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)
The season is back, and so is the Big Ten Monday chat wrap. Game faces, people.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions (and remember, we make the guacamole right here at the table).
doug G (San Antonio)
Brian-a lifelong Badger fan here. I am truly on pins and needles waiting to see who starts at qb. I think I personally give the edge to Stave, but Phillips seems like a solid leader. How do you think this will end up? Thanks for the chat.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
It has been a close competition. Looks like McEvoy is No. 3 at best right now. I'd give a slight edge to Stave. I just think he gives the Badgers a better chance to throw it downfield. But I wouldn't count out Phillips playing some as well. The first two weeks don't provide much of a test for Wisconsin, so they can iron out some kinks
Hawkeye (Iowa City)
Brian, I have a pretty good idea what Iowa's ceiling is this season. But what about rock bottom? Is there a minimum number of games the Hawkeyes absolutely will win?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
That's a pessimistic view, but I'd probably say 3-9 is the low point for Iowa. On the flip side, I can't see much better than 7-5.
GL (B1G Country)
Which B1G team do you predict will come out of the gate the strongest this week?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I've got a good feeling about Northwestern. I know it's a road game and a tricky time change, but Cal has a new coach and a freshman QB. I think the Wildcats turn in an excellent showing.
Chris (Mclean VA)
WHy the big fuss about not naming a starter for PSU. I think it is being hyped up too much. Syracuse isnt naming one either. It is a a good strategic decision to not name one before the opener, why don;t people see it like that
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
It's only the most important position on the field, and we're talking about two players with no experience. Hey, there's a ton of interest in Penn State, so there's naturally curiosity about the QB. I have no problems with Bill O'Brien keeping it a secret, but I don't really see the strategy behind it. Hackenberg and Ferguson have similar skill sets, and there's not much tape on either guy, at least against major competition. Can't see how naming a starter would affect Syracuse's preparation one bit, but it's O'Brien's prerogative.
Andrew (NYC via Philly)
Hey Brian, There's been a lot of hype around the freshman Wilson playing the hybrid position at OSU this year but little about Jordan Hall returning for his 6th year. Is Hall still the projected starter? Do you expect them to split time?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
It looks as if Jordan Hall will start at tailback. With Carlos Hyde out for a few games, he may play more of a natural tailback role than the Percy Harvin position. I could see Wilson moving around more, at least initially. Think there's some reservations about Hall because he hasn't been able to stay on the field of late.
Hey Brian. Is Randy Gregory going to be even half as good as every Nebraska Fan (including myself) hopes? Or are we dreaming that we might have a defensive front that might even be... dare I say, Good?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
He probably can't live up to the hype, which is growing exponentially. But I expect him to be very good as a situational pass rusher, perhaps not so much an every down guy. I could see him getting 8-to-12 sacks in that role. I think the defensive ends will be fine for Nebraska. It's the interior guys I'm worried about, and adequate might be the ceiling for them there.
@HuskerInsanity (Lincoln, NE)
You and Adam going anywhere for Week 1?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I'll be at Penn State-Syracuse. Adam will be monitoring the action from home. We'll also have reporters at Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Andrew (NYC via Philly)
Who dies first; Walt, Jesse or Hank?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Aw yeah, some Breaking Bad. Love it. I'm going to say Jesse. That showdown appears to be coming soon, while I expect Hank to make it to the end. Can't wait to find out.
Brian, big 'cats fan here. What are your thoughts on NU being ranked 22 in most preseason polls? Right where they should be, or are they still struggling to get the respect they deserve? What do they need to accomplish this year to finally jump from underrated status to legitimate B1G contender?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I have them a little higher than that but it's understandable. Clearly, they need to win some of their big games, particularly against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Better pass defense and a more consistent downfield passing game appear to be the two areas that need to improve the most.
Hey Brian, love the chat!Hypothetical question.If Wisconsin goes 11-1 with the only loss being to tOSU and Michigan goes 11-2 while losing back to back to end there year who do you think the Rose Bowl would choose between the Badgers and Wolverines. (Assuming that tOSU is headed to the BCSNCG at 13-0)
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Probably Wisconsin there, just because BCS bowls typically don't like to take teams coming off a loss and definitely not two losses in a row. But there may also be some Badgers fatigue by the Rose Bowl folks (and vice versa).
Gator (Northville, MI) [via mobile]
Hi Brian! Who do you see taking Bell's place as the top rusher this year for MSU?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
It's a great question, as there's a lot of question marks there. Riley Bullough had momentum before he got banged up, and Jeremy Langford has looked good there of late. I've said all along that I think a true freshman will end up as the No. 1 back, so let's take a stab and say Gerald Holmes.
Do you think the lack of scholarships will effect Penn State on a weekly basis or will we not see its effects until later in the year when more players are dinged up?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I think it will be later in the year. Injuries could take their toll, and guys taking more reps will have a cumulative effect. In fact, as I will reveal tomorrow in our official predictions post, I see Penn State getting off to a blazing start and then fading at the end of the year.
Andrew (NYC via Philly)
Hello Brian, I have back to back wedding weekends on 9/28 and 10/5 so I'm in danger of missing both the OSU/Wisc and OSU/NU night games. Any chance I can watch these on my iPhone somehow?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Andrew, you could try the Watch ESPN app on your phone. And get different friends while you're at it. Weddings during football season? C'mon!
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
Brian - Every year I hear from some of the media that we (IU) is tougher, stronger, better than the year before, and yet time and time again we end up with another 4-8, or 5-7 season, and nothing to show for it. What makes this year different from any other year?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I'd say there's much more overall talent and depth than Indiana has had in recent years. And eight home games helps. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me if the Hoosiers went 5-7, because the schedule isn't easy even with those home games. But I think 6-6 is going to happen.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Will the Spartans issues at QB prevent them from beginning a major conference/national contender?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Yes. And the issues at RB and WR. And the O-line.
Phillip (A stadium near you)
Brian, which team has the most important game this weekend and why is that game so important to them?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
This might surprise you, but I say Iowa. The Hawkeyes get a Northern Illinois team that went to the Orange Bowl but that is very beatable at home. Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes really need to reverse the negativity around that program. Winning this one would be a big step toward that, while a loss to a MAC team at home for a second straight year could be demoralizing.
Kris (Ann Arbor)...stuck in East Lansing. Help me god. [via mobi
With the depth of Michigan's linebackers, would you say they potentially could be the best in the B1G? (When Ryan gets back of course) How do they compare with MSU? Answering the latter will directly influence my stress level. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Assuming Ryan is back and 100 percent by midseason, which still seems like a big assumption to me, then yes. I really like James Ross and Michigan arguably has the deepest LB group in the conference when Ryan is there. Michigan State might have the best one in Bullough but Allen didn't repeat his great 2011 and there is some youth behind them.
Who would YOU start at QB if you're Coach D? Who starts Week 1? Who starts by the time the ND / B1G schedule heats up?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I still think Maxwell deserves the Week 1 start. But his leash will be really, really short, and others will play even if he's playing well. You start the guy who has been the most effective in the first three games in South Bend. The first three weeks are kind of like a second training camp in effect.
Many don't realize that even though Wisconsin has a good run going in the series, the MN/WI game usually is tight when played in Minneapolis (and Wisky doesn't have an NFL starting rent-a-QB). Is this the year that Minny finally ends the Wisco streak and reclaims the axe?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
It wouldn't stun me, and Minnesota is making gains. The Gophers have had trouble holding up against the Wisconsin offense but are getting better up front. Jerry Kill badly wants a signature win this year, and I'm guessing this would be the one he wants the most.
Brick (San Diego)
I know Bill O'Brien has said both qbs will see action this year, but I don't see him as a dual qb type of guy. Does the non-starter just get mop up duty?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I'm not sure that's not a smoke screen to keep both guys happy. If the starter plays well -- and I still believe it will be Hackenberg -- I doubt he'll come out much.
Matthew (Hazellnut, IN)
Is Rob Henry the right QB for Purdue right now? Or will we see a youth movement as the seaon goes along?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I think so. For one, by all accounts, he played the best of the three contenders in practice. He's also by far the most veteran guy of the group and the only one with game experience. That's important when you start on the road and play so many big games early. I still wonder a big about his ability to get the ball downfield and think we will see either Etling or Appleby some. But right now, Henry is the clear choice, and it's nice to see him get a chance again.
Calan (Ames, IA)
Out of the following, which team has the potential to disappoint and win seven games (or less) this season: MSU, Northwestern, Michigan, or Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I'd rank Michigan State first among that group because of the offensive concerns. Northwestern second because the Wildcats' schedule is the most difficult of the four.
Northwestern's defense took a big step up last year, but lost some guys in their front 7. Do you see their D being worse, about the same, or better this year?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I think it will be better. I expect the secondary to improve, especially with a healthy VanHoose, and that's a big step. I think the linebackers will be a real strength and the D-line will be just fine.
Brian, As a Husker fan the team that worries me most is Northwestern this year not UM. Am I crazy? I think our defensive scheme is much better designed to stop a pro-style offense than the dual threat stuff NW runs.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Northwestern's offense has given Nebraska a lot of trouble the past two years. Still, I'd worry more about Michigan just because it's in Ann Arbor. Nebraska needs to show it can win a big game on the road in a place like that.
Brian, with the inexperience among OSU's front 7 and playing them early in the year do you think Wisconsin could knock off the Buckeyes?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
You have to like the timing for Wisconsin, as I think Ohio State's defense will improve over the course of the year as it did in 2012. The real key to me, though, is whether the Badgers can keep Ohio State honest with the pass. If they haven't developed weapons outside of Abbrederis by then, the Buckeyes can simply load up for the run.
Charles (Columbus, OH)
Two Big Ten teams travel to Berkeley early in the year. Does either leave Northern California with a troubling loss?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I don't think so. Northwestern is probably more vulnerable than Ohio State, and Sonny Dykes will have that Cal team throwing it all over the place, giving the Bears a puncher's chance. But Cal is rebuilding and these are two of the Big Ten's top teams.
Jon Burstain (Cedar Rapids, IA)
What is the key stat for the Iowa game against Norther Illinois. This is arguably their biggest home opener in a while and a very important game. How can the Hawks go 1-0?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
How about yards per carry? If Iowa can run the ball effectively with Weisman, Bullock, Canzeri, that will open up the play-action and keep Jordan Lynch off the field. Conversely, the Hawkeyes' defense has to keep Lynch from running wild.
Luke (South Bend)
How do you feel Indiana's Linebackers will stack up compared to the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I'd certainly rank the Hoosiers in the bottom part of the conference, because linebacker is a major position of strength in this league and IU has a ways to go.
Mark Dantonio (East Lansing, Michigan )
Hey Brian! I'm here to announce my starting QB this year will be Adam Rittenberg. Your thoughts? He can't be worse than Maxwell was last year, can he?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
So you'll be running the ball every down, then?
Sandra Bullock (Actress and Michigan Fan)
Brady Hoke's celerity in picking up elite recruit commitments has Michigan's 2014 class nearly complete and its 2015 class nearly half full. What affect will Michigan's 2013 record have on maintaining commitment from these recruits? What is the worst record Michigan can finish with without seeing decommitments from the likes of Jabrill Peppers and George Campbell?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
It shouldn't have too much of an adverse effect. I can't see Michigan finishing worse than 7-5, and even that seems like a stretch against a schedule that isn't terribly taxing at times. I think the recruits believe in the future there and understand the type of blue-chippers in the pipeline.
Football is finally here! So is the weekly chat!! Happy times are ahead! Anyways. out of the two DE's for Ohio State, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, who leads the way in sacks for the year?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Spence, though Washington might have the better overall year. Spence is a little quicker off the line of scrimmage, while Washington could be a better all-around player.
Brian, I agree with you that Hackenberg will eventually get the nod. Do you think that O'Brien may be delaying the decision in order to avoid harming Ferguson's confidence? It may have been demoralizing to Ferguson if O'Brien had made the decision earlier (i.e., immediately choosing someone who had just started practicing over someone who has months more experience with the system)
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
It's a distinct possibility. Also remember that there's very little depth at the position, so O'Brien would not want Ferguson to get discouraged and decide to transfer. Or it could just be that it's too close to call.
Just read the espn bowl predictions which had Michigan going to a BCS game (Rose or Orange), your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
We'll have our official predictions tomorrow, and I think you'll see some agreement from me on that front.
Not hearing a ton of Heisman hype coming out of the B1G. Who are the conference's best candidates?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Really? I've seen a lot of places where Braxton Miller is either No. 1 or No. 2 in the early straw polls. I'd put Taylor Martinez, Devin Gardner and Venric Mark on there as darkhorses. Not that early Heisman hype really means much, as nobody knew anything about Manziel this time last year.
Adam Rittenberg (Chicago, IL)
BB I used to tear it up on the gridiron back in the day. I also could take you on the field any day of the week!
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I know this isn't really Adam, because neither of those things are true. And he'd be the first to admit it.
Michael (Rogers, AR)
I know everyone put an asterisk by their Nebraska predictions with a we'll see with the young defence. But doesn't Ohio State have just as young of a defence. Are they just giving credit to recuiting saying they'll just plug in the next guy. Is Ohio State more beatable then most people think?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I'll agree with your last question that Ohio State is beatable. The Buckeyes escaped several close games last year. But in the OSU vs. Nebraska defense debate, it's not that close. Ohio State has an All-American type player at linebacker in Ryan Shazier and three experienced, proven players in the secondary, led by All-American Bradley Roby. The Buckeyes also have two top-notch recruits in Spence and Washington who played last year. Nebraska can't match that.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think Curtis Grant will step up this year and finally live up to the enormous hype that came his way when he arrived in Columbus?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
He really needs to for the Buckeyes to solidify that position. It's worrisome that he's had to deal with a concussion this month. By all accounts he's had a good offseason. Let's hope he's healthy enough to begin to live up to that promise.
Jason (Saginaw, Mi)
Looking at the legends division...is it fair to say between the 3 expected contenders whoever can stay healthy has the best shot at the division? I don't see any seperation between the 4 and it seems like injuries could play a big part in that race.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Injuries is a big factor, particularly at QB. We saw last year that Denard Robinson's untimely injury might have decided the Legends. If either Gardner or Martinez miss significant time, it could mean a similar effect.
Hawkeye (Iowa City)
Brian, how are you feeling about Albert Pujols these days? Fond memories? Glad he and StL parted ways when they did?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I'll always have a soft spot for Albert but could not be any happier that he's not in St. Louis. The Angels still owe him more than $200 million for eight more years. Sheesh.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Didn't see a question in there, but OK. I'm not going to judge Brady Hoke too much based on his first two years since he was trying to rebuild from the RichRod era. The one thing I'd like to see from Hoke, however, is more big road wins. Michigan has been great at home but not so great on the road (Nebraska, Ohio State last year, for example) away from the Big House.
Spartan Guy (East Lansing)
I'm a little worried about the difficulty of this year's schedule. I fee like the B1G always screws us every year. Any chance it keeps us out of the Rose Bowl, again?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Really? This looks like the easiest schedule Michigan State has had in a few years. Outside of the Notre Dame road game, the Spartans should be favored in six of their first seven games. They get Michigan at home. Nebraska on the road is tough, but Northwestern is not a real challenging road atmosphere. No Wisconsin or Ohio State. The schedule will not be what holds MSU back this year.
so you guys seriously don't think carlos hyde is a top 25 guy in the big ten? why not?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
He was suspended indefinitely and not a member of the team when we put our list together. We couldn't put him on there because of that. Once he was reinstated, we were already in the middle of our countdown. Hyde would have been a top 12-15 player had the suspension not affected our list.
Ron (Jacskonville, NC)
Brian, Do you think Iowa will play more than one QB this week?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I do not, barring injury or a wildly ineffective showing by Rudock. Or an Iowa blowout, which seems unlikely.
Which team do you think has the better chance of going 7-5 - MN or IND?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Minnesota. Easier nonconference schedule, and Gophers are coming off a 6-6 campaign, compared to 4-8 for IU.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, my time is up. Solid Week 1 showing for you guys. Enjoy the first weekend of college football in 2013!