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. So much to talk about, so let's get to it. Fire away with your best questions.
Brian, how can the Huskers look so good the first half and so bad the second? Why does this keep happening? Poor recruiting? Can't handle adversity? This starting the game OK but getting blown out in big games is getting to be a pattern.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
It's an excellent question. It really makes you wonder whether Pelini and his staff are making proper adjustments or if their schemes are easy to make adjustments for. Pelini talked today about his players being tight and not having fun and blamed himself for instilling that culture. Something's got to change, that's for sure.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
Not much twitter love from you guys during Iowa vs Iowa State on Saturday. Feels like this is a team that can continue to improve this season and is worthy of a tad bit more attention on game days. Also think they should be a spot or 2 better in the power rankings this week.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Mark, I'll be perfectly honest. I couldn't get FoxSports1 in my hotel room, Adam was at Illinois-Washington and couldn't access a live stream and the person we thought would be tweeting it for us had some logistical problems. So we didn't get to see much of it live, though from what I have seen since I thought Iowa physically dominated that game and should have won by two or three touchdowns. Like the improvement and am really interested to see if Iowa can keep it up in B1G play
Lost in the chaos that was the ending to Saturday's Badger game was another sound performance from Melvin Gordon. In my mind, he's not only the clear number 1 back, but also Wisconsin's biggest playmaker and should be the focal point of the offense. What else does he need to do to make his case to the coaching staff?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Gordon was outstanding and continues to average over 10 yards per carry. What's holding him back is his pass protection. He missed a key block earlier in the game, and down the stretch when Wisconsin needed to throw, the coaches had a lot more confidence in James White. That's usually the last thing to come for young backs, and he'll keep working on it, I'm sure.
Alvin (Ann Arbor) [via mobile]
After this past week, a ton of my michigan state friends comment on how they now have a better team than michigan. Do you agree with this? I still think michigan is a superior team because of what they showed they could do against notre dame, but I do have to say that state did look better this past saturday (although thats not saying much after the way michigan played)
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
That's quite a leap after playing Youngstown State. I don't think there's a ton of separation between the two teams, though their strengths are very different. It will be settled in November.
Can Kenny Guiton just finish out the season? I'm all right with Braxton playing back-up.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Well, come on now. Braxton Miller at full health is one of the most devastating offensive forces in the game. Kenny Football has been great, and maybe there are packages where he can come in for passing downs. But you play Braxton when he's ready.
I don't watch a bunch of Nebraska football, but to me it looked like Mora, a former NFL coach, made adjustments at halftime and Nebraska had no answer. If this is a recurring problem at Nebraska, Bo has to go. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
The biggest adjustment Nebraska made was to stop tackling. UCLA clearly figured out the game plan and overcame a sluggish start, brought on by the emotions of a teammate's tragic death. The Huskers' biggest problem under Pelini is once adversity strikes in a big game, they can't stop it from snowballing.
Parker Lewis (Not Ferris Bueller)
I attended the near-cataclysmic Akron game in Ann Arbor this weekend. Not only did the players not show up, but neither did half of the student section, along with many other fans, and the silence was deafening...I was yelled at for cheering on Michigan's defense and told to sit down. Are the die-hard Michigan fans, and similar fans of other B1G programs, being kept away by high-ticket prices, or is today's common fan becoming indifferent and dispassionate?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
The fact is we have tons of entertainment options and high-def TVs at home that make it way more comfortable and affordable to watch a game. And teams like Akron don't move the needle. Make no mistake, part of the Big Ten's scheduling upgrade is also aimed at keeping fans interested.
Samuel (Iowa City)
Brian, we hear all about Jerry Kill seizing during games. Do we know if this happens during practices at all? The negative comments surrounding this issue seem far too hasty unless there are more instances beyond games.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Samuel, I haven't heard of instances in practice. If Kill had to be taken to the hospital because of a practice incident, that information would get out. The stress of games appears to be a contributing factor, though we're not doctors and we don't want to presume too much. But not getting through a game as a head coach is a big, big deal, and Kill recognizes that.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Biggest concern for Michigan, the defense or Gardner's turnovers?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Both are concerns, but I think Gardner will get better at it. He's only eight starts in, so he's going to learn, and other than his admittedly disastrous pick against ND in the end zone, he did a pretty good job with ball security in the most important game. The defense is a bigger issue right now, and that D-line must get better. A Jake Ryan return would help, and I still have faith in Mattison and Hoke to fix things there.
BTN Sitcom, Starring Jim Delany (It'd be like 30 Rock, but set a
After this weekend, where does the B1G stand in relation to the other major conferences?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'd put it behind the SEC, the Pac-12, and incredibly, the ACC, at least as far as the cream of the crop teams. The Big 12 hasn't been very impressive thus far, so the Big Ten seems about even there.
NC Lion (Charlotte)
Do you think PSU's defensive effort against UCF has a hiccup? I can't remember when I last saw a Penn State unit give up 500+ yards of total offense.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
For sure. Blake Bortles is a good QB, but that Penn State D could not get a stop and it was shocking to see. The Lions have some personnel and depth issues, particularly in the back seven
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Hi Brian, I'm not playing the no respect card, I'm just trying to understand your reasoning. How can anyone justify dropping Bucky in the rankings after that "loss". They dropped 8 spots in USA today poll and in the Big Ten Power Rankings they dropped a couple spots as well. Yes, they lost technically, but I think they also performed better than you and Adam predicted prior to the game and the ability to win the game was taken from them.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
It's hard to rank a team ahead of one that just beat it, even if we know that it was under really bad circumstances. Wisconsin still has some issues, particularly in its secondary and in a mediocre passing game. I think I only dropped them one or two spots overall.
Joe (bronx NY)
Help settle an argument with my brother. I think the atmosphere at a noon game against Akron was nowhere in the same universe as the night game against Notre Dame. The players were flat, the coaches were flat, and the fans were flat. I think the Michigan players exhaled and overlooked the Zips. I think they learned their lesson and it won't happen again. My brother thinks there were real issues exposed and the Wolverines may still be a year or two away. Which side do you lean to?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I lean toward you, Joe. I know some are ready to panic, but I saw that as a classic letdown game and a blip on the schedule. I could be wrong, but I think Michigan is much better than it looked. National title contender? Probably not, but this is still the Legends favorite in my mind. Now, if the Wolverines struggle in Hartford on Saturday ...
More heartbreaking ending in the desert: Walt losing everything in ABQ or Andersen in Tempe?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Let's be clear: Nothing is as bleak as what happened on Breaking Bad last night. By beard of Zeus!
Badger fan, Cardinals fan. Why did you have to bring up Denkinger. I was having a hard enough time getting over Saturday and now 1985 is in my head again.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Well, at least it distracted you. I've literally made a scene several places when that name has come up. Oh, the humanity.
Don't you think you should make sure you get all the channels you need to cover the games when you are on the road? Seems pretty lame that you as the Big Ten blogger had to miss a key game.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
OK, Kevin, how would you suggest I pull that off? Do you want to contact all the hotels in Big Ten country for me to make sure they have every channel? Also, there were three other games on at the same time. Can't be everywhere. Stuff happens, my man.
Weisman is great at pounding the opposition. 30+ carries a game seems too much. Do you think they need to give someone with more speed at chance of taking one to the house.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
He's got 85 carries in three games, and while Weisman is a hoss, that's an unsustainable pace. But I love how he helps give that entire offense an identity.
Ross-Ade was rocking on Saturday night. When the Boilers are good the atmosphere is as good as any in the conference. Agree or disagree?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I don't know about that, but I haven't experienced that kind of crowd there and there are lots of special (and bigger) atmospheres in the B1G. That said, Purdue fans brought it and the team came out breathing fire. Impressive considering how poorly the Boilers played the first two weeks. They get up for ND, no doubt, but if they can maintain that effort and intensity, I think they'll have a good shot against Northern Illinois and some of the lower-tier Big Ten teams, maybe even spring an upset or two.
Brian, as far as Minnesota on the field is concerned, I'd like to see Maxx Williams be used more in the passing game. He looks like their best threat down the field and is a future NFL player in my opinion. Something has to spark that passing game.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Yes, he has played very well and I think Minnesota has used him pretty well. The Gophers still need someone who can really stretch the field at WR, though.
What are your thoughts on the comments Tommie Frazier made Saturday night?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
A frustrated former player, and he certainly has an argument there. I'm never thrilled about calling for mass firings, especially two games into the season. But Frazier can express whatever opinion he wants. Pelini should have sidestepped that question better today. He almost did, but all anyone is going to focus on is "We don't need him." Not a good time for that.
Justin (Chicago, IL)
Is Nate Sudfeld the best pure passer in the Conference?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
He might be. He's got a big arm, and that scheme is very quarterback-friendly. He's still young and makes mistakes, but he's putting up some great numbers.
Who should feel better about Saturday's performance, Purdue or IU?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Hmmm....both should feel good to a certain amount, but I'll say the Hoosiers. Reasoning: Indiana blasted a good BG team and played well on defense. It can say that the Navy game was an aberration based on style of play. Meanwhile, Purdue played well and still lost, and it has played Notre Dame tough before without a whole lot to show for it.
The Fresh Blintz (of Lawn Chair)
Who is in the lead in the "Chicago's team" standings this year? I say Northwestern, so far...
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Yes, though Illinois got a nice little buzz for the Soldier Field game. Not a lot of Wildcats questions today so far.
Hey, Brian- here's hoping things are going better for you than they went for the B10 on Saturday. While this is a small complaint, in the weekly rankings, you and Adam dropped Illinois to 10th after losing by 10 (in a game where they certainly had their chances) to a very good team in Washington in a semi-home game in Chicago. That seems a bit harsh considering the level of competition they played and that they blew out Cincy the week before, especially based on how some of the other B10 teams have performed thus far, doesn't it? I realize Illinois was supposed to be the doormat this year and nobody, including (and especially) their fans didn't give them much of a chance of winning even a single conference game this year. But thus far, they've looked pretty good, wouldn't you say? If they win their winnable game against Miami of Ohio next week, do you think they break their conference winless streak and go bowling?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Things are pretty jumbled after the top few teams, so I wouldn't worry too much about it yet. Illinois showed good fight but was a little overmatched against a good Washington team. The good news is, I expect the Illini to win this week and be 3-1. A bowl game is not out of the question.
Concerned Michigan Fan (Ann Arbor)
Why are we your favorites in the Legends' division?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Highly favorable schedule, still a lot of talent. I think the first two games were a more accurate reflection of Michigan than last week's showing.
have you seen my stapler (myoffice)
Would MSU move up to #2 in your power rankings if they beat ND at ND? Seems like that would be the top nonconf win of the B1G and they do still hold by far the best D in the conference.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Depends on what others do. What I'd need to see from Michigan State to even consider that would be a strong offensive performance. Revving things up against Youngstown State is fine, but Notre Dame is a different story. Irish defense hasn't been as strong as expected early on, so Spartans need to take advantage.
Should we Buckeye fans be concerned that the defense still doesn't seem to tackle well?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
It's still an issue. I've thought all along that the defense would take time to gel. It had better do before Sept. 28.
Gorgeous (Al Borges)
Do you think the Michigan fan who paid to have "GO BLUE" written in the sky over Spartan Stadium is regretting his decision after Michigan's performance on Saturday? Spartan D gonna eat Gardner alive.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
My working theory is that was actually Gob Bluth trying to spell out his own name, and he messed up. That was a weird site. Think Michigan fans were overlooking Akron a bit?
George (Allentown, PA)
After Iowa's upset of Iowa St.; can Iowa make a lower tier bowl bas on their schedule?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
That was the game the Hawks had to have, and they should be 3-1 after this week if they can avoid another MAC meltdown. Very winnable games against Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue left. The rest are extremely tough. Not much room for error.
The Tim Burden (The great city Cape Canaveral in the great state
What would it take for Tosu to get the recognition it in my mind deserves in the polls?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Beating someone of note, and giving up fewer than 30 points in the process, would help.
Big 10 fan (SEC country)
This year's Big 10 is not as bad as last year? I've been reading that in different pundits' blogs. For the record, I am a Husker alum for 50 yrs+ & have seen atrocious results off
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think the Big Ten is clearly better than last year, though not by leaps and bounds. There were a lot of struggling teams a year ago, and right now, I don't think there is one really bad club. Ohio State and Northwestern are playing great, and Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin all look tough. So, yes, it's better than 2012, but needs to be better than this going forward.
lots of talk about whether refs should be able to review the penalty part of the targeting call, and not just whether someone deserves ejection... if that change was ever made, do you think it opend up the idea of reviewing other penalties? seems like they should either be reviewable or not, special rules could add confusion... thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Well, it's really dumb to rule upon review that there was no targeting but keep the penalty. We shouldn't start reviewing a whole bunch of penalties, though. There are already too many reviews. How about just getting more competent officials?
Bob Marley (Cary NC)
Wow. We really aren't as good top-to-bottom as the PAC12. What has happened over the last 5 years? How do we fix it?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
It's a great question. Pac-12 is much better right now overall, though just a few years ago it was extremely top heavy. You can blame population shifts, recruiting and some coaching turnover for some of it. And I think the Pac-12 has hired great and creative coaches, while some of the Big Ten remains way too conservative in its playcalling.
Bennett, What's your top 5 Heisman vote looking like right now? Please tell me the King of SWAG aka Johnny Football is still in it...
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
This is how I voted this week for ESPN.com's Heisman Watch: 1. Tajh Boyd2. Marcus Mariota3. Johnny Manziel4. Teddy Bridgewater5. A.J. McCarron
What did you like the most about the badgers and what didn't you like? Were most of your questions resolved and I have to ask, do you think the Badgers have a better chance of taking down the buckeyes or less?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Loved the running game, naturally, and the bend-but-don't-break attitude of the defense. Liked the playcalling for the most part, and Chris Borland remains one of my favorite players to watch. Very concerned about that young secondary and the consistency of the passing game, two critical areas against a high-scoring Buckeyes team in two weeks.
Did Kenny Guiton ruin Braxton Miller's Heisman hopes?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Millers sprained MCL ruined Braxton Miller's Heisman hopes
Derek (Ft Wayne)
Thoughts on Beilema's wife tweeting Karma after Wisconsin's loss?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Thought it was funny. I know fans get upset about that kind of stuff and start yelling about no class, and she and Bret should probably just move on and have better things to do. But it was funny, and that's what Twitter is for, no?
So basically all the Pac-12 teams run the spread, minus USC but they get elite athletes so they don't count, and half maybe a little less run the spread in the B1G. The Pac 12 is better than the B1G. Correlation???
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Absolutely. Some terrific offensive minds in the Pac-12, not just the schemes. And they have access to lots of talent in California.
Matthew Altman (Chicago)
Ibrahim Campbell now has 5 straight games with a pick! At some point, isn't this streak becoming insane? The record is 15 - its in his grasps!
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
It is insane, and we plan on writing about that this week. I was not aware of the record. 15, really? Now that is truly insane.
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
Are you or Adam planning on making the trip down south to check out an IU football game and get a beer at Nick's sometime this season?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Well, it's north for me, and I sure hope to get there. The Navy loss took a little luster away and probably is what's preventing me from convincing my bosses to go this week. I've spent many an hour of my life in Nick's.
JP (Rochester, IL)
BB - How much of Illinois' turnaround can be attributed to Cubit and how much to the players buying in to Becks and the staff? This team seems to have a much better mindest than last year. Do you think there were some upperclassmen still loyal to Zook and wouldn't play hard for Becks?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Talking to several players last week, they really credited the buy-in factor.Last year's team had NFL players on it but couldn't do much right. And Cubit, I think, helped them buy in on offense in particular, because he brought a much better scheme than what they had last year. And don't underestimate health as a huge factor.
Denver (The ArmPit of America )
Devin Gardner clearly has all the physical tools needed to be an elite quarterback, but do you think he has the mental capacity needed for the position? He just seems to make the same mistakes repeatedly...
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
What? Come on. Gardner had only five INTs last year, and he played some good defenses. OK, he had a bad game last week. He's a bright guy. Please.
Who dies? Walk or Jesse?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Walt has to die. But at this point, I don't know if anyone makes it out alive.
Any idea where you think Rutgers and Maryland would fall in the power rankings if they were in the B1G this year. (after 3 games)
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Maryland is 3-0 but hasn't played anyone with a pulse. They'd probably be right in the same boat with Minnesota. Rutgers similarly hasn't played anyone after losing to Fresno State in the opener. They'd probably be below Illinois.
how about we NOT talk about shows that maybe some readers have DVR'd?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
There were no spoilers in there. You didn't think the two main characters were already dead, did you?
Patrick (Ann Arbor, MI)
Brian, Larry Scott says the Pac 12 will take steps to ensure the Arizona State/Wisconsin debacle never happens again. Good timing for the Badgers.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Yeah. Gee, thanks, Larry. Pac-12 officials haven't covered themselves in glory for some time now.
Jacob (Daphne, AL)
From what you've seen so far, who will win the November 9th matchup in Tuscaloosa between Bama and LSU?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
'Bama. Only hope to beat them is a team like Oregon, I think.
Mitch (Ann Arbor )
For all three of Brady Hokes first three years I've seen 7-9 wins as a solid prediction, would you say your prediction falls somewhere in that range this year?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I believe I had the Wolverines at 9-3, and I'd be surprised if they finished worse than that this year. Good chance to do better
Sad and Confused (the Heart of Wisconsin)
Is Jen Bielema?s response not the trashiest thing ever? I don?t even understand what she?s doing. Bielema left Madison of his own accord and in a bit of a sleazy way. Not to mention most of those kids are players he knows and/or recruited. I just fail to see how it doesn?t make her look like the crummiest person in a crummy situation.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
All I know is, as a writer, that tweet was manna from heaven.
With no other top tier defensive units in B1G, how does Sparty's chance to get to championship look now?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
A little better after last week. You're right -- Michiga State is not only the best defense in the league, it looks like it will be by a whole lot unless others improve (which they will). Still about finding consistent QB play to get the offense to a level of competency, but the schedule remains favorable.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, it's 4 p.m. already somehow. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week!