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, everybody and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Ill start you off with an easy one..... How the hell is Wisconsin still ranked and Northwestern isn't? How far can this Northwestern team go?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
That one is pretty easy. Wisconsin has no business being anywhere near the Top 25 right now. It's name recognition only, I suppose, for the coaches or whoever is filling out their ballots. Disgraceful. I had Northwestern No. 25 on my ESPN.com ballot this week. Just going on body of work, the Wildcats have a very strong case -- much stronger than Wisconsin's in any case.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
If it wasn't before, is the Big Ten offically wide open after the horrid performance of Andrew Maxwell and favorite Michigan State's offense on Saturday Night? Are the ineligible Buckeyes the best team in the conference?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Wide-smoking open. Ohio State has its own flaws and has had a pretty easy schedule so far. Who is the best team in the conference? I'm hoping you guys help me sort it out during this chat. Make the case for your team.
Ohio St. was 2 missed tackles away from blowing out Cal, and only giving up 340 yards on offense. They also had 6 sacks by 6 different guys. Was this defensive performance really as bad as the numbers show?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
The Buckeyes got some good pressure by blitzing, but there were way too many missed tackles. That's an issue that goes back to last year. Just haven't been impressed with the Ohio State 'D' yet. Makes some big plays, but doesn't dominate the way the talent indicates it should.
Brian, is there anything better for Nebraska (besides winning of course) than seeing UCLA keep winning in the Pac-12? After Stanny's win over USC this weekend, it's not out of the question to believe the Bruins can win their conference. Seems like that would help out the Huskers' cause.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
UCLA winning and scoring a whole bunch of points would make Nebraska's loss look much better. But really, Nebraska should only care about itself and winning the Legends Division. It is there for the taking and the Huskers have as realistic a chance as anyone to take it.
Early thoughts on Mich-ND this weekend? Can Denard win the game by himself again for Mich? Seems like he might have too.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I believe Notre Dame's defense is much better equipped to handle Denard, but we'll see. It's going to be very important for others, like Roundtree, Toussaint and Gallon, to step up and provide some help. The Irish front seven is very good but the secondary can be exploited.
I think many of us Big Ten fans are looking forward to basketball season already.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Ouch. Well, look at it this way. The conference race should be as wild and unpredictable as any we've ever seen.
Yooper (Minneapolis, MN)
Expectations were too high for the Badgers with all the newness. Two weeks ago they passed too much too early, last weekend they ran almost exclusively. Do you think they can put it all together this weekend and balance passing with running, do some blocking (given another week under new coaching), hold onto the ball, and maybe even get some TEs involved?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I'm skeptical. The offensive line looked only marginally better against Utah State, and the passing game is bad. Maybe getting Abbrederis back will help some. The Badgers have nowhere to go but up and can't be this bad. But I expect baby steps, not giant leaps.
I Bolieve in pelini getting the defense to play better, that being said, with Burkhead coming back the Husker offense should be the best in the BIG? Do u agree Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I do agree. This spring, I picked Nebraska to lead the league in scoring. Still believe that to be the case. Now, can they stop people ...
Tom (North Jersey)
How likely is it that Penn State won't embarrass itself against Temple on Saturday? I'm surprised at how Paterno-ish the offensive and defensive playcalling has been this year. When will the playcalling get a little more creative? It's not like they can fall back on better athletes like they could in prior years.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I think the offensive playcalling has been fine, considering how limited the Lions are right now. They basically have very little run game. McGloin looks much sharper, and Allen Robinson is becoming a star ... that's coaching. Temple very well could win but the Owls just lost to Maryland so are by no means world-beaters. Little will come easy for Penn State, though
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
BB, the SEC has turned out to be Bama, LSU and the other 12. The SEC is not as deep as everyone thinks as proven every week by Sunbelt teams. Georgia, S. Car. and Florida are also not that impressive and have played nobody. I for one don't want to see another Bama vs LSU disgusting match up for a BCS title game. It seems that the media is setting the SEC up for another head to head match up which nobody wants to see.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I disagree on Georgia and think Florida could end up being pretty good. But it's a very shallow league. Arkansas is a mess and my alma mater just lost to W. Kentucky. It's not that the SEC is so superior; just a few of their best teams are.
Can Max Shortell fill in well enough to keep Minnesota's win streak going, or will teams adjust to the new offense knowing that the threat of the QB taking off every play isn't as great? I can't help but think that with the larger threat Shortell poses passing the ball that those 8- and 9-man fronts will be relaxed, and there will be greater chances on offense.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I think Minnesota's offense will be fine under Shortell. He's a more accurate passer than Gray, so there is a different dimension. But I like what the skill players are doing, especially Barker, Kirkwood, Rabe, etc. Now, can Minnesota stop a very good Syracuse passing attack? It's going to be a tough game and very close, I think.
Hank (Washington DC)
Is MSU still your pick to win the Legends? Their offense looked bad vs ND on Saturday.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Bad is putting it politely, Hank. I'm not about to abandon my preseason pick just yet, especially with no other team really stepping up yet. But I'm far less confident in that pick right now. Remember, though, that MSU got hammered by the Domers last year and ended up OK. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Hi Brian, do you think that it is unlikely that that B1G will get a second BCS bid this year? If so, could you see the B1G doing better in the postseason than in recent years with a manageable bowl lineup?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
There are no bowl-eligible teams ranked higher than No. 17 (Michigan) in the coaches' poll right now, so it's kind of hard to see how the league will get two. If so, it most likely will only be because of the large fan bases.
Mr. T (Columbus)
Even though I'm an Ohio State fan I can't even understand why everyone is so high on Miller this week. 110 of his passing yards came on two plays where the coverage broke down. I know the kid is improving but having the same hype that Denard Robinson has/had is not what he needs.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Miller has that same quality as Robinson in that he just has a knack for taking over a game and making huge plays. He's simply a special athlete and so dangerous in the open field. He's getting better as a passer but has made the throws when he's needed to. And he's only a true sophomore.
Benny F (Arden Hills, MN)
A team that lost to your 19th ranked team by 6 on the road without their starting running back isn't worthy of being ranked in the top 25? Seems legit.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I assume you mean Nebraska. But making an argument on who you lost to is pretty weak. I look at body of work at this time of year. Beating a rebuilding Southern Miss and Arkansas State is not enough for me at the moment.
Dantonio mentioned big changes on offense coming out of the ND game. Any hints as to what those changes might be? Anything drastic, or just re-evaluation of starting talent (esp WR and O-Line)?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
It's got to be those two positions. Both played very poorly, and there are a lot of candidates at those spots if he wants to shuffle. And the play calling needs reviewing as well. Did not like the game plan at all.
Your "Doe? More like Woo-hoo!" is cringe-worthy. Well played, but still cringe-worthy.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Well, I rarely miss a chance for a Simpsons reference, no matter how forced.
Is it just me or is there about a 2% chance any big 10 team can compete in the Rose Bowl with whoever comes out of the Pac-12?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Especially if that team is Oregon or USC. Be afraid. Very afraid.
Former Purdue Ticket Holder (Indy)
Before everyone jumps on the Purdue bandwagon can I point out that Danny Hope is still the coach?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
No love for the best mustache in the Big Ten? Well, Hope's teams have looked undisciplined at times, I'll give you that. But this year's team has played well, and he's finally built the kind of roster he wanted. Let's see what he can do with it. A great opportunity sits in front of Purdue this year in a weakened division.
Minus the fact that Bell will completely dismantle EMU this weekend, how many carries will he realistically be getting if Dantonio is changing up things on the offense?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
That's an interesting dilemma, because Eastern Michigan has the worst run defense in the FBS, yet Michigan State really needs to work on its pass game. If I'm Dantonio, I focus on throwing the ball despite the temptation to let Le'Veon go for 250.
Brian (St. Paul, MN)
Minnesota if they do what I hope they do can compete with USC. Remember they lost 19-17 at USC last season.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I appreciate your optimism.
Should IU just cancel its football program after losing to Ball State again? Can we ever field a decent defense and somehow get in to top half of the B1G? sad...
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
See, I thought there were encouraging signs in that loss, as painful as it was. The Hoosiers showed a lot of heart in making that late comeback. They just lack experienced talent right now, but there are reasons for optimism. It's just going to be journey. Navy has looked bad, so there's a good chance for another win.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Iowa is starting to get things together on offense, in spite of the endless line of fallen running backs and our struggles in those first couple of games. How about the improvement of this young D line though, along with Coach Parker's second half improvements turning into second half shut outs?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I wouldn't read a ton into the Northern Iowa game, but at least the passing attack looked decent. I've been very impressed with how that D-line has played. Much better than I thought it would be going into the season.
Bored (at the office)
If Michigan makes it 4 wins in a row against Notre Dame this weekend, would that be enough to make them the frontrunners in the B1G in your opinion?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
That would give them the best win by a Big Ten team this year, so based on body of work I think we'd have to rank the Wolverines No. 1 in the Week 5 power rankings.
Rod (Hawk for Life Iowa)
Are you freaking kidding me? Both you and Adam need to take the pins out of our running back VooDoo dolls now!!! We will have to have our linebackers run the ball pretty soon! This is gettin refrickindiculous!! BUT Weisman looked like the best back we had anyway!
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
How is that our fault? Anyway, does it matter if the running back position is cursed if Iowa just keeps plugging guys in out of nowhere? The Weisman story is a great one.
Who is the better team in Illinois - Wildcats or Illini? PS my cat's breath smells like cat food.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Me fail English? That's unpossible? I think Northwestern is better right now. Illinois has some depth issues and is really banged up right now. Wouldn't be surprised to see La Tech pull off the upset this week.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Is Pat Fitzgerald a candidate to leave for a bigger "football" school?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Nah. He's shunned interest from other schools before. No one is more Northwestern than him.
Why don't you answer questions regarding the Big Ten severing ties with Notre Dame/speculation that had the Big Ten been gutsier in realignment we could have forced the Irish to join?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Well, I hadn't received any of those questions. Also, it's not true. Notre Dame does not want to join a conference. The ACC just gave it a sweetheart deal.
Dan E (Crystal Lake, IL)
Any news on either of the hawkeye running back's injuries?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Not yet. Ferentz speaks to the media on Tuesdays.
John (Albany, NY)
Looking back at Michigan's game against Alabama maybe it wasn't as bad as everybody thought at least they scored on them, Arkansas and the d-2 they played have not.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Well, Alabama is scary good. I'll say that. Michigan still looked bad, but it shouldn't be punished too heavily for losing to what is clearly the nation's best team.
I think at this point that Purdue is more than likely the front runner to win the leaders, but there are too many question marks for the legends. Who do you see in the championship as of right now?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
It's a spectacular question. Gun to my head, I'd take Purdue-Michigan State. But I have little confidence in that pick.
As a Ohio State fan and hardcore B1G supporter, I'm already looking forward to next season. I know that jumping the gun but i think we'll be national contention next year and leave the BCS as the last champion. (I secretly hoping that NWestern pull of a miracle season)
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
The future is very bright for the Buckeyes. But that defense has to get a lot better and the O-line has to get more physical before we can talk national title contention.
Can you yell at Adam for transferring his QB curse over to Gray after swapping those two in your fantasy competition?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
There's nothing worse than Adam picking you for his fantasy team. He even managed to mess up Montee Ball.
Is it me, or is MSU getting crushed nationally worse than MI when they lost to bama? Is that becuase of the perception of Bama and how far ahead they are. Or is it more a case that the verdict isn't out on ND and MSU really had higher expectations?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Rightfully so, in many regards. Michigan State was at home. It was favored. It got pushed around by a team that's not nearly as good as Alabama. So there you go.
Brian Brianstein (MI)
Will you ever honestly tell someone if they asked a terrible question?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Yes. That's a terrible question.
Doug (Chicago, IL)
Do you think Bret Bielema pulled the trigger too quickly on a QB change for the Badgers on Saturday? Danny O'Brien hasn't been a world-beater by any means, and has displayed some carelessness with the ball. That said, the Badgers offensive woes have been far from limited to the QB, and he's the most experienced QB on the roster...I think he may be able to take the Badgers further than the other available options.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
It was surprising. But the one thing Bielema doesn't tolerate from his QBs is turnovers, and O'Brien was careless with the ball. He'd rather have a guy with a little less talent who takes care of the ball. Still think O'Brien is the best option going forward, but he needs some help from the receivers and the running game, too.
Luke (Lincoln, NE)
Who has the BEST/WORST loss? Who has the WORST/BEST win? I vote Nebraska for best loss. MSU for worst loss. OSU for worst win (Cal). NW for best win ('Cuse).
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Best win is still MSU over Boise State. Best loss: Purdue at ND. Worst loss: Iowa vs. Iowa State (not the who but the how). Not sure what a bad win looks like. Maybe needing a missed field goal to escape Utah State at home?
Mike (Atlanta, GA)
Jordan Hall made his official debut for the Buckeyes this past weekend. I was expecting much more from him. Granted, he was probably a little rusty. Is this major cause for concern or will he bounce back going forward. (He'll likely have a big day saturday against UAB, so my question is moreso down the road)
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
The guy hadn't played and only started practicing last week, and yet he took 17 carries. Hall admitted he was rusty. I'd expect a lot better things going forward, but I'd like to see Ohio State get him on the perimeter more. He's not built for those inside runs.
Iowa Hawk (Bennett's house)
Bennet-When are you 7 Adam going to learn to really understand football?? just sayin..
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Maybe when you learn to write a comprehensible sentence.
Jon (Norwalk, CT)
What percentages do Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin have to win the Leaders Division?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Hmmm... How about Purdue 43, Wisconsin 42, Illinois 14 and Indiana 1? Assuming you mean get to Indy, not win the division since PSU and OSU are technically eligible to do that.
what would rittenberg do if northwestern won the big ten?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Uh, write about it, probably.
Dan (St. Paul)
Any coaches in the B1G on the hot seat with some of slow starts? Bielema?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Not at all. Bielema? Please!
Riley Feldmann (Minneapolis, MN)
Gophers have gotten off to a really strong start so far this year. Have a lot of hope for the rest of the season, and I'm emboldened by seeing the rest of the B1G play so poorly. Would you say there is more good to come for the U of MN? Or am I just letting my giddy excitement get the best of me?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I really think this team has a chance to make a bowl game. Gophers won two league games last year and are much improved. Regardless, you should be excited. Jerry Kill is building something there.
Somebody important (Location Awesome)
I am pretty sure Nebraska will win the Legends Division. One good game followed by a bad game every time means their bad games will be against Idaho State, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa. Even on their bad games, we should win all but Michigan. How do you feel about this?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I find your theories intriguing, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter
Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Canada )
How badly did you crush Adam in FF this weekend? I looked at your teams Saturday night and it didn't look too good for Adam.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
It was ugly. Real ugly. The champs are back.
Kris G (Indy)
Do you feel vindicated from the flak that you and Adam both have taken for leaving Indiana at 12th in the conference after Ball St. handled them on Saturday?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I was just (pleasantly) surprised that there were vocal Indiana fans. I think Indiana has improved, but there's no question the Hoosiers still have a long way to go. Fans are fans.
So, is Penn State improved or is Navy that bad?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Navy is pretty bad right now. But that was a good confidence building win for Penn State, which really should be no worse than 2-1 right now. Defense has played really well the past two games.
Brian (Wash DC)
Brian, can you do ND nation a favor and pick against them again so you can get the turkey? Thanks
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I might just do that. Mmm...turkey
Futbol Americana (USA)
I'm wondering if Burkhead will slow the production of the offense. (Gasp!) It seems we have been doing great with Raheem... err Ameer Abdullah. Does Burkhead get the nod even if Abdullah is the better option/producer
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Let's not get carried away. Burkhead is a stud, as long as he's healthy. They'll need him. And going against Idaho State is a great time to work him back in.
After the first three weeks, do you still think William Gholston will leave early to go pro this weekend? He has not been as productive as I had originally hoped.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I admit I've been disappointed in his play. Hasn't made the jump yet. We probably overrated him in the preseason, but the year is young.
OK....so the B10 is looking rough right now, but am I wrong in seeing some long term promise for the conference? Urban will have OSU where they need to be, Hoke seems to be doing the same for Mich., Purdue seems to bee improving, Dantonio and Bielema will have MSU and Wisky solid. Where the B1G has lagged the SEC has been in coaching, and that 'seems' to be improving, while the SEC has dropped off a couple levels overall.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I definitely believe Michigan and Ohio State are on the rise. The key will be whether Michigan State and Wisconsin can maintain, whether Nebraska can get back to being Nebraska and if another team or two rises up. Right now, there's a huge void at the top.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and see you here next week!