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 chat. I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Zach (Lincoln, NE)
Do you see 2013 as being the big breakout year for B1G football. All I keep hearing is that Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are returning a lot of key players to an easier schedule, which is the same way that I look at my Huskers.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
That's quite possible, Zach. I think you'll see Ohio State and Michigan loaded for bear. Michigan State should still be really good, with an advantageous schedule. No reason to think Nebraska won't be good, and Penn State will be in Year 2 of O'Brien. And Bielema has said '13 might be his best team. So it could be a banner year, though a lot can happen between now and then.
Duffy Daugherty (Washington, DC)
Brain, how do you think last week's announcement of the SEC-Big 12 bowl game will affect expansion? Seems to me that it is certainly an enticement to Florida State to make the jump to the Big 12. We seem to have four power conferences, then the ACC and the Big East (San Diego State?) limping in as also-rans. There's got to be movement by savvy ADs at schools on the outside looking in. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
It's fascinating, and it could trigger another round of chaos. If Florida State bolts, that could start a domino effect, and leagues and ADs have to be ready to pounce. One thing that could mitigate the impact is that the Big 12/SEC game likely will rarely have the champion of either league, making it a little less important.
Dan (Corn belt)
If Alabama didn't hold on to the #2 spot last year (say if Ok State didn't loose to Iowa St), would giving preference to conf. champions be an issue right now? Or at least as big an issue?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Interesting question, but Alabama would still have been ranked No. 3 and likely would have blown out whoever it played in a bowl. You'd also have the Stanford/Oregon situation. If you want to pick the best four teams, that champions system wouldn't have worked perfectly last year.
Mr. T (Columbus)
Brian, looks like I'll Have Another is poised to win the crown. Wish I had put money on him when I had the 15-1 odds. My question is in regards to the schedules that were posted here today. Which team has the most favorable schedules over the next 2-3 years?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I assume you're talking about the 2015-16 schedule, which was released today. Northwestern and Purdue got the biggest breaks with their no-plays, while Iowa also got a break by missing both Ohio State and Wisconsin in the crossover games.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
So, how about my Dodgers sweeping your Cards over the weekend? Pretty sweet! On the football front, I was looking at Penn State's upcoming schedules now that the conference schedules are out. We don't seem to have much in the way of "marquee" games in the near future, and already have one away non-conference game scheduled. Can we improve our strength of schedule at all?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Yeah, my Redbirds are in a funk, and this Berkman injury looks terrible. Time to pop in the World Series DVD before I get depressed. Anyway, you're right in that Penn State's schedules are a little soft in the next few years, with a lot of Syracuse, Navy, Temple type opponents. Bill O'Brien is pledging to build up the schedules, but that's not really going to happen until about 2016 because of contracts that are already in place.
Jerry Jerry (Minnesota)
How many games do you think Jerry Kill can win in year 2 at Minny?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I think the Gophers have a chance to sweep the nonconference schedule, where the toughest game is Syracuse at home. If that happens, all they have to do is match last year's two Big Ten wins to get to a bowl. I'm being conservative now and saying five, but six or even seven wins is not out of the question.
With the new schedule, Michigan State and Wisconsin won't play very much. Do you think that hurts this budding rivalry or do you see them meeting in the B1G Championship once or twice in coming years?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
It definitely hurts the budding rivalry. An awful lot has to go right for both schools to make the Big Ten title game in the same year. While I'm picking that rematch in '12 (for now), I'd be surprised if we saw it happen again in the next few years simply because of parity. It's a shame the two won't play for an extended period because those games have been really fun.
Jarvis Jennings (Irvine, CA)
Brian, I believe OSU can go undefeated this year and throw a big monkey wrench into the national landscape. They have a favorable schedule and there tough road game foes are breaking in new QB's against a great Buckeye defense. Your thoughts.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
The schedule is very favorable, but I do see at least one loss and probably two in those trips to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State. All are tough places to play and will be very difficult games, and I don't think Ohio State is markedly better than any of those teams, if at all.
the B1G just released the 2015 and 2016 conference schedules and Northwestern avoids Wisconsin and OSU those years. Purple to Pasadena?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
It sure is a nice break. Of course, they still have to get by Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa, not to mention the Big Ten title game.
Brian, just admit it. You didn't come to the Twin Cities because you hate us.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I would love to go to Minneapolis. Unfortunately, we don't control the purse strings at ESPN and the trip just didn't work out. Believe me when I say Adam and I are trying our best to get there soon.
BigZx2 (Santa Monica, CA)
Do you think I'll have Another takes the crown? Why does it seem like you and Adam are so high on MSU, but when I take a look around the national pre-season rankings/predictions, they all have UM over MSU?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I say no. The Belmont gobbles horses up and a fresher competitor will catch him. The UM/MSU debate is a really close one. I feel like some of the national pundits give Michigan the edge because they won the Sugar Bowl and have Denard Robinson. We see the depth and strength of MSU's defense and O-line and give Sparty the edge. But again, it's very close.
Garner (Billings) [via mobile]
I know conversation has shifted to bidding off sites for the playoffs, but why does this preclude an outdoor game north of the Mason Dixon line? Aren't places like Soldier, Lambeau, and Heinz field still viable options? It would allow some games to be played in B1G territory as well as keep the cold weather advantage.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
They would be options, but I would bet that indoor sites like Lucas Oil and Ford Field would get preference. Remember, the Big Ten didn't even want its own championship outdoors, so why would it push for an outdoor site now? The geography would still be beneficial for Big Ten fans and teams with a Midwest site.
Northwestern's pass defense was awful last year, and a number of their starters have graduated. Do you see any chance of them being better next year, especially at LB and CB?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
It can't get much worse, right? The hope is there's some young talent on board and that the coaching staff can fix what went wrong last year. I would expect some mild improvement and a better pass rush will help, but Northwestern is not going to be a lockdown 'D' by any stretch.
BTN Producer (Chicago)
What will it take to return the B1G to Academic Supremacy? We cancel the BTN shows about academics. We invite and admit a non AAU school, Nebraska. And you guys are on the football blog instead of the History Channel blog. Woe is the B1G.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Well, that made me chuckle.
Brian, is this new Big 12/SEC bowl going to be an existing bowl? Or are they going to attempt to insert tradition where the really isn't any and expect it to compete with the Rose Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Patrick, the leagues haven't decided yet whether to incorporate an existing bowl or bid it out to a new site. The smart guess is that they will simply create a new game, run it themselves and keep all the money that a place like Jerry's World will throw at them. Tradition will be lacking, but everyone will still watch.
So with all the talk about who will play QB (hoping for Jones) for the eventual 2012 Big 10 Champs (You heard it here first)... I haven't heard much about the receiving corps...who will be in a position to step up and be a difference maker at the WR/TE positions for Nittany Nation?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Justin Brown needs to take the next step and become a true No. 1, and then some young guys will have to fill in. I'd also look for O'Brien to use the tight ends more and a guy like Belton out of the backfield. Think the Patriots offense. It wouldn't surprise me to see Penn State win the Leaders.
Jacob (Bloomington, IN)
Say something encouraging about IU. Please?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Um, OK. All the young players who were thrown in the fire last year are a year older. The juco imports, particularly David Cooper and Jabarri Alexander at linebacker, should make a big impact. The passing game should be better, and Ted Bolser could be one of the best TE's in the league. IU will be much more competitive this year. I just am not sure where the Big Ten wins will be.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
That should be Jacarri, not Jabarri
Mr. T (Columbus)
Brian, could you put things in perspective for me and others about these secondary violations at Ohio State? Is this a typical number for a school with this many sports? Can you compare the amount of secondary violations to other colleges and universities with similar sized athletic programs? Such as Alabama, Florida, USC, Texas, and so on.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I don't have numbers in front of me, but I know that schools self-report all kinds of secondary violations all the time. So I don't think it's unusual. It's just that OSU and its compliance department is under a monstrous microscope right now.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City)
I see we get Ohio State and Wisconsin back on our schedules for the '15 '16 seasons. Do you hate as much as I do having to wait every other couple years for Barry and My teams to compete for the Heartland Trophy? Is there anyway the B1G can figure out a way to make trophy games within the B1G yearly? Like i already don't know the answer. Drop some knowledge on these other Kids. On Iowa!
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
It is a shame those teams aren't playing more frequently, because it's a good rivalry. This is the drawback of having a 12-team league. I would love to see the Big Ten adopt a nine-game schedule, but with the Pac-12 agreement that's extremely difficult.
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Brian, what is your take on all this talk of moving to 16 team superconferences? I don't like the idea, because conferences that large would cause long breaks between playing teams from the other division. It's almost like have two separate 8 team conferences that have an OOC scheduling agreement.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Yeah, we're already complaining about teams that don't play each other in a 12-team league. A 16-team conference would be unwieldy, and you wouldn't even feel like you were in the same league as some other schools. I'm not a fan of the idea.
Disgruntled Dave (Beneath OSU's Pedestal)
Hey Brian. Why is Meyer ranked as the #1 coach in the Big 10 and OSU is now pre-ranked #17 in the top 25 before Meyer has even coached a game?! I am aware of Meyer's success (2 national championships, etc.) but can we wipe the drool away until he coaches a game? What gives?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Meyer has a very strong track record, so it makes sense that he is getting the benefit of the doubt. Plus, it's not like he's inheriting a major rebuilding job. Yes, Ohio State was 6-7 last year, but it has a ton of talent and lots of experience. It won't take long for the Buckeyes to be a Top 10 caliber team.
RIP Bill Stewart
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Oh, man. Just saw that. I'm stunned and very saddened. One of the nicest, friendliest people I've ever met. Awful news.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Brian, MSU already has Notre Dame and Alabama scheduled in 2017 (and possibly USF). With the addition of a Pac 12 team, are they headed for Hurt City? At least it'll be nice to lord our scheduling over other teams' heads for a bit.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Well, Ohio State has already said it won't start the Pac-12 series in 2017 because it already has Oklahoma and UNC on the slate. Unless things change with MSU, I can see the Spartans going the same route.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Who's decision was it that Iowa got Nebraska for the final game instead of Minnesota? Was it a television decision?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Craig, the new Heroes Game was started with the idea that it would be played on Black Friday every year.
What type of offense should I be expecting to see from my boilermakers. Who are some new faces I might see a lot more of?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Probably not wildly different from last year except maybe some more downfield passing with the health of Marve and TerBush's development. And with Rob Henry, you could see different packages for the different QBs. The Boilers are hoping to get Raheem Mostert involved as a slot/screen guy, maybe in the Keshawn Martin role. They really need to generate more big plays than a year ago.
Which true freshmen in the offensive skill positions do you expect to see on the field this fall?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Well, Michael Thomas at Ohio State for sure. At least one of the freshman receivers at Michigan State and probably more. Imani Cross at Nebraska could see time. Those jump out off the top of my head.
P.T. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Somebody asked your boy Rittenberg if he ever reads any school message boards or the comments on his articles the other day and he said no. What say you, Brian? Are we a cesspool like Dam thinks? Give us some love!
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I sometimes look at the comments on our stories to see what's being talked about or whether there are ideas I didn't consider. But there's a lot of stuff there that doesn't interest me. I neither have the time nor the stomach to look at message boards.
Tony (Castle Rock, CO)
Do you think the B1G/Pac12 will have a showcase game to kick off every year? Make it at the Rose Bowl even.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I think that's a great idea. How about a triple-header with one game at the Rose, one at Soldier Field and one at, say, the new Meadowlands? The possibilities are endless.
Frank (La Marque)
Who will have the best defense in the Big 10 in 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
My vote would go to Michigan State, which has talent and depth at every level. Penn State the runner up, with Ohio State right there.
Why did Michigan schedule Alabama when they already had a brutal schedule? The schedule is Netural va Alabama (LOL Texas is not neutral) At ND, Air Force, MSU, at Nebraksa and and at OHIO. Seems like a home cream puff was in order. They can make the same amount of money or more at home and get the win and practice.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Financially speaking, this game isn't going to be a big boost for the Wolverines. But it creates a ton of exposure and excitement. I personally think a program the stature of Michigan should be playing that type of schedule. A loss to open the year would not hurt that bad.
Brian you really want to have a B1G-Pac game at the Rose Bowl? Don't you think more games should be on campuses?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Why couldn't the game be against UCLA?
What B1G game this year is looking to be the Game of the Year in the regular season? Will it be Wisconsin and Michigan State again? Or U of M-Ohio State? Or some other game that is off the radar?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Those are two good picks, along with Michigan State-Michigan, Nebraska-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Ohio State Nebraska-Wisconsin, etc. So many good ones to pick this year. We probably won't know which one is the one until it arrives.
Colin Oltman (Omaha, NE)
How do you think Nebraska will do this year in the Big 10?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I have the Huskers a notch behind Michigan and MSU but could easily see the Huskers winning the Legends. They do get UM at home and they handily beat the Spartans last year. Really like the offense, wonder if there are enough game-changers on defense.
Should I still be bitter on someone else making a cake with the ingredients I put togther or is Brady Hoke a better coach than me?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
No reason to be bitter. RichRod just didn't win enough and it wasn't working. There is no reason to believe the defense would have had the turnaround under Rodriguez that it enjoyed under Hoke and Mattison last year, which was the main reason for success.
Ken (Elkhorn, NE)
Hey Brian, I've really enjoyed some of the lunch links lately, keep up the good work guys. What Big Ten teams are going to be upset/cause upsets during the non-conference part of the season this year?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Well, if I knew that, I'd be running to Vegas. I'd keep an eye on Michigan for being upset. That Alabama game could take a lot out of them physically. Not a lot of other Big Ten teams are playing opponents where it could be termed a true upset if they won.
Chris Wright (Oshkosh, WI)
How realistic of a chance does Monte Ball have at the Heisman??
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
He should be one of the preseason favorites and has an excellent chance of being a finalist again. Winning it is going to be very difficult because he is going to be unfairly judged by last year's insane numbers.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your day.