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, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. I'll be here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Matt (Clarion (PA))
Hey Brian, does a minimum of a 7-5 season clinch "B1G Coach of the Year" for Bill O'Brien? He's got this team rolling despite such a tumultuous off-season.
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
I don't know that 7-5 will get it done, because that would mean a 2-5 finish, and that may leave some bad taste in voters' mouths. Especially if, say, Ohio State goes 11-1 or 12-0 after being 6-7 last year. But O'Brien is the coach of the year at the halfway mark, and if Penn State wins eight, he should be a lock.
James (Midland (MI))
Brian, why are you and Adam hyping Braxton Miller so far this season? He had 186 rush yards against a pedestrian Husker defense while Denard Robinson racked up 235 against a Purdue defense that completely bottled up Braxton last year in West Lafayette. Why doesn't Braxton get criticized for his limited throwing ability as much as Denard?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Because Denard throws the ball to the other team a whole lot more than Miller does. Robinson has had two really bad games -- Alabama and Notre Dame -- while Miller has continually made winning plays (though he hasn't faced a team as good as 'Bama or ND).
Brian, sorry about your Cards. Good luck against the Nats moving forward. As for my question, do you think PSU is a legitimate team in the B1G as they have really become better each week? Do you believe MSU is showing their true colors and was a bit over hyped? And as for OSU, does the Nebraska win really make them head and shoulders above the rest of the league?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Yeah, Steve, the Redbirds blew that game yesterday, but they never make it easy. Lot of questions there, so let's hit 'em. 1) In this league, this year, Penn State is definitely a legitimate force. Defense is stout and McGloin is playing well. Biggest question is depth if there are injuries. 2) Michigan State probably was a bit overhyped, and we're as guilty of it as anyone. Defense hasn't been as good as its numbers, and passing game struggled were worse than expected. But Spartans still have lots of room to grow.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
And 3). For now, yes. Ohio State has beaten Michigan State (on the road) and Nebraska in back-to-back weeks. That's impressive. Are they much better than the rest of the league? No, but they have beaten two of the best teams in the conference, which is good enough to make them a clear No. 1 for now.
Infield Fly Rule? Are you kidding me? Yes, I'm still bitter.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Bad call, but it didn't cost the Braves the game. The Braves cost the Braves the game.
Jay Izzgood (Seamen's Point, VT)
Hey BB! Indiana has shown they have a nice offense. Do you think that is enough to stay close (17 point underdogs) to OSU, or does their lack of defense turn into a blowout?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I actually think they can score on OSU, which has had some problems against good passing teams. The Sabino loss hurts, as well. But I don't like IU's defense (last in the B1G vs. the rush) against Miller and Hyde.
Dustin (In the cornfields)
With Nebraskas dissappointing loss on Saturday, does this put Pelini on the "hot" seat this year? After all this is his players he recruited. And does this put Papuchis on the hotseat as well for the struggling defense?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I don't think so for this year. Pelini has won a lot of games. But if Nebraska finishes, say, 8-4 or even another somewhat underwhelming 9-3 without a conference title? There's going to be some pressure on him next year, no doubt. And a new AD is in town.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
How is Ohio U. not top 25 worthy after beating a National Power House PSU team who has won 4 in a row? Every team seems to slip up against bad teams, check out the entire SEC and they get extra-credit for it.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I had Ohio in the Top 25 the first couple of weeks. Then the Bobcats barely beat a terrible UMass team and struggled with Buffalo. That's why I have them out now.
Do you think Micah Hyde will be starting this weekend in East Lansing?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
He's listed as the starter on the current depth chart, though that might not mean too much. Thing about Hyde is, he's a senior who hasn't been in trouble before, and PI charge is far less serious than, say, a DUI. So I fully expect him to play this weekend. Whether he starts is more questionable.
R.F. (Minneapolis, MN)
Brian, what kind of odds do you give the Gophers pulling an upset versus NW this coming weekend? We are getting MarQueis Gray back hopefully, and will be much healthier coming off a much needed bye week. Any hope for a win on Saturday?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I wouldn't see it as much of an upset, as the two teams are not that far apart. Minnesota's struggles against the run are a red flag against a good Northwestern rushing attack. But the game is at home, and the extra prep time should help. Gophers need this one if they want to get to six (or more) wins.
Karen (Houston, TX)
At what point do we start talking about a signature win for Bill O'Brien? Is it beating our first ranked opponent since 2008 this past weekend? Or (hypothetically speaking, of course) beating Iowa at Kinnick Stadium for the first time since 1999 or knocking off ranked Ohio State?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
No, I don't see beating Northwestern at home as a signature win, regardless of the Wildcats' record. The signature win would be beating Ohio State on Oct. 27. Buckeyes could be a top 5 team by then.
Why is this the first time that Burbridge has seen the field (aside from junk time vs CMU)??? The kid can catch! Do you think we would have won the OSU game if he had been playing?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Well, he had an injury in the preseason that really slowed his progress. And he is a true freshman, so there's a learning curve there. Can't blame Dantonio for not throwing him into the fire against Ohio State. The good news is that he could be a big help to MSU's chances going forward. A respectable passing attack would make a huge difference.
Maxwell (Madison, WI)
To this point, who is your non-quarterback offensive MVP?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Interesting question. I think you'd have to single out a couple of guys. Allen Robinson at Penn State has been huge. Le'Veon Bell and Dion Sims have been very important for MSU, though Sims is now hurt. Iowa's Mark Weisman has saved that team in some regards. And Wisconsin is a totally different offense when Jared Abbrederis is healthy. We might have to take up this question in a debate this week.
Ted (Jumping out of the Hope-wagon.)
Does Hope even understand what it means to coach a football team? In his post-game press-conference, "Eye-opening looking at the film to see how close we were to competing but yet you look at the score and see how far away we were from getting it done." Also, ?We actually executed a pretty good gameplan today?offensively, defensively, special teams. It may not have looked like it at times, but it was there. Michigan just did it better.? Purdue seriously looked like they were deer in the headlights out there. Coming out of camp, we kept hearing how improved Terbush was, I just do not see it. Is there any reason to continue to support Hope?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
The reason to support Hope is that Purdue is still very much alive in the Leaders race. This week's game against Wisconsin is huge, and then the Boilers go to Ohio State. I agree, the Michigan performance was very disheartening. But let's see if Hope can get this team off the mat. I'll be in the WL this weekend and will be very curious as to how Purdue responds.
Pete (Harrisburg, pa)
Slightly different question who is your non quarterback offensive surprise so far
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
It's got to be Weisman. That guy almost literally came out of nowhere. And I'd add Allen Robinson and Zach Zwinak to the list, along with A.J. Barker at Minnesota.
You metioned earlier that OSU could be 12-0 or 11-1 at the end of the season. If 11-1 who do you believe will beat them?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
At this point, Ohio State would be favored in all its remaining games. But the Buckeyes still have to go to Penn State and Wisconsin, and of course they play Michigan. Those won't be easy. And if Braxton Miller gets hurt, all bets are off.
So how are the division champs determined in the B1G? What is more important... overall record, division record, or conference record? This is mainly concerning Purdue and Wisconsin in the Leaders division race and how important this weekends game is. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
It's conference record, but division record comes into play with tiebreakers. When it comes to the Leaders, Illinois and Indiana are already behind the eight-ball and all but out of it, barring a miraculous turnaround. So Purdue-Wisconsin is huge. If the Badgers win, they'd have not only a one-game lead but would win the head-to-head (i.e., first) tiebreaker, so the Boilers would have to make up two games in the standings if they lost.
How is mauti not even considered for the lombardi? he is no doubt a top 4 linebacker in the B1G
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
That makes no sense to me. Just an awful omission by the Lombardi voters.
What record do you think the Northwestern Wildcats will end up with at the end of the season and do u think they will make it to the Big Ten championship?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I believe had them at 7-5 in the preseason. I don't think the 'Cats will make it to Indy. Still see this as a young team that's a notch below Nebraska and the two Michigans. I think 8-4 is possible, however. Winning this weekend at Minnesota is huge for the purple people.
Is there any reason to expect Indiana to win a conference game this season against a competent opponent?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Define "competent." Indiana should have a good chance against a struggling Illinois team and I believe it will play Purdue tough. Going back to last year's game at OSU, Hoosiers have had a chance to win every game but one. They just haven't been able to get over the hump.
David (Dobbs Ferry, NY)
Hey Brian, love the Blog.Do you think the problems Fitz is having running the ball can be attributed mostly to the offensive line or to his hesistancy at the line? Denard keeps making huge runs, but I think his freak athlerticism and speed may be the reason. There don't seem to be too many holes or much push from the offesnive line.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
It is weird to see Toussaint's numbers so low. Hoke said today that Toussaint isn't running any differently than last year. The offensive line isn't as good as last year's, but there still should be opportunities because of how defenses must defend Denard. Have to wonder if the early suspension had an effect on Toussaint.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Stat of the day from Saturday: Sam Ficken was 5-5 on kicks and nailed a kickoff through the uprights (actually hit the ESPN camera, which I found amusing). Still does say more about a) Ficken or b) McGloin that they went for 4th and goal from the 4 down 11, rather than try the kick to get within 1 score?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Says a lot about both and also about Bill O'Brien. And I believe O'Brien believes enough in his defense that he could go for the TD. In a weird way, having a bad kicker has helped Penn State, because they've become very aggressive and haven't had to settle for FGs, if that makes any sense.
DD Toms (Los Angeles)
Am I crazy for thinking Iowa may have a shot at beating MSU in East Lansing Saturday? I gotta say, the Spartans have been underwhelming to say the least. I know Iowa has issues but with a week off to prepare...Maybe?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Not crazy at all. The two teams' strengths (defense, power running) and weakness (passing game) line up pretty well. Michigan State doesn't really have the ability to blow anyone out right now. Iowa is an underdog, but it would not be shocking to see the Hawkeyes win in EL as they did in 2010.
Brian, what keeps going wrong for the Huskers in big road games? It seems like the slightest hint of adversity in a hostile environment causes the wheels to completely fall off the Nebraska wagon. On that note, in a wide open B1G race, do the Huskers still have a shot at Pasadena?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
That's a great question. For whatever reason, the Huskers defense has completely fallen apart in big road games. It hasn't always been dominant at home but has been mostly good enough. I can't explain the discrepancy. And Taylor Martinez seems to take too many chances on the road -- maybe because he feels he has to, with the way the defense plays. It is bizarre and disconcerting for Nebraska. However, this team still has a good chance of winning the division, especially with Michigan and PSU coming to Lincoln.
David (East Lansing, MI)
Hi BB -- Michigan beat the dog slobber out of a statistically good Purdue team on the road. Is that a function of UM getting better or the competition getting softer and should Sparty be worried in either case?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I think you have to credit Michigan. Remember, Purdue went toe-to-toe with Notre Dame in South Bend. Michigan's defense seems to be really improving, and when Robinson can run the ball and not turn it over, the Wolverines are tough.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
How do you not consider a Gopher's win not an upset based on your power rankings? I guess when Ohio State beats Michigan State by 1 point and then Indiana loses by about 4 points - would that be your answer?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Because the Gophers are at home and Northwestern isn't anyone's definition of a powerhouse. There's very little separating most of the teams in this league. Maybe there's a big gap between Ohio State and Illinois right now, but just about anybody can beat anybody else, especially at home.
I was at the tOSU-NU game Sat. night. In my 40+ years of going to games in the 'Shoe, not once has the opposing team had players on the field during "Script Ohio" to warm up. Have you heard anything from Neb. how this happened? It was beyond unsportsmanlike and ver disappointing as Bo Pelini is an alum and should know the tradition better than anyone
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
That was really weird. I'm guessing it was just a misunderstanding by a team that hadn't been to the 'Shoe in decades (and that Pelini didn't give close instructions to his kickers on when to warm up). But it was an odd sight, especially as the OSU band put on quite a halftime show.
Lloyd Severence (Columbus, OH)
In your opinion, what can Braxton Miller do to better position himself in the Heisman race, and what would Geno Smith need to do in order for Braxton to possibly win? Since we can't look forward to championships, this is one of the few things we can look forward to in Buckeye Nation.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Just keep winning and making those highlight plays. I really think Miller has an excellent shot of at least getting to New York. Smith is a huge favorite right now and would have to start throwing some interceptions and have his team lose (or, in a scenario no one wants to see, get injured). But there's a ton of football left.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Brian, if Braxton goes down they have a backup that would be just as productive. KG could take over and I don't think the Ohio State offense would skip a beat.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Uh, no. Guiton has skills and Ohio State could do some things with him at QB. But Miller is a special player and there's no way Guiton (or hardly anyone) could replicate his running skills in the open field.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
If they gave out the B1G awards right now does PSU sweep Offensive Player (McGloin), Defensive Player (Mauti or Mau when the names don't stay on the jerseys), and Coach of the Year?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
No. Miller is your offensive MVP. But I agree with the other two.
What is your take on the B1G being shut out of the Coaches Poll for the first time ever?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
I think it's embarrassing. Of course, it's also a technicality because OSU isn't eligible (and PSU isn't either). But the Big Ten should have more than one team ranked, regardless.
Thomas (St. Paul)
Is it just me, or has Rexy been slightly disappointing this year? I still love him to death, but is Abdullah already a better back?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
You'd be disappointing, too, if you had an injured knee. Burkhead looked like he was getting his mojo back against Ohio State and then reinjured the knee. Hopefully it's not too serious. I do like Abdullah, and he has great speed. He just needs to be a little more secure with the ball.
Scott (Baltimore) [via mobile]
Brian, Penn state alum. Went to the game on Saturday. Love what Bill O'Brien is doing with this team. But I am an even bigger fan of Matt McGloin. Not the most talented kid in the world, but right now he's finding ways to get it done. So much so in fact that I actually think he should be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate! 12 TD's with only 2 picks and throw in 5 rushing TD's for good measure. I'm certainly not suggesting he should win it or that he's even a legitimate candidate. I just think he deserved a Heismsn mention or two. What say you?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
No, not Heisman worthy yet. Especially not for a 4-2 team (sorry, but that matters). But he's very much in the hunt for Big Ten offensive player of the year honors. That in itself is quite an accomplishment. Great story for McGloin.
Hey Brian, any word on how the Illinois CB Hawthorne is doing? Also what about the ref that went down during the game also?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Beckman said Hawthorne was OK after the game and that he flew home with the team. Great to hear that. Haven't heard about the ref.
It's WAAAAAAYYYYYY too early, but I'm getting excited for the Mattison-Urban showdown.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
We've got Ohio State and Michigan 1-2 right now in the power rankings. So, your early excitement is understandable. Also: Denard vs. Braxton II? Yes, please.
bill roach (chicago)
Brian , I saw a lot of empty seats at B1G games this Saturday ( even at Wisconsin). Is the mediocre talent and poor national image impacting attendance? You can't expect to lead the nation in revenue with a sub par "product". What do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Underperforming teams have to have something to do with it, not just when the home teams are playing poorly but when the opponents are not well-regarded. The economy doesn't help, either. I'm not too worried about it longterm, however. Big Ten fans have shown they're about as loyal and passionate as it gets.
Is it just me or is anyone else a little worried for whoever makes it to the Rose Bowl. The Pac12 has 4 teams in the top 20, all of which look like a clear favorite to win, especially if Oregon does make the NC game.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Oregon is the only team I think the Big Ten would have no shot at beating. I haven't been overly impressed with USC, though the Trojans likely would be favored over any Big Ten opponent.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Were there any positives Illinois fans can take away from Saturdays game?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I liked the energy that the Illini played with, especially in the first half. They could have been listless with the way the season has gone, but Beckman had the team energized. A healthy Scheelhaase also gave the offense a small spark, and the defense played much better for three quarters. Overall, though, there's a whole lot of work to be done here.
Robert Marve (West Lafayette)
Why am I behind Terbush again? Should I start throwing pick 6's every game so I can be #1?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Pretty amazing that Marve is playing at all. I think the fact that he played against Michigan and showed no real ill effects will give the coaches confidence to play Marve more this week against Wisconsin.
Jason (Lewis Center, OH)
Brian, does your wife watch football with you on TV, or do you just send her to the spa every Saturday during the season? :-)
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Ha. She'd like the spa idea. She's not much of a football fan, though she did watch the first half of Ohio State-Nebraska with me. (By watch, I mean, mostly look at her phone). But she is a big baseball fan, so that's nice.
As a Spartan fan, should I be more encouraged that Aaron Burbridge emerged as a threat at wideout or more discouraged that with a banged up offensive line the run game averaged less than 4 yards per carry against one of the worst run defenses in the country.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
That offensive line is a major concern, no question. Losing Jackson and Fonoti were big blows. I'd be worried about the Spartans' matchup with Iowa's D-line this week, and that is not a sentence I thought I'd write in August.
Denard (Ann Arbor)
So Borges let's me run wild against Purdue but wants to make me Tom Brady against Notre Dame. LET ME BE ME and I'll take this thing to Pasadena.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I can't disagree. Robinson is going to have to be an effective passer for Michigan to get to Pasadena. But that may be best in limited doses.
Jim Delany (B1G Headquarters)
Brian, I contacted your boss, we are going to use part of your salary to buy a spitoon for Beckman!
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Ha. Michigan State has one he can borrow.
Chris (New Haven, CT)
Brian, we are always hearing about how great the SEC is and how the B1G sucks. Why doesn't anyone talk about oversigning in the SEC and how many more recruits teams like Alabama and LSU have signed over the past 5-10 years? Don't we think this is a significant factor in their strength as a conference?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I think that's a cop-out. Especially now that the SEC has restrictions on its signing practices. Play better.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do the Michigan seniors get their first win versus the Spartans this year?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Ask me next Thursday. But right now, Michigan should be favored.
Alex (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
Whats your favorite mascot?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Mike (Atlanta, GA)
I was very impressed with Carlos Hyde last weekend against Nebraska. Has it been confirmed when/if Jordan Hall will return for the Buckeyes?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Hall probably won't play this week. He had a torn PCL, which is usually at least a couple of weeks. If Ohio State could get him back for the Penn State game, that would be a big boost.
Was it you or your colleague who predicted a big week from Terbush? Someone owes Purdue fans a big apology.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Neither one of us did that. We said he'd be a player to watch and that he'd need a big week to beat Michigan. Didn't happen, but it probably didn't matter the way Michigan gashed Purdue's defense.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time this week. Thanks for the great questions, and enjoy the games this weekend.