Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm yours for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Dan (Novi, Mi.)
Brian,Is Ohio State really that good? Sure, they beat Wisconsin and Northwestern which are good teams but are nowhere near the top tier teams. They've had their moments like Michigan has yet they managed to come away with the win. I have a feeling they are overrated the same as Michigan was. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Ohio State is clearly the best team in the Big Ten, but it has not dominated league competition. The Buckeyes have some issues, especially on both sides of their passing game. Are they the third or fourth best team in the country? It's debatable. Not the same as Michigan, however, because Ohio State has not struggled against much inferior competition the way the Wolverines have.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Brian, shouldn't Wildcats fans take a breather on the panic? We lost to OSU and at Wisconsin (off a bye) - the 2 best teams in the league. I'm not sure there is a game as tough as either of those 2 left on the schedule. Assuming Colter/Mark get healthy, don't the Cats have a good shot at running the table?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Hopefully, Northwestern can chalk that up to just being flat after the Ohio State game, plus the injuries to Mark and Colter. Going to Wisconsin the week after the Buckeyes game was always going to be tough, but that was bad a performance as I've seen from a Pat Fitzgerald team. Run the table? That's a tall order with Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa and MSU left. But the Wildcats are much better than what they showed Saturday
how many more narrative twists and turns do you see for the legends division? seems like every week it's a slightly different pecking order. does anyone really have an inside track?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I think this is going to be fascinating in November. Have no idea at this point who is going to win it. Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan have to be considered the favorites, especially since Northwestern is already 0-2. The games between those four teams will be full of drama, and Iowa could make some noise as well.
So I assume you are referring to just Akron and UConn as "inferior competion" for Michigan. After all, Penn State (a) won the game and (b) had a convincing lead at halftime that they gave away early in the third quarter.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Of course I was
What are the chances Purdue wins another game this year?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
The good news is that the schedule will lighten up in the second half. The Boilers get Iowa and Illinois at home and go to Indiana. So maybe they win one of those. But not unless they make major, major improvements.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Brian, I have to confess, i owe Michigan State fans an apology, so here I am, apologizing, I thought they were overrated a few weeks ago and let it be known in a mailbag...but I applaud both the offense and defense of MSU for showing up the past couple of weeks...I think Michigan State beats Michigan in a few weeks...if you had to make that prediction this week what say you?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Big of you, Rob. Right now, I definitely think Michigan State wins that game. It's in East Lansing, and I could see the Spartans intercepting Devin Gardner about eight times, couldn't you? Nobody can run on Michigan State, so Michigan will have its hands full.
Brian, why is MSU not getting as much respect as Wisconsin? I have no sympathy for refs' mistakes costing a potential win (see ASU). As you are aware, if the refs knew what pass interference was, MSU would be undefeated - beating Iowa (lBiG's 2nd best defense, and that includes Wisconsin) and ND on the road. No more about the Wisconsin defense either. What other team could hold ND to 1 completed pass for the entire second half in recent times (i.e., since ND was a run-first team)? I repeat: 1 completed pass - for 12 yards on their first drive of the 3rd quarter. Wisconsin's HOME win over a beat-up NW team does not merit such high kudos, or MSU's HOME loss by 1 point to an undefeated OSU team last year should have made it the 2nd best team in the league last year (which was not true). Help me understand...
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Pretty simple here, Rob. Wisconsin did everything to beat Arizona State on the road until the refs jobbed them, played Ohio State to within a TD on the road and smashed a ranked team in Northwestern. MSU's best win is at Iowa, and Notre Dame is no great shakes. So the resumes are completely different right about now.
I know some of the Illni base were upset with Beckham in his 1st year at Illinois, do you get a similar feeling toward Hazell and Purdue's fan base?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I don't get that sense, if only because Purdue fans were so ready to get rid of Danny Hope and because Hazell is an impressive person. Plus, the schedule has been brutal, so losses were expected. That said, this has been much uglier than the Boilers could have expected, and I have some questions about that coaching staff.
Sam (Central PA)
Brian,I have been very impressed with Christian Hackenburg's poise. He in no way looks like a true freshman when it comes to staying cool and not panicking...he still makes some freshman mistakes but he doesn't let them rattle him..and that drive with 50 seconds left and no time outs..I saw no panic in him ..what do you think he will be like given another year or two under his belt as long as he stays healthy.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
This kid has star written all over him. Remember that he's only 18. What he's done so far has been pretty incredible for his age and experience level. It's kind of scary to think how good he can be with two more years under O'Brien.
Brian, let's get down to business here. Should I expect anything but excellence from Waino tonight?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
(Totally afraid to jinx it)
Charlie, Albuquerque [via mobile]
How do you view Penn State? A: they are an above average team that shouldn't have 2 losses, and will push Ohio State/Wisconsin. Or B: An okay team that will probably lose 3-4 more games because of a weak secondary and a run game that is inconsistant.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
That's a good question. Penn State is probably slightly above average, with a few good playmakers but some obvious depth and personnel issues. They will be tougher to beat at home than on the road. I see losses on the road at Ohio State and Wisconsin. Will be interesting to see if PSU can upset Nebraska at home.
Thoughts on the hit that got Stanley Jean-Baptiste ejected? I thought it was a horrible call. Whats it going to take for these refs to finally get the ejection rule right?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It was a high hit, but SJB is a tall guy, so it looked worse than it probably was. Also looked to me like it was more shoulder to shoulder, though I have not seen a good freeze-frame replay yet. Didn't like the call, but officials are erring on the side of player safety these days. That's just the way it is.
most improved player from the start of the season to now?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Off the top of my head, I think it might be Michigan State receiver Bennie Fowler. He was a liability at the start of the year, and now he's becoming a playmaker for the Spartans.
No Carlos Hyde in your top players list? He came up huge against both UW and Northwestern whereas Gordon shrunk at Columbus before getting hurt.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
We considered him at No. 10, but he hasn't played enough games. Also, he ran for 85 yards vs. Wisconsin -- or 11 more than Gordon had in that same game before he got hurt. So there's that.
What is the percentage chance that the BIG gets a second bcs team this year?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I think it's still pretty low. I see the Pac-12, SEC and ACC getting second bids right now. It will likely come down to whether a non-AQ team makes it or if the Big 12 can get two.
Lance S (Greensboro, NC)
So, James White now has 13 career 100 yard rushing performances, yet has never been the Badgers' sole 100 yard back in a game. Is that some kind of record?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Not sure about that, but White has had an odd career. He's going to finish with some incredible numbers despite never really being his team's No. 1 option. I can't recall a similar career for a player.
If the Gophers win 0 or 1 Big Ten games this year, does Coach Kill get a pass because of his health issues? Or will he be held responsible for the program continuing to rank near the bottom of the conference in his third year at the helm?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I don't think Kill's health issues, as unsettling and obviously disrupting as they've been, have had any real impact on the results for the Gophers. In other words, they'd have the same record now without Kill's problems. He's not in any danger of losing his job over performance, because progress has been made with this team, in spite of the really bad start to Big Ten play.
Tim (Columbus, Oh)
Brian, who would your ideal Big Ten Championship game include?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
There are a lot of matchups that I would find intriguing. The Ohio State-Michigan rematch doesn't hold as much interest since Michigan doesn't look that great. A Buckeyes-Northwestern rematch seemed like a fine idea until Saturday. How about Ohio State-Michigan State? They don't play in the regular season, and I'd love to see that explosive Buckeyes offense go against the MSU defense. Could be a lot of fun.
Jon (Columbus, IN)
In Saturday's matchup of weaknesses, Indiana's defense looked considerably worse than State's shaky offense. Can an Indiana fan look at Saturday's matchup @ Michigan (site of Bill Lynch's still-orbiting gum) and see anything but tons of yards given up yet again?Is Kevin Wilson basically acknowledging how futile his defense is... with the amount of pressure put on the offense to consistently put up at least 40 points to contend for a win?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
The only good news is that Michigan's offensive line is so poor that maybe Indiana won't give up a ton of rushing yards. And maybe they can get some turnovers, and maybe Michigan will have a hangover from Penn State. But you're right in that Indiana basically has to win shootouts against the better teams in the league right now. I don't see that changing for a while.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Which catch did you find more impressive on the last drive, Felder's or Robinson's?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Loved the Robinson catch. Wasn't his best game, and he was nearly the goat on that fumble, but what a play. Felder had a terrific game as well.
Iowa Fan (Missouri)
Would you put Iowa's chance at an upset at 1%? Or am I being too much of a homer?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I'd put it higher than that, maybe 5-10 percent. Look, Ohio State is not dominant. Maybe Iowa's running attack can shorten the game and give the Hawkeyes a chance. The problem is Ohio State has actually been pretty good at stopping the run and shakier against the pass, which is not Iowa's strength. And the Buckeyes had a bye week to fix some issues and are at home. So it's a tall, tall order for Iowa. They will probably need some turnovers or other major breaks to have a chance.
Scared Michigan Fan (Karl) (Cleveland)
Brian,I am a huge Michigan fan, but I am objective. That being said I think there is a chance Michigan does not get past 7 wins this year. Hear me out, Indiana could be a trap game, then after the bye we have all tough games, even the pink locker room in Iowa will be a large road test for this young team. Please talk me down here, have not been able to run the ball with a running back and Gardner throws it to the other team more than shoelaces, What do you think will be the win total before bowl season?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Very little would surprise me about Michigan the rest of the way. What, exactly, is this team's identity? Its strength? I'm not sure after six games. The Wolverines have been very good at home but have to play Nebraska and Ohio State there while going to Northwestern, MSU and Iowa. Literally anything is possible.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Kordell from Colorado, that is not how you get a question answered. Go away.
Tim (Columbus, Oh)
How do you think Bret Beliema is liking it down there in Arkansas now??? Hahahaha!
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
0-4 since #karma
Nebraska has looked much improved on defense. With Michigan St. and Northwestern coming to Lincoln along with a vulnerable Michigan team left to play, can the Huskers get back to the B1G championship?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
No real reason why they can't, because this division is wide open. I just wonder how much of the defensive improvement is real and how much of it is Illinois, Purdue and South Dakota State. We won't really know until November, but at least the Huskers should have built some confidence and momentum by then.
where is the best place to eat in Louisville...I am going there in a few weeks
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Actually a great restaurant town here. Try Hammerheads, a little hole in the wall with great burgers, BBQ, fries. Thank me later.
Brian, do you think it's fair having two people with NU ties (Alvarez and Osborne) on the committee?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I see no issue with that. Both are highly respected. If Nebraska were some way involved in the discussion, they'd recuse themselves.
Jared (San Diego)
Who would have thought that at 6-0 it's the OSU secondary that is the liability(injuries aside)? The front seven is developing a lot quicker than people expected (ask Wisconsin). Can OSU right the ship downfield during the off week?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
It is surprising, especially since we thought coming into the year that the secondary would be the strength of the defense and the rest would be shaky. It's been the opposite. Roby hasn't played up to his potential, and the Bryant injury obviously hurts, though the secondary wasn't playing great when he was healthy. There's too much talent back there, including the youngsters, for this not to get turned around, I believe.
I can say with high confidence that Michigan could win or lose any of the remaining games on the schedule. And that is scary.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Do you think Zwinak would have been more effective than Belton against Michigan in the second half. I understand that he fumbled, but I think he's the better, especially late in the game with his power.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Didn't Belton pick up the fourth and 1 and score the game-winning TD? Why on earth are you complaining about that?
jake (joliet, IL)
Winner of the legends division will have 1.5 losses. You taking over or under?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
You obviously mean conference losses. It's so jumbled and everybody still plays everybody, so I could see a tie at 6-2 and tiebreakers deciding it. I'll go with that.
If Nebraska wins out the rest of the way, loses to Ohio State in Indy, where do you think they'll end up Bowl-wise? What about Wisconsin if they also win out?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
A good question but one that's very difficult to answer because there are so many variables at play. We'd need to know what happened with all the other conferences, where the teams were in the BCS standings, etc. I'll say this: Wisconsin would probably be in better shape in your scenario, because teams that lose in the conference title game historically have not been nearly as attractive to BCS bowls. Wisconsin would have a 7-game winning streak, which would be huge.
Who gets the most "blame" for the Michigan loss. Hoke, Borges, Gardner, Gibbons, running game, Mattison? As I am typing the list and it is getting longer and longer it seems the loss is more so that there are so many issues rather than just one thing to blame! So the answer has to be ALL coaches, right?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Lot of blame to go around, for sure. I just know I hated the conservative playcalling at the end of regulation and in overtime. Playing it safe often means you play to lose. And that's what happened.
Just a follow up. What progress has coach Kill made with the Gophers? They continue to rank near the bottom in recruiting, wins and don't seem even remotely competent in the passing game. Is that your definition of progress?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Gophers went to a bowl game last year. There's much better talent on defense, on the O-line and at quarterback. Remember this team was in bad shape just a couple of years ago. Still a long way to go, and it looks like things may have stalled a bit this year. But it's not time to bail, either.
Matt (Royal Oak)
I cannot imagine the winner of the Legends Division having more than 2 losses. That means Northwestern has to run the table. And pending upsets Michigan will have to beat both Nebraska and Michigan State or they'll be in serious tiebreaker trouble (with a likely 3rd loss coming vs. OSU). Iowa seems more like a pretender than a contender. Is it me, or does this seem very likely that MSU and Nebraska have separated themselves from the Legends pack already?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
It's you. Tell me, in all seriousness: who have MSU and Nebraska beaten? This is still wide open.
David (East Lansing )
We can all second guess Hoke et al's conservative play calling, but on the road with the lead in the midst of a White Out with 1 minute left, are you going to call up a pass play from Gardner?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
You make a good point, and it's one I said on Twitter Saturday night. Trust issues with Gardner definitely played a role there. And Gibbons had been money on FGs. But at least try some rollouts with Gardner where he can run the ball or make a safe pass, especially in OT.
Renee (Milwaukee, WI)
What are the chances the Badgers can run the table on the rest of the season?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Toughest games are probably against Iowa and BYU. Penn State won't be a gimme, either, though being at Camp Randall for senior day should help the Badgers. Wisconsin will be solidly favored in every game and has a good chance to get it done.
What is your favorite venue in the B1G? I obviously have a bias for Memorial Stadium, especially at night. Went to the Nebraska v Ohio State game last year in Columbus and that was pretty awesome too. Considering a trip to the Big House this year for Nebraska v Michigan to see the largest stadium in America. Just curious as to what's been your favorite.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I really like Nebraska and Ohio State on any occasion, and Penn State and Wisconsin for big games are special, too. Hard to choose, but those are definitely my top four. (Still haven't seen a game at Kinnick. Dying to do so).
Jim (State College)
Classic Big Ten thinking in this chat - if Penn State wins against Michigan or Ohio State, its because Michigan or Ohio State lost the game. How about giving Penn State some credit?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Penn State played a great game, it was a tremendous atmosphere and the Lions deserve a world of credit. At the same time, it's hard to argue the fact that Michigan made a ton of mistakes.
What does northwestern need to do to recover from the Wisconsin blowout? Do you think they still have a shot at the legends?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Just get back to what they were doing, and hope Mark and Colter can get healthy. And finding answers in the run defense would help They definitely have a shot. An 0-2 start is tough, but both losses were in cross-division games.
Rian (Brighton, MI)
Which game would you rather attend, MSU-UM where the legends could be at stake, or UM-OSU to potentially watch OSU round out a second undefeated regular season?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I'd still take Michigan-Ohio State, assuming the Wolverines haven't collapsed by that point. Still the biggest game in the Big Ten most years, and there could be a whole lot at stake this year.
Wayne Maclane (NJ)
Suppose Michigan State's new-fangled offense isn't all smoke and mirrors. Suppose also for the sake of argument that they and Ohio State advance to the conference championship game. Does MSU have a shot in this theoretical situation, or are you subscribing to the "OSU will crush whomever they face in Indy" school of thought?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Sure, the Spartans would have a shot. Take away the offensive improvement part for a second. MSU's defense is so good that the team will be in every game. And Ohio State will be coming off an emotional game on the road at Michigan and hasn't shown a great ability -- yet -- to blow Big Ten teams out.
Why does it seem that Greg Davis cannot get Iowa's very talented TE group into the flow of a game?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Wish I had an answer for you. Don't know why CJF isn't used even more in the passing game.
What are the tiebreakers for the B1G championship game again? Are they 1) division record 2) conference record 3) head-to-head?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
It's head-to-head first if there are two teams tied. If there are more than two, it gets a little complicated, but it basically comes down to how each did in the division.
Matt (Royal Oak)
As sad as it is, it's not who MSU and Nebraska have beaten. It's who they haven't lost to, in my opinion. Each has a easier crossover schedule than Northwestern and Michigan as both dodge UW and OSU. If both teams go 3-0 against the Leaders, that's a major advantage as NW has already dropped 2 and UM could easily if they lose to OSU.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
The favorable schedule thing is true. Still a few tough road games. Again, total tossup in the Legends. So excited for November.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. It was a blast as always. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy your week!