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 to talk about Big Ten bowl season, coaching moves, last night's Homeland finale or whatever else is on your mind.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions.
Ken (Columbus OH)
Brian, with the suspensions coming down on Michigan, do you think that they will be attacked at the corner position by South Carolina and need to score a lot of points (I don't know what SC's pass attack is like), or do they have enough depth to cover and should we not be that worried?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
South Carolina is pretty mediocre in the passing game, ranking 65th nationally. I would expect the Gamecocks to attack any new starter on defense, and Courtney Avery is going to have to raise his level of play. We could also see more nickel coverages. The bigger battles are going to be at the line of scrimmage, though.
Scott W. (Philadelphia)
Hey Brian. What are your thoughts on Barry Alvarez's involvement with the football team? I don't think it helps the perception that the following coaches will always be coaching under his shadow.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Under the circumstances, it was the best possible solution for the Rose Bowl. And from talking to some players this weekend, they're extremely excited about the chance to play for him. That shadow issue is a real one. But Alvarez also has set the program up to succeed, so that's more important in my view.
Bielema says pay for assistants was a big issue, but with his big new budget he seems to be hiring the same guys he was able to hire at UW. Seems like the issue is somewhat overstated and that he's just overpaying the same guys. Thoughts? Does the SEC just overpay the same talent because it can?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
It's more about retention. Remember that five assistants left last year for non-head coaching jobs. Bielema said other schools were offering his assistants much higher pay after the Big Ten title game.
who is barry got left to interview any names? who is the front runner is it tucker?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
From what we can piece together from news reports and what we're hearing, it looks like Mel Tucker and Joe Rudolph are the top two candidates. There could be a name out there we're not aware of, but those seem to be the most mentioned right now.
What are the odds OSU's schedule next year/B1G hurts the Bucks' chances of making the title game (assuming they win out, that is)?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
That's an awfully big assumption, because it's extremely hard to go 12-0, much less win 24 straight. But, yes, it could be a detriment. If there are other undefeated teams, Ohio State's strength of schedule will definitely be used against it. The Buckeyes will have to hope the Big Ten as a whole is stronger.
Does Dantonio end up working his magic and holding onto Le'Veon for another year? Seems like it might be possible since launching the Heisman potential campaign and promoting the team aspect.
Good morning Bennett.... What can you tell us about Penn State's new JUCO transfer Tyler Furguson? this kid looks like he could do wonders with B.O.B as his coach..
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Morning? What time zone are you in, sir? I'm not going to claim to have watched any junior college football. I have seen a clip or two on Ferguson, and he's a tall, rangy kid who looks like he has a good arm. Who knows? If nothing else, he gives Penn State some badly needed depth.
How about we divvy up the new divisions by color? We have the Red division: Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maryland, Rutgers, and Minnesota (counting maroon as a shade of red) vs. the other seven teams in the Unred division.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Uh, sure. I'll pass that along to the league office
Are the B1G Bowl contracts being renegotiated soon? I like the fact that we 'own' New Year's Day, but I can't watch 4 games at once!
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
They expire after next season, so you'll see some major changes in the lineup for 2014, when the playoff starts and there are (at least) two new teams in the Big Ten. I think the league needs to get out of the Gator Bowl and out of at least one of the Texas games.
What does Purdue have to do to beat the Cowboys?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
It's a tall order, but the Boilermakers' defensive line has to be dominant. They're healthy there now, and Kawann Short has to disrupt the heck out of Okie State's offense. And Purdue has to be efficient on offense itself while limiting mistakes. There's a chance Oklahoma State overlooks this game.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Devin Gardner challenge Braxton Miller for all conference honors next year?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
He's certainly got the talent to do it. Problem is, Gardner will need a young O-line to protect him and to find some receivers, not to mention some help from a dormant running game. Oh, and don't forget Taylor Martinez will be a senior.
Illinois has been in a tailspin since about...September. What do you think the chances are Aaron Bailey actual makes it to Illinois? Seems like chances would be high he ends up somewhere else.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I can't read the kid's mind but he's clearly aware of the issues. Playing time won't be a problem. We'll have to wait and see, but Tim Beckman must do his best to hold onto his top recruit.
Kevin (Mahwah, NJ)
Brian, I miss you from your Big East days! There seems to be a lot of doubt about Rutgers ability to compete in the Big 10. While clearly the pedigree is not there compared to most Big 10 programs, if one were to look at recent history and more importantly recruiting base, is it not unreasonable to say that Rutgers can reasonably compete every year with all the teams save perhaps Michigan and Ohio State?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Hello, Kevin. Won't be long until we're all reunited. I think Rutgers still needs to build better depth to compete long term in the Big Ten, but the Scarlet Knights could play with most of the league teams right now. They're not at Big Ten championship level yet but could be an annual bowl team, just as they are now. And they've shown an ability to attract top recruits from their area. Going to the Big Ten should only help them in that regard.
I'm confused by somewhat conflicting reports, is Alvarez considering sticking around for a year to mentor an assistant ala 2005, or is coaching another year off the table?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Alvarez said yesterday that he didn't want to coach full time. I guess the question lies in whether he wants to bring someone in like Rudolph who's still relatively unseasoned for a head coach at a major program, and whether he feels like a coach-in-waiting deal would work. I doubt it but certainly wouldn't rule it out at this point.
Brian, the silly season is amongst us. Where coaches are leaving and teams are changing conferences. I am making a pitch to the Big Ten to make a BIG time add. After adding Maryland and Rutgers the Big Ten can't afford to water the conference down with questionable football teams like BC or UVA. While their academics are on par this has always been about what brings in money.... What would bring in money? How about Florida State and Georgia Tech. Corning the Atlanta market not to mention parts of Florida, Bama etc... would be huge for the Big Ten in regards to recruiting and exposure to new football loving markets. Rumor has it FSU is working towards AAU status. If this happens an invite would make a lot of sense. And honestly even without it, they still are a quality educational institution.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I agree with you that the Big Ten should -- and by all accounts will -- look south for expansion. That's where the population is going and where the talent is. Georgia Tech is a real possibility. I love the idea of Florida State, but the league has shown its desire to have standing AAU members only. Maybe if FSU somehow achieves that soon it becomes possible. But if not, the 'Noles are probably off the table. North Carolina seems like it would be a main target
Mike Thomas (Champaign)
I know Penn State thinks poorly of Tim Beckman. But outside of them can you speak to what you have heard other Big Ten coaches and writers say about him? Does it lean one way or the other if people think he has the ability to coach in the Big Ten? Obviously the fans are pretty skeptical of his ability, but what about other people who follow the conference saying?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I know there were other coaches who thought Beckman's recruiting tactics at Penn State were bush league. But I haven't heard anyone denigrate him as a coach. Urban Meyer had nothing but praise for his former colleague. I think coaches recognize that Illinois had some major depth and talent issues.
Is Chris Petersen completely out of the picture for Wisconsin? I keep waiting for their bowl game to be over this Sat, then on Sunday hoping to hear about the planned interview. Petersen being Barry's "one more interview".
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Sorry, just don't see it. Petersen has shown zero interest in leaving Boise.
I hear a lot about Brady Hoke getting HIS players in. Exactly what is the difference between a high school player RichRod recruited as opposed to a high school player Brady Hoke is recruiting?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Well, clearly, the two coaches have much different philosophies on style of play. Hoke needed to restock the lines, especially on the O-line, with bigger bodies instead of guys suited for the spread.
Brian Huge fan of you and Adam. Thanks for keeping us informed on the haps in the B1G. I can see a repeat of nebraska as legends champs, but not a rematch with Wisconsin due to recent happenings, Almost have to pencil in nebraska vs OSu in the CCG for next year don't we?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Yes, both teams will clearly be division favorites in 2013. Ohio State will be an overwhelming favorite due to what's happened to Wisconsin and the continued probation at Penn State. Nebraska will have much more competition with Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern, and even Minnesota should be better.
Bruce (Columbus, Georgia)
Wouldn't taking Georgia Tech be a detriment to the Big 10 in the long term? Yes, they'd capture a big TV outlet, but forcing teams to prepare for an option offense once a year then moving on would probably cause many upsets in the league. Playing Georgia Tech has already had that affect on the teams they play.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Well, you don't add programs based on their current style of play. Who's to say Paul Johnson would still be the head coach in 2014? The bigger issue to me would be that Georgia Tech isn't even the most popular school in its own city.
Sparty (Visions of Sugarplums)
I went to the mall, waited in line, sat on Santa's lap, and was extra good this year. The only thing I asked for was a capable offense next year. What am I more likely to unwrap under the tree: Wide receivers/QB who matured overnight? A new Offensive Coordinator? A returning Le'Veon Bell? I shook the box to get a hint, but the only thing I figured out is that it isn't Legos...
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I'd be happy with Legos. Especially the Star Wars ones. Anyway, I think the most realistic option is that Andrew Maxwell matures, the wide receivers get better and the offensive line gets healthy and performs better. I don't see Dantonio changing OCs, and I believe Bell will go pro. But that passing game is bound to get better.
If Dave Doeren waited another week, would he be the coach of Wisconsin right now hands down?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Quite possibly. And if Paul Chryst didn't just complete his first year at Pitt, he might be the guy. Some unfortunate timing for Wisconsin.
Buck (Lincoln, NE)
I'm drawing a blank on who the other team in Atlanta is?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
You'll see plenty of them on New Year's Day
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
Hi Brian, can you really say Nebraska is a clear division favorite next year when they lose most of their already awful defense?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
They bring back almost the entire offense, and it has a chance to be devastatingly good. True, the defense loses a lot of seniors, but adding some faster young players might be a good thing. Schedule is also an advantage.
With NC being Delany's "white whale", what are the realistic chances that they would join the B1G? Basically the ACC would have to dissolve for this to happen, right?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I have my doubts. North Carolina basically is the ACC, and what UNC AD/president could sell leaving that league, especially if the Heels had to leave Duke behind? But if the money becomes too big to ignore, anything's possible.
Matt McGloin (State College)
Besides me, who do you think is going to be the highest drafted player from the Big Ten? And who do you think is going to have the biggest immediate impact in the league.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Big fan of yours, Matt, but I think you can safely do some other things on the first couple days of the draft. My Big Ten first rounders at this point are Hankins, Lewan and Short, in that order.
Buck (Lincoln, NE)
UGA is in athens
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I said Georgia Tech isn't the most popular school in its own city. Way more 'Dawgs fans in Atlanta than Jackets fans.
Nathan (Chicago) [via mobile]
How do you see Illinois finishing next year with all of the JUCO players and early enrollees? Above or below 4 wins?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
There's got to be some improvement. Juco guys don't always pan out, but they should add some depth if nothing else. Problem is Illinois has to play Cincy and Washington next year, neither of which will be easy. 4-8 might be about right.
Robby (Toledo, Ohio)
Hey Brian, really enjoy reading the bowl season analysis. Do you think some of the reasons for all the bowl losses comes down to the mentality/philosophy of the team? It seems as though B1G teams seem to play 'not to lose' instead of 'play to win' and are coached to 'not make mistakes'. Obviously that is a very important part of the game, but do you believe this leads to indecisiveness on the field? Most especially in the passing game and taking chances on routes down the field. It seems our opponents, most notably the SEC teams, play a lot less uptight in bowl games which leads to a more mistake free football game for them and bowl game wins.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
No, I don't really see that. Many Big Ten teams play a conservative style. I think playing basically road games against strong teams from power leagues is the bigger issue. The bowl lineup is very challenging and is more so this year because two of the league's best teams are on probation.
Atlanta is a UGA town first and foremost, but every SEC school has huge alumni numbers here. Think of Chicago in the Big. Grads in the SEC come here to work.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Yep. I used to live in Georgia. Atlanta has tons of transplants. Big Ten would be betting on itself there much like it is with Rutgers and Maryland. Just saying Georgia Tech itself doesn't bring a huge fan base and is a team that plays second fiddle (at best) in its own city among college sports fans.
Brian, a lot of people have been talking about where the Buckeyes would have been had they not been on probation, but I have to wonder if they would have gone undefeated with all the pressure that comes with being a top team. They were pretty much under the radar nationally, except for people gushing about Urban Meyer/Braxton Miller. I think it made it easier to go undefeated than it would have if they were in the national title hunt.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
There's certainly something to that, as Ohio State didn't have the pressure that other teams did. But there was still pressure to stay undefeated every week. Would it have made much difference? Tell me what team Ohio State would have lost to if it were ineligible. Maybe it gets much tighter at the end of the Purdue game. We'll never really know.
Love the blog, now that Urban and Brady are settling in, top recruiting classes in both and OSU punishments soon over, would you agree that the rest of the conference is second tier? Nebraska and Pelini are not sustainable, Dantonio is crying right now because he had a good team and lost everytime at home... I just do not see how this conference could entertain anyone but UM and OSU in 3 years....thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Well, I'd like to see Michigan actually, you know, win a division title before I declare the Wolverines as the Legends uber-power. I agree with you to a large extent about Ohio State. But let's see what happens with Wisconsin's hire. Urban Meyer has to be loving this, however.
SEC fans in Atlanta... Your telling me the casual SEC football fan wouldn't be interested in seeing Ohio State come to Atlanta. Would be great for GT for attendance purposes.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Well, sure. What about when Illinois or Purdue comes to town?
I need you to answer 1 more question for a PR... Will STL watch Wainwright walk like they did Albert or will they spend the money this time?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Now there's a question! I think the Cardinals will lock up Wainwright, but the contracts being handed out to true No. 1 starters are frightening.
Waffles (Southern California)
Hi Brian, great bowl game. Would Utah State be favored against say Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan State had they played USU in a bowl? They certainly gave my badgers a scare earlier in the season.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Utah State is a really good team. Funny how people were up in arms about how Wisconsin played against Oregon State and Utah State, and then we find out both are legit Top 25 clubs. Anyway, I think USU would be a favorite against Minnesota and Purdue. Might be a pick 'em with the Spartans.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Are you in agreement with Hageman's decision to stay with the Gophers in 2013?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Yes. He's really only had one year of major impact. He could use some more seasoning and learn how to get better against the run. Could have a really big senior year and improve his stock. Already has NFL frame.
Tony T (Renovo, PA)
Brian, I heard that teams can play a 13th reg season game if they play at Hawaii? Would it be possible for PSU to schedule a future 13th game, say the last games of the season at Hawaii for a possible bowl like atmosphere for players?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Yes, and Bill O'Brien has talked about the possibility of doing just that.
Which team's victory in a bowl game is more important to save the season: MSU or Michigan? Michigan State needs a solid victory to give ourselves something to build on for next season. Michigan needs a victory because they do not have a single victory over any of the current top 25 schools and, in my mind because of this, do not belong in the top 25. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I'll say Michigan. As you mentioned, Michigan has failed in four big games, and a fifth one would really seal this as a disappointing year. Beating an SEC power in a bowl would do a lot to change the narrative, while I think Michigan State's season is a disappointment no matter what.
Jeremy (Lincoln, NE)
I'm usually not interested in recruiting stars, but my Huskers seem to have an obvious talent deficiency in the front 7. Aside from our location, what seems to be the biggest obstacle in bringing in the best recruits? UNL is too appealing of a school for mediocrity! GBR!
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I agree, especially up front on the D-line where Nebraska hasn't had a true stud in a couple of years. I don't think it's all recruiting stars. Look at Hankins and Short, two potential first-round D-tackles who weren't all-world out of high school. It's evaluation, too. Great defensive linemen might be the hardest thing to find, and Nebraska has to recruit far out its area. But I agree that Pelini and his staff have to a better job of finding and developing those guys.
I don't see how a 13-0 Buckeyes team could possibly get left out of the NCG next year regardless of their schedule. They will be a top 5 team in the preseason and the no bowl bias will be gone so they won't have a steep ladder to climb to the top. Additionally, how could you deny the momentum of what is effectively a 25-0 team?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Probably not, but if Alabama and, say, Oregon are also 13-0, the nonconference schedule argument could haunt the Buckeyes.
The bowl matchups are not in favor of the Big. Is an 0-fer possible?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Unfortunately, that's a very real possibility. I think the league will salvage a couple of wins, but every single Big Ten team is an underdog.
SEC (Power Conference)
Can you really classify South Carolina as an SEC power? Middle to upper tier program at best. Florida, LSU, Bama, A&M. I'll give them credit for handily beating Georgia but they lost to UF and LSU and didn't play Bama or A
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
This year, yes.
Why can't Iowa seem to keep any RB's? Is it the system, Iowa City, or are the coaches targeting the wrong kids?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I think it's just an extraordinary run of bad luck more than anything. A few of the kids got into trouble, others got hurt. But it is very strange
MarQueis Gray (Dinkytown)
WE gonna win now that we're healthy and Texas Tech lost its HC and O--coordinator?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Only if the offense has greatly improved upon the way it was playing in the final couple of weeks. Still going to be tough to keep up with that Red Raiders offense.
Mark (Madison, WI)
BB,Everyone is telling me not to panic!!! Here is why I am freaking out. Lossing 5 great assistant coaches/cor., having our recruits being spoken to by other Big Ten schools looking to score big, other coaches we should be going after (we respect to much) and we don't get them. I am at a loss for words and reason right now. Do we have any idea who the front runner is for our HC? Should I be freaking out? CALM MY SPIRTS MAN!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Let's wait and see who Alvarez picks. Lots of previous coaching searches have looked bad early on but ended up with the school getting the right guy. Hang in there a few more days. I think we'll know something by the end of this week.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. No chat next week because of Christmas eve. But we'll catch up again here soon. Enjoy your holiday seasons.