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. Plenty to talk about this fine December afternoon, so fire away with your best questions.
Is Chris Petersen a realistic option for the Wisconsin job?
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
I highly doubt it. Petersen has shown no real interest in leaving Boise, though you never know when he might change his mind, especially with the way conference realignment has gone. If Wisconsin were to somehow land him, it would be a major, major coup by Barry Alvarez.
SEC fan (Mom's basement)
Brian, are you upset there aren't two SEC teams in the NCG this season? You seemed to be a huge proponent of that last year, how ever wrong and misguided it was.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Uh, what? I didn't particularly like the rematch but didn't think any team had a better case than Alabama. And as we saw, the Tide deserved to be there. Just wish some other teams would have taken care of business this year to end our insufferable SEC streak.
Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)
How much will Ohio State miss John Simon? And where would you rank him all-time in school history?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
It's hard to quantify what Simon's leadership meant to that team, and that's what the Buckeyes will miss the most. With the news that Johnathan Hankins is (unsurprisingly) going pro, Ohio State loses all four starters on the D-line, though it has many talented youngsters. As far as where Simon would rank, I'd have to give that some thought.
Chances the Husker fan base travels well to the Capital One Bowl? Same bowl location as last year and will be a big underdog coming off a very bad loss. At least the weather will be nice.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I saw that ticket sales have been a bit sluggish from the Nebraska side for that game, for all the reasons you mentioned. I think at kickoff there will be a big Nebraska contingent, because there always is, but it won't be anything like it could have been at the Rose Bowl.
Do you and Adam know what your bowl assignments are yet? If you had to pick a B1G bowl game to see as a football fan, where would you be headed?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
We do, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to divulge. Let's just say one of us will be in Pasadena while the other will have an off-the-beaten-path assignment. I've got to say the Rose Bowl, just because it's such a great experience. Outside of that, I think the Outback is a fun matchup and should be highly entertaining.
Bob (Columbus, Ohio)
Brian,Really enjoy the blog. Breakdown the bowl season. Who do you think has the best chance to win? Who has the toughest matchup? Early bowl record prediction? And what would a good bowl record mean to this conference's perception?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Best chance: Northwestern. Toughest: Tossup between Minnesota and Purdue. Early record prediction: 2-5. A good bowl season could help restore some of the reputation of the league, but it really comes down to whether Wisconsin can beat Stanford and the the league can do any damage against the SEC in Florida.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
B1G will go 3-0 against the SEC in bowl games this year, match-ups are perfect for the sweep.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
You, sir, are an optimist. But I will say that the matchups are not highly unfavorable.
Nick (New Mexico)
Do you think Minnesota is thinking about Kill's health and if so what will they do about it?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Sure, it's an issue. You might have seen the story last week that Kill is working hard on finding a cure for his gameday seizures. Hopefully, he can find the right medication or procedures to get that under control.
Even with the season that Manti Teo and Notre Dame had he was still unable to beat out Manziel, what would it take for a defensive player to win the Heisman?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Good question. Remember that Charles Woodson was helped by his work on special teams. It's going to take not only a great season but spectacular numbers. As great as Te'o was in every aspect, his stats weren't eye-popping. If a guy like Clowney can register a whole bunch of sacks next year or something, then maybe. It is encouraging to see more defensive players become Heisman finalists, and perhaps that will help lead to another defensive winner in the near future.
How is the number four defense in the country only represented by two players on ESPN all B1G team? Doesn't make sense really
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Adam and I had that same discussion. Michigan State's defense was great, but we had a hard time singling out individuals other than Bullough and Dennard. Who else belonged? We thought hard about Isaiah Lewis. Didn't quite think Gholston or Adams deserved it.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Do you like or dislike, the new football coach hire at Purdue? How long will it take Hazell to turn things around if he's the right guy in your opinion?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I really like it. Hazell is an impressive guy who knows the Big Ten. Purdue isn't far away from being good; the Boilers are in a bowl game, after all. Question is where is their ceiling? Can Hazell get them to a Big Ten title game? Not sure, but asking for 7- or 8-win seasons most years isn't out of the question.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Brian, I just wanted to clear up something from last week that was brought up in your mailbag. I in no way was saying that Michigan losing to the #1,2 and 3 teams was acceptable, just that it took some of the sting off the season. I grew up watching Moeller/Carr teams beat highly ranked teams but then losing games to teams sitting around .500 (the 1999 loss to Illinois still kills me). That wasn't acceptable either. I'm just saying that if Michigan is going to have a 4 loss season, this year wasn't as bad as some of the others.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I hear you on that. In many ways, it was an odd season for Michigan. Hard to really tell if it was a significant step back, just a transition year or a product of the schedule. Probably a mix of all three. I still say the Wolverines have too much tradition and pride not to win at least one of those big games.
Do you believe Penn State would have left the Big for the ACC as Alvarez stated? Did the Big 10 really add Maryland and Rutgers just to make Penn State happy?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
There were always rumors about it. I doubt anything was really in the works. But you could see the ACC basically walling off Penn State on the East Coast. The Big Ten didn't want the Nittany Lions -- and the whole league, really -- to get penned in to just the midwest with no room for expanding.
Steve Z (Lafayette, IN)
Kevin Wilson is the longest tenured coach in the Leaders Division - whoa. How crazy is that?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
It's crazy sauce, as Wilson just completed his second year.
People said it might be years 2, 3, 4 that PSU really feels the impact of the sanctions. But after a big recruiting weekend, they are right around a top 25 recruiting class. What does the short-term future look like for PSU right now?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
O'Brien can really sell an NFL development system, and that's important. Here's the thing for the Nittany Lions: they can't afford very many misses in recruiting, with only 15 scholarships to give. Most classes will have a handful of players who do not turn out to be very good for a variety of reasons. Penn State can't afford that if it wants to have any depth at all.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Impact of Tuberville's departure on bowl game is:
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Cloudy. The history of bowl teams playing without their head coach from the regular season is, unfortunately, long and mostly muddled. Sometimes it makes an impact, sometimes it doesn't seem to have any effect. I can't see any way this is a bad thing for Minnesota. The Gophers are big underdogs, so any turmoil on the opponent side is a welcome sight.
Looking at next year, what are Northwestern's chances to win the big ten? Obviously they play in the tough division and it looks like Ohio State will be waiting in indy (maybe wisconsin who knows).
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
The Wildcats will have a great corps of players back. But they do have to play Ohio State and go to Wisconsin in crossover games, and the Legends looks pretty loaded with everyone but Iowa probably improving next year.
FFXLion (Washington D.C.)
Brian, since B1G COY is largely given to a big turn-around or a coach who has overcome the most adversity, who do you think has a better chance at 2013 B1G COY: 1) a 9-3 Kirk Ferentz (Legends Runners-Up) or 2) 8-4 Bill O'Brien (upsets against Wisconsin & Michigan)?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I don't see O'Brien winning it with the same record. Much of his victory was about all the things he handled off the field. That won't be as big an issue next year. An Iowa turnaround like that would have Ferentz well ahead in the race.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, assuming Iowa's '12 campaign was the bottom of the valley, how long until the next peak? From the blog, I've got the sense next season isn't going to be pretty for the Hawkeyes.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Yeah, Iowa needs some more playmakers, especially on offense. Badly. There was some promising news about a juco WR committing this weekend. And sooner or later, running backs there have to stay healthy, right? I could definitely see Iowa getting back to a bowl in 2013, but I have a hard time seeing the Hawkeyes being a legit division contender.
One name not many other than those familiar with Nebraska football know is Braylon Heard, I want to know why we don't use him more often, it is clear that he is the fastest of our stable of backs, and I would not be surprised to see him overtake Abdullah as the primary back next year, your thoughts
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Well, Abdullah was pretty darn good, and Rex Burkhead was there at times, too. Only so many carries to go around. If Heard was better than Abdullah in practice, he would have played more. Should be good competition next year, with Imani Cross bringing something to the table as well. I don't expect the Huskers offense to drop off next year.
Dave (Chillicothe, OH)
Brian, is it true that you and Adam do NOT get votes on the All-Big Ten media team? Not to kiss butt, but as much time as you guys devote the B1G and our annoying questions, they could throw you guys a bone or two!!
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
It is true. We find that odd because we watch every game unlike most writers who only follow their teams. But it is easier to criticize the official teams when we don't vote!
Max (Not in Winnepeg )
Brian, when you had to buy Adam dinner in Indy for losing your weekly picks pool, did he fleece you, did he go full lobster? Or did he show some restrain?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
It doesn't take much to run up the tab at St. Elmo's. Adam got the steak and we split a couple shrimp cocktails. Nothing too extravagant, but my bank account still felt the impact.
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Back to the B1G COY Q & A.... So who gets it in the event Meyer has another undefeated season? How would someone having back to back undefeated seasons get looked over in back to back years. The B1G COY award would be a joke at that point if Meyer were over-looked, again.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
That's a big if, but I would hope Meyer would win it in that case, barring some miraculous performance elsewhere. Too often coach of the year awards go to guys whose teams outperformed expectations, and coaches who have great seasons but were preseason favorites get overlooked. It is very difficult to go undefeated under any circumstances.
Hank (Washington DC)
Do you think Michigan has a chance to upset the Cocks in the Outback Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I do think there's a chance. South Carolina doesn't typically score a lot, so that helps. And while the Gamecocks' D is strong, if Michigan can figure out the right way to use Denard and Devin this month, that offense ought to be able to put up some points.
Hey Brian, Merry Christmas to you and those close to you. Quick question. I was watching film on Jake Rudock and really liked what I saw. Any reason to be optimistic that he could turn into one of the B1G's premier QB's over the next few years? Good arm strength and mobility. Something about starting fresh...but there is definitely the fear of the unknown....but also exciting. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Same to you and yours, Mark. Hate to cop out, but my answer is I don't know. We never saw Rudock in any game action this year, which made little sense to me. He's obviously got some skills but so much more than that goes into being a good quarterback. It's a big fat question mark.
Kevin (Big Red Country)
What are the chances Bo Pelini faces the hot seat next year if he loses against Georgia in the Cap One Bowl especially after the way the school axed off Solich after going 9-3?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I think hot seat is going a bit too far, but there will definitely be some grumbling in Big Red land, or more grumbling, that is. I don't think a lot of people expect Nebraska to win this game, but it can't lay another giant egg. Pelini will have to produce a conference title soon, and if he falls short again next year, it could get very interesting.
Jason (Lewis Center, OH)
Brian, What if Darrel Hazell did NOT take the Kent State job? Is he still coaching at OSU, or do the trustees still go after Meyer to replace Tressel? By the way.....Totally agree he is a fantastic hire.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Interesting question, because he would have very likely been the interim head coach last year. I still think last year's team had far too many issues, on and off the field, to do a whole lot, and there was no way Ohio State was going to ignore the chance at getting Meyer. Hazell also got a huge raise to go to Purdue, so it worked out pretty well for him.
Jim (State College, PA)
Why does the B1G have all of their games on at the same time on Jan.1?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
The league feels like it can "own" the afternoon of New Year's Day and create a buzz. Problem is when they all lose simultaneously like two years ago
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Does MSU lose Bell to the Draft? He is projected early 2nd round and I am not sure another year in the B1G improves his stock any further.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I am convinced he will leave, barring an injury in the bowl game or something. 350 carries in the regular season. An RB has a short shelf life, and he needs to capitalize.
I know there are a million reasons it will never happen but as a Husker fan I would love to see the BIG expand to bring in Oklahoma and Kansas. Talk about a couple of great "brands": OU Football and KU Basketabll. It's Christmas. We can dream, right?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
You can dream, all right, but it's not going to happen. Oklahoma doesn't fit academically, while Kansas doesn't bring a whole lot to the table, especially in football
Montee Ball (NEW YORK CITY)
Hey Brian, I value your imput 110%! Where do you think I will fall in the upcoming NFL draft!?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Ball has to rank as one of the top RBs in the draft. Now, the "Wisconsin effect" may have a negative impact on him, but I think scouts will see how well he ran after contact this year. Hard to pinpoint a draft round since RB has been devalued in the draft, though three did go in the 1st round last year.
Matt (Hazell-Nut, Indiana)
The rumor is Hazell is getting $2 million per year at Purdue. Do you think this will help Purdue get over its rep as being 'cheap'?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
That has been reported, yes. It's a significant step up from Danny Hope's $900k salary and shows a strong commitment. Purdue still needs to prove it will pay for assistants, but that's a great start.
Gut feeling who will be the Head coach of the Badgers next year?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I'm really just speculating, since it's still pretty early in the process. But I remain intrigued by Al Golden.
Jed (North Dakota)
When is the B1G going to tell us about the new divisions after reallignment?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I wouldn't expect anything before the spring. ADs have a lot to decide, including scheduling.
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Do you see Michigan as a better or worse team in 2013? They lose a few key pieces on both sides of the ball, but their young talent is good.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
The emergence of Devin Gardner has changed my outlook for this team in many ways. The big question for me will be the offensive line and how quickly those young guys come along. But the schedule won't be as hard, so I see an improvement in record.
I've heard that Wisconsin declined the option to match Arkansas' salary offer for Bielema to keep him on board. Can you confirm/deny?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
According to everything Alvarez has said, Bielema simply told him he was leaving with no chance to counter offer. I buy that story, because Alvarez is a straight shooter.
Nick (New Mexico)
When will the Big Ten pay the coaches the money they want so they will stop leaving?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Pay for head coaches is not really the issue. Pay for assistant coaches, at some Big Ten schools, is a major concern. The Big Ten supports a lot of sports, but if it truly wants to compete for national titles, it has to look at upgrading those salaries.
Is this the year that Penn State recruiting really takes a hit, as these kids will only have one year to play in a bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Penn State pulled in four verbal commitments this weekend, so O'Brien still appears to be able to get it done on the recruiting trail. As I said earlier, the most important factor is that Penn State just can't afford to be wrong in its choices with only 15 scholarships to offer.
Buckeye Fans (Ubiquitous)
Urban Meyer took the worst OSU team since the 19th century and turned them into an undefeated outfit in year 1. With the roster getting more athletic as we speak, is there any reason to think Urban won't run roughshod over the B1G for years to come?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Only that other Big Ten teams should be getting better, including Michigan. But it is kind of scary to think about.
Dave (Columbus, OH)
Brian, this might seem not popular on this college football blog chat, but I am proud that OSU is the only university in the NCAA that competes in every varsity sport. But most of us know, that will end soon. OSU needed $22 million from the Buckeye Club to come out with $93K in the black under Tressel's last season. Now that we have tripled the assistant coaches' pay, I see Women's Ice Hockey or other sports going away in the future. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
It's certainly a conversation that many Big Ten presidents should have. While I'm all for as many opportunities as possible, what do some of these minor sports really bring to a school? It's an interesting debate. In a perfect world, football coaches' salaries wouldn't be so out of control. But this is the world we have.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, do you think Kirk Ferentz was mindful of low pay for assistants when replacing his OC and DC after the '11 season? And in general with all his assistants?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Hard to say for sure, because Ferentz is pretty married to his system and had never changed coordinators before at Iowa. But he hired an OC who'd been out of football for a year and promoted from within for the DC. I doubt you would have seen an SEC team go those routes.
I recently took a survey on the Big Ten Network website about division realignment. Some questions regarded changing the names of the divisions, one even regarded changing the name of the conference. Realistically, how likely is this?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Name of the conference: Highly, highly unlikely. The brand name has power despite its fuzzy math. Division name changes are more likely, especially if the league goes to a straight geographic split. Let's hope so.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks. Thanks for all the great questions. See you here at the same time next week unless you know something I don't.