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.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm yours for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Good column today. Why wouldn't a simple requirement of a team having to be not on probation and above .500 in Conference play and OVERALL solve the championship eligibility question? If a Division can't provide a team then the 2nd best team in the other division goes. The UCLA debacle last year should have shown the way.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Still some logistical problems. How, exactly, do you determine the second-best team when there are unbalanced schedules? I don't think the Big Ten envisioned the Leaders champ being .500 or worse. As I wrote, I was being a little whimsical with the Ohio State suggestion, but the league could have come up with some alternatives this year.
Is there any chance at all Delany reconsiders letting 2 legends teams face off in Indy? It will be a travesty if we send the 3rd place leaders team to the conference's biggest stage.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
No, no chance. You can't change the rules midstream, and the Big Ten shouldn't do that. Any proposals like that had to be decided in the summer, and, again, the Penn State sanctions came down late.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
Can the B1G finally give in and schedule some November night games?! Football was meant to be played under the lights and in the cold rainy/snowy weather. I'd like to see those SEC players perform under our conditions!
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Delany said last week that the league wouldn't block it if teams wanted to try that. It's up to some team to go for it and lead the way. I'm all for it ... mostly because I get to sit in a warm press box
Al Gore (Internet)
I have assured there will be no problems in chat today.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
So far, so good!
Hey Brian,If the regular season were over today it would put Nebraska in the Rose Bowl with Oregon (which is not an unimaginable outcome in real life); can the Huskers conceivably even make that game interesting?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I would be very, very afraid of that matchup for Nebraska. Or any Big Ten team, really. Nebraska has trouble already with spreads and mobile QBs; imagine going against the Ducks. Big Ten fans should root for Oregon to make the BCS title game and for a much more manageable matchup in Pasadena, such as Stanford, Oregon State or even USC
What's the latest on Weisman's injury? Will he be playing this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Not listed on the depth chart. Of course, that happened before and he played a little. We'll get an update tomorrow from Ferentz. On the plus side, I liked what I saw from Bullock on Saturday.
If Indiana beats WI and one more B1G team and WI loses out would they be playing for a BCS game at 3-5 / 5-7 overall?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Yes, that is entirely possible. Maybe you can see now why I said some radical thinking about the Big Ten title game this year was in order.
No doubt the OSU defense is making strides as a unit, but do you think it's MORE due to the offensive style of their opponent or due to an actual improvement in team play?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
A little bit of both. Clearly, the Buckeyes defense does better against a more traditional pro-style offense (and while it played well against Purdue, that was, uh, Purdue). But I also see a lot fewer missed tackles and guys like Ryan Shazier are playing better. Getting Nathan Williams going has also been key. Too much talent on this D for it to struggle all year long.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
What did you think of the White House atmosphere? Not that I'm biased or anything, but it has to be the best game day environment in the B1G, if not the country. Even though we didn't win, that atmosphere is electric.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It was a tremendous atmosphere, Kelley. If Penn State would have hit on a couple of those big plays early -- the missed McGloin to Robinson pass, the dropped pick six -- the place would have gone insane. Press box was swaying after the blocked punt TD. I was really impressed.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Brian, why isn't Michigan as good as they were touted early on?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I'm not exactly sure what you mean but let's take the last two weeks, when Michigan has failed to score a TD. Have to credit the Michigan State defense a lot. Nebraska also played well and the Denard Robinson injury was a killer. This is not a great passing team that relies so heavily on Robinson's running ability. Without that, or against a tremendous defense, the offense is mediocre at best.
If Ohio St goes 12-0 will any AP voters dare give them their 1st place vote?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I doubt it, because of the schedule. Ohio State didn't beat anyone of consequence in the nonconference, and the Big Ten's perception is so low that voters will see that as the Buckeyes ripping through a weak league. I think No. 2 or 3 is the ceiling.
Am I crazy to think NU has a serious shot at reaching the championship game? Bye week this week to get ready for Michigan at the Big House. Northwestern front 7 has been great shutting down the run game all season. If they contain and stop Denard on the run they should win. They then face Michigan State whose been shaky on offense. Then play a depressing illinois team. I understand its Northwestern and they blow leads but its not crazy to think they can make it right.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
It's not crazy, but Northwestern needs Nebraska to lose twice because the Huskers have a one-game lead and the tiebreaker. You need to root for MSU to win this weekend and then for Minnesota or Iowa to knock off the Huskers.
Brian, sure Fitzgerald's idea doesn't sound as terrible as it is now, but what if the following happens: Wisconsin wins out, NW loses to Mich and MSU, Mich loses to Iowa and OSU and Neb loses to MSU and PSU? Now you have two Legends teams with 3 conference losses apiece facing each other in a rematch in the championship game? That doesn't make sense either. If Fitzgerald wants to go to Indy he should just worry about winning his division, not finding a back door.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I agree that the Legends teams haven't exactly been magical either. Let's just say Michigan and Nebraska win out. Do we really want or need to see a rematch of Saturday's game? Guess you could argue a healthy D-Rob makes it more interesting. But let's be clear: Fitzgerald was not just politicking for his team. He saw the potential of a bad Leaders team getting the nod over better Legends teams. And he's looking prophetic.
Dave T (Marquette, NE)
Can you explain how Mr Brad Edwards came up with Nebraska vs Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl for his week 9 projection?? While that would be AWESOME...just don't see them turning down a Pac-12 team..
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I won't speak for Brad but I will remind you that if Oregon makes the BCS title game, another Pac-12 team would have to finish in the top 14 just to be eligible for the Rose Bowl. Losses by USC and Oregon State on Saturday did not help that league's cause. Right now, Oregon State is No. 11 and Stanford is 14th
Thoughts on the officiating from the PSU-OSU game? It seemed like either Emmert or Delaney had a conversation with the refs beforehand. The holding call on a punt return and late hit call on Amos were especially horrendous.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
My thought is that didn't have anything to do with the outcome. Saw a lot of whining from fans about officiating in just about every game on Twitter on Saturday. Two words: Play better.
Would a Leaders division title at 7-5 increase or decrease the number of jokes made about #IUFB?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
People would make fun of the Big Ten, not IU. It would be an incredible turnaround and great story by the Hoosiers.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
Am I the only one that kind of likes the no November night games? First, most of the people clamoring for them aren't sitting in the stands (they're likely sitting on comfy couches w/big screen TV's and cable). Second, every major conference seems to be stagging their games in order of importance with the biggest and brightest being night games. The noon games are becoming a non-event for the "lesser" programs.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Hey, I certainly like having the day wrapping up earlier instead of getting to my hotel room at 2:30 am like I did this weekend. But again, I don't have to sit outside and I don't begrudge anyone who doesn't want to deal with the cold and other conditions. I like the atmosphere of 3:30 games. I think noon is a little too early for truly big games.
The holding call on the punt return completely changed the course of the game. You can only play so well to overcome multiple chances for the other team.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Right, because Penn State had no other chance to make a defensive stop or do something on offense. Man up.
Waffles (Southern California)
If Stave doesn't leave the game, do you think the Badgers would have come out wit ha V?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
It's a great question and one that can be asked about Denard and Michigan. No doubt both injuries completely changed the texture of those games. Ultimately, though, injuries are a part of the game and you'd better have a good backup plan. Neither the Badgers nor the Wolverines did. I feel bad for Stave, because he was having his best game before his season got cut short. Tough break.
Mike (Chillicothe, OH)
Brian, NON-B1Q question. Being in Louisville, you might have an ear to the ground. Does Pat Forde's article about Louisville trying to keep Charlie Strong depict the worrying of the fans down there?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
There's no question that teams are going to come after Strong, who's a great coach. Louisville fans know the drill after Petrino and John L. Smith left them for "greener" pastures. Strong is loyal to Jurich and Louisville has the money to pay. Biggest question is whether he'll want to stay in a weakened Big East
Zooey Deschanel singing the national anthem.. making the heart melt.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
God Bless America.
Man up is such a weak response, Brian. Rich's only point is that when one team gets extra chances like Ohio State did, and gets to hold on a number of running plays, it is hard to overcome.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
No, what's weak is blaming the refs when your team did not play well at all. I talked to Penn Staters that night, and they felt bad because they made a whole bunch of uncharacteristic mistakes. Refs did not force McGloin to throw a pick six. Blaming the refs is the easy way out.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Exception would be if there's a horrendous call at the end of an extremely close game or something. But that wasn't the case at all on Saturday.
harold (Chattanooga Tennessee)
WILL JON GRUDEN BE THE NEXT HAED COACH AT TENNESSEE?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I don't know because I don't cover the SEC. But I do know that you need to take off caps lock.
Faygo (Silver Spring, MD)
Isn't it about time to recognize a real Football Player's greatness? I'm talking about Max Bullough at Michigan State. As disappointing as this season has been, he has demonstrated greatness and leadership in every game. He reminds me of Chris Spielman at his best, and there's no finer praise. Are we looking at a first-team All American in 2013?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Bullough is having a tremendous season and should be a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker even at a stacked position for the league. No surprise, really, as he has continually gotten better during his career. He should be on every defensive awards watch list next year, unless he decides to turn pro. I don't think he will, given his family's ties to MSU
How much worse does this have to get for Ferentz to make some real changes? Will a blow out in Bloomington do it? Should Hawkeye fans be hoping for this?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Kirk Ferentz seems pretty allergic to making big changes. I don't know if anything would alter that. He's got a whole lot of power at that school and isn't going anywhere. He'll continue to do things his way, and his way has been successful in the past
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Very surprised that Mauti got left off the Bednarik list - it's a Philly-based award and PSU guys have a tendency to be included. I wonder if the Maxwell guys didn't want to show any sort of impropriety? These awards are kinda silly (there are like 14 best defensive player awards), but still...
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
It's a complete joke. I really like Johnathan Hankins, but you can't tell me he's had a better year than Mauti.
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
You must be referencing the fail mary. Turrible! So anyway, should Curt Phillips get a serious look for WI's new starting QB?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I think so, yes. He brings a unique element to the table with his running ability. Danny O'Brien just hasn't shown anything yet, and I don't think Wisconsin's coaches fully trust him.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa City)
My chair is feeling a little warm these days. How much longer can I expect to be safe here without results?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I've got about 20 million reasons why your spot is safe
Bryce (Big Ten Country)
Is Brett Bielima on the hot seat? His conservative coaching style is starting to really pi$$ a lot of people off up here. Should his job be in jeopardy?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Please. Settle down.
Any word on Etienne Sabino? Is he done for the year on is there any way he plays in the last two games? It would be a huge emotional boost for the final two hurdles on the schedule.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Meyer said today that Sabino is close and could potentially play this weekend. But really no reason to play him against Illinois with a bye week coming up. I'd expect to see him at Wisconsin.
Stephen (Dorr (PA))
Brian, sorry bout your Cards, better luck season. Anyways, can you figure out this OSU team? They struggle vs. lesser competition but seems to step up for big games. Should we see Illinois have some success this Saturday?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Thanks for the kind words, but can't complain about my team falling one game short and losing to the World Series champs. Anyway, no, I don't see Illinois having any success. The Illini are just not good enough to beat anybody in the Big Ten, much less hang with the Buckeyes on the road.
Vonda (Aurora, NE)
Brett Bielima on the hot seat? Goodness..I thought us Husker fans are impatient. Quick question. Bigger threat.. Michigan St or Penn State at home. Which one is our biggest hurdle. (Sorry Iowa fans...well...not really)
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Totally. Fans overreact all the time. Great question. I'd say Penn State. I just don't think Michigan State matches up well with Nebraska. Penn State's offense will give the Huskers defense more trouble, even in Lincoln.
Ryan (Dallas, TX)
Brian, great stuff BTW. Have a minor beef with y'all's rankings, do you really think OSU is a better team than FSU, UF, UGA, and S. Carolina? Not sure how the Bucks would fare against those teams with all their inconsistent play.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
It's a great question, and unfortunately we'll never know. Would love to see these Buckeyes in a big bowl game and wish they'd played a harder nonconference schedule. But at some point, you have to reward winning, and they have shown an uncanny ability to do enough to win every week
Brian,Although the outcome of the game probably wouldn't have been different, did you think that Hoke should have put Gardner in at QB against Nebraska??? Based on his prior experience at QB, I think he would have given Michigan the best chance to win that game even though he has played WR exclusively this year. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
You know, I don't blame Hoke too much for that. Remember that Garnder had been the team's best receiver for much of the year. So he was valuable there. And I've never been all that impressed with Gardner as a passer. Who was he going to throw to? For better or worse, Michigan put all its eggs in the Denard basket. That works out well sometimes. Other times, like Saturday and at ND, it blows up. I think you'll see a much different Michigan offense when Denard graduates.
If Ohio State does in fact run the table, what sort of a statement does that make to the rest of the Big Ten and nationally for the future of the Urban Meyer led Buckeyes?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Think about this: It's entirely possible that this might be Meyer's worst team in Columbus.
Was a bit sad to see the Cards lose their 3-1 lead to the Giants, but at least they were able to win a game against them! Let's just forget about the Tigers and being swept. Makes the sweep of the Yankees even more embarrassing for NY!
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I'm for anything that makes the Yankees look bad.
Which backfield would you rather have in the red zone? Colter and Mark or Miller and Hyde? Both have been very successful in red zone. Colter and Miller both seem to make their cuts into the end zone
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'd take the OSU side. Love Colter and Mark, but Hyde gives you more of a power presence on the goal line than anybody Northwestern has. Plus, Miller apparently can juke guys mid-air. Still shaking my head at that play from Saturday.
Is football overfor Purdue or should I just start looking to basketball season?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Is Robbie Hummel back for his ninth season? I don't see Purdue making a bowl game this year.
I know this isn't realistic...but how wild is it that Iowa, as bad as they have been this year, still essentially controls their own destiny in the Legends. They just need 1 additional NW loss (I think) and to plow through their last 4 games at 4-0. I can't remember a time when Iowa was this mediocre and still had so much to play for. CRAZY B1G season!
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
That and Indiana's potential path to Indy tells you everything you need to know about this wackiest of seasons. I think we'll look back on 2012 in a few years and not believe it.
Brad (Altoona PA)
Brian, the atmosphere was crazy in Beaver Stadium on Saturday during the Whiteout. However, I'm worried this might be the last "big game" we experience in a while. We have remaining home games vs Indiana (meh) and Wisconsin (when students will be home for Thanksgiving). When do you think will be the next time we'll have a hyped-up home game? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I hope that's not the case, because a big game is so much fun at Beaver Stadium, especially at night. But that's probably it for this year, and once those scholarship reductions really kick in, who knows? Maybe Nebraska next year. And Ohio State will always be a big one. The 2014 game could be big with Hackenberg a sophomore.
Proof that the B1G is screwed up this year: Purdue fans are already looking to basketball, while Indiana is alternately celebrating #1 in basketball and looking at a potential conference championship game in football. The Mayans were right.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Well, the good news is that we'll all be put out of our misery in about two months and won't have to watch bowl season.
Could the lack of a bowl game turn out to help OSU. I don't think they would beat a top 5 opponent in a BCS game, and that loss could be an embarrassment and a ruin some of their confidence. Instead, they have the ability to go out undefeated and keep on rolling through the off season.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
See your point, but I think the lack of those extra 15 practices hurts the development of the younger guys who will need to take over next year. The other potential positive, though, is it allows Meyer and his staff to really recruit in December with no game to prepare for. Guard your commitments!
Bryan (Ann Arbor)
Brian, What is it that you obviously don't like about the questions I have asked today (I count this as my 5th)? I just want to know what to improve upon so you can answer one of mine once in a while. lol
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
You're supposed to send me cash before the chat begins. C'mon, I've got to wet my beak a little bit here.
Rich (Madison, WI)
Can the Badgers beat OSU or PSU with the offense reverting back to earlier form now that Stave is out? Will they beat IU? The Badgers have seemed to have some tough times in Bloomington historically.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Rich, Wisconsin can't beat anybody if its offense plays like it did the first few weeks. The Indiana game is suddenly very intriguing, especially if the Hoosiers win this week. It's entirely possible that the Big Ten blog could make an extremely rare in-season appearance in Bloomington if that occurs.
Will Nebraska win out? and if not who are they most likely tto lose to?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I like the way the schedule sets up. None of those pesky spread teams left. And even a potential B1G title game rematch with Wisconsin is favorable. The one main caveat: Nebraska has been a little too schizo to trust for long stretches. Let's see if they can be more consistent.
Michael Carter first or second team All-Conference?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Which conference? Hey, now, he had a great game - or at least, a tremendous series of plays -- last week. But let's not get carried away.
Bill kahley (Ponte Vedra, Fl)
Its axiomatic in football that, for relatively closely matched teams, 2-3 plays determine who wins. Also, these plays can occur at any point in time during the game. It follows,logically, that particularly bad im[portant referee calls would also affect the outcome. So, please don't be condescending on this topic.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Explain then how Ohio State led 35-16. The refs? Seriously, come up with something better than that
As a Northwestern fan I know it's ridiculous to be dissatisfied with 7-2, but you look at our losses, it seems like we could easily be 9-0. How do you explain Fitz's seeming difficulty with holding onto late leads? I'd date this back to at least MSU's record-setting comeback several years ago.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I think part of it is the secondary just hasn't been very good for a long time, and when teams need to come back, what do they do? They pass the ball a bunch. And when you have a spread, pass-happy offense, it's sometimes difficult to burn the clock with a lead. Which is another reason why I think Northwestern should have run the ball more with Colter and Mark against PSU and Nebraska. Could have made a huge difference. Oh well, 7-2 is still pretty darn good.
Tell me what kind of odds you give Indiana of winning the division.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Still extremely low, around 10 percent. It's fun to think about, but let's be honest: IU just snapped a five-game losing streak and won for the first time in two years in the B1G (against the league's worst team, by far). Do we really think the Hoosiers are suddenly going to win four straight now?
Dustin Hoffman (Lincoln)
What is the most appetizing Rose Bowl matchup in your eyes?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
For marquee purposes, an 11-2 Nebraska versus Oregon or even USC is great. For B1G winning purposes, the league needs Stanford in there. Cardinal play a very Big Ten style
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
And yes, I just used Big Ten as an adjective.
If Purdue wins out with Robert Marve at the helm and Purdue ends up back in Detroit, does this help Hope keep his job even though they under performed or does this hurt Hope more because it proves all the detractors right that Marve should have the Qb the whole season? In other words, there should have never been this ridiculous rotation and CTB shouldn't have started game 2...
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
I'll give Hope credit here: Marve is a playmaker, but he also gets reckless. He was not good at all in the Wisconsin game. He also missed a lot of time with the knee injury. I think he should have played more, but I also don't think it would have made much of a difference in the outcome of Purdue's season.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks, my time is up. Enjoyed it, as always. See you next week