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. Lots to go over, so fire away with your best questions.
Alec (Twin Cities, MN) [via mobile]
Given Nebraska wins there next two regular season games, do you think they could find themselves in the top 10 of the BCS going into the CCG against Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Beating Minnesota and Iowa isn't going to impress too many poll voters. It will be more about what happens to the teams above Nebraska. If several lose, the Huskers could move up into that range
Brian, I am a Husker fan, so my view on this is a little biased, but I think all the fuss over the fumble call is a little much. People always seem to focus just on the calls made late in the game. Usually things tend to even out over the course of a game. Case in point, during the Nebraka/Mich State game, the officials called Nebraska for two pass interference penalties that sustained a Mich St. scoring drive. At he time, I thought those were questionable. Even thought the final call against Mich St. was questionable too, the fact is that the refs were calling pass interference pretty tight during the whole game. So at least they were consistent. As far as the Penn State game goes, that call could go either way. I hate it when players reach out like that to try to score. You are just asking for trouble. I wonder if players would take the chance if they didn't think there was reply to save them from a fumble call. I don't rememeber players doing that as much 10 years ago. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I agree that bad calls mostly even out over the course of a game, a season and even several years. Maybe Nebraska has benefited a little more than other teams, but that wasn't the case in other years. Bad calls are part of the game and I don't really think the outcomes of any games would have been changed this year, though Big Ten officiating has been pretty rough at times.
Chuck Shwartz II (Fort Lauderdale)
If Minnesota wins 1 of their last two games do you see them moving up to a better bowl or do we still get picked over another team in our league?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
It's quite possible. Upsetting Nebraska this weekend would gain the Gophers a lot of attention. Beating Michigan State next week could also help, especially if the Spartans lose to Northwestern this week. It's probably going to be Meineke Car Care for Minnesota, however.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
I know you hate questions about bad calls, but you were there on Saturday, I am just completely unable to understand how there was not "indisputable video evidence" showing that was a TD.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Kelley, I really don't understand how the replay officials didn't overturn that call. The only possible thing they could have thought is that the ball was already coming out of Lehman's hands as he crossed the goal line, but it sure looks like a TD to me. Can't blame the refs on the field for originally calling it a fumble in that situation, but I don't know (and we'll never really know) what the replay officials were thinking.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
And to be clear: I don't mind criticizing bad calls. I just don't like when fans blame bad calls for losses, when there are so many other contributing factors.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Nebraska wins out including the B1G CG, is that enough to break the top 8? I would really enjoy watching Nebraska play in the Rose Bowl against Oregon St. or ND.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Again, it will depend on what other teams do, but Nebraska may not play another ranked team. And it really doesn't matter where the Huskers are ranked if they win the Big Ten title game.
Bill (Grand Island, NE)
I am unimpressed with the articles you guys chose to wrote about the reffing conspiracies and the Nebraska/Penn State game in general. I have stuck up for this blog many times over, but I too am starting to feel as if you two have no love for Nebraska. Our players are good enough to get your fantasy teams bunches of points, but still you choose to give credit to the refs, or an injured quarterback instead of a relentless Nebraska team. Sometimes we really wonder why you even cover the B1G. If it doesnt scream Michigan or OSU, you two dont want to give it any credit.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
No love for Nebraska? We write good things about the Huskers all the time and I've always credited the Huskers for winning. Don't know what you're talking about, Bill.
Should I hope that we can make a bowl, or finally give in to basketball season?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Stick with the Hoosiers for one more week. Winning at Penn State will be tough, but if IU could pull that one off, the Bucket game will be for a bowl.
Hey Brian - starting to make bowl travel plans. There's really only 2 options for Northwestern, right? Win vs MSU, it's Gator Bowl. A loss, BWW Bowl? Oh...and an alternate reality where football was just 3 quarters, it's arguably Rose Bowl. Sound about right?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Sounds about right. And if the game were 3 1/2 quarters, Northwestern would be golden.
Ryan (Dallas, TX)
Brian, could you please explain your ESPN power ranking voting logic? Putting Texas A&M over an LSU team w/ the same record that beat them, over a one-loss Georgia team that has been playing some phenomenal football at the right part of the season, over an undefeated OSU, and over a 1-loss FSU w/ a stout D? I know it's a massive win for them and they're a good team, but it just seems like hype since it's so recent. They aren't really the 5th best team in the country.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Ryan, you can flip a coin between those teams, pretty much. I rewarded A&M for without a doubt the best victory by any team all year, winning at 'Bama. So shouldn't we, by your LSU logic, rank A
It seems to me the Buckeyes aren't getting respect largely because of their eligibility. In my opinion, the only team with at least one loss that may have a case to be ahead of them is Alabama because of how well they have played outside of this weekend. I know the B1G looks weaker this year and OSU's schedule isn't very daunting, but the FACTS seem to be secondary to perception. Boise State had no problem making top 5 often in the past couple of years despite playing nobody of consequence. Adam ranked one-loss Georgia ahead of OSU - their one loss was a complete blowout. Not a quality loss, a complete and utter failure. Alabama hasn't played anyone good besides A&M (loss) and LSU. Most of the top SEC teams have played FCS opponents. I know they got a good win (that they almost squandered), but A
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
No, Steve, the Buckeyes aren't getting respect because of their schedule. Their nonconference slate was really weak. And they needed to pull out some last-minute wins. Great, great year, but this is probably not a Top 5 team.
I've been on Matt Canada's case all season for poor play calling, but it seemed like he was more comfortable having a guy like Philips that is more of an option quarterback. Don't get me wrong, I think he still made some poor play calls, but it was by far his best-called game. With Canada as O-Coordinator, does Wisconsin need to move back to more of the option game, a la the Bollinger days?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
When you can run for over 560 yards, it will make you look like a genius. I thought Canada's best game was Purdue. Wisconsin barely had to throw at all to beat Indiana. That will change this week.
Brian, Michigan's really struggled with Iowa in the recent past (3-5 in the last 8 meetings, lost the last 3). Is their a matchup issue that should concern Hoke and company this season?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It's true that Iowa has dominated this series of late. But the way the Hawkeyes have played the last few weeks, I don't think Michigan should be too concerned.
Nebraska has benefitted from bad calls more than any other team? How could you possibly say that? Except for McDonough running his mouth, that was not a bad call. Aside from Sean and ESPN, many think it was the right call. And the Huskers had calls against them to match favorable calls in every other game. Man.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Many think it was the right call? I've yet to meet someone who thinks that.
Delta Deuce (Mount Gilead, Ohio)
In all fairness to the media, IF you have been chosen to support the BIG Blog... why don't you both put both feet in and STOP trying to be neutral.... You cannot have it both ways vis a vis ranking OSU LOWER in the polls, than those who DID not Woody's way was TCB TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS 10 AND 0
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I have not in any way been chosen to "support the B!G blog," whatever that means. My job is to report on and analyze the league. I'm not supporting anything but what I feel is the truth
Matt (St. Paul)
Admit it...after a rough year for the B1G...watching the SEC's golden child Bama go down on Saturday brought a smile to your face...I know it did for me!!!
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I'm pretty sure most of the country was rooting for A&M. As someone dealing with SEC fatigue but moreso someone who loves upsets, I did crack a smile. But I'd rather see the SEC national title streak end because somebody else beat the conference in the title game. If not, SEC fans will just say they got robbed.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
FUN FACT: The Illini have their offensive coordinator both calling plays depending on the down. ( One calls 1st and 2nd down, the other calls 3rd down.) Is this common? I have not heard of something like this.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I have covered other teams that have coaches dedicated to third down plays. I never really understood it, since it seems you'd want to have one voice calling plays. But it's the kind of thing that gets magnified when a team isn't struggling. I don't think that's Illinois' problem. Talent (on the offensive side) is a bigger issue.
Justin. From Savannah Ga. [via mobile]
Now that Gardner has shown that he has what it takes to play quarterback at Michigan ( I know he still has a lot to prove), does this really create depth chart issues? Robinson has done amazing and horrible things for Michigan and as a fan I am grateful for everything he has done in the maze and blue uniform. Is there a possibility that Brady Hoke could look at moving him to another skill position ie. slot receiver or some sort of running back? To have someone that talented on the sidelines is just insane for the OSU game which looks to be a tough challenge. Gardner is a better pro style quarterback and Denard is a playmaker beyond all belief. What is your input on that possible position change?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Well, first Denard Robinson has to get healthy. This nerve issue could be more serious than we know, since Hoke isn't telling us anything. If Robinson is healthy, you put him on the field. I think you have him play QB, and only move him if he's ineffective. Remember, Michigan was playing pretty well behind Robinson before the injury.
Rick (Louisville, KY)
How can you say that the Buckeyes are not a top 5 team. Louisville was undefeated and ranked 9th. The Buckeyes are better and play tougher opponents than Louisville. If they weren't under sanctions, the Buckeyes would be a top 5 team. Husker fan here, not a Buckeye...
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Louisville was No. 13 on my ballot last week. I never believed the Cardinals were as good as their record.
Can the new badger QB produce enough against osu? We didn't see much of his arm against that terrible hoosier defense. What's your opinion on him?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
That's a key question. I don't think Wisconsin can just line up and run all day against Ohio State, which has a very good defensive line. We've seen so little of Phillips throwing the ball that it's hard to form an opinion on him. He's going to have to make some plays down the field on Saturday.
How could there not be (at the very least) a subconscious bias against Penn State by the refs and officials based on the past 2 weeks? Stop the hate BIG10 (not you Bennett)... these Penn State players had NOTHING TO DO with Sandusky!!
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
We'll never really know if there is some sort of subconscious bias. I doubt it, but I won't say it's not possible. But the thought that there's some organized conspiracy is just silly.
I was a bit surprised not to see more of Belton on Saturday, especially after Zwinak fumbled. Is he still in O'Brien's doghouse or was it simply a matchup thing?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Zwinak is just better right now. Whether that's because of the early injury to Belton or whatever, it's just the case now.
Will Purdue be able to get a better recruiter than hope. Don't like him as coach but seems like Purdue has more talent than most big ten teams
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
More talent than most Big Ten teams? I don't know about that. Purdue has some very good players (Kawann Short, Rico Allen, etc) but is not especially deep.
Michael (New York)
I there any hope for Illinois? Will Beckman be able to turn things around in the next couple of years?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I think you're going to see some staff changes there in the offseason. No doubt Beckman has to hit the recruiting trail hard. He did it at Toledo, so the guy can coach. But he's got a lot of work to do.
MonTAY Ball (Madison)
Hey Brian! Just wondering if you think I am going to be able to break the all-time TD record this week at home against a pretty soild Ohio State Defense. Only 1 to tie and 2 until it's all mine!
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I do think Ball will get it this week in what could be a high-scoring game. It would be nice for him to get the record at home on Senior Day.
Really enjoy your blog. You are the best. The greatest. Thanks for taking my question. Who are top 3 receivers in the BIG this year and why?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Flattery will get you everywhere. I'll go with Allen Robinson, Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis. Robinson has been consistently the best all around. Bell is a big-play guy and a terrific blocker. Abbrederis has been really good and would have much better stats if he'd been healthy and had consistent QBs.
Jeremy (Anywhere but Iowa)
Can you please explain, beyond the ridiculous amount of $$ to buy him out, why Ferentz is so revered over in Iowa?? I seriously don't get why Iowa fans are so supportive of mediocre results!!!!
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I wouldn't say Iowa fans are "so supportive" of Ferentz these days.
If Purdue wins out and goes to the Pizza Pizza bowl again could you see a situation where Purdue keeps Hope and just fires Nord?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
It's a good question. That would be back-to-back bowl games for Hope. But you could hardly call this year progress, and the fans seem to have already voted with their wallets. I think a change is happening regardless.
Michael (Los Feliz, CA)
Brian, How bout those Gophers? How bout 'em?Question for ya, If Sparty beats Northwestern this week, but Minnesota beats Sparty next week, Sparty will be 6-6, Gophers 7-5, and Cats 7-5. If this happens does Minnesota get picked ahead of both in the bowl pecking order? I think they do since Minnesota has a bigger fanbase, better attendance, etc. than Northwestern, and the Gophers would have more Ws and the head to head advantage over Sparty.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Ski-U-Mah! It's really great story to see Minnesota get back to a bowl. Bowls like teams with excited fan bases and momentum. Your scenario might be enough to move the Gophers up a notch or two in the bowl pecking order. By here's my question: Do you really want that, because it likely means playing a very good team, perhaps one from the SEC.
What has you guys so confident that Purdue will beat both Illinois and Indiana and make a bowl game? The boilermakers have been so inconsistent this year.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
We are hardly confident. But at this point, you'd have to favor Purdue (and anyone) over Illinois. And the IU game is at home. Purdue is not consistent at all, as you said, but that's not a very challenging stretch.
Hey Brian I am not overly familiar with the NCAA rules on a medical Redshirt, but if Rex Burkhead does not play anymore games this year is there anyway he would qualify for this?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I believe he played too late in the year to qualify. Besides, Burkhead has every intention of getting back for a possible Big Ten title game and wouldn't miss a Rose Bowl for the world
Kevin (Akron, Oh)
Looking way too far ahead, but who do you think starts at QB for Michigan next season? Gardner, or maybe Morris?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
I think it's got to be Gardner. Morris will be a true freshman. And if Gardner can get a redshirt year, you could even possibly redshirt Morris next year.
ken (grand rapids mi)
What are the chanced given the current national scenario, that the Rose Bowl goes out and invites the Irish instead of a BIG10?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Um, zero percent. Could Notre Dame sub in for a Pac-12 team if Oregon makes the BCS title game? Possibly, but no Pac-12 team could finish in the Top 14, and I think at least one out of Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State and USC will do so
I hate to rant about refs and replay officials, but where is the accountability? Big Ten officials are making calls that are affecting the outcome of games, this is beyond ridiculous.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Officials are held accountable by the league, and the ramifications come in game assignments. Unfortunately for us, all of those decisions are private and not revealed publicly.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Can Braxton Miller cement a trip to NY with a signature win over Wisconsin even with a loss to Michigan at home in 2 weeks?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I will discuss this a little more in tomorrow's Heisman watch post, but the emergence of Manziel may hurt Miller's chances. Remember, the Heisman people are not obligated to bring five finalists to New York. Miller's still very much in the mix, but he needs to keep winning
Ryan (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
According to Ferentz, Vandenberg gives Iowa the "best chance" to win right now... if we don't have a QB on our bench that's better than Vandenberg how scared should Iowa fans be for the QB position next year?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Well, it is a little scary. Rudock is still young and could develop. But Vandenberg appears to have regressed, and Iowa doesn't have enough receivers to make defenders miss if it's going to continue throwing short of the sticks and asking those players to make things happen on their own.
Which is the real Wisconsin offense? MSU game or IU game? And which version shows up to play OSU, who has shut down pro-style offenses this year?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
The defense has a whole lot to do with that, and so does the QB injury in the MSU game. I can guarantee you Wisconsin won't run for 500 yards against Ohio State, so the Badgers will have to find some balance. One possible bonus of last week's game is that the Buckeyes still don't have much film on Phillips in the passing game.
Chuck Shwartz II (Fort Lauderdale)
What is your impression of Phillip Nelson and do you see him Winning freshman of the year for the B1G ten?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
He's a future star. If he started playing a little earlier, he might have won the freshman award. I think it's going to be Penn State's Deion Barnes.
Bo (Memorial Stadium)
Thoughts on how I should handle the "interaction" with Stafford I had this weekend???
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I really don't think it was a big deal. Just move on.
chowder (head's bay)
did you eat a runza, and more importantly, did you bring one home for your wife?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Unfortunately, my flight was delayed going into Omaha on Friday, so I didn't get in until late. Saturdays are really too busy for us to much of anything besides watch and cover league games. Next time, hopefully. Bring some to Indy?
Brian...I am sure you make more money than that other BIG blogger...who I cannot even remember his name. Who is likely to be the NFL first round defense and offense picks this year from the BIG
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Adam's the mogul around here. Living the high life in Chicago. Anyway, I think Hankins from Ohio State will be a first rounder if he comes out (and I think he will). Could also see Kawann Short going in the first round. Taylor Lewan probably the best offensive bet for the first round. A lot can change between now and April, though.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
Nearly 2 full seasons into B1G coverage for you, so far what has been your favorite venue/atmosphere?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Best single atmosphere in the league (outside of the Rose Bowl) was the Michigan-Notre Dame game last year. I love going to Lincoln as well -- nobody does gameday like the Huskers. Still haven't been to a game at Camp Randall, though, which is sad.
Tyler Perry (South Bend)
What do think the chances of IU upseting Penn State this weekend?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Tyler: Not too good, unless Penn State is still angry about the previous week. I see Indiana having a hard time stopping the Nittany Lions, while PSU can contain Indiana's offense.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
"Officials are held accountable by the league, and the ramifications come in game assignments. Unfortunately for us, all of those decisions are private and not revealed publicly."Perhaps this is why the officiating is so bad? They handle everything in house whereas other leagues openly reprimand crews that are deemed inept. It doesn't seem very accountable to me when they don't let the league's constituents know what is going on to rectify the issue.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Being accountable and being held publicly accountable are two separate things.
Justin (Oak Park)
There's a game at Camp Randall this Saturday. You could get that monkey off your back. Some say it's a big game.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Adam's got that one. But I'll be at The Game next week. Seems like a fair trade.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy Week 12!
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