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)
Good afternoon, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. I'm here for the next hour to talk about all things Big Ten football, so fire away with your best questions.
Big Ten football was interesting last year, do you see any sleeper teams this year that can make an impact? And who is going to win the conference this year?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I think Purdue and Illinois are sleepers this year. If I had to pick today, I'd take a rematch between Wisconsin and MSU in Indy, with the Spartans exacting revenge.
Levi (East Lansing )
Brian, with all the talk of how the rose bowl is the league's ceiling, is there a team in the BIG who if goes 10-1 can still be considered for the NC game?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I think you mean 12-1, which would be the record for team that won the Big Ten championship with one loss. And sure. It depends on what other teams have done and who the one was against, of course. The SEC seems to have a stranglehold on getting at least one spot in the title game, so the competition for the other would be fierce. Michigan beating Alabama but losing one close conference game on the road might be the league's best shot for that scenario.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
There has been a lot of chatter about the inexperience of the Spartans QB and wide-receivers. What hasn't been mentioned however is the fact they have been teammates and developed chemistry and trust for the past two years. So with that, which is more important, chemistry or experience?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I'd rather have experience. Those guys have built chemistry in practice. Game speed and playing in front of 90,000 is a lot different.
Reese (Downers Grove, IL)
Over/Under Illinois 7 wins. What are you taking and why?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Hate to be a wuss, but I'll take the push. 7-5 sounds right. A key game early will be at Arizona State. If the Illini can win that one, they have a chance at exceeding my expectations.
Brian, looks like your Cards are off to a good start without Albert. Hopefully my Mets can end up getting revenge in the playoffs for 2006. My question is regarding PSU's QB race. If you were O'Brien, wouldn't you start Jones as both McGloin and Bolden have looked less than stellar and Jones seems to have the most upside?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Mets in the playoffs? What universe are we talking about? O'Brien has seen these quarterbacks up close on the field and in the meeting room, so he'll choose the guy who's best, not the one with upside. Jones is really inexperienced, and McGloin is steady if not spectacular. It's Jones who has to prove he's ready.
SElgin Hawkeye (IL)
With the addition of Brian Ferentz to the staff and the great job he did with the Patriots tight ends, what do you think are the possibilities that the Hawkeyes "borrow" a few plays from the playbook since they are loaded at the TE position this year.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I can totally see that, especially without a proven running back and no Marvin McNutt. The tight end could be a great weapon for Vandenberg and that offense.
Now that spring practice is over are there any true freshman in the conference that could make an immediate impact? I know that may be a way too early to know question because a lot are not even on campus but just curious if any stood out.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Sure. Joe Bolden at Michigan will play in some capacity. Great instincts. Obviously, Michael Thomas at Ohio State can be a factor after his big spring game. There are probably others I'm forgetting, but those two stand out.
Why does 108 days feel like such a long time away
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Jabber (Iowa City)
Brian, without college basketball or college football, I'm having problems finding anything to watch on TV. Now that "The Voice" has concluded, what are you going to watch?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
"The Voice," really? I've still got Mad Men and Game of Thrones to keep me warm the next few weeks. After that, it's probably baseball and NBA playoffs
Anyone But Nebraska (Kansas City)
I see you predicted (on the spot, of course) MSU vs. Wisc in the championship. Do you think Wisc will actually finish ahead of OSU or will their post season ban allow Wisc to fill their forfeited spot?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
It's a good question. I think Ohio State could be the best team in the division by the end of the year. But I also see them losing at Wisconsin and at Penn State. Let's make them both 6-2, but Wisconsin has the head-to-head edge.
From early in this chat it seems like Illinois has you very intrigued at this point....Is there another team in the conferance that has more question marks as what to expect than Illinois? They are a RB and WR injury away from being a 3 win team
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
They're also a potential sleeper if they can find some offensive production. Remember, that defense was exceptional last year and should be really stout again this year. If the spread can increase the point totals, and figuring the special teams can't be any worse, then Illinois could be a factor.
There aren't too many elite WR's in the league this season. With that said, who do you view as the top WR in the conference?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Excellent question. I think whoever leads the league in receiving could end up being a surprise. That said, the leading returning pass catchers are Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis and Iowa's Keenan Davis. I think one of the Northwestern wideouts could have a big year, possibly Prater if he's eligible.
what is your twitter handle?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
How close is the Legends division? Everyone seems to be picking MSU, but I think both NU and MU has a shot to win the division. Would you say its more competitive than the leaders?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I think it's more top heavy. I have a hard time envisioning any scenarios where Northwestern, Iowa or Minnesota win the division, but I could see all three of the teams you mentioned in the Rose Bowl. Can only really say that about two in the Leaders.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
You mentioned a B1G team going 12-1 and maybe going to the NCG depending on the circumstances. Is there any chance that a B1G team could go 11-1, losing one conference game that ends up being the decider for the division, missing the CCG and still play for a national championship (a la Alabama last year)/ When you spell it out like that, it does sound kinda ridiculous.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Well, only if the division winner was 13-0 with one of the most impressive regular seasons of all time, and the other team's one loss was head-to-head in overtime of a game when it missed a bunch of field goals.
Jim (Salt Lake City)
Brian, given the number of tough Leaders crossover games and the Legends round-robin with Neb, UM, and MSU, who do you think had the best shot at running the conference (not OOC) schedule this year? Or is there too much parity for this to happen at all?.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I don't like any Big Ten team to run the table in the league this year because the teams are just so balanced. Of the three you mentioned, though, I'd take Nebraska. Going to Ohio State won't be fun, but the Huskers have Michigan and Penn State at home and did beat MSU last year convincingly (albeit at home after a tough stretch for the Spartans).
Tony (Novi, MI)
Where's the threat?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Ha. I'm waiting on the T-shirt with that slogan
With Florida St starting another round of realignment talk, would the B1G consider adding a team such as FSU from so far outside of their typical footprint?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
No chance. Academics alone would prevent that.
Nick (Big Ten country)
The last time Michigan made it to the Rose Bowl and came away with the "W" was their NC season. It's my birthday today and my one wish is for Michigan to bring home a Rose Bowl victory this year (aside from beating Ohio!). What are the chances my wish comes true and what are the must-win games for them to get there?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
The Wolverines have an excellent chance of at least making it to Pasadena this year. However, the schedule is much more difficult than last season. Key games will include going to Nebraska, going to Ohio State and of course the Michigan State game. Michigan could enter the season as the league favorite.
Mr. T (Columbus)
If you had to rank the Defenses in the B1G for this year what would be your top 5?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Hmmm... always tough to do off top of my head, but I'd probably go: 1. Michigan State. 2. Penn State. 3. Ohio State. 4. Michigan. 5. Nebraska.
Henry (B1G Blog)
Hey why don't you comment on the blogs with your readers! I see you and Adam like 3 times a year.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
We're too busy writing the blog posts you comment on. That's why we have these chats and our mailbags.
Hey Brian, I'd like to think Ohio State this year as a snowball rolling down a hill, easy to stop early on but harder later as it picks up more mass. I think an early loss to MSU could lead to a 8-4 season, but an early win against MSU creating possibly a 10-2 if not better season. What's your opinion? Do you think their 5th game is going to be their defining moment?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
It's quite possible. That will be the first major test for Urban Meyer after four very winnable September games. Going to Penn State and Wisconsin won't be fun, but the Buckeyes get Michigan and Nebraska at home. If they're good enough to win in East Lansing, look out.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Did you catch the Mad Men season finale? What a doozy! Also, to my first question, I say "good answer!" If MSU has another 11-win season, with another appearance in Indy, is Narduzzi as good as gone? Any chance he'll stick around until we get to Pasadena (which very well could be this year)? We return a lot of starters for 2013...
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Season finale? Do you own a time machine? We've got another couple of weeks with the folks at SCDP. Anyway, I think Narduzzi would and should only leave for a head coaching gig. That said, if the Spartans have a similar kind if year on defense as they did a season ago, he should get some decent offers to run his own program.
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Ok, now how about the top 5 offenses?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
This one is tougher. How about: 1. Nebraska. 2. Wisconsin. 3. Michigan. 4. Northwestern. 5. Michigan State
Dan (Corn country)
What are the chances that any of the games in the '4 team event' will be played in or near B1G territory? Hearing pundits call any city in the south a neutral site for the SEC is a joke.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Especially if there are neutral sites for semifinals (which seems unlikely), then Midwest sites have a great chance. I would think Indy or Detroit would have a good chance at getting a national title game, though probably not in the first tier of choices. Indy has proved it can handle a major event.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Brian, do you have any scoop on which ACC QB Wisconsin will go after for next year? Seems like a bad trend for a head coach to start and good QB recruits will take notice.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
E.J. Manuel will graduate and ... nah. Actually, Danny O'Brien has a second year of eligibility after this one. So if he can play well and then hand over the reins to Stave or Houston, the trend at Wisconsin will likely be over.
Guy pretending to be Pete Carrol (Seattle)
Brian, I know I'm not exactly known as a honest football coach, but the Big Ten needs to hire big-time coaches to close the gap with the SEC. Any chance my phone rings with an offer when my Seahawks gig burns out?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I think the Big Ten is doing just fine with its head coaches, and even though you coached a bit in the area early in your career, you don't strike me as a Midwest guy by choice.
Will Leib (MCAS Miramar, CA)
Its often discussed who the best team will be... who do you think will be the worst team, and why? Runner-up?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Well, it's pretty obvious that Indiana has the farthest to go after going 0-11 against FBS opponents last year. I do think the Hoosiers will be improved and can steal at least one Big Ten win, but they're still going to struggle. Minnesota is probably the runner-up, though I can see Jerry Kill's team getting close to bowl contention this year.
BigZx2 (Santa Monica, CA)
Bigger question mark: MSU at WR or UM at DL
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I'll say UM's D-line. Depth is a real issue behind the starters, who may not play up to last year's group. Michigan State has a ton of inexperience at WR, but that's a position where you can live with some youthfulness. And D-line is more important to winning in this league than WR is.
Waffles (Southern Califonia)
Ouch a lot of former B1G studs on Memphis got beat by my Clips! I'm still not sold on my badgers this season. I know Penn State has a lot of coaching turnover but I think we're in a worse spot losing Paul Chryst. Before I start acting stupid and pick Purdue to win the leaders, anything you can say to give me more hope for the Badgers?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I can say a couple of things, like "Montee Ball." And "Chris Borland." And "offensive line." There's no question in my mind that the Badgers are going to be in the absolute thick of that race.
Lets say FSU does go to the BIG 12, will that lead to the B1G gaining any teams out of the ACC?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Maryland might be the top choice if something were to happen. But I don't see many teams bringing great value or see the Big Ten wanting to expand again right now. But a lot can change quickly, as we have obviously seen.
Big Baby Davis (The Couch, Orlando)
It's pretty obvious you show little love to PSU or Michigan, so which do you hate more? UW has a ton of gaps to fill, same with OSU but they are both lightyears ahead of PSU apparently. And UM's offense #3 in B1G, really? So, who you hate more?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Why would I hate either school? Makes no sense. For Penn State, I'm just not sold on the QB play. I love the Lions' schedule and think they can win the Leaders if they improve that offense, but am underwhelmed by the QBs, again. As for Michigan, the Wolverines were No. 2 in the league in offense a year ago. I've got them No. 3 this year, realizing they have to play Alabama and a tougher schedule overall. How is that hateful?
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
My Crystal Ball tells me that Northwestern will finish 7-5 and top it off with a bowl win for an 8-5 finish. I feel real good about Northwestern starting 4-0! Chances of this scenario?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Wow, you have Northwestern winning a bowl game? You're more optimistic than even Rittenberg. While the first three games are all winnable, they're also all flip-of-the-coin type matchups, against Syracuse, Vandy and BC. Not an easy way to start the year. I'm leaning more toward 6-6, but a bowl win has to come eventually, right?
Brian, In your opinion, would an early signing period in say, late November be a good thing? This way, surprise high school seniors can still get noticed and maybe poaching by the major schools will be reduced. Plus, any recruit thinking of a school whose coach is on the hot seat could consider that before signing.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
There's good and bad to it. So many coaches change jobs during bowl seasons that it could hurt the players. And coaches would have to spend a lot more time during the season on recruiting to make sure their early commits signed in November. While some changes to the calendar should definitely be looked at, I'm not sure this fixes as many ills as it might cause
Top 3 QB's this year... ready? Go!
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
We are heavy on the lists today, aren't we? Well, OK. In no particular order: Denard Robinson, James Vandenberg and -- surprise! -- MarQueis Gray
Brian (Portland, OR)
Which premier OOC game do you see a Big 10 team having the best chance at winning?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Michigan State (at home) over Boise. Outside of that and Michigan-Bama, I'm not sure I'd call any of the OOC games "premier." Does Notre Dame count for that anymore? I think not.
Eric M (Iowa City, IA)
Shouldna??t we be looking for a way to name the #1 team in college football, not necessarily rewarding the top four? LSU and Alabama were probably the two best teams last year, but by virtue of identical opponents and strength of schedule, we knew that Bama was not the absolute best. Yet we will never know how an 11-1 team from the Big 12 compares to a 12-0 team in the SEC. You cana??t be the best in the country if youa??re not the best in your 12 team conference, so why should we include non-champions in a playoff?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Why couldn't you be the second-best team in the country who had one bad game? Was Clemson, Oregon or Wisconsin more deserving last year than Alabama because they won a league title? Heck no. Let's pick the four best teams as best we can and let them settle it.
Can you even mention the Hoosiers? Just wondering if you are capable of even pronouncing the word or saying one good thing about them.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Mentioned them earlier. Problem is, you're the first person in this hour to ask me an IU question, and you didn't even ask me anything about the team.
Frank (Minot, ND)
Brian, I'm taking my wife to her first Husker Game in the opener against Southern Miss. Do you think I should have picked a different game, or will I be pretty satisfied with the outcome?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Southern Miss is usually pretty feisty, but with the Golden Eagles breaking in a new head coach and the fact that Nebraska is at home, I think you and the Mrs. will have a fine time.
Best sophomore to be (offense or defense) in the conference this year?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Now that Arnett was cleared to play this season, will the young but talented Spartan receivers make enough plays to keep defenses honest?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
He will definitely help. But Arnett is not a big guy and is more suited for a slot role. The Spartans still need some playmakers on the outside to emerge.
Tony (Castle Rock, CO)
Making a requirement for conference champions gets rid of more subjectivity of college football, by lessening how much polls and popular opinion means in determining who is the 'best'(highly opinionated) teams and allows you to play for it, not lobby like a politician.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
It's always going to be subjective unless teams play the same schedules or conferences decide their champion the same way. The ACC is not as strong as the Big Ten or SEC, so why should its champion have a better shot of playing for the title than the second-best team from those leagues?
Feel like NU season depends on Colters ability to pass. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That will play a big role. I really like the receivers, and we know Colter can run. If he can throw it anything like Persa, he'll be a major force. Of course, Northwestern is usually good on offense. The defense has to get much better than what it showed last year.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Time flew by today, and I'm all out of it. Thanks for the great questions, and see you next week!