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 back to the Monday Big Ten chat!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
After a short summer hiatus, we're back to talk all things Big Ten football for the next hour. So fire away with your best questions?
MSUSteve280 (Novi, MI)
It seems like most of the off-season story lines are becoming a little stale. Yet I'm sure your editors keep insisting you refresh them and produce a number of articles (and some new concepts, like the players votes). That said, on a scale from Break Bad season finale to (in your opinion) a Cardinals World Series win, how eager are you to see some actual football be played?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I'm as excited as if there were going to be a Breaking Bad finale/Cardinals Game 7 clincher double-header. We've spent eight long months talking over all the storylines, but new ones come up immediately as soon as the game start. Let's get it going!
Brian, besides the obvious Michigan St. vs Alabama game, what is your can't miss B1G game for week 1?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Would love to see Michigan State-Alabama, too, but of course the Wolverines play the Tide. That's No. 1 on the list, followed by Michigan State-Boise State. After that, I think Nebraska-Southern Miss is interesting. Northwestern-Syracuse should also be good, and I'm intrigued by Penn State's opener against a pretty good Ohio team
Who wins the big ten?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Well, there's a straightforward question. All offseason, I've been picking Michigan State to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. I reserve the right to change my mind after what we learn from preseason camps, but that's my pick for now.
Kevin Wilson (Bloomington)
How come you never mention me?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Check the blog. There's an Indiana story up right now where you're prominently mentioned. Unfortunately, you go 1-11 and you're not going to get as much preseason attention as some others.
Brian, I have a great rivalry title for Wisconsin- Nebraska, The "Adidas Could Do Better Bowl", thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Ha. I'm not a particularly big fan of either throwback jersey. Like the idea, just not the execution. Doesn't dim my excitement for that game one bit, though.
Should I be worried about the new information coming to light regarding the Montee Ball assault? Recent history shows these things have a way of spiraling out of control as more and more information becomes publicly available.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I don't want to jump to any conclusions or speculate too much. If police are looking into a fight involving members of your team, that's probably not great. But, again, we don't know enough specifics right now.
Brian, the unis for UW/NU are going to look awesome, I'm really excited for that...anyway do you think I'm crazy for believing Penn State has the tools to win 8 games or so? Looking at the team right now it looks a lot like last year with questions on offense and a solid squad on D. While 5-7 (or worse) wouldn't shock me, 8-4 seems pretty attainable. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Bucky, I thought a couple of months ago that Penn State had the chance to be a major contender for the Leaders title, especially with Wisconsin coming to State College. Now, I wonder. The losses of Brown and Redd really hurt what was already a thin offense. And as the schedule analysis I posted earlier today shows, there are simply no breathers on the docket. I'm thinking more like 6-6 or 7-5.
Do you think Braxton Miller could be a future 1st round pick as a quarterback?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
It's possible, though he's not the tallest guy. He'll need to bulk up and become a much more accurate thrower. But he's got a ton of skill and I think he'll be a Heisman contender by 2013.
Do Hoosier fans have anything to be excited for?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I think the offense has a chance to be much improved, with a full year of Tre Roberson, more RBs and a deeper WR corps. This is a team that should be able to field an exciting offense. The schedule allows for the possibility of a 3-0 start, as well.
Are you and Adam going to be visiting any of the fall camps to give us some first hand insight?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Jon, unfortunately we won't be doing a lot of travel this month. We save our travel bullets for the spring and for the season. But we'll likely hit a couple of places and will of course keep you up to date on all the big news.
Taylor Martinez (Lincoln)
Is this the year I finally live up to my potential (aka, more consistent K-State, Oklahoma St-like performances)?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Well, I like what Martinez has done this offseason in trying to improve his mechanics, and he says he's as healthy as he's been in two years. There are also good weapons around him, and this is the first time he's had two straight years of the same OC as a starter. So all signs point to this being Martinez's best year. The key is whether he can remain consistent and avoid mistakes. I'm really interested t see what his ceiling is.
Hank (Washington DC)
How will replace Fitz Touissant if he's suspended for the Bama game?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Vincent Smith is the most experienced back, but I believe the Wolverines will turn to Thomas Rawls if Toussaint is suspended. Rawls had a great spring and is a whole lot bigger and stronger than diminutive Smith, which is what you need against Bama's defense
MarQueis Gray (Dinkytown)
Brian, I am the real deal and reports out of training camp confirm I am hitting my WR on every pass. The frosh WRs Harbison and McDonald are Big Ten are polished and explosive, the RBs look legit for once, and we are gonna be nasty upfront. I say we go beat Iowa for the 3rd time running to go 5-0, and then beat Northwestern at our homecoming to make it 6-0. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Well, I admire your optimism. I do like Minnesota's chances of pushing for five wins, and a couple bounces here and there could get the Gophers to a bowl game. But I'm still not sold on the offensive skill players around Gray or the ability of the defense to stop the run consistently in the Big Ten.
Scott (New York, NY)
Brian: What's with all the Wolverine/Buckeye love in the preseason polls? Ohio state had a terrible year, yet they're now regarded as a top 10 team. Same thing with Michian. Nobody had anything nice to say about them after they squeaked into the Splenda bowl, and narrowly beat the Hokies in one of the most disorganized games of the season. Are these two teams, OSU and UM, simply getting by on brand name?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
No doubt there is some of that, Scott, as there are with a lot of "brand name" teams. (When will the voters learn on Oklahoma, FSU and Notre Dame, for example?). Michigan is also getting hype because of Denard Robinson and the fact that it won a BCS game. Ohio State obviously has the Urban Meyer factor, plus a lot of young players back from last year. I think the Wolverines are a little overrated at No. 8. I would probably put the Buckeyes about No. 20 right now.
Frank (Minot, ND)
Brian, Does Taylor Martinez complete 70% of his passes this year? Chatelain says no. Or does he even need to? I say he does hit 70%.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
No. Here's a stat I put in my Tre Roberson story: Only eight FBS quarterbacks who attempted at least 15 passes per game had a completion rate of 70 percent last year. It's really hard to do. And I don't think Martinez is an accurate enough passer to do it. Though there's no reason for him not to aim high.
MSUSteve280 (Novi, MI)
You and your lovely bride are strolling the mean streets of Louisville late one night. Which B1G player would you prefer to escort you, simply because they are the most intimidating physical specimen? Which player (punter) is the least?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Ha. You can give me Kawann Short, Ricky Wagner or Will Gholston and I'll feel very, very safe. Might need some extra protection if Wisconsin's Kenzel Doe was with us.
Jared (San Diego)
Does OSU have a legitimate shot to run the table, or is it just a lot of hype because of a new coach?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I think it will be tough because of the road trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State, not to mention tough home games against Nebraska and Michigan. But the nonconference schedule is not terribly taxing, and that helps. I don't think the offense is quite good enough for this team to win all 12, though.
Thomas (Columbia )
Does Iowa have any chance of winning the Big Ten Legends division, considering they have no sort of running game and Corner is a premier position in the Legends?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I'll never count out a Ferentz team, but I think it's a long shot. More so because of the young defensive line than the other factors you mentioned. Playing both Michigan schools on the road is also a major disadvantage.
Will (Northampton MA)
Which big 10 player has the best chance to win the heiman
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Assuming he's fully healthy, it's Montee Ball. With Denard Robinson a somewhat distant second. Everyone else is a darkhorse.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Denard Robinson become a more polished passer in year two under Al Borges tutelage and learn to stop throwing costly interceptions off his back foot under pressure?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
He's done a pretty good job of that so far this offseason. The real test, of course, will come in games, and Robinson has a tendency to believe he can make miracles -- probably because he has in the past. But more confidence in the system should help. I still expect some ducks, but he shouldn't throw 15 INTs again.
Scott (New York, NY)
Michigan State and Boise State are very similar. Both are notorious for running trick plays, have inexperienced offensive squads and solid defensive units. That said, what do you think this game comes down to? Special teams?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I'm going to say QB play and turnovers. Both teams are breaking in a new starter, so conservative game plans can be expected. I think it will be a low-scoring game, and a key giveaway at the wrong time could make the difference.
Matt (Chi Town)
What Big Ten team with the most hype going into the season will fall short?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
If we're basing it off hype, then I have to say Michigan. Just don't think the Wolverines finish in the Top 8. Schedule is too difficult.
Simple...Does Illinois make it to a 3rd straight bowl? Does hell freese?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I like how your name is David and you spelled it "Freese." Anyway, good question, and I find Illinois to be a mystery team this year. I'm going to say the Illini fall just short, but I see them being anywhere from a five-to-seven win team this season.
Levi (Beast Lansing)
Does MSU have any shot at running the table? My gut is telling me no. 10-2 seems pretty realistic
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I don't think any Big Ten team can do it, and the Spartans have to go to Michigan and Wisconsin, not to mention home games against Ohio State, Nebraska and ND. So I don't see it. But if MSU gets to the Rose Bowl, that's a smashing success.
How many B1G teams would win the Big East?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Um, all of them? Just kidding. Well, assuming PSU and OSU would be similarly ineligible, I'd have to say four for sure (Mich, MSU, Neb, Wisconsin), while Iowa and Purdue would probably be no worse than second. Big East looks pretty dreadful this season.
Enjoyed way too much Woodford Reserve this weekend at a wedding... Kentucky knows what they are doing with the bourbon. As an overly optimistic and fiercely loyal Spartan, what is the ceiling for this year's team? Am I rightfully hopeful, overly idealistic, or still extremely intoxicated to think that MSU could finish the season undefeated, should the stars align?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
You are absolutely correct about that, Grant. I went to a wedding at Churchill Downs this weekend and they served mint juleps. That was very Kentucky. Anyway, I think an 11-win season and the Rose Bowl are the ceiling. Just can't see undefeated with that schedule and the inexperience in the passing game. But defense is legitimately elite.
Whats the biggest mystery team in the league this year and the one we'll be lease surprised by? Feel like Minnesota for the former, Michigan State for the latter.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
To me, Illinois and Iowa are mysteries. Illini because of the new coach, Hawkeyes because of all the turnover and the new faces. Michigan State and Wisconsin seem like the teams least capable of surprising. We pretty much know what we're getting from both.
Just keeping with the theme - if the Badgers escape Lincoln, they have a huge inside track to finish perfect.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Getting Michigan State and Ohio State at home and facing a potentially much weakened Penn State in the finale on the road are huge helps. I agree that if Wisconsin gets out of Lincoln unscathed that they'll have a chance.
Can we swap august and february. I think August should have 28 days not 31
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I dunno ... I kind of like all the preseason practice news. And since February is cold and gets in the way of March Madness, I like it as is.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Will the sanctions to the Penn State football program, which will trickle down to the others, given the revenue the sport brought into the athletic department, result in the school becoming a Division II program and no longer viable a member of the Big Ten in the next 5 years. Would a conference pressure another school directly or indirectly to leave if there no longer competitive, especially given the unique circumstances in Happy Valley?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
I don't agree with your initial assessment. Penn State will definitely have some competitive problems during the height of the sanctions. But that fan base is so big and passionate that I don't think the revenue will take a huge hit. PSU alums will still want to go to State College on Saturdays for football and tailgating.
Shawn (Allentown, PA)
I have read conflicting reports regarding the Penn State player transfer rules. One says that if they play a single down of football for Penn State they have basically "recomitted" and can not transfer without sitting out a year. Another article I read said that even if they play this year that they can still transfer before next season. Can you shed some light on this situation? Also, do you think we will see any more current players or 2013 verbals leave in the near future?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I asked for some clarity from the NCAA this morning and was told that once a player participates in preseason practice this month, he no longer has the right to transfer without penalty until the season is over. So that could curtail a lot of transfers until the offseason. I definitely think we could see some more recruits change their mind. They will be recruited hard by other schools and will seriously have to think about playing under such heavy sanctions throughout their careers.
Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)
Your early thoughts and impressions on Urban Meyer?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Nothing all that surprising. He's a great coach who has commanded the respect of his players. Talking to a couple of Buckeyes in Chicago made that clear. I like that he's shown some tough discipline so far, which was a problem during his Florida tenure, and he's been pretty candid with his public statements. Let's see what he can do with this first OSU team, but there's little doubt he's going to win there.
Lets get these divisions changed....Fair trade, OSU and Wisc for Minn and NW?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
So you'd have Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa in the Legends? Oy, vey! For this year only, how about swapping Nebraska and Illinois and giving Wisconsin some real competition in the Leaders?
Your CFB front page has an article right now about 2 PSU Trustees planning to appeal/sue over the NCAA sanctions. If they really follow through with this (incredibly moronic in my opinion), do you think the NCAA will tighten the screws even further?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
As we learned last week with the Paternos frivolous appeal, the NCAA says these sanctions can't be appealed. I don't see how far a lawsuit can get when the school president signed off on the sanctions and agreed not to have a hearing. These trustees are ridiculously dysfunctional and need to shut up.
Scott (New York, NY)
Does Michigan stand a chance against the Tide? My gut says Bama takes this one 38-7. Am I way off here?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Don't think it will be that big of a blowout or that 'Bama can score that much. I think it would be more like 24-10 or so.
Andrew (East Lansing)
Do I have a bigger, more accurate arm than my predecessor?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Kirk Cousins was pretty darn accurate last season. Having watched Maxwell in practice, I'd say their arm strength and accuracy is pretty even. Cousins obviously had way more experience; Maxwell is a little more athletic and mobile.
Does the dysfunction at Penn State (trustees, appeals, etc) pretty much end with the season, or is this something we're going to be seeing long term?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
It's a good question. For one, the board is a very large group of trustees, making what is already a political position more ripe for dysfunction. But it's up to the trustees to gain control of the school, something they obviously still have not done.
ok lets have it Michigan or Ohio at the end of the season
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I like Michigan to be better than the Bobcats, unlike the NCAA tournament. That is what you meant, right?
I love the optimism of the offseason! T-Mart is going to be like Aaron Rodgers, Marquies Gray is a better Cam Newton, Urban Meyer is worth 7 more wins! On a more realistic note, can the UW defense improve enough to give them a chance of a third Rose Bowl? I know they can win the Leaders, but I'm not sure they will be able to stop anyone.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Good points, Jon. Echoing I wrote in the 'bag last week, I sure would like to see just one story saying a player has gotten worse or stayed the same. Anyway, I think the Wisconsin defense can be good enough to get the Badgers to the Rose Bowl again. David Gilbert needs to be good, but there's talent and experience at DT and LB, and Bielema likes this group of DBs. And, realistically, Wisconsin;s defense might only have to win one game to get to the Rose Bowl, as it is a heavy, heavy favorite to get to Indy
Jerry Kill (Dinkytown)
How many games do I need to win to earn COY honors in the Big Ten? I've won big in year 2 at every stop in my career, and I plan to do the same this year.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Probably would need to get to a bowl game, and not have any other teams like Purdue or Northwestern make a big jump
If OSU was eligible, would you be picking them over Wisc for Champ game?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
It would be really, really close. Might still go with the Badgers since they get the Buckeyes at Camp Randall.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for stopping by, and we'll see you at the same time on Mondays for the foreseeable future. Cheers!