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)
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. Plenty to talk about with conference play beginning in earnest this week. So fire away with your best questions!
Mitch (Ann Arbor )
Would you agree that the turnovers/decision making by Gardner are the #1 problem with Michigan by a couple of miles? Both lines have major issues, but if you take away the 7 turnovers in the last two games, neither one is close at the finish. He has the physical abilities of an elite QB, no question about that, but I'm beginning to question his mental capacity and decision-making on the field.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
It's awfully hard to win while committing that many turnovers. I still think Gardner will right the ship there. I'm actually more concerned about the lack of dominance on both lines. If Michigan can't push around UConn and Akron, what's going to happen when it faces the better teams in the Big Ten?
Michigan State got hosed this weekend at Notre Dame with the interference calls. Yes or no?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
There were at least two PI penalties that I thought were totally bogus, and they both came in big spots during the game. You've got to let the DBs have some chance at making plays. Hated that tight whistle. Notre Dame wisely took advantage of it.
Gale (City Of virginia beach, VA)
Will the 2 weird games Michigan almost lost be an after thought in January, when they are in a BCS bowl??
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Possibly. Look, the Wolverines still have an advantageous schedule. If they can finish 10-2 and qualify for a BCS bowl, some game might love to have them. Of course, it might be hard for the B1G to get an at-large bid this year with the way the Pac-12 and ACC are going.
Brad (Gilbert AZ)
Hi Brian, What is your overall assessment of Penn State new QB Christian Hackenberg now that 4 games have passes, for myself I am concerned that he still seams to be starting off slowly and despite bad weather this past game he was having difficultly hooking up with his receivers??
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
My assessment is that he's 18 year old. Kid has a ton of talent and a great arm. It's just impossible not to make some mistakes when you're doing this for the first time at this age. Patience.
Nate (Hawkeye Land)
Let's be honest, Western Michigan is not that good of a team. But! the Hawkeyes finally made a bad team look bad (unlike the Missouri State game). Did you think it was a good idea to not run Weisman a lot in the game? And will it hurt him for top running back in the country? And how good are the Hawkeyes?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Yeah, I've had my fill of watching Western Michigan. Still, I really like the physicality that Iowa has played with the last two games. Very encouraging. Weisman only carried it 10 times on Saturday, and it was a very good idea to rest him a bit before Minnesota. Book is still out on Iowa, but I like the way the team is trending right now.
Pete (Menomonie, WI)
The Badgers will beat Ohio State if . . .
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
They control the game with their running game (duh), Joel Stave hits some big plays in the passing game and the secondary holds up. And probably need to win turnover battle as well.
Mitch (Newark, DE)
BB, are Maryland and Rutgers starting to get ANY respect in the B1G? I know fans of both programs are extremely excited about next year.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far. Maryland is unbeaten (and played UConn better than Michigan). Rutgers beat Arkansas. These two teams may be able to compete a little better right away than we gave them credit for.
Would you start Miller or Guitton this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
If Braxton Miller is ready, and there's every indication he will be, you start him. No question about it.
Matt (New Albany, IN)
IU always seems to struggle when the hype gets rolling toward a bowl bid. Is this program just destined to struggle because it always lays down when it counts? Kevin Wilson seems stuck in the Cam Cameron career pattern for struggling to figure out balancing both sides of the ball. They very well could beat most teams on the schedule if the offense clicks, but this team is quickly showing the same flaws of the last 20 or so Hoosier squads.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I don't think it's a mental thing, though surely the players need to taste some success. The defense just remains a major liability. I was surprised by how much the offense struggled against Missouri. Mizzou was all over Indiana's routes. I thought this could have been a breakout year for IU, but that's looking far less likely now
Doesn't the B1G having two at-large bids have more to do with other conferences than the ACC and Pac-12? Given the 4 at large bids and conference limit, doesn't a 10-2 big ten team just need to probably be ranked over the Big 12 to basically get in?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Sure, but the SEC is a given. Then you've got to worry about Notre Dame and a non-AQ team like perhaps Fresno State. Long way to go before we need to start worrying about this, though.
Do you think the NCAA should consider a football scheduling "blacklist" of sorts, so that schools can't continue to schedule games along the lines of Savannah St and Florida A&M? While the Big Ten's no FCS rule seems like a step in the right direction, there are clearly some teams capable of competing against FBS schools, so would a blacklist be more effective to prevent these completely noncompetitive games? And what benefit is there for a school to even play these games? Seems like a perfectly good opportunity to injure key players against outclassed competition.
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I don't think a power conference team should ever play a MEAC school. The games by Ohio State, Florida State and Miami this weekend were just embarrassing and noncompetitive. The resource difference between those programs is so vast that it's not the least bit of a fair fight. Let's hope the playoff makes those go away.
Say My Name (ABQ)
If Wisconsin loses a tight game to ohio (hopefully not on another Hail Mary), is there any way they win-out into BCS at-large? Two* early season losses, weak schedule, are the 2nd best team in the winning division, good traveling fanbase eager for a new venue (though we all love Roses)...
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Sure. Wisconsin would be 10-2 with its only losses to Arizona State* and a potential Top 5 Ohio State. That's a good resume. Badgers would be light on marquee wins but would surely be in the mix, especially if poll voters had sympathy for that Desert Debacle.
Any chance of Braxton and Kenny G on the field at the same time? Pass-option type plays?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Ooh, I like the way you think. You never know what Urban Meyer and Tom Herman might draw up in the lab. I wouldn't think they would run an option type play, since Ohio State has plenty of good backs and I'm not sure Guiton is the best option runner. But break the huddle with both and split Miller out wide as at least a decoy? I wouldn't put it past them.
Should Gopher fans have any reason to believe this year will be different than all of the other years when we beat the non conference schools but always tanked in the Big 10? At least we're not back to the 1-11 years!
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I like the toughness I've seen out of the Gophers. They're not going to be pushed around in the Big Ten. Of course, the schedule so far has been pretty weak, and eventually they're going to have to complete a forward pass. But this Minnesota team is clearly much improved in many areas. I think it has a chance to pull off one big upset.
Pete (Eau Claire)
Safe to assume there will be no more #karma tweets from Mrs. Bielema? That kind of backfired on her.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Yeah, no more of that. Karma police, arrest this girl.
Brian, I know Nebraska has the talent on D to be a good defense. But in the famous words of Bo they are " NOT EXECUTING". What do you do over the next two weeks to light a fire under the D and right the ship? How do we develop that nasty attitube of the infamous husker D we all like to remember?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
If your players continually fail to execute, and the players change, isn't that eventually on the coaching? Pelini had better use this bye week well to either revamp the way he teaches his scheme or make changes in his system. Because it sure isn't working, and they can't trade for more players.
Rob (Big Easy)
If OSU beats Wisky, Gameday would have to head to NW, right?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
There's a very good chance. With Ohio State-Northwestern airing at 8 pm on ABC, that's a good indicator. The other big game next week looks to be Washington-Stanford. We shall see. They don't ask for my input.
Brian, just saw your power rankings, how can you and Rittenburg have Clemson still ranked in the top 5 after narrowly getting by a bad NC State team? What are you mixing with your coffee?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Won by two scores on the road at a place where upsets happen a lot. Nobody else beat anybody of note this week. Clemson's win over Georgia still ranks as one of the two best wins by anybody this season in my book.
Pat (Raleigh, NC)
Any chance Hazell pulls Henry and goes with one of the freshman? Purdue has been terrible, especially on offense. Its tough to run a west coast offense with a qb who can't throw.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
There's really no reason not to give one of the young guys a chance soon, because Purdue is not going anywhere this season. I wonder how much it will help, because the Boilers have no downfield threats. I also wonder why they're not running more with Henry. Look at what Minnesota is doing with a mobile QB. Throwing screens all the time is not enough.
Why the vitriol by many outlets towards OSU "running up the score....and so forth" and not so much as a peep about Oregon, Miami etc...all dropping 70+ against FCS schools? Do I agree it's ridiculous to have these games schedule? Absolutely, but in the case of Ohio state they had their 2nd string in towards the end of the 2nd quarter, 3rd string in most of the 2nd half and didn't attempt a single pass for the last 30 minutes. What are they supposed to do during their possessions kneel, kneel, kneel, punt?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I didn't see the vitriol you're talking about. Meyer had his subs in for the second half. Not much you can do when the opponent is so incapable of defending you, and Ohio State wanted to get its young guys work. I have no problem with the way Ohio State played that game. Just have a problem with them scheduling it in the first place.
Is this year's battle for Floyd of Rosedale the most important in years? It seems that, for once, both Minnesota and Iowa are improving teams with a ton to gain from winning this game, including at least an outside chance at Legends division relevancy come November.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I think so. Adam and I were brainstorming yesterday on when the last Pig game was that seemed this meaningful and well-matched. We'll take your suggestions on that. The winner is going to be in pretty good shape moving forward. I'm excited about it, and not just because I love Floyd an unreasonable amount.
Is Joel Stave really improving like Coach Anderson says, or is that just coach speak?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
He does some good things and manages the game very well. Andersen loves the way Stave makes calls at the line and gets the Badgers into the right plays ... no small thing. But Stave still struggles on the deep ball, including times when receivers are wide open. That's odd, and it needs to get fixed by, like, Saturday at 8 pm
I don't agree with Clemson leap-frogging OSU in the rankings, but I can understand it. However, what has Oregon showed that made them jump OSU in your opinion? Neither team has played anyone and they both seem to have similar makeups. I feel like Oregon has more question marks, especially with their coach. I know it seems like they haven't missed a beat losing Chip Kelly, but if anyone thinks there is no drop-off at all, then they know nothing about college football. Will they be properly prepared for a big opponent? Remains to be seen.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
For the record, I ranked Clemson No. 2 after the Georgia win and have kept them there. Oregon has looked good, but the schedule has been light. Still, the win over Tennessee was better than anything Ohio State has done so far. It's early. Wouldn't be too concerned about the polls. Buckeyes still in a good position. Others will lose.
Spartigan (EL, MI)
Will you eat your words when MSU is winning the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
What words would those be, again? You really think a team with that offense is going to, much less winning, the Rose Bowl? I admire your optimism, sir or madam.
Dan (Flint )
What kind of miserable performance against Minnesota would we need to see out of Gardner to get some Shane Morris action? I know hes a freshman but could he really make any mistakes that Gardner isnt? Lots of picks? Check. Lots of fumbles? Check. Horrible decision-making? Check.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Probably two or three more turnovers in the first two or three quarters. Gardner is still by far the team's best option, but he can't keep giving the ball away. Weren't we saying this last year about another Michigan QB?
Sparty fans need to quit whining about the refs. Their offense is awful and a big reason why they lost to ND.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Jim, I tend to agree. The pass interference calls were bad. Atrocious even. Still, you score 13 points on the road and call a terrible halfback pass to kill your momentum, you don't really deserve to win.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Anyone that thinks C-Hack has been anything short of stellar in his first four games, especially under the scholarship limitations that the overall team is dealing with hasn't been watching the composure of this kid, while he leads long scoring drives opperating a no-huddle up tempo offense...i was skeptical but I love what i've seen so far...
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Agree. No reason to criticize him. He's on pace for 3,000 yards.
Hi Brian, love your work. Can Northwestern's struggles the past two weeks be attributed to playing with a vanilla scheme so as not to put anything useful on film?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
There could be some of that, but we've also seen Northwestern play down to its opponents over the years. Plus, those last two games were against no-name opponents after opening with two BCS AQ teams. So a letdown was understandable. All that matters is how Northwestern bounces back for Ohio State in two weeks.
Is Purdue's offense worse than Michigan State's? I tend to think it is and it's not even close
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
It's close. Neither one is any fun to watch, that's for sure.
Tennessee better than Cal? I don't know about that one. I haven't watched Tennessee this year, but they haven't done anything noteworthy in years beyond losing in spectacular fashion with 12 men on the field. Cal at least has a very potent offense and an incredibly impressive true freshman QB - seriously, that guy is going to do big things. I just don't see why if they are so similar and "it doesn't matter" the status-quo just didn't prevail.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Neither team is very good, but Oregon hasn't had the defensive breakdowns Ohio State has in a couple of its games. Cal did almost lose at home to Portland State, let's not forget.
Spartan fans are in a panic but does Dantonio have to worry about being replaced after the season? Or will we see an overhaul of the O-staff?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
No, Dantonio's very safe. He had a chance to overhaul the offensive staff this offseason and did not. That disappointed me. Dantonio seems too wedded to the Tresselball philosophy, but it's not working.
Do you think Beck could be facing a D. Robinson/Gardner situation? Completely realize that one game against an FCS team isn't hardly a proving ground for a QB, but Armstrong (and Kellogg, for that matter) looked very poised in the backfield and offense was a smooth operator. Things have seemed slow with Martinez at the helm, though he's still putting up good numbers and that turf toe may have been more of an issue than what we've been led to believe.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Nah. I get it, people love the future. But it was South Dakota State. This is still Martinez's team and he's much farther ahead in his knowledge of the offense. He just needs to get healthy
Jesse (New Mexico)
How long will it be before Hoke is on the hot seat?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Seriously? Jesse, you've been chained up in the Nazi meth lab too long.
Ozymandias (Granite State)
Is Wisconsin's current lack of offensive flair, i.e. Chryst and Canada eras, something to be concerned about? Or should we be thankful that there's not HB passes directly to the other team?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I'll take the flair of having two running backs go over 100 yards every week and another one come close. The Badgers don't have a ton of options with their lack of playmakers at receiver, and it's not like their offense has been much of a problem yet this season.
How many Big 10 teams would Kenny Guiton start or at least compete for the starting job at?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Hmmm....definitely Purdue and Michigan State. Probably Wisconsin. He'd at least be right in the mix at Indiana and probably Iowa and Minnesota. Maybe others, depending on what direction they wanted to take things.
Buckeye Apologist (OH)
Remember, the only reason Ohio State had FAMU on the schedule was because they needed to find a last minute replacement when Vanderbilt bailed less than a year ago VIA FAX. I have always liked that OSU at least tends to stay in the state with their MACrifices. Most all Ohio kids would love to play in the Horseshoe.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
San Diego State was the Vandy replacement. Sadly, Ohio State had FAMU on the books. Once Vandy bailed, they should have bought out of that game and played a better opponent. Schedule strength could come back to haunt the Buckeyes.
Rather than drop michigan, why doesnt ND drop hapless Purdue? What a joke.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Do the math. That's a game Notre Dame expects to win most years. And it's in-state.
How does the Pac 12 send the crew that screwed UW, and was supposed to be suffering sanctions, to officiate the Utah-BYU game?? And if the reports are accurate, thy made some questionable calls in favor of their conference member again!
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
It's a great question. BYU fans weren't happy, but from the replays I saw the last call on the Hail Mary type throw was correct. Still, there's no way that crew should have been working a big game one week after they pulled their Keystone Cops routine. Disgraceful.
@Buckeye Apologist: The way I understand it, FAMU was on Ohio St.'s schedule to get the marching bands together for some reason. But then FAMU's band had a hazing incident which kept them from making the trip.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
OK, have a battle of the bands, then. A football game was not needed. Oh, well, let's move on.
Any chance MGIII gets loose this Saturday night, and is that a key to a UW victory?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Any time he touches the ball, he has a chance to get loose. This will be by far the best offensive line Ohio State's young front seven has faced, and I expect Wisconsin to rip off some big plays in the running game. Will it be enough? That's the big question.
GoBlueFaninLV(Duh Vegas) [via mobile]
Does michigan use the bye to get things fixed, or could we be looking at a 5-3 B1G season?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
They had better. I still think Michigan goes at least 6-2. The talent is there. But they'd better figure some things out soon.
Floyd the pig (IC)
Will I have to go back to Iowa on Saturday night or do you think I can stay at TCF Bank Stadium? Would appreciate an early prediction teaser!
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Not ready to call that one yet. Very good matchup. Should be close. Need more time to analyze it, and need to see what the health status is of Philip Nelson.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
When will you guys mention that all that talk about this possibly being another Ohio-Michigan and everyone else B1G was premature and Michigan continues to just get the benefit of the doubt because of brand name and on paper recruiting?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Most of that talk is based on recruiting, and most of those recruits haven't arrived or matured yet. People who said that about Ohio State-Michigan are looking two, three, four years down the line.
Derek (Ft Wayne)
With some of the comments and obvious frustration form Darrell Hazell after the Wisconsin game, do you think he bit off more than can chew with this job or did he not realize how big of a rebuilding job this would be?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I still think Hazell is a good coach but after watching Purdue I'm convinced he needs a couple of recruiting classes to get this fixed. The Boilers just don't have the personnel right now to run the type of offense he wants, and the defense remains a problem.
Jordan (Jersey City)
What can Michigan do to shore up its very weak O line? Just imagine that line had Taylor Lewan left...
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Not much. Talented but young guys in there. They've just got to get better.
How big is the Iowa game for MSU? Should we expect to see some changes coming out of the bye week? Dantonio seems stuck in his ways.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Michigan State needs to win that one. I'm not sure how much change will see. This is not a program that makes major offensive changes. They need to stick with a quarterback and emphasize the running game as much as possible.
I realize that it's nearly impossible to sit Miller in favor of Guiton due to Miller's athletic ability. But, who does a better job of distributing the football?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Well, we haven't really seen Miller in full form this year. All offseason we were told he'd improved as a passer, and the weapons around him are obviously better. Plus, he brings the added dimension of the running game with him.
Spartan fans will quit winning when the calls start going our way. Our offense may be offensive but its hard to win games when a majority of the bad calls go against your team.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I agree with you that the Spartans have seemed to get a lot of bad calls in the past two seasons. But it's also true that the team has put itself in position to get burned by bad calls and be in close games because the offense has been abysmal. If Michigan State is just competent on offense, we're not even talking about those calls.
Willie the Wildcat (Evanston)
Buffalo Wild Wings bowl? Doesn't my team have a shot at a BCS game with a 10-2 record?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Sure. But if we're asked to pick bowls right now, and we are, we don't see an at-large for the Big Ten, based on how the league has played in the nonconference. That means teams could slide down.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Brian, your answer is inaccruate judging by all the fans who wrote in asking about this being the year Michigan and Ohio State play each other in back to back years...fans and media most certainly thought this is the year it goes back to Ohio-Michigan and...who else plays in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Fans can say what they want. I picked Nebraska in the Legends. That may not work out well for me. Most people whose opinions I respect thought Michigan was at least a year away from reaching its peak, though winning the Legends was certainly in reach this year.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for today, everybody. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week!
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