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, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Aaron (Dubuque, IA)
Personally I thought Iowa was going to lose 17-48. Surprisingly we did better than expected. I think it was a win-win situation for Iowa, Ohio State and the Big Ten. Iowa proved they can hang and Ohio State got to stay undefeated (B1G needs an undefeated school to push for a National Championship). With Iowa sticking with Ohio State, will the Hawks give Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nebraska a run for their money? Assuming Iowa will beat Purdue @ West Lafayette what are the chances Iowa finishes at least 6-6 and maybe even 7-5?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I was really impressed with Iowa's game plan and its use of the tight ends against Ohio State. Ultimately, Ohio State just had too much speed and too many playmakers, but you could say that about every team in the league when it comes to the Buckeyes. If Iowa can keep playing like that, it is going to make some noise. Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan all have to come to Kinnick, and the Hawkeyes could win two of those if they keep this up. I like Iowa to get back to a bowl game
Hi Brian. Are you surprised at the balance between the leaders and legends division? Your top six power rankings this week are split three and three and I know going into the year it was assumed that the legends would be far better than the leaders.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
A little, but mostly because I think Wisconsin is the second-best team in the league. Wasn't sure that would be the case going in. There's still a lot we don't know about Michigan State and Nebraska (and Michigan to some degree). Northwestern has been very disappointing the past two weeks. Legends is still more balanced, but Leaders is stronger at the top.
Please Please tell me this ejection rule is going to get re written, while it may have violated the letter of the law Roby did nothing wrong on that hit, he led with his shoulder, never left his feet and delivered a fair hit......We my as well get out the belt flags for some flag football if this type of hit is going to be illegal....
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Ace, I felt the Roby hit was called correctly. Urban Meyer said he thought it violated the spirit of the rule, but anytime you have a hit like that, you're putting it into the officials' judgment, and they're going to err on the side of player safety. Roby had to launch himself, or else a 5-11 guy would never have reached the facemask of a 6-7 tight end. But I agree this rule needs to be revisited, and it seems like none of the coaches like it. I'd expect them to push for some changes, Well-intended rule, but there are some major problems with it, and I hope a targeting ejection doesn't help decide one of these big November games.
Dar Adal (Van behind you)
So Ohio state just got by against Iowa? Why is nothing being said about the fact that Ohio state faced Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, and will face Penn State this week all after having bye weeks? Talk about being able to practice on some wrinkles to throw in against OSU's defense. Any thought to this playing into the closer-than-expected-games?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
There's probably something to that, Dar (by the way, how about fixing "Homeland?" What a mess.) Northwestern and Iowa definitely put in some new wrinkles. But this is a theme dating back to last season. Ohio State simply hasn't dominated Big Ten competition, for the most part. But who cares as long as you keep winning? And the Buckeyes' second-half adjustments the past two games have been very impressive.
Hank (Washington DC)
Potential trap game for Sparty this weekend at Illini? Looking ahead to their tilt with UM.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
You know, I think it could be. Especially since Illinois can score and its weaknesses on defense might not be exposed as much by MSU. If Michigan State is focused and plays as it is capable, the Spartans should win handily. But we saw Purdue hang around all last week, which was very surprising.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Brian, it looks like NW took it's November slide a month early. How disappointed are the people in Evanston? And should they get together with Washington Husky fans and sing kumbaya for solace, as well as comfort?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I think all Northwestern fans are very disappointed. It looked like this season had an opportunity to be special, and the Wildcats looked like legitimate Legends contenders. Heck, they led OSU in the fourth quarter. From there, it's been all downhill. The injuries to Colter and Mark have been a killer and I think they might have affected the team's emotional state as well. Fitzgerald has to get this thing turned around quick, because with that remaining schedule, a bowl game is not a lock. Amazingly.
Speaking of missing the boat (Pacific Ocean)
You said "Ohio State simply hasn't dominated Big Ten competition, for the most part. But who cares as long as you keep winning?" So why, again, are you down on Michigan if they just keep winning?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Well, for one, Michigan hasn't. It already lost one Big Ten game. Its two league wins, against Minnesota and Indiana at home, aren't that impressive. And barely beating Akron and UConn is not the same as getting by Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. Anyone can see that this Wolverines team is deeply flawed. The question is whether they can keep overcoming those flaws when the schedule truly toughens up next month.
Mike P (Greater KC)
Nebraska has a brutal 5 game stretch to end the year after the game this weekend... If they come out of it 2 and 3 or even 3 and 2 and go 7-4 or 8 and 3 and lose either the bowl game or the B1G ten championship game if they get there... Is Coach Pelini safe or is he on the chopping block...
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Well, your math's a little off, and I think 8-4 is about the worst case scenario for the Huskers. It would be hard to fire Pelini with that kind of record, but it also wouldn't surprise me. Depends on how the Huskers finish and how they look. There certainly would be some sentiment for a change if this season does not end well.
Matt (New Albany, IN)
Gerry DiNardo said today that Kevin Wilson needed 3 more years to try and turn around IU's deplorable defense. Well, it's already been 2 and a half years of BAD. As a Hoosier fan, it's great that Doug Mallory is a connection to his dad's days, but his defense doesn't prove to me he knows how to fix this. How long is Doug going to keep his job, and can IU fix this simply by hiring a better coordinator and recruiting better?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
It's hard to tell whether this is a coaching issue or a talent issue, but it's probably a combination. As you mentioned, Indiana's defense simply hasn't gotten a lot better in the past three years despite some better young talent. The Hoosiers are still playing a lot of inexperienced guys, and perhaps they'll get better. But if things don't improve, Wilson will have to at least seriously consider bringing in a new coordinator. The offense is one of the best in the Big Ten, but it doesn't help much when the defense can't stop anybody.
How impressed were you with the Gophers ability to hold on to win even with a few very "questionable" calls going against them?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Northwestern played very poorly, but let's give Minnesota a lot of credit for that. The Gophers' defense has actually been pretty darn good most of the season, except for the times when the offense keeps it on the field too long. Minnesota showed a lot of toughness that game and a did a great job forcing turnovers. This doesn't quite feel like a 5-2 team, but they say you are what your record says you are, right?
Sparty vs Herbie (Cornfield Somewhere)
Do the Spartans have a chance in Lincoln? Thanks to fortunate scheduling, that is the de facto Legends Division championship game.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I don't know if I'd go that far. Let's not forget Michigan here. But, sure, MSU has a chance. That defense travels. The Spartans will be in every game because of that D. Only problem is their offense isn't well designed to take advantage of the Nebraska defensive issues. Speaking of ...
Do you buy the argument that to beat the huskers you need a good running game and a mobile qb and a decent defense? And if you do wouldn't you agree that teams like Iowa MSU PSU will struggle to beat Nebraska and I think it's fair to add Northwestern to that list with their weak o line even if colter and mark are back. Maybe Im crazy but I think Minnesota may have the best shot at beating nebraska except Michigan
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
The teams that seem to have really given Nebraska trouble defensively are the spread teams who can get playmakers out on the edge. That doesn't really apply to Wisconsin, but the Badgers definitely tried to work the perimeter and abused a beat-up Nebraska front. Teams like UCLA, Ohio State and even Wyoming have had their way with the Huskers. I don't think Minnesota fits that bill at all. Michigan does. Northwestern, when healthy, does, too.
Could PSU be the one to knock off the Buckeyes? So far Hack has had a lot of poise, will the big state get to him Saturday night?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I wouldn't rule it out, for sure, especially given the Buckeyes' problems in pass coverage. That's something Hackenberg and Allen Robinson can definitely exploit. I think Ohio State is a little too deep for Penn State, but other teams have hung tough with the Buckeyes. So why not?
Ted (Johnson City)
Is it possible for Purdue to be encouraged after being shut out in a loss?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Yes. That was no worse than the second-best performance of the year by the Boilers. The defense in particular played very well, and if not for a couple of missed FGs, the score would have been a lot closer. It's going to be a long, long year in West Lafayette, but that was definitely a performance to build upon.
Hello Brian, I wouldn't be surprised if a one loss SEC team jumped an undefeated OSU team to make the title game, but would voters give a one loss PAC 12 team or ACC team the same benefit of the doubt?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I don't think so. With the possible exception of Auburn, which would have to beat Alabama, I don't see any one-loss teams finishing ahead of Ohio State right now. That league has cannibalized itself. Same is probably true for Pac-12 and ACC. Clemson not just losing but getting destroyed at home means the Tigers aren't getting back in the title picture. A 1-loss Stanford team might have a chance, but Ohio State is far enough ahead in the polls that I think it would be safe.
Jeff (Milwaukee, WI)
Why were you covering Louisville-UCF on Saturday? I get that you live in the Ville and it was a big upset but seems weird. Even Big Ten bloggers would rather not watch the Big Ten I guess.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Because I live down the street and ESPN.com asked me to cover it, that's why. It was a Friday night game, so there was no conflict with any Big Ten games. Come on, Jeff. Check the calendar, bud.
What chances do you give Hyde to become Meyer's first 1,000 yard rusher? 557 yards in 6 or 7 more games is more than doable considering the rest of their schedule right?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
To be clear, he would be first 1,000-yard running back under Meyer. Wouldn't have thought it possible because of how much time he missed at beginning of year. Assuming Ohio State plays in the Big Ten title game, it will have 14 games this season. That means Hyde would have to average less than 80 yards per game to get it done. Very reachable.
curious how the two of you do your top 25. eye test? strength of schedule? who would win heads up? just seems like a jumbled mess all the way around.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I can't speak for Adam. It definitely was a mess this week after all those losses. Generally, I try to look at who you beat, who you played, as well as some eye test. Baylor, for example, hasn't played much of a schedule but has an insane offense. So I give them a little more credit there.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
If OSU gets to the title game and Wisconsin and Notre Dame are both top 14, do you think the Rose Bowl would be tempted at all to choose the Irish after 3 straight years of Wiscy?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Strong possibility, especially because of the potential Wisconsin fatigue. But as I've written, it's the 100th year of the Rose Bowl and the last year before the playoff will occasionally disrupt things. That's why I think the game would really like to stage a traditional Pac-12/Big Ten matchup this year if possible.
Bill (Twin Cities)
I noticed you have put Minnesota back into your Bowl Projections; but the Gophers will be underdogs in all of their remaining games. Expecting losses against Nebraska, Wiscy, and Mich State, do you see the 6th win more likely to come on the road at Indiana or at home against Penn St?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Hard not to put the Gophers in when they need just one more win. At Indiana a strong possibility. Could be a bowl play-in game for both.
Hank (Washington DC)
Do you think Michigan's bye week before their tilt with MSU will be beneficial? Who do you think wins that game for the Bunyan Trophy?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
It definitely can't hurt, and with the way the Wolverines have been shuffling their offensive line, this will give them some extra time to come up with the best combination. And an extra week to prepare for that fierce MSU defense should come in handy.
Were the defensive troubles at the end of the Illinois/Wisconsin game related to Chris Borland's injury leaving a leadership vacuum, or is it the same problems as always?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I thought there was definitely a lack of leadership and communication without Borland on the field, which is understandable. Illinois took advantage of that with its hurry-up attack. But the Illini can move the ball. Its offense is capable of doing that against a lot of teams.
Pablo (Holland, MI)
Given the fact that voters refuse to rank MSU, does a 10-2 Spartan team have any chance at being ranked high enough to be eligible for an at-large bid. And if they were, are they compelling enough to be taken?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
At 10-2, no. That's saying the Spartans will lose again in the regular season, which would kill their ranking potential. Just not enough on the resume, especially with not playing Wisconsin or Ohio State. Michigan State could get to the B1G title game, but then it would probably have to win it since conference title game losers are often overlooked for at-large bids.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
OSU vs. Oregon in the National Title, M*ch*gan vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl for a Two Pack of Tradition!
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Well, I'd pay to watch those two games. Big Ten would be a heavy underdog in both, however.
Gunther (Fund du Lac, WI)
Brian, first I'd like to thank you and Adam for advocating for the Badgers' national ranking, if only because for once you are actually being "pro-active" for a B1G team on the national landscape. As far as Wisconsin's ranking, I'd like to take a line from Bo Ryan: Deal with It. Yes, it was a terrible officiating call on that final play in Tempe. You know what though, the outcome of a game doesn't completely come down to one play. I'm sure each team could pick out bad calls that affected their outcome this year. Second, you blast MSU and Nebraska for not beating anyone of note. Where is your outrage concerning who Wisconsin has actually beat? This is what the B1G has come to, a bunch of excuses to defend poor play?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
The outcome of a game can come down to one play if it's the final play and all you have left to do is kick a field goal to win it. Wisconsin did everything it had to do to beat a good Arizona State team on the road. It also lost on the road at Ohio State by seven and blasted a Northwestern team that was ranked in the Top 20. Its resume is far better than anything MSU or Nebraska has accomplished to this point, and you can tell by watching the games that Wisconsin is a very good team.
Cards in 5! Not that he was in a hurry to leave, but is the purple lining in NW's slide that Fitzgerald won't be the hot name for USC/Texas-style jobs?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Shoot. I'm worried about this series because the BoSox are very, very good. But I hope you're right! I never thought USC was realistic for Fitz or that he would be Texas' first choice. If a school really wants a coach, however, it shouldn't base that decision on a bad two-week stretch.
what are your thoughts right now on next weekend's matchup between allen robinson and bradley roby? if osu does what they did against wisconsin and JA, roby will be matched up 1 on 1 all night. it worked for roby last year, but this is obviously not last year's version of either player, what is going to give?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's a very good question. If Roby doesn't play better, then Robinson will torch him. I get the sense that Roby will rise to the occasion, but I also expect Robinson to get his yards. It will be a fantastic matchup, one of those I've been looking forward to all year.
Brian Bennett, how would you or Adam like to marry my daughter?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
What kind of dowry are we talking here? Actually, we're both already hitched, but thanks for the offer.
Ashley [via mobile]
How long until Nebraska's defense gets credit for improving? First Illinois' offense wasn't as good as we thought, Purdue is just bad. In the next few weeks I suspect we'll hear Minnesota's no good, Northwestern is hurt, Michigan State is all defense.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
The opposition is part of the problem. But I will credit Nebraska for playing very well against a solid Illinois offense. That impressed me. Purdue, well, that's just a bad, bad offense. Minnesota isn't much better. No doubt the defense has improved since the start of the year. But remember that Nebraska went through a very good stretch of defensive play last year, but all anyone really remembers are the failures in big games. That's why the Huskers have to do it against Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, etc., to really prove themselves.
Rich (Altoona, PA)
Brian, does a PSU upset on Saturday set up Bill O'Brien for back-to-back COY awards or do you think they would need to upset Wisconsin as well? This team is not as strong as last year yet B'OB is still making PSU a dangerous team.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
If Penn State can beat Ohio State and go on to win eight or nine games -- possible with the remaining schedule -- then O'Brien should win coach of the year again. The depth and talent is less than it was a year ago, so the same record or better would tell me he might have done an even better job.
Brian, I see another classic for the Heartland Trophy this year. Wouldn't be surprised to see Iowa beat Wisconsin. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
First of all, I'm just glad it's back on the schedule. And no, it wouldn't surprise me too much. Iowa has been pretty darn good against the run, which is the first requirement to beating Wisconsin. The game will also be at Kinnick, which helps a great deal.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Do you think the harshness of Wisconsin's ranking is due to pollsters viewing all losses equally? I mean, even after the ASU loss*, when you had to have been living under a rock to not hear about the ending, Wisconsin dropped 7 or 8 spots in the poll. They get back in, play OSU tough on the road, show they have the talent to win, make some bonehead mistakes and lose and somehow that warrants another steep drop in the polls. Not complaining, just trying to understand it.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I honestly think a lot of voters just look at records and how many losses a team has. Let's face it, most of the people voting are either A) coaches or B) media people who have their own teams and leagues to cover. They just don't have a lot of time to analyze every team in the country. I know I don't feel like the most informed voter in the world when it comes to other leagues sometimes.
Axle (Chicago, IL)
Rich prompts a good question. Supposing both teams win out, which coach is the more convincing case for Coach of the Year: 12-0 (24-0) Meyer or 10-2 Andersen (in his first year)?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Both would make strong candidates, but I'd have to go with Meyer. At some point, you have to recognize the incredible work he's done at Ohio State. And unfortunately for Andesen, he wouldn't have many -- if any -- marquee wins.
What is bigger for the Huskers: Taylor Martinez returning, or the loss of Spencer Long?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I'm going to say Martinez returning. The loss of Long is huge, and he's a tremendous player. But I think Nebraska can still be very good on the line without him. Martinez can take this offense to another level when he's right.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Penn State will not beat the Buckeyes. Chalk it up now... Penn State hasn't beat OSU in Columbus since joining the B1G...PSU has had far better teams over the years than THIS one...don't see an upset happening.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Might want to check your facts on that one, Bren
Tom (St. Paul)
Any chance we'll see a National Championship without an SEC team this year?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
If LSU can beat Alabama, I see that as a distinct possibility.
Jeremy (Ann Arbor)
Badger gone blue for grad school here Brian. Two part question: What does MGIII have to do in the remainder of the season to (1) win the Doak Walker, and (2) get a Heisman INVITATION?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Keep doing what he's doing, basically. Gordon is on pace to close to 1,900 yards rushing and has 11 touchdowns. His per carry average is insane. For him to get seriously into the Heisman mix, he'll probably need some more carries down the stretch as well.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all the time I have for this week, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week.