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)
Hey, everybody. It's time for another Big Ten Monday chat. Bring on your best questions about spring practice, the 2012 season, the return of "Mad Men" or whatever else is on your mind.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Penn State's spring practices open up today; the first without Joe Paterno in my lifetime. While I'm most interested in seeing how Bill O'Brien reconstructs a decimated secondary, what are you most looking forward to, and what is going to be the the most overhyped aspect of it? Can there be too much spotlight on this? It's only Spring.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Spring is often overrated, but I think this one mentions special attention just because of the historic transition. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the offense looks as it moves -- finally -- into a more modern attack. Does O'Brien have top-flight tight ends? Overhyped part? Probably the QB battle. I doubt much gets settled on that front this spring, though it would be nice to see someone emerge.
Reese (Downers Grove, IL)
What areas do the Illini need to improve, if they want to go to a 3rd consecutive bowl game?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Special teams is the easy answer here. The Illini were simply awful there last year and could have won at least another game with good special teams. The running game and the offensive line will also have to improve. I think the defense will be fine.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Chris -- apparently, Megatron (Kyle Prater) is now suiting up in Evanston. Any word on his appeal to the NCAA? And does Northwestern have any Optimus Prime-type players that are looking good this spring on defense (where they really need help)?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
It's good news that Prater looks strong early, especially as Northwestern looks to replace Ebert. It will likely be a while before we hear on his appeal, however, as the NCAA is not exactly known for speed on those things. Haven't heard about any defensive breakthrough guys yet, but Adam will be getting an up-close look at the Wildcats later this week, so stay tuned.
Curtis (Overland Park, Ks)
Will kirk Ferentz be on the hot seat if the hawkeyes do not produce well this year following the recent coaching moves along with running back and defensive line situations of possible lack of depth/ young players.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I don't think so. I know some Hawkeyes fans will be critical if there's another 7-5 type season or worse. But Ferentz has built up a lot of capital (both literally and figuratively) in Iowa City, and this is a young team that looks like a rebuilding year. Expectations for this group are not particularly high right now.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Which non-conference game is MSU more in danger of losing: Boise State or Notre Dame? Both are at home. Boise State loses a lot, but they're perennially underrated, and it's the first game of the season, and first game in which Maxwell will be the starting QB. Notre Dame is always a tough game, but they lose some big players and the QB situation still seems uncertain.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Good question, and neither will be easy. I'll say Boise State, because it's the opener and there will be some uncertainty on that Spartans offense. ND should be good this year, but we say that every year and the home field will help Michigan State a lot in that game
WAFFLE IRON (Southern California)
Brian, what's the deal with the playoffs? I think it's the loud minority that are pushing for them. I like the tradition and prestige of the bowls, and I especially like planning ahead to make it to ONE bowl.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I think those who don't want some sort of a playoff are in the minority. Even the bigwigs -- ADs, conference commissioners, school presidents -- are tired of defending an indefensible BCS system
So the final round of the tournament features a team that wouldn't have won a national title if 1) there had been instant replay to disallow the TD against Missouri, 2) the coaches hadn't given Tom Osborne a retirement gift and 3) Phil Fulmer hadn't voted Michigan below #2 because he couldn't accept that the Heisman isn't a lifetime achievement award against a team that 1) had a player who later admitted he took extra benefits (Clarett), 2) had two phantom calls (PI against Michigan and Miami - which they just threw the flag for) and 3) is the least impressive national title team of the BCS era, if not the last 20 years. Excellent.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Ouch. And don't forget one of those teams wasn't in the Big Ten at the time. Tells you a little something about what the Big Ten has done on the biggest of stages in the last 15 years.
Biggest potential for a letdown this year. Michigan (Overachieving Defense last year with new D-line) or Wisconsin (Too many holes to fill)
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'll say Wisconsin, especially with the QB questions. Thing that concerns me more for Michigan is the harder schedule, but I still think the Wolverines will be really good
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Who do you have? Ohio St. or Kansas!?I don't think Kansas will shoot a lights out game like the first time these teams got together early in the season. Ohio St. needs to rep the B1G and win.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Madness! I like Ohio State. Other than yesterday, haven't been real impressed with Kansas this tournament and think the Buckeyes have played better than anybody not named Kentucky so far
I haven't watched Mad Men, but both my roommates are watching it. Is it worth it for me to power through the first three (I think?) seasons to watch this season?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
This is the fifth season, but absolutely. Great, great show.
Herky (Iowa City)
What kind of impact can a veteran coach like Reese Morgan have on Iowa's young DLine this year? Morgan has proven to be a great mentor and motivator during his nearly 30 years of coaching. Will he be able to achieve noticeable results in his first year with a young but seemly promising crew?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It's a really interesting move by Iowa, as Morgan was the longtime offensive line coach. The Hawkeyes rave about his teaching ability, and they need someone who can teach with such a young crew. I can't predict how it's going to go but am interested to find out.
Dave (Aurora, NE)
Can you please give Tom from Chicago the customary "Cry Towel" as a consolation prize?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Brian Bennett ((The Interwebs))
Man, I worked for The Courier-Journal for nearly a decade, and there isn't many bigger rivalry games in NCAA Men's Basketball than this. On Saturday, I'll be rooting for...
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
... my neighborhood not to burn down. Not sure I can adequately explain how insane the city of Louisville will be Saturday night.
Stick Figures (Web 3.0)
I am working on my early projections for the B1G next year (do a way to early pool with some friends) and an trying to place Minnesota. Do you think they are able to jump above either Iowa or Northwestern, or do I keep them at the bottom of the Legends?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I do think Minnesota will improve, but I think their wins improvement will come in the nonconference slate, and I doubt they win more than two or three league games. So I'd still stick the Gophers in the Legends basement for my projections right now.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
While I know you think spring games are overrated, which do you think will be the most interesting to watch? With new coaching situations and big holes to fill all around it could be an interesting spring.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
It's got to be Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State as the three most interesting, just because of the radical changes on offense and new head coaches.
Waffles (Southern California)
Ok assuming no transfers, with no healthy Phillips or Budmayr or Houston or quarterback, how are my badgers looking? Is Stave the likely starter? Will we do better than 6-6?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I would think the edge goes to Brennan as the starter. The Badgers will definitely do better than 6-6 because their nonconference schedule is not too challenging and they can still run the ball extremely well. I have them as the favorites in a weakened Leaders Division right now.
Cold Water (Reality)
No doubt Michigan had a terrific season last year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Fitz was also a nice balancing factor to help stabilize a QB who seems to have come back down to earth. My concern is the potential for a big letdown, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. Coaches will have had a chance to look at what DC Mattison was doing, and poke holds in it (See big plays given up at end of the season). Particularly without a seasoned D-line. Is Big Blue Nation setting themselves up for a letdown with all the early hype? Nervous.
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
The D-line concerns are a legitimate worry, but I believe Mattison and Hoke will put together a good group, if not quite as dominant as last year. And I think you'll see improved play from the secondary and LBs, plus a more efficient offense. Michigan could drop a couple more games this season with the tougher schedule, but I think the Wolverines will still be a very good team.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Rank these QB's in order of who you think is best. Miller, Robinson, and Vandenberg. Are they the top 3 in the league?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Robinson the best runner, Vandenberg the best drop-back passer returning in the league. They're so different they're hard to rank. Miller has a ton of potential but still has to learn a new system. Don't forget about Taylor Martinez as well.
Steve (East Grand Rapids, MI)
What is the likelihood MSU gets a NCAA waiver to play DeAnthony Arnett next year? Despite precedent, the NCAA seems to be a difficult organization to predict. Do Spartans have a legitimate chance to toss the ball to the former Volunteer?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
The NCAA is nothing if not inconsistent and unpredictable in its rulings. But the waiver that was granted for the RB transfer at Notre Dame makes MSU feel more confident, because Arnett seemed to have a stronger case. If I had to guess, I'd say he is cleared.
French Toast Is Better (Always)
I think you can make an easy case for WR being the weakest position group in the B1G for 2012. What position group do you see being the best? HB (with Ball, Burkhead, Redd, Bell, Toussaint, and others) LB (with Wisconsin's, MSU's, and Penn State's mostly returning, among others), some other position?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I think that's very astute. Interior line play was a real strength last year. WR is very weak, at least experience wise, with the departures from last season. RB and LB look very good at a lot of places.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
I hope your fiancee doesn't want to get married during football season!
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
She is way smarter than that.
FFX Lion (Washington, DC)
You just said that Wisconsin has the biggest potential for a let down. Are you rethinking your prediction that they will return to the CCG?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I think 8-4 might even be good enough to win the Leaders since Ohio State is ineligible. I want to see what Penn State looks like this spring before I anoint anyone else as a Leaders favorite. Purdue's a sleeper as well.
Mmm Runzas (Virginia Beach)
If Bo Pelini does not get more than 10 wins, a BCS game, or B1G Title in the next two years, do you think he'll be on the hot seat?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I'd hate to see a coach on the hot seat for winning nine and 10 games every year. But the fact is it's been a long, long time (in Nebraska terms) since the Huskers won a conference title or went to a BCS bowl. Their fans are hungry for that, and if it's not delivered, Pelini will feel some heat for sure.
JL (Warrenton, VA)
Is there a spring practice schedule that is better than any other? Some teams practice a few times then take lots of time off, others practice through on straight days. Is one or the other particularly beneficial compared to others? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I'm not sure any is better than the other, and every team is different. I kind of like the schedules where teams practice a handful of times and then get a spring break to rest their bodies and minds before coming back and finishing up. But one head coach told me that he had to move the post-spring break practices back a couple of days because his players were coming back with sunburns from the beach!
This Or That (The Mitten State)
Hi Brian,In the 3 situations below between the schools in my state, which outcomes are more likely to happen:1. A 3rd consecutive 11-win MSU season, or a UM win over Alabama?2. MSU or UM goes to the Rose Bowl as outright champ, or MSU of UM goes to a different BCS bowl (a la UM last year) without even playing in the B1G Championship?3. Denard makes the final Heisman top 5 list, or Maxwell steps in seamlessly to replace Cousins?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Good scenarios. 1). Michigan over Alabama. While I think the Tide will win, that's just one game and a lot can happen, while a whole bunch of things have to go right for an 11-win season. 2.) Even. If I'm predicting today, I have one of those two winning the Big Ten and the other taking the at-large bid. 3). Maxwell. Denard was only sixth in 2010 and had a great year. I don't think his numbers will be good enough in 2012.
Have you watched Game of Thrones on HBO? It's better than Mad Men
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I have and I really enjoy it. But I like Mad Men better. But one has been on for five seasons and the other has had, what, 10 episodes total?
On a quick look at Penn State's schedule I see: 5 should wins(Ohio, Navy, Temple, Northwestern, Indiana) 2-4 losses(Iowa, Ohio St., Nebraska, Wisconsin) and 3 too close to call right now(Virginia, Illinois, Purdue). That's a pretty good shot at 9-3 for the season. Where do you disagree and would a 6-2 record in BIG play be good enough for the division title?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I think I'd agree with all that, though Navy or Temple at least providing a close call wouldn't shock me. There are a lot of swing games on that schedule. A 6-2 B1G record with a win over Wisconsin should get it done. Right now, I'd probably peg the Lions for 8-4.
Hey Brian! I'm really excited for the upcoming season! however it seams as though the league is looking to peak in 2013 with Ohio state and Michigan looking to field top 5 teams! Do you see any other teams besides maybe penn state and Nebraska making a charge going into the national picture as well?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I would include Michigan State and Nebraska. The jury is out on Penn State at the moment but certainly the potential is always there with that program.
Jockularity (Fanville USA)
What is your take on the Nebraska integration into the B1G. Thinking of doing a 1 year later type of article? I thought it great for everyone but am not a husker. Thoughts and any interesting feedback you have heard?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
We will definitely hit that, and I have seen quotes from the Huskers saying they learned a lot about the style of play last year. I thought the transition was pretty seamless and that Nebraska makes a great fit for the league. Though I'm sure Huskers fans would love to be playing TCU and West Virginia on a regular basis instead. Ahem.
Joe (East Lansing)
Brian why do you guys always include Michigan State-they are recruiting horrible and will start losing good coaches sooner than later what makes you think they will stay near the top, they need to start recruiting way better, Michigan and Ostate are killing them recruiting wise, not all pan our but atleast half do.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I prefer on-field results to recruiting rankings, and the Spartans are getting it done when it counts.
Brian why is it that purdue is cursed with ACL injuries and we are cursed with QB injuries?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
The run of injuries has been really weird, but at least everybody looks healthy so far this year and there should be a whole lot of depth at QB. Will be interesting to see how Danny Hope uses it, as he still seems committed to playing two QBs
Gut feeling, where does Danny O'brien end up? And how would his arrival impact that team in terms of wins vs. their current situation?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
My gut still says Vandy just because of the Franklin connection. But I think he makes the biggest impact at Wisconsin or Penn State and is worth at least an extra win at both places.
In response to your response to Sylvain.. why do you ok OSU looking to field a top 5 team but keep the jury out on PSU. Both have new head coaches, staff turnover, new offenses, etc. OSU was able to salvage this years recruiting class better than PSU, but PSU has a nice start to their class with 3 4* and a 5*. So what's so hugely different?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Because we know Urban Meyer is a great head coach. he's got the track record. And Ohio State has all kinds of talent. We don't know if Bill O'Brien is a good head coach, or what kind of affect the 2012 class departures might have in the near future.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
I think Northwestern could start a suprising 5-0 and get a top 20 ranking. What do you think, am I crazy?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Certainly not impossible, but by playing Syracuse, Vandy and BC in the first three weeks, the Wildcats have no gimmees.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
If Mauti can stay healthy what kind of season will he have? Big impact or not?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Very big impact, if the multiple injuries haven't robbed him of his physical skills. He's an All-Big Ten linebacker when healthy
Gopher/Wolverine Alum (Earth)
How long until the Little Brown Jug is meaningful again?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Probably a while. Michigan and Minnesota are just on different levels right now. Jerry Kill needs another 2-3 years of program building.
I love how people always bring up how 'Bad' msu recruiting is. Fact is that Coach D has been steadily IMPROVING each of his classes year by year. Yea it doesnt have the 'Star power' of UM and OSU, but considering what he has done in the past, I am excited. Also people always fail to mention the success of so many red shirts (MSU and Wiscy)
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Exactly. And how many teams would like to have some of the players the Spartans have developed over the past few seasons?
Waffles (Southern California)
Sorry to be mean, but Northwestern is the cubs of CFB. They will not win a bowl game until the year 2908, just like the cubs. Fact.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
And poor Adam is still not over his beloved Wildcats missing the tournament for the 100th straight year.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Where is your future wife planning your honeymoon? Germany is great in July-August.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
We'll be in Barcelona and Paris. If any Big Ten fans are around, make sure to say hey. Or hola.
hey Brian what are the odds that Nebraska's defense can stiffen up and make the kind of jump they did from Pelini's first and second season as Nebraska's head coach.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
The big question is whether the Huskers have enough true impact players on that side after losing Crick, Dennard and David. I feel like there are still holes. The defense could be very solid, but I don't see greatness there.
Dave (Aurora, NE)
On a more serious note...will you and Adam publicize your "Votes" for who would win your tourney? Curious on who you had winning. (Great way to pass the time by the way! Kudos)
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I had mostly chalk, though I had the '98 OSU team upsetting '06. Voted for '97 Nebraska. Not sure if Adam voted since he was on vacation when I started the tourney
Jrod (Omaha, NE)
I have never seen a more sober and downtrodden group of Hawkeye fans in my life, and I have lived within 15 miles of Iowa for 30+ years. Can you give the Black&Gold something to look forward to so they can go back to talking out of their rears and entertaining us Big Red fans?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Iowa has turned in an unexpectedly good season before. The bad news is this team is young in a lot of spots, but that's also the good news for the future.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Looks like my time is up. Flew by today. Thanks for all the great questions and enjoy the rest of your week!