemen). A good player, but definitely not the 2nd most impactful/important in the league.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Let's give Devon Still some props. He was the Big Ten defensive player of the year and an All-American. He clearly wasn't fully healthy at the end of the season but had a monster year. Can't give the offensive guys all the love.
Steven (Madison, WI)
If the March Madness bracket were played in football, do you see any B1G team making the final four? Championship? (Ignore fatigue and assume all games are played at fictional football stadiums in each bball host city.)
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but I'll assume you're talking about last season had there been a tournament. I believe Alabama and LSU would have easily made a Final Four in any format, while Stanford, Oklahoma State and Oregon would have been tough outs. Michigan State or Wisconsin could have made a Final Four with the right matchups, but I don't think either was good enough to win it all.
Brian, Congrats on the upcoming wedding. There has been a debate among those that read the blogs that I'm hoping you can settle. Last year, when PSU and Wisconsin ended with the same record in the Leaders division, don't they tie for the Leaders title? Why else would we need a "tiebreaker" to determine who represents the division in the conference championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Thanks, Steve. Yes, technically the two teams tied for the division title, but Wisconsin won the head-to-head tiebreaker. Convincingly, I might add.
How is Michigan able to put together such a strong recruiting class ALREADY for next year ?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It's quite impressive, as Brady Hoke has 15 commitments already and several blue-chippers. Michigan obviously is being aggressive in targeting the guys it wants early and asking for commitments. The Wolverines have a lot of momentum right now.
Eddie (Hoboken, NJ)
Many people thought that it would take PSU 2-5 years to actually land "difference making" recruits i.e. - recruits who would rank in the Top 150 per the ranking services, no matter who was coach. Did you agree with that and do you find it surprising that a few players with big stature are on board for next year?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I don't know that I'd agree with that, as Penn State is always going to be an attractive place to play. But I did not think Bill O'Brien could get this many blue-chip recruits this early, with the stain of the scandal still so fresh. It says a lot about O'Brien and his staff and the courage of the recruits to come in and make a difference both on and off the field
Which NU obstacle will be cleared first, a bowl win or NCAA bid? Or will I just live the rest of my life in hell?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Oh, come on, Sam. Indy isn't that bad. Just kidding. At least Northwestern has been close to winning a bowl and usually gets to play mediocre teams. An NCAA tournament bid may never happen.
Lord Osborne (Nebraska)
Do you think by me making Coach Pelini allow media during spring practice will take some of the media heat off of him in the upcoming season? I have years and years of coaching and political service, but i greatly value your opinion on this matter.
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
It was a nice gesture by Pelini to open up a spring practice and it seems like he's trying to be more forthcoming. That's good, not for the media but for the fans who really want to know what's going on. But none of that matters in the long run, because winning is all that stops criticism.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Brian, who do you having winning in your bracket? Are you a Big Ten homer with Michigan State or Ohio State? Or leaning in another direction?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I haven't filled it out yet and usually wait until Wednesday to do so. However, I'm leaning toward a Kentucky-North Carolina final. I always go with the most talent, and those are the two most talented teams in the country.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
Who is more responsible for the improvement on defense over the past couple of years at MSU, Mark Dantonio or Pat Narduzzi?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Not sure you can separate the two. Remember that Dantonio was a really good defensive coordinator at Ohio State before he became a head coach, so he knows that side of the ball. Narduzzi is a fiery leader. That combo is a huge part of what makes the Spartans so good.
Brian, love the blog, i can't get enough football talk up here in Hockey land. I was wondering if you the the Belichick visit to Lincoln is more of a publicity thing for the Huskers or if it is something that will actually pay dividends for them this fall?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Hey, you never know. Even if the coaching staff picked up just one pointer from the master, that would help. Especially if that involves planting spy cameras at other Big Ten teams' practices. (I kid, I kid).
Brian, I've always thought you were a great guy and well deserving of being a B1G blogger, but I have to ask. Is it really that hard to find links to all 12 programs for lunch links? There are many times my team is left out as well as Indiana and some others. I know you may not believe me, but there are a few Minnesota fans out there that want to read about their team.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Two things, Jerry: The links aren't designed to represent every single team every day, so you'll be disappointed if you think of them that way. That said, we do check for links for every team each morning, but we only link to credible news sites and not fan sites and the like. Some programs, especially Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Minnesota, simply don't get a lot of coverage -- especially in the offseason and during the heat of basketball. I can only link to stories that actually exist.
Ryan Hass (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
Hey Bennett! What do you think will happen first.. Iowa wins a Big 10 championship or the big 10 winning a national championship?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Interesting question. I'm probably more bullish on the Big Ten's chances in the next few years than most, while I think it will be at least a couple of years before the Hawkeyes win the Legends Division. So I'll go national title.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
When will the trustees stop trying to "explain" their firing of Coach Paterno. At this point the rest of us have made our peace with it and them trying every month or so to explain themselves just brings up the anger and resentment anew. Can't they let the fans and the university move on instead of still trying to assuage their own guilt?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Totally agree, Kelley. Unless there is some new information, there's no need for repetitive statements like the one that was released today. It sure looks like the trustees are trying to justify their actions as they face heat themselves.
Brian, do you think any Saint-esq bounties exist in college football?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I'd like to think there are no college coaches paying players to knock opponents out. That's so blatantly wrong at every level. But are there programs where defensive players are encouraged to injure or at least punish opposing players and celebrated when they do? We'd be naive to think that doesn't exist. It's a violent game, after all
Brian, It seem to me Meyer is ignoring some of Ohio's best prospects. The perfect example is the recent Michigan commit Mike McCray. his father played for OSU and was a captain, he is also arguably the best LB in Ohio but recieved no OSU offer. There are also other players the Meyer staff has shown little to no intrest in while being persued by other big time schools. Does Meyer think that he can be dominant in the Big Ten while letting Michigan, MSU, PSU and Notre Dame get alot of the same type of Players Tressel made his name with?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
It seems to me that Meyer has a plan and a type of athlete he wants, and he's not going to limit himself to the state of Ohio. He has the cachet and ability to recruit more nationally. There is the real possibility, though, that some of the recruits from his backyard could come back to haunt him and the Buckeyes in the future.
"I believe Alabama and LSU would have easily made a Final Four in any format, "Ha! Except the format where the a team that doesn't even make it to their conference championship doesn't get invited. (which is how it should be)Brian you're becoming quite transparent with your support od ESPN's pro SEC agenda.You're crazy, but it's fun to watch.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I am hardly pro-SEC. Again, that question didn't give me any specifics, so I don't know what format the proposed tournament would take. But I had to assume that if it were a basketball style tourney where we were narrowing teams to a Final Four, then more than just conference winners would have been eligible. Michigan State was in the same boat as Alabama, by the way.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Were you or AR invited to Bret's wedding or did you guys get snubbed?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Think there was a mixup in the mail, but I bet the Bielema nuptials were a good time.
With tOSU slapped on the wrist, Illinois and PSU breaking in new coaches, do you see any of the Indiana JuCos having the ability to get the Hoosiers into a bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I do like Indiana to improve, given that it's Year Two of the Kevin Wilson era, that several young players got their feet wet last year, that the Hoosiers found a QB in Tre Roberson and that some jucos should help. But going from 1-10 to 6-6 seems like too big a leap to me. I still think Indiana is too far behind the other teams in the Leaders Division to make much noise in league play
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Over/under 3 years before Michgan and Ohio State tangle twice during the conference season? Once in the season finale, and the other in the Big Ten Championshp Game.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Really interesting question. It's going to happen sooner or later, and the way they've both been recruiting, sooner. One thing to keep in mind is that someone will of course lose that regular-season meeting, so that team will have to have a two-game division lead or own the tiebreakers to make it to the title game. I wonder how people would respond to two games in two weeks. Anyway, I'll take the over, because we know it's not happening this year
Denard (Ann Arbor)
Who will ruin my Heisman chances this year? Alabama or the usual (MSU)?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I think Denard Robinson could have a hard time against Alabama's defense, even a rebuilt Tide defense, because it will have so much speed. But even a poor performance in the opener wouldn't ruin Robinson's chances because he'd have plenty of time to make up for it. So it's more likely that a conference opponent would derail the campaign, and MSU has certainly had Shoelace's number.
Dan (New York)
Hi Brian,Despite back to back Rose Bowl appearances, I have a lot of negative energy with my Badgers for the 2012 season (departure of asst coaches, Qb woes, etc). Besides the return of Montee Ball, is there anything I can hold on to to lift my internal qi??
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Sure there is, Dan. One, the Badgers should still be really good on the offensive line and score a lot of points. That's always fun to watch. Two, with Ohio State on probation and PSU and Illinois in coaching transitions, Wisconsin should still be the Leaders favorite in 2012.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Brian, follow up comment/question to Max and the SEC issues.It's my opinion as well that we are having the SEC shoved down our throats by ESPN. I can see Max's point of view and his frustration. Due to the very poor ratings and down-right busch league National Championship game we had to endure, do you think that the powers to be would ever allow that to happen again?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Well, Adam and I write about the Big Ten every day, so we don't have any pro-SEC bias. The BCS title game was bad, but that was more because LSU was completely shut down. Yet no one denied that LSU was the No. 1 team going in after an incredible season. So Alabama clearly deserved to be there.
have you talked to adam about the wildcats not getting into the tournament? was any consoling needed?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Adam is still overseas, so maybe he hasn't heard about it yet. But I laughed at him way back in early December when he was convinced this was the year.
Tired of the SEC (everywhere but the south, America.)
Brian, Its looking like the Big 2, other 10 is on its way back. Now being tired of the SEC I dont think its a good thing, though I am one of the Big 2's fan. But I do see how when Michigan fell off for a few years the Big Ten took a huge hit as far as Conference powers are concerned. Do you think the league is better off with Michigan and Ohio St. being the annual favorites for the title with Neb, MSU, Wisco and PSU having their good years, or do you think a well balanced league but with no real consistant natioanal force being better. P.S I hope that makes sense to you because it was tough to articulate.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I get where you're coming from. Clearly, Michigan and Ohio State have the most "name-brand" appeal and people tend to pay attention to the league more when those schools are good. But I think it's great for the league that Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State should all be in a place to compete for conference titles every year. Look at -- sorry -- the SEC, which has had LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Florida win titles during its run. You need multiple teams playing at a high level every year to give yourself the best chance to win a title.
William Leib (MCAS Miramar, CA (Maize n Blue at heart))
Hi Brian, I just wanted to know who your top 5 B1G players would be going into next year. I am sure Montee Ball will be in there, but I was curious who else. I'm a little biased, but I think that if Denard could cut his interceptions by at least half, if not more, he would definitely be a top 5 canidate. Anyway thanks for all of your hard work.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
We haven't started talking about it yet, but something weird would have to happen for Montee Ball not to be No. 1. Rex Burkhead has a great chance to be in there as well. I like Denard, but Adam was much lower on him this year, so that will be an interesting debate once again. Most of our Top 25 players were seniors, so there are plenty of openings.
Paterno's family appears to have issued a statement in response to the most recent BOT statement. It appears to accurately highlight the idiocy of the BOTs attempt at positioning themselves above the fray and confirms Paterno was likely one of few with any demonstrable integrity in a position of leadership at the school. Worth a read; hope your bosses pick it up as quickly as they did the BOT statement.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
They will and I'm going to post it after this chat. But is anyone else as tired of this as I am?
Ryan (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
Do you expect Vandenbergs numbers to improve this year, decline, or stay about the same? Logic would say improved since he has a year under his belt. But with the loss of Coker, and McNutt, it just seems its going to be tough on him.. thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
And a new system with a new coordinator, as well. In some ways, losing McNutt may help his development, because I thought Vandenberg locked on him too much (understandably, to a high degree). If he can spread the ball around and have a high completion percentage, he could have a better season. But receivers like Davis and Martin-Manley need to improve.
Just something I noticed. Not one DB in your player rankings, what gives!
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
You missed Alfonzo Dennard, who was No. 12
Don (Great Lakes, IL)
Will Illinois be a competetive team this season?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I think there could be some growing pains in Year One for Tim Beckman, because this team doesn't seem to have a lot of weapons at RB or WR for his spread offense. Illinois should be in a lot of games because its defense is really good, but I wouldn't expect much more than 6 or 7 wins.
Brian, please tell your Big10 readers to quit whining about the SEC and just go out and win some important games. The Big10 will get lots of love from the media again when it wins something that matters...like it used to.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Some tough love from Jabroni. But true. Hard to complain about an "SEC bias" when the SEC keeps winning titles. Winners write history books.
I can understand if he didnt make your player rankings, but Will Ghoston not even mentioned in the just missed section? He has been a monster in the second half of the year. Miss or snub on your part?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
He wasn't consistent all year, but no doubt William Gholston is super talented. He'll be in the Top 25 next year for sure. A lot of Michigan State defenders could join him there.
Greg (Cranbury, NJ)
I hear over and over again how bad Penn St Quarterback McGloin is...but as I watched the games last year, most of his passes seemed catchable but were constantly being dropped! Have you looked at how many of his passes were dropped and what his passing percentage might have been if a few more were caught? I realize that there is always dropped balls, but he seemed to have a high percentage.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
It's true that Penn State's receivers didn't make as many plays as they could have or should have last season. It's also true that McGloin often made at least one or two bad decisions per game and does not have a great arm. I do look for him to improve under some new coaching, however. He is good enough for Penn State to win with.
Brian I don't think you understand what I meant. If a final four were picking teams, there is no way it should pick Alabama who didn't make it their conf championship game.The fact you still push the CCG as being a good idea screams SEC agenda.I saw Alabama and Houston play live this season. Houston was the better team. Sorry.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Max thinks Houston was better than Alabama. I need not say any more than that.
FFX Lion (Washington, DC)
I have a request. My son loves football and follows the B1G religiously. He'll be making predictions for the 2012 season -- would you care to go head to head with him, just like you and Adam do?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
How old is he? I may or may not be smarter than a 5th grader
Brian,Realistically with the recruits coming in how far away is Penn State from being in the Big Ten Championship Picture again? How about the National Championship as well?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
These guys who just committed are teenagers, so let's not anoint them yet. The 2012 class is probably going to come back to bite Penn State in the future. But this team still has plenty of athletes and it can compete for a Big Ten title as soon as this year. Probably 3-5 years away from any national title hopes, in my opinion.
Brian, The prospect of the Buckeyes D's Front 7this coming season with Spence & Washington on the ends, a slimmed down but more muscular Hankins
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
You kind of trailed off there, Ben, but that group has a chance to be really strong. You didn't mention John Simon, who was one of our Top 25 players, or Michael Bennett, who showed promise. The kids should contribute, though they will likely provide depth, mostly.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the questions, and happy Madness to all.