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 1 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (1:00 PM)
Good afternoon, and welcome to another edition (slightly earlier version) of the Monday Big Ten chat.
Brian Bennett (1:01 PM)
I'll be here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions about Big Ten football!
Brian, you've often said that Wisconsin is the Leaders favorite, in part because OSU is ineligible for the championship this year. After the O'Brien transfer, if you assume OSU were eligible, who would be your favorite? I think the edge should still go to UW due to the game against OSU being in Madison and the fact that OSU will have new systems and coaches on both sides of the ball. I think that is a factor that is being overlooked and that OSU is going to struggle somewhat with the transition.
Brian Bennett (1:02 PM)
I tend to agree with you, Jon. Having that game in Madison is a huge advantage, though let's not forget that Wisconsin has tough games at Nebraska and at Penn State looming. I think Ohio State is probably two years away from being really, really good
As an SEC fan trapped in Big Ten country, I've tried explaining to my coworkers that Michigan doesn't have a chance against Bama. Can you try and talk some sense into these guys? I'll be shocked if it's still a game going into the 4th quarter.
Brian Bennett (1:03 PM)
It would be foolish to say Michigan has no chance. The Wolverines have a lot of talent and good coaching, and Alabama lost a lot from the title team. However, given the reshuffling on both lines and 'Bama's overwhelming talent, I'd have to say the Wolverines are about a 10-point 'dog, at least
Who do you choose to lead your college football team? Saban or Urban? Better recruiter? game day planner? and development of talent?
Brian Bennett (1:05 PM)
Meyer is a terrific coach, but Saban has the belt. Three titles and he has won championships at two schools. That's tough to top.
A proposition (maybe blasphemous): Emily is much hotter than Zooey.Discuss.
Brian Bennett (1:05 PM)
chris (monroe ohio)
If ohio state goes 11-0 can the polls still vote them number one over a bowl team?
Brian Bennett (1:06 PM)
Ohio State will be ineligible for the coaches' and Harris polls, just as USC was last year. But the AP poll is free to do whatever it likes.
Andy ((Fort Smith)
will my hogs fire Petrino? If so who do you think our next coach will be
Brian Bennett (1:08 PM)
If they go simply on inappropriate behavior, they have to fire Petrino. You can't hire your mistress or lie to your boss in most normal jobs. Gus Malzahn seems the obvious choice, though Arkansas might have to go a year with an interim coach
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Hi Brian! If you had to list the top 3 coaches in the B10 who would they be?
Brian Bennett (1:09 PM)
Meyer, Dantonio and Bielema. With Hoke and Ferentz right behind and Pelini knocking at the door.
Brian, I agree about those possibly being tough games, but that presupposes that Nebraska somehow learned to stop the run without their three best defensive players (and buck a trend that has been there since Pelini showed up) and that PSU learned how to throw the forward pass (the new head coach can only help so much, he still needs players). Call me doubtful, but I don't think either of those things happens this season.
Brian Bennett (1:10 PM)
True, but Ohio State didn't need to complete many forward passes to win last year. Wisconsin is usually a much different team away from Camp Randall.
Brian Bennett (1:10 PM)
Plenty of room for questions here. Early start time might have confused some folks.
Is the Rose Bowl going to be a deal breaker for a playoff considering the comments from the Georgia President you linked today? The Georgia President wants a playoff played at Bowl sites, two of which are in SEC country. My Reaction: hey SEC get real.
Brian Bennett (1:11 PM)
Well, I'd expect every league to try and protect its best interests first, and hopefully a compromise can eventually be reached. I hope the Rose Bowl doesn't prove a deal breaker and don't think it will. Delany and Scott are too smart to let that happen.
Brian, with all this talk about the Huskers uni changes, does it seem like tradition in Nebraska is truly moving in a new direction. There was a great write up about the changes that Osborne has implemented since he took over for that putz Steve Pederson who single handedly destroyed decades of tradition. Personally I see this as a great opportunity to bring some more attention to a great program (great for recruits and the younger generation of fans, not so great for the die hard traditionalists), but what's your take?
Brian Bennett (1:13 PM)
I personally really like Nebraska's look and don't think it needs much change. That said, a special uniform for a game or two each year wouldn't do any harm. You can't just rely on tradition these days, especially when your program is suffering through a long BCS bowl drought.
I saw some comments on how you and Adam handle the B1G blog, and I can say there are quite a number which doesnt like what the two of you are doing. How is it like to be a blogger, how hard is it to find news and cover everything that the fans hoped for?
Brian Bennett (1:14 PM)
It's impossible to please everyone, and we know that. We do the best we can to present a balanced take on the league as a whole, and we work extremely hard at it. I don't think you can find as much coverage of the Big Ten as we offer anywhere else.
who has a better defense this year: michigan or ohio state?
Brian Bennett (1:15 PM)
Good question. Michigan's was better last year, for sure, but I think Ohio State will have the edge this season because I expect the Buckeyes to be stronger up front than the Wolverines.
Chris (Monticello, IL)
Hi Brian,What are your thoughts on the increased emphasis on competition that Tim Beckman has brought to the Fighting Illini? I think it's a great way to determine the depth chart and playing time, but I'm curious if you think it will carry over once games start in the fall. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (1:17 PM)
It's a good idea, and a lot of coaches do that. It could help some, but ultimately Illinois' success will be determined by whether it can find enough playmakers to run that spread offense.
You recently spent time in Bloomington. With players like Sthephen Houston, Kofi Hughes on offense. Hoobler, Murhpy, Replogle and the JUCO guys on defense, does it seem IU is closing the talent gap that seemed awfully evident at times last year.
Brian Bennett (1:19 PM)
I got to see an entire Hoosiers practice, and it was evident that Indiana is getting better. There are some good players on the roster, and the defense should be better (not that it has much room to get worse). However, there are still major depth concerns. This is very much a rebuilding process, though I think IU will win at least 3 or 4 games this year
Mike (Lawrence, KS)
What B1G team do you think will make the biggest improvements this year?
Brian Bennett (1:20 PM)
Well, if I've got IU going from 1 to possibly three or 4 wins, that's a jump. Ohio State will be a lot better than 6-6. And I think Purdue has a chance to make a jump
Hey BB - At the risk of sounding crazy, I'm going to suggest that including the Rose Bowl in a 4 team playoff would do more to harm the significance of the game than keeping it separate. It would reduce the game to penultimate status in the run up to the game everyone actually cares about. Everybody knows who won the 1986 super bowl. How many people care about who they played in the NFC championship game to get there?
Brian Bennett (1:21 PM)
That's an interesting point. Would fans who would normally go to Pasadena instead save up for a potential national championship trip? And there's the possibility that a four-plus system would cause major animosity from non-partisan fans toward the Rose Bowl's special treatment. It's a bad idea in many ways.
Bigger issue for Northwestern: Lack of a consistent running threat or poor pass defense?
Brian Bennett (1:23 PM)
Poor pass defense. Kain Colter should help the running game, and the receiving corps looks pretty deep, so the Wildcats' offense should be fine. They just have to find a way to stop people.
BB, with the playoffs: would you let the losers of the semifinals back into the pool of teams for bowl games? Or would they be one and done?
Brian Bennett (1:25 PM)
I would not, and I don't think it's very feasible given the calendar. Officials want the semifinals around Christmas and for the whole thing to end not much farther out than New Year's Day. I don't see how a team could lose a semifinal then figure out the logistics to go to a bowl game a week later. And besides, bowls don't want teams coming off a loss and I doubt fans would travel to see their team that just got beat.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
The most recent national championship proved the old adage that Defense wins championships. With that being said, is the MSU defense strong enough to carry the Spartans to a conference championship with all of the question marks on offense
Brian Bennett (1:26 PM)
I think it is. Of course, Andrew Maxwell has to be competent and he needs some receivers. But that defense has a chance to be special. I'll be checking out the Spartans later on this week so will have a better idea then.
Has Iowa's ongoing facilities upgrades played a noticeable factor in early recruiting?
Brian Bennett (1:28 PM)
That's a difficult thing to measure. I'm not a recruiting expert, but I haven't noticed the Hawkeyes landing any major prospects yet who would not have come to Iowa City if not for the facilities upgrade. I believe those types of things are usually No. 1 or No. 2 or even No. 3 on the list of reasons why recruits choose a school.
What is the best case scenario for Purdue this year?
Brian Bennett (1:29 PM)
In an absolute best-case scenario, Purdue wins the Leaders Division. Remember that Ohio State is ineligible, Penn State and Illinois are going through coaching transitions and Wisconsin lost a lot on offense. So it's possible, though things would all have to break right for the Boilers.
Stoney (Keslo , ND)
How do you think the Gophers will do in year two under Kill? They don't play NDSU this year so that should be one more win.
Brian Bennett (1:31 PM)
Ha. First off, condolences to the Gopher family over the Tinsley tragedy. I do see Minnesota getting better and that nonconference schedule is built for success. A 5-7 season is well within reach and maybe even 6-6 with some luck.
Sporting News released an article thsi morning about Meyer's antics at Florida (drugs, arrests, etc.). Any thoughts?
Brian Bennett (1:33 PM)
Just posted it on the blog. Very interesting stuff. Clearly something happened with that Florida program, which had all kinds of off-the-field issues, and Will Muschamp has hinted about internal problems he inherited since he took the job. How much of that was caused by Meyer looking the other way, and if that happened, has he changed? Some serious concerns about the long-term outlook under Meyer for Buckeyes fans to ponder.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
I'm sure this has been brought up. But what about making the BCS bowls the playoff games, and from those games you will have your "Final Four" to be played at a venue that is changed every year.
Brian Bennett (1:34 PM)
The problem is you're adding a week to the calendar and making it more like an eight-team playoff, for which there is virtually no support among presidents and commissioners.
Mark (Grand Rapids)
Is experimenting with Gardner at wide receiver just a little experiment or is it more serious than that?
Brian Bennett (1:35 PM)
Spring is the perfect time to try it. If Borges thinks Gardner can actually help there, then it will become more than an experiment. Since practices are closed, we don't really know how it's going.
Drew (Cream City)
Despite their record, I can't help feeling that last year's Wisconsin team is the best the program has ever had. I'm also worried its the best we'll see in a long time. Badger fans glorify Barry Alvarez but a lot don't seem to remember that after reaching its zenith in 2000 with back to back rose bowl wins it took 10 years to get to that level again.
Brian Bennett (1:36 PM)
I do think, in retrospect, that Wisconsin team missed on a golden opportunity. You're not going to get many seasons from your backfield like Wilson and Ball had. But the team lacked enough defensive difference-makers to be truly elite. Wisconsin has to worry about Ohio State's rise in its own division. But I think the Badgers are built to last under Bielema.
Dreaming since '88 (Chicago)
My guess: the year MSU qualifies for the Rose Bowl, they won't get in because the rules will change again: it will be part of a playoff system and State will go 11-1 and still not make it...
Brian Bennett (1:37 PM)
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
What happens first- Cubs win the world series, Iowa wins a national title?
Brian Bennett (1:38 PM)
I'm a Cardinals fan, so I say Iowa wins five national titles before the Cubs win a WS
With Burkhead sitting out both scrimmages thus far in spring ball and not taking hits, what impact will that have on his fall ball performance? Now that Abdullah and Green have had a year to absorb the system with very little playing time, will we actually see more diversity in the backfield this year? Wouldn't this greatly impact Rex's Heisman candidacy (outside shot). The guy was a beast last year, and I don't know weather this is a good thing that he'll be ready or bad in the fact that he will be overly rested and a bit softer.
Brian Bennett (1:39 PM)
I would never worry about Rex Burkhead being soft. There's absolutely no reason for him to absorb hits this spring, especially after all the carries he took last year. Adding some other threats to the backfield can only help Nebraska's offense, and if that diminishes Burkhead's award chances, so be it. The guy's a warrior and I'm sure he's only concerned with team success.
Mike (Lawrence, KS)
Do you think any coaches are on the hot seat going into this season, and what would those coaches have to do to keep their job safe?
Brian Bennett (1:40 PM)
I don't see anybody in the Big Ten being on the hot seat. So many coaches are relatively new in their jobs, while others have had years of success. If Purdue were to have a terrible year, Danny Hope would be in trouble. But I don't see that happening.
How do you see the PSU QB situation playing out with the the new offense being implemented and new QB coach?
Brian Bennett (1:42 PM)
I've continued to say I think McGloin keeps the starting job because he's the best option of the three. But Bolden and Jones might have more natural ability if they can harness it. Adam's in State College right now, so check the blog for his thoughts on that competition.
Ghost of Joe (State College)
What do you think the chances are of BOB allowing the players to change their shoe color, nike for talking PSU football into using different unis and or PSU to start putting the names on the back of their jerseys?
Brian Bennett (1:44 PM)
We talked earlier about Nebraska changing things up on occasion, but Penn State is one place that shouldn't mess with its look, at least not for a long while. Too iconic.
Do you think Northwestern gets Kyle Prater this year? And do you think he will have that big of an impact?
Brian Bennett (1:45 PM)
The NCAA is unpredictable but lately has seemed to lean in favor of the players in these cases. So I'd say the odds are yes. Prater should have a big impact, based on his talent and the reports of his play in practice thus far. Could easily become the team's No. 1 receiving option.
With O'Brien not coming to Madison until summer, what should we be looking at in the spring game?
Brian Bennett (1:47 PM)
I'd want to see how the offensive line looks, who has emerged as a possible No. 2 receiver and how the secondary is shaping up. And you'd still like to see a capable backup QB.
Drew (Cream City)
Heading into the season is Michigan the most complete team in the Big 10? I imagine they'll be the highest in the preseason polls.
Brian Bennett (1:48 PM)
I agree with you on the rankings, though Adam and I may have the Spartans ahead. It all depends, in my view, on the rebuilt defensive line. I'm leaving for Ann Arbor this evening and hope to learn a lot more about both Michigan schools this week.
What are my heisman chances this fall?
Brian Bennett (1:49 PM)
Decent. Robinson will have to become a lot more consistent, especially as a passer. But if he leads the Wolverines to a win over Alabama in the opener, he's probably the early front-runner.
J-Mac (Columbus, OH)
Let's just play Jesse "The Body" Ventura and "call it like it is"........the Bobby Petrino issue is just another sign that KARMA is a b***h!!
Brian Bennett (1:49 PM)
I covered Bobby Petrino at Louisville. Let's just say the man has some obvious trust issues.
Nic (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Should i be nervous about the Michigan St - Boise St. game at the start of the year? It seems that the last couple years Boise has been able to beat the big teams at the start of the year, but now that Moore is gone, do they have the ability to beat a team like MSU in East Lansing? And how do you see Maxwell and all of these young receivers developing this year?
Brian Bennett (1:51 PM)
You should always be nervous playing Boise State because that program has been very good for a long time. Having the game at home in the first game of the post Kellen Moore era is a big advantage for Michigan State, but the Spartans have their own questions in the passing game. I like MSU to win, but it won't be easy.
Do you think Stephen Houston could emerge as a top tier RB in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (1:52 PM)
In a league with guys like Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, Silas Redd and Fitz Toussaint, not this year. But I do like his potential. Indiana is actually pretty deep at RB.
I am not a supporter of the playoff talk that is happening. I think that the BCS is actually one of the best things in college football as it gives the teams a motivation to every game. Some say that a 4 team playoff would still make every game count but just use last year as an example. Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State wouldnt have been so big if we had a 4 team tournament. While the UM Ohio rivalry is always big it wouldnt have been so important if there was a 4 team playoff. As a UM fan, I do beleive that we should have been in NCG but after the bowl season it looked as we didnt deserve it. I hope we keep the BCS.
Brian Bennett (1:54 PM)
I disagree. I think for seeding purposes and especially if home field were to be used, then the regular-season is still huge. It's a major difference between being a top seed at home and having to go play at, say, Alabama or LSU in the semifinal. Michigan was nowhere near getting a top four spot last year; the Wolverines didn't even win their own division.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
Chances that Urban Meyer lasts to the end of his 6 year contract? Better or worse than 50%?
Brian Bennett (1:56 PM)
I have no doubt Meyer will win big in Columbus. I do doubt whether he'll be there for the long haul. I'll put the chances at 49 percent. But if he wins a national title, Buckeyes fans will be OK with that.
"Michigan was nowhere near getting a top four spot last year; the Wolverines didn't even win their own division." Neither did Alabama
Brian Bennett (1:56 PM)
True. But Michigan also lost twice and Alabama lost in overtime to the No. 1 team. The situations are not comparable.
I ment UM in 2006. Should have made that clear.
Brian Bennett (1:57 PM)
Ah. Fair enough. Michigan in '06 would still have gotten in. But remember that we would also have a Big Ten title game now, so that further complicates matters.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Brian, has Brady Hokes offense always been suited towards fast QB's? At a place like Michigan I know it shouldn't be to hard to replace Robinson. But how does running an offense suited for a quick QB effect the recruiting process? If you aren't able to land a fast QB are you then forced to tweak or even change the offense? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (1:58 PM)
It's really the Al Borges offense more than the Hoke offense, and no, he hasn't typically had a running QB. Borges had to tweak his system, smartly, to suit Robinson's talent. Michigan is now recruiting more pro-style QBs for the future.
Can the B1G and SEC quit trying to monopolize home field advantage in the playoffs and just let it go to the higher ranked team? I want to start dreaming of a January date between MSU and Bama in East Lansing.
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
It's my hope that we get to a true, four-team seeded playoff with home-field sites for the semifinals. But there are a lot of interested parties and a lot of people trying to protect their own turf. College football leaders don't have a great track record in coming up with the best postseason format.
Brian Bennett (2:01 PM)
That's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for joining me a little earlier than usual this time, and have a great rest of your week.