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 whatever's on your mind.
Hi Brian, I'm really impressed with the job Bill O brian has done at Penn state they are only a couple of plays away from being undefeated your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I'm very impressed as well. The Ohio game was tough, but the Bobcats are good and that was O'Brien's first game. Penn State completely outplayed Virginia but couldn't make a field goal, or else they'd be 4-1. O'Brien has really done a nice job, and I'd love to see his offense with a stronger, deeper set of skill players. They are going to be a factor in the Big Ten race, even if it's mostly as a spoiler
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
Was Michigan State over-hyped in the preseason or are they under-performing?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Well, we did a lot of hyping on the Spartans, so we'll take some blame. I guess we underestimated the loss of B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin and just how inexperienced the receiving corps was, as well as overestimating how much better the offensive line would be. There is still time for Michigan State to improve, however
Hey Brian. After reading through all the polls this past weekend, I'm wondering why this 4-1 Nebraska team isn't ranked higher than 21st? In a world where Nebraska cuts a 17 point deficit and holds down a Heisman finalist from last year to 2.8 yards per carry, is it reasonable to expect that Nebraska should be pushing for a higher spot than where they are now?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I think you're using some selective facts, Nick. Why would being down 17 be an impressive thing? And Wisconsin isn't close to what it was last year. Beating the Badgers was a solid win, but what else do the Huskers have on their resume at this point?
can you and adam pretty pretty please not pick Mark Weisman for your Fantasy team?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Hey, I had him on my team last week, and that worked out pretty well. What a beast that guy is.
Andrew (New Jersey)
Whats with no love for Michigan? I know they are 2-2 but both losses are to top 10 teams! Looking at objectively, don't you think Michigan is better than some of those bottom end ranked teams (i.e. Rutgers)?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Sorry, but a 2-2 record does not get you ranked. Michigan has beaten a terrible UMass team and squeaked by Air Force at home. For what possible reason should the Wolverines be ranked? That said, there were some encouraging signs in the ND game, and this team has a chance to win the Big Ten, for sure.
If Manti Te'o is generating Heisman buzz why is Michael Mauti not getting atleast a little bit of Heisman buzz. Mauti has more tackles than Te'o (48-36). More sacks (1.5-0) and only has one less interception (3-2). Mauti in my mind is at worst the leader for defensive player of the year and should be getting some consideratino for the Heisman if Te'o is.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Simple. Te'o's team is undefeated. Hey, I love what Mauti is doing, but Heisman campaigns usually require a great season by the team. And that's especially the case for any defender who wants to get on the Heisman radar.
Brian, what are your thoughts with this MSU/OSU game tape scandal? Is it that big of a deal to broadcast it to everyone or is it a bit of whining by MSU? Also, with the new eye gouge video do you think the B1G office will handout any suspensions? MSU has somewhat of a history of dirty play.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It was interesting. Did sound like a bit of excuse-making for Michigan State, but if Ohio State should not have held back that info. As far as the eye gouging incident, I doubt we'll see any suspensions. That will likely be handled internally. I wonder how much Hankins' pregame announcement that he would try to rip Le'Veon Bell's head off had to do with that. But you're right: it doesn't help MSU's reputation very much.
Kit (San Francisco)
What will be Ohio State's first loss if any, and what would be the uproar if they go 12-0 but no postseason
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Uproar? Not much of one. Ohio State always knew this was coming. Of course, the Buckeyes would have been better off turning down last year's bowl game, but that's old news. Anyway, best chances for a loss are obviously this weekend, at Penn State, at Wisconsin and the finale vs. Michigan. I'll say they lose at Wisconsin. But if Braxton Miller gets hurt, all bets are off.
Hi Brian, I hope you enjoyed the first weekend of conference play as much as I did. Why in the world would you pull Stave for DOB in the last series? It's not like he had thrown 3 picks and looked terrible the whole game. Of course, the outcome may not have been any different at all but I am still scratching my head over that one. Do you think it was the right call?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I loved it, Bucky. So glad to have league play back. Bielema said Stave just didn't look right after taking a big hit and getting called for intentional grounding. I think they were worried he'd either be gun shy or have cobwebs, and O'Brien had way more experience in two-minute drills. Of course, that totally backfired with the botched fourth-down play.
Fuzzy (St. Paul)
Well that was a bummer of a game against Iowa for Gopher fans. Assuming the team can get healthy over the bye week what remaining games do you see the Gophs sneaking away with to become bowl eligible or is that going to have to wait until next year?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
That was a bucket of ice water on the Gophers' hot start. They still only need to win two more games, though, to get to a bowl. I'd put them as a favorite against Illinois, even on the road. Either Northwestern or Purdue at home could be another win. But getting MarQueis Gray back is vitally important.
Mike (Atlanta, GA)
Brian - I'm really excited for Nebraska at tOSU this weekend! it sounds like Hall is out (at least questionable) for this saturday vs. Nebraska. Can Hyde step up and make some necessary running plays? Or will Braxton have to be a one-man show for the Buckeyes on the rushing front?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Hyde can do some damage, but I think Nebraska is better equipped to handle a big back than speedy, shiftier players. Truth is, the Ohio State offense remains all about Miller. Since the Huskers have had some trouble with mobile QBs, it should be a fascinating matchup.
Tony Gee (Ann Arbor)
Love your work, keep it up. Despite a 2-2 record, our recruiting class is top notch. Do you see us competing for real national championships or just recruiting national championships in the next few years? Because our recruiting trophy case is pretty full, and our BCS case pretty empty. Cheers.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I really like the direction Michigan is heading. It might take two more years before Hoke has his roster the way he really wants it, but once he gets that going I think the Wolverines will be in the national title mix. Remember, it's just about getting to the Final Four starting in 2014, and the Big Ten champ should be able to do that most years.
Steve (Chicago, IL)
Isn't it time we acknowledged that Northwestern might be the best team in the conference? Stellar pass and run offense (deep at QB, too), excellent special teams (especially Mark on returns, Budzien on field goals, and Williams on punts), and the B1G's best rush defense (90 ypg, #13 nationally). I know the competition hasn't been stellar, but they have beaten 4 BCS teams so far and beat the spread each time.....why isn't Northwestern the best of the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Well, we'll find out soon enough. I really like what this team has done, but I'm still a little skeptical about the defense, especially after Indiana's big comeback on Saturday. If Northwestern can go win at Penn State, that would be huge.
Do you know how long Jordan Hall is projected to be out? Also, Rod Smith was coming on before Hall/Hyde came back, does this give him a chance to get some key game play?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Hard to say. Could be a couple of weeks. PCL tears aren't as serious as MCLs or ACLs, but it will probably keep Hall out a couple of weeks. I do think we'll see Smith some more.
Rick (Louisville, KY)
Brian, I would like to know why are you a Husker hater? Were you told by your employers to belittle them often? What will it take for you and AR to change your minds about the Huskers? Will running the table and winning the CCG maybe get a good word or two? The B1G gives the Huskers the worst possible schedule to start. No other B1G team has had this schedule that we have played. If Nebraska runs the table, I expect to see you running around Louisville wearing Crnhusker apparel. I also expect you to change your picture and display your new one in Husker apparel.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I really don't know what you're talking about. We have Nebraska No. 2 in our power rankings and projected to go to the Rose Bowl. I have the Huskers ranked No. 21 this week. If that's hatred, I'd be scared to know what love is.
Steve (Chicago, IL)
Ethical question for you: did reporters covering Northwestern practices in preparation for Indiana have a duty to report that Colter was lining up at WR? Just curious for your take, as I think it's fine that they kept quiet (but I'm biased as a Northwestern fan).
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
The deal with most reporters who get to cover open practices is that they agree they won't report on formations or plays they see in practice. Could reporters have done so? Sure. But that would result in an end to open practices. Injuries are a different deal than giving away strategy.
Tim Beckman (Urbana)
I need you opinion.. what is worse: Sending 8 coaches to PSU to recruit and only leaving with a redshirt freshman fourth-string offensive lineman, losing a year's salary betting Illinois -3 versus PSU this past weekend, or our season 5 games through?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Not much can be worse than Illinois' season so far. Very dispiriting and very little fan enthusiasm. No identity on either side of the ball. Beckman has a lot of work to do.
I know you're big on AMC shows. Do you watch The Walking Dead? Anyway I was wondering if you thought OSU's defense can keep it up two weeks in a row? It seems like MSU played into their hands a little bit so I'll be interested to see what they do against a more spread-it-out, outside-running team.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
No, I'm just not real interested in zombies. I think Michigan State was a great matchup for Ohio State's defense because it played a pro style. The Buckeyes could load up against the run and not have to worry too much about the Spartans' receivers. Nebraska is a totally different offense, with a mobile quarterback and a lot more speed. This is a good test for Ohio State, and I expect Nebraska to score more than 16.
How will Purdue do this weekend against the struggling Wolverines?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Good question. This is no doubt the defining stretch for the Boilers, who have Michigan and Wisconsin at home before going to Columbus. The defensive performance against Marshall was a bit troubling, but the Herd have a high-powered passing game that Michigan does not have. The Purdue defensive line is really good but will have to corral Denard Robinson. I think it will be a close game, and the Boilers will have to limit their mistakes to have a chance.
Leon (mccook, ne)
I got a good laugh about the Wisconsin coaches saying that the 4th & 1 play was screwed up by the replacement QB. What difference did it make? The OL had been pushed back 2-3 yards and even without the fumble, Wisconsin was going to lose yards and the ball.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Well, if you saw the play, the Nebraska defense was overloaded to the side of the handoff. The play was supposed to be O'Brien running a naked bootleg to the other side. Not sure if he would have gotten the first down, since O'Brien is not exactly a speed demon, but it would have had a better chance than sending Ball into a pile of eight or nine defenders.
Without exception, it seems like every team in the Ms and Ns division is better than any team that could come from the other division (since OSU cant go to the title game). sorry, i dont know the division names because they're lame.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Well, didn't Wisconsin very nearly beat Nebraska on the road and Indiana give Northwestern a scare in Evanston? I don't think there's all that much separation between the divisions. We'll see if Purdue is as good as Michigan this week.
Scott (Reality in Omaha)
BB - love the blog! Please allow me to excuse the Rick's of the world for all of Husker Nation. The majority of us realize that in this day of college football it is entirely about "what have you done lately"...Nebraska has a potentially powerful offense and a defense that at time can make some stops. However, until they prove it on the field on a weekly basis, they don't deserve a ranking higher than where they are at. We were lucky that Wisconsin became so predictable in the 2nd half. Until the Huskers play to their potential for 4 quarters, we don't deserve anything!
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Hooray for reality. Hey, I love the Huskers' offense. Would love to see the defense play like it did in the second half more often. If you asked me today who's winning the Legends, I'm probably picking Nebraska. But after five weeks, the resume isn't all that impressive.
Badger Hater (Minnesota )
Illinois has the hardest schedule going on the road to play UW, OSU and UM. What does the Illini need to do in order to beat Wisconsin this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Play better in all three phases? It's been rough sledding for the Illini. Their offense needs to discover an identity, and quick. And the defense needs to be able to stop the run and pressure Stave. Still, it's tough to see how Illinois wins in Camp Randall the way it is playing right now.
Gotta agree with the guy about Mauti as a Heisman candidate. Guy has better stats the te'o and has done it with tougher conditions. Do you think he atleast has a chance at defensive player of the year.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Big Ten defensive player of the year? Absolutely. Right now, he'd be the runaway winner.
The thing I've noticed about the SEC as opposed to the Big Ten is that there is a steep recruiting falloff in the Big Ten after the top couple programs (Ohio State, Michigan), whereas the SEC has all of its top half in the top 25 recruiting classes. My question is, why are more of the top tier B1G programs not putting together amazing classes. It seems to me that Wisconsin's resume at this point is really pretty much the same as Georgia's, say, in the last few years. Why is Georgia, etc. pulling down a top recruiting class, but Wisconsin still gets generic three stars?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Well, for one, look at where they are. Georgia is in the middle of one of the nation's top hotbeds for talent. There aren't a lot of top-level FBS prospects coming out of Wisconsin every year, and the ones who are usually are undervalued by recruiting analysts. Wisconsin has to develop players because of its location. That's just one example, but the Midwest just doesn't have as many top prospects as the South.
B1G Girl (with Bruce Bruce)
Is it me or has Braxton Miller started to look more fragile. With their #1 RB out, what are the chances he runs upwards of 25 carries. That could be DANGEROUS.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I don't know about fragile, but he definitely took some big-time shots against a physical Michigan State defense last week. Teammates said he was in obvious pain in the locker room. It's tough to take as many carries as he's shouldering and get through the Big Ten season. But Ohio State doesn't have a lot of other options right now.
Can the Spartans still make it to the Rose Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Sure, why not? But that passing game has to get better. It showed signs of progress Saturday. And remember, they should have had the lead if not for a missed field goal.
Dennis (Arville, Pennsylvania)
Which was the case - Nebraska's defense in the 2nd half was really good or Winconsin's offense was weak and one-dimensional?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
A little of both. I thought Wisconsin got a little conservative, and Nebraska's defense really made some good adjustments. Plus, the Badgers had some short fields to work with in the first half, which really helped their cause.
Last year Toussaint had his first breakout game against the Boilermakers racking up 170 yards and 2 td's on 20 carries. How necessary is it for Fitz to have a repeat for Michigan to win and what are the chances he shows up big in a game?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Good point. Not just for this game, but for the whole season, Fitz needs to get it going. Robinson can't shoulder the whole load himself, and Michigan was never better last year than when Toussaint was a major force. Michigan needs him to win the Legends.
Bryan (Hoboken (NJ))
Hi Brian, I was wondering if you had any info regarding highly touted WR transfers Arnett (MSU) and Prater (NW). Although the NW offense seems to be doing fine it seems crazy that Arnett only has 1 reception for an underwhelming receiving corps at MSU.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
There sure was an awful lot of offseason talk about both guys for what they've produced so far. Both have had to adjust to new offenses, and Prater was dealing with some lingering injury issues. But they've both been disappointments so far. They are young, though.
I love the way PSU is playing but it hasnt been against very good teams. Do you think they have a chance against OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin? I have a hard time seeing them getting blown out by anyone
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I think Penn State matches up well with Wisconsin. Nebraska on the road is probably going to be tough. The Ohio State game is fascinating to me because PSU will be fired up for that one at home. If the defense keeps playing at this level, the Lions should be competitive with everyone. I just worry about injuries taking a toll on a team with so little depth.
How does a Northwestern - Purdue title game grab you? Also, how long is the contract for the title game to be played in Indy? The game belongs outside in the elements.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
TV executives just fainted. The rest of the world would laugh, but I think that would be fun. The game is contracted to Indy until 2015. I'm with you -- I want to see the title game in Chicago at least once. (But also, I don't have to sit outside).
Does Denard take his ND frustrations out on Purdue? I think he does to the tune of 4 total touchdowns.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Very possible. I wonder about the Purdue linebackers once Robinson gets in the open. That D-line has to play great for Purdue.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
I think the biggest improvement under Coach O'Brien that isn't getting much talk is 3rd down offense. The last several years, 3rd and 6+ was a VERY iffy scenario. Now I feel confident they'll convert. They ran a WR screen (again, not usually a go-to PSU play) to perfection on a 3rd-and-7 on Saturday, among others.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
And don't forget, he's going for it on fourth down. America is four-down territory for BO'B
SEC Homer (B1G bloggers)
UGA is not a top 5 team, quit ranking them as such.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
OK, but who else is?
How many more games like the last 3 does Weismann have to have before he is considered the best back in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
How about 2 more? What he's doing right now is amazing.
The Huddled Masses (the Internets)
Brian, can you make a general comment about how questions are being handled by you and Adam during these chats? We the submitters have no way of knowing if our questions are being considered or rejected as the chat progresses, so many I'm sure continue asking the same question over and over again in hopes of a response. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
We get a few hundred questions and they come in fast. We just try to pick ones that look interesting and spread it around as much as possible. Hard to read all of them and impossible to answer them all.
The Big 10 has talked about increasing its strength of schedule to improve its chances of having a team picked for the playoff that will begin in a few years. Maybe this is a better question for the SEC guys but do you think the SEC will have to do the same? Alabama and LSU have played some tough out of conference games recently but most SEC teams still do not. Or will the SEC still get the benefit of the doubt? Cause if they do not need to improve their out of conference schedule even slightly it seems likely they could put 3 teams in a 4 team playoff.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
The SEC will continue to get the benefit of the doubt as long as it continues winning BCS title. The funny thing is, SEC teams that have no prayer of winning a title somehow benefit from the perception. But you've got to beat them to shut them up.
Chris (Columbus OH)
Is Mark Dantonio on the hot seat, it seems the season is slipping away, this was supposed to be a run at the roses with a strong defense and strong offensive line, what is going on in East Lansing??
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
No way. Come on. That's just silly.
Please tell State Penn fans to settle down, they have beaten teams with a combinded 4 - 8 record.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
They have a right to be excited, given all the doom and gloom scenarios. And remember, Bill O'Brien isn't working with the most stacked deck around. What could he be doing with Silas Redd, Justin Brown and a legit FG kicker right now?
How come more commotion hasn't been made about Gholston's apparent concussion? He claims to have had the wind knocked out of him, but since when do you get the wind knocked out of you from a blow to the head? Everything from the hit to the apparent loss of consciousness points to a concussion, yet he was allowed to quickly return to the game after his flimsy explanation. I don't know for sure, but it seems the coaching staff was willing to overlook this to keep a key player in a big game.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Well, I was at the game and kept a close eye on Gholston after he came off the field. He went to the bench and was given the standard concussion tests by trainers. There were no coaches around when this happened. Gholston was allowed to keep his helmet and go back on the field, so the medical staff obviously thought he was OK. I'm in no position to disagree with their assessment.
Timon (Midwest Okey)
Any way Denard gets back on the Heisman radar a la RGIII fashion? Just finish the year strong even with a 3 loss team?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Nope. Two terrible performances on national TV. Way too many INTs
Craig (Braintree, MA)
I guess my fellow Gopher fans were a bit more excited than they should be but the wins they got at the end of the year in 2011 indicate to me that they could still make some noise.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Still a very good chance at six wins. Considering where they were, you have to be happy with that.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, everybody. That hour flew by, but my time is up. Thanks for all the questions, and have a great week!