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. Just one Big Ten chat again this week, so if you've questions about football in the league, send 'em in now
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
In the Big10 it seems the top teams always have the best O-Line.... how would you rank the O-Line's for the Big10's big 4... Mich, OSU, Wisc, and Penn State?? OK...throw in Michigan State since they had a good year last year and so the homers don't get restless...
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
You're right, TK, though the Spartans managed to win the Legends Division last year while patchin a bunch of holes in the line, which was impressive. Of those four you mentioned, I'd go: Wisconsin (always have to rank the Badgers on top), Michigan, OSU and Penn State. Michigan's starters will be good; I'm just worried about depth. I'd rank MSU no worse than third, btw. Think they'll be really good and deep.
Bruce (Columbus, Georgia)
Is it accurate to say that overall the Big 10 will be down this year? Wisconsin and Michigan State have lost QB's & other top players. Ohio State
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Down as compared to what? I think it will be strong, with a bunch of really good teams but maybe no elite ones, quite like last year. Still see two BCS bids
Big Penn State fan here. Do you think Adam Brenneman's injury will result in him losing his scholarship. If he gets to keep it how far do you think he will fall in the recruiting rankings and do you still think he will be able to help the offense out right away.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
He definitely won't lose his scholarship. If there's any bright side to the ACL, it's that it came early enough for him to get completely recovered for his freshman year instead of needing a medical redshirt. He may not quite be all the way back by early in his freshman year but is still a great prospect. I'm sure his recruiting ranking will fall since he won't play as a senior and many will forget about him. But, really, who cares about that?
Brendan (Alexandria, VA)
Most people feel that the MSU/Mich/Neb trio of games will decide the Legends division this year. In your opinion, which of these 3 has the least favorable schedule against the other two?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
They're all pretty even since each school has one at home and one away. Of the three, I'd say Michigan is the toughest, just because Michigan State has given Michigan so many problems and Nebraska will be dead set on revenge in Lincoln. But no real disadvantages for any of the three.
Kevin (Rock Island, IL)
Both you and Adam have clearly documented Illinois' need for offensive playmakers. Hawthorne's name has been thrown around, but it worries me that moving him would hurt the defense, given their already poor secondary. Even if he played both ways, I think you wouldn't get enough out of him. If Illinois leaves him in the secondary, they can move Osei out wide, or just find bodies. To me, secondary play (as a unit) has been poor since the days of Christian Morton and Eugene Wilson and he is more needed there. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Generally speaking, I'd rather have a guy who's a borderline to play both ways go on defense. You can always throw him out there for a few plays on offense, and offensive playmakers seem to be a little easier to find. The Illini front seven on defense should help the secondary. I'm still not sold on any of the Illinois receivers, though.
With the Gophers getting Bobek from OSU and now locking in another OL prospect for the 2013 class, they really are building some nice young OL depth and could be VERY strong in that area in 2013 & 2014 (no linemen graduate this year). Do you think that Kill and Co will get this program on the same track as he had his previous programs?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Building strength and depth on both lines is going to be huge for Kill and Minnesota. I believe in him and his staff; they're proven winners who know how to build a solid program. It's going to take some time, and Minnesota is never going to have the same advantages as other Big Ten schools, but I think he'll build a consistent bowl team and possibly more there.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Over/under 2 years for a Big Ten team to playing in the national title game? And will be the participant wear Maize & Blue or Scarlet
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Boy, that's a good, tough question. I'm on record as saying I think the Buckeyes will be in the mix for a national title by '13 or '14, and Michigan is building toward something big, too. Since I don't think it will happen this year for any Big Ten team, I'll take the over.
Do you ever get a question that you dont post because you just have no idea how to answer it?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Absolutely. Some questions would need a lot more time and research to properly answer than this format allows. And others are just indecipherable.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will D'Antonio be able to get the Spartans completely over hump and into a BCS bowl or championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Michigan State clearly was good enough to be a BCS bowl team the past two years. I don't know about the title game, but a BCS game is a definite.
Chris (lansing mi)
Penn State and Ohio state are both premier football brands that struggled last year during stints with interim coaches. I'm hearing a lot more about Ohio State than Penn State post hiring new coaches. Is Ohio State really going to be that much better than Penn State?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Well, it's only natural, given that Urban Meyer is a much bigger name in college football than Bill O'Brien, for whatever that's worth. And a lot of the national attention on Penn State has been on other things, if you hadn't noticed. The two teams should be pretty even in 2012.
Jim (Grand Junction, Colorado)
Brian: Overall, how would you assess the Big Red Weekend at Nebraska? Was it a success? So far, I have seen only 2 new recruits listed and neither was a really top prospect. Will the real dividends only show up down the road?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Yeah, it's hard to gauge the success of an event like that right away, as players can commit (or even decommit) down the road. I think it's a good idea, though, because Nebraska has to get recruits to Lincoln to see its wonderful facilities and has to recruit somewhat nationally given its geography. The more exposure the school can get to recruits, the better.
FFX Lion (Washington, DC)
I'll ask for an early prediction on the CCG. But I won't make you predict teams. Instead -- what do you think the participant records will be? Do you think that a 6-2 record, or a 5-3 record will make it, or will it take a 7-1 record?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Interesting. Of course, last year we had a 7-1 vs. a 6-2. The twist this year is Ohio State's ineligibility, meaning a Leaders team could conceivably be 5-3 and technically finish second but make it to Indy. And the Legends is stacked at the top. I'll go 6-2 vs. 6-2 (and my teams are still MSU and Wisconsin, for now).
Martin Gallagher (Raleigh, NC)
Brian, as we speak about the overall power of the Big Ten Conference, how realistic is it to think the Champion may compete for a National Title. I think this year might be one when the National Champion has a single loss. Do you think Michigan, Michigan State, or Wisconsin have a legitmate shot this year or next? Ohio would be in the mix for next year.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
It depends so much on what happens elsewhere. It's hard to imagine the SEC champ being left out unless it has two losses, so that means every other major contender has to have at least one loss. And then it might come down to schedules, and outside of Michigan, the league doesn't really have any marquee nonconference games. I'd say it's unlikely, but weird things do happen in this sport.
David (Chicago, IL)
Are you or Adam going to run in the Big Ten 10K race next month?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I just heard about it. I might. Sounds fun, and I am a runner. Not sure if Adam could make it to the finish line by the start of the season.
What does Bo need to do to turn around the Blackshirts?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Pelini seems pretty optimistic about the defense this year. It's interesting because Nebraska doesn't have big-name stars right now, but the team sounds confident about its chemistry and knowledge of the system. That can make a huge difference, as can better understanding of the Big Ten style of play. I think last year was an aberration, though I still wonder if this unit has enough difference-makers to be truly elite nationally.
Hi Brian. Pretty big shame "I'll have another" wasn't able to at least attempt to win the Triple Crown. Maybe Josh Hamilton can pick up the slack. To the point, what do you think it will take for MSU to be considered an elite program? Do you think a BCS bowl does it, or is that something that takes multiple 10+ win seasons?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
A lot of that is subjective, but it certainly requires that a program play in BCS bowls. Just winning 10 games and playing in Outback and Capitol One Bowls won't do it. And winning BCS games and getting into the national title mix is the next step. Oregon's progression is a good example, I think.
Do you think Delany is fair and good for college football? His supposed genius is having the BTN be part of basic cable. Nobody outside the Midwest (besides Alumni) would otherwise order the channel and the cost trickles down to the consumer. I also find it ironic that Delany worked for the NCAA and then had the gall to petition those kids from Ohio State to play in the Sugar Bowl after numerous rules were broken. By not allowing other teams (outside of BCS conference) to play in a playoff and petitioning the NCAA to let those kids play in the Sugar Bowl does he have any moral fiber?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I would counter your question by saying it's not Jim Delany's job to be fair and good for college football as a whole, just as it is not Mike Slive's job. A conference commissioner gets paid to represent the interests of his league above all else, and to that end Delany has done an outstanding job. That's the fractured nature of this sport, where it's every man for himself. You can't argue the Big Ten's health under Delany's watch.
While OSU cant play in CCG this year- will it come down to Wisconsin or Penn state playing for Leaders? Or do you see a shocker with Ind, Ill, or Purdue playing?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Purdue is a darkhorse team there, and the Boilers have a pretty good schedule. Still, it would take a big leap for Danny Hope's team to get to that level, so I think it still comes down to the Badgers or Nittany Lions. Anything else would be considered a major surprise.
Spencer (Neenah, WI)
As far as recruiting, in what position/position group does Wisconsin most need an upgrade?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I would say defensive end. The Badgers didn't have a dominant pass rusher last season on the perimeter and have only one guy -- David Gilbert -- who looks to be that kind of player this year.
Do you see Indiana winning 6 games and playing in a bowl this year?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
A Hoosiers question on the chat! Sorry, Mitchell, I can't see it. I do think IU can win three games in the nonconference schedule and maybe pull of an upset in the league to get to four. But going from 1-11 to 6-6 would put Kevin Wilson in line for national coach of the year awards. Defense just isn't good enough for that kind of leap.
I'm not sure if this was ever asked, as it's been a while since he transferred, but would the Badgers have been better off with O'Brien or Dayne Crist? Might have been a huge blessing/curse in disguise if one flops and the other's terrific.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Well, I covered Crist at Notre Dame, and while I really, really liked and respected him as a person, I was not sure he had what it took to be a big-time QB. He seemed to get nervous and make questionable decisions, not to mention his injury problems. I don't know as much about O'Brien yet. But O'Brien also has two years of eligibility left, which is a huge bonus.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Jim Tressel was able to recruit South Florida kids to Columbus. Do you think Urban Meyer will be able to convince more, less, or about the same number of Sunshine State kids to play for the Buckeyes given his ties, and reputation with the locals?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Meyer's Florida connections should definitely help him down there, and he is more willing to recruit nationally and outside Ohio than Tressel was, for better or worse. The key question remains whether some of the best players in the Florida will want to play so far away from home. Why go to Ohio State when you can play for Florida, Miami, FSU, etc? That's what Meyer will have to answer.
Dan (Corn country)
Are the SEC/Big 12 only pushing for using the current ranking system for a top 4 playoff because they believe they can get 2 or 3 teams into the event?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Of course. Like I said, it's every man for himself. Though I think the idea of a league getting three teams in is ludicrous and would never happen.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
How good will the Spartan defense be in 2012? Will they have to carry the team in order for Michigan State to have another big year?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
The Spartans have every opportunity to be a Top 5 defense nationally. They're that talented and deep. That will no doubt be the strength of the team, but the offense should improve over the course of the year and I like the potential for the running game with Le'Veon Bell.
Adam ranked B1G facilities last week. What are your top 5?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
There are still a couple of campuses I haven't been to and a couple where I haven't seen all the facilities up close. But my rankings would definitely have Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State at the top, and probably Michigan State right behind.
Dave (Iowa City)
Do you see Hawkeyes beating Michigan to make the win streak at 4?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
That was a big win last year for the Hawkeyes, but it's going to be a lot tougher this year in the Big House. I think Michigan snaps the streak.
What would safe expectations be for an MSU fan in terms of Andrew Maxwell and his receiving corp for this year?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Well, let's look back at Kirk Cousins' first year of starting. Cousins completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,680 yards, with 19 TDs and nine INTs. So that's a fair baseline, though with a young receiving corps I'd downgrade it a bit. Maxwell needs to complete at least 58 or 59 percent of his passes. It would be safe to expect about 2,500 yards, with TD and INT numbers close to in line with Cousins' sophomore stats.
Spencer (Neenah, WI)
I bought my ticket today for the Wisconsin Nebraska game. Have an early prediction for it? Bucky in another blowout?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I do not see another Wisconsin blowout, not with the game in Lincoln. The Badgers are a much different team on the road. I'd probably make Nebraska a slight favorite, in fact, and would expect a close game.
Jeremy (Some Cornfield in W Viginia)
Brian,Interested to see comments concerning Nebraska's need to recruit nationally. It's not rocket science, Nebraska has always had to approach recruiting in that manner. Look at some of the great Husker teams from the early 80's and mid 90's, players from all over and notably, California, Texas, and Florida. Nebraska has had it's best seasons when its roster contains players from those three states. Now the Huskers are adding Ohio to the mix, but Nebraska will always recruit nationally because they have to. I suppose that it is just a little over dramatic to keep hearing it over and over like Nebraska fans never understood this.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Fair points. For me, though, the key questions are whether Texas kids will still want to come play at Nebraska now that it's not in the Big Ten, or if California kids will want to play exclusively in the Midwest. And can Nebraska have enough success in Ohio, which Ohio State and Michigan dominate and where every Big Ten school recruits? Those are fair questions to ask, though Nebraska is an attractive place for recruits.
Which is more likely, UM beats Alabama or UM beats their 3 big rivals (OSU, ND, MSU)?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I'd normally take the one-shot deal over the trifecta, but I'd actually say the latter in this case. Michigan has owned ND of late and beat Ohio State last year. Michigan State has the streak, but the game's in Ann Arbor. Beating Alabama is going to be very, very difficult.
Multi Tasker (Anywhere, USA)
How do you post an update and conduct the chat at the same time? You that talented, bored with the chat, or secretly have a staff of thousands working for you behind the scene?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I'll go with A) that talented
Over/Under, Denard Robinson's #s last year of 20 TD and 15 INT for the upcoming season. He should progress as a passer but he loses some VASTLY underrated recievers
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Agreed, and I don't think we'll see 15 INTs this year (though you could make the case he could have had a lot more last year with those jump balls). Also factor in Fitz Toussaint for a full season of major carries, and I think we'll see both numbers go down for Denard.
FFX Lion (DC)
I saw that you predicted MSU representing Legends in the CCG. Question: At this point, in what order do you think MSU Nebraska, and Michigan finish in Legends? Obviously, you think MSU is #1, so who is #2 and #3?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Right now, on June 18, I'd take Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska, just like last year. That's how we have them in our power rankings.
Dave (Marquette, NE)
If you could pick your top 5 Fantasy players in the B1G..who would they be?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Hmmm ... well, Montee Ball is No. 1, no question. All those TDs give him the clear edge. Denard Robinson has to be up there with his multi-dimensional skills. You could go Burkhead, Redd, Toussaint or Bell in the top five, as there's not a ton of difference -- fantasy-wise -- in their numbers. A guy like MarQueis Gray could be a fantasy sleeper. And do not show this list to Rittenberg.
Reese (Downers Grove, IL)
Earlier you answered a question concerning the Illini WR and RB. Do you feel the flexibility of the spread offense will allow some of these inexperienced players to find a niche and allow the Illini to move the football (which they had a problem with in the 2nd half of last season)? I am thinking of TE/RB Jon Davis, CB/WR Hawthorne, and RB Ferguson specifically.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Long-term, absolutely. The Illini didn't have much of a running game last year and relied on A.J. Jenkins to make things happen in the passing game. By spreading things out more, they should be tougher to stop. But I could definitely see some growing pains early on in the season as the players -- including many key contributors who lack major experience -- figure out the system. Illinois really needs someone, whether its Ferguson or Young or whatever, to become a reliable running back.
Ben (Hoosier nation) [via mobile]
ISU vs IU. Good tickets to get? I know its not Michigan vs Alabama, but for IUs standards would they be good?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I know there will be plenty available.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Which incoming freshmen will have the biggest impact in the conference next season?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Could be Noah Spence at Ohio State if he's as good as advertised. I also think we'll see some impact freshmen at receiver across the league.
Alex (Madison, WI)
How can MSU be your legends favorite? Especially given that they'll likely lose to Bucky in Madison. Who do you see Nebraska and Michigan losing too?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Everybody's got at least one really tough road game. Michigan State's defense looks like the single best unit in a league that's really balanced. That's why I'm picking them -- for now.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
And that's all the time I have for now. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week.