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. I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
What's a realistic expectation for the B1G this bowl season? 4-3?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I think it's reasonable to think the Big Ten could have a winning record in its bowl games. Certainly not guaranteed, because there are some tough matchups. But the league should have a decent shot in both BCS games, and Minnesota should beat Syracuse. Michigan-K State game could go either way. If Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska play to their potential, they'll have a shot as well.
HP (STL, Missouri)
Any chance Texas look at B1G for their coaching vacancy? Dantonio, Fitzgerald, O'Brien all look like ripe targets for money making Texas program.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
The Texas search could be a wild one. I really don't know how that ends up. Don't think Pat Fitzgerald gets a call. Dantonio and O'Brien? Maybe, though I would think O'Brien is far more likely to leave for the NFL. Would think Texas is after bigger names like Fisher and Malzahn, but things could get very interesting if their top targets turn down the 'Horns. We shall see.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Can Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison turn the Michigan defense around in a year?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
The Wolverines need a few more impact players, especially up front. But I'm not particularly worried about the D. Hoke and Mattison have a track record there and have recruited well. The defense wasn't the main issue most of the season, either. A healthy Jake Ryan and Blake Countess are nice building blocks.
Ohio State getting the #1 ILB in McMillan is HUGE! And that reminds me, Urban Meyer has been recruiting very well on the defensive side of the ball the past couple years. When is that going to start paying off and we can get back to being called "The Silver Bullets" again?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I don't think it will be long. You're right in that some serious talent has been brought in on that side of the ball. Young guys like Bosa, Spence and Washington have already developed into very good players. There is young talent at LB and in the secondary waiting in the wings. Now it's all about developing that talent.
Your life depends on it: BOB - staying or going?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Oh boy, that's dangerous. My gut feeling has been that O'Brien would want to get the program back to a bowl game and be remembered as the guy who kept Penn State from falling apart. But there's no question he has had to coach with severe limitations and will get some great NFL opportunities. I'll guess he stays but I have little confidence in that.
Jim (Wyoming, Michigan)
What are the chances that Texas comes after Dantonio? I realize that it's an attractive job and that he'd have to consider it, but does it sounds like a a situation that would appeal to him?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
It's odd to me that Dantonio's name rarely surfaces in coaching searches. Perhaps it will now but he keeps a low profile for a guy who's had as much success. I think he is very comfortable where he is, though Michigan State needs to step up and increase his salary (which it will do). I think Dantonio enjoys a place like MSU far more than he would Texas, and I doubt he's high on their list right now anyway.
If I am not mistaken it seems as if EVERY B1G team brings back a ton of experience and talent at the QB position(Illinois may be the exception). It has been a long time since this could be said, but it looks like next season could be a very good year for B1G QBs and could help improve the conference perception. Which quarterbacks do you expect to take a huge leap in production and do you agree it could be a good year for the B1G because of the QBs?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Illinois is an exception, and Ohio State could be if Miller goes pro. Nebraska has some experience in Armstrong but not exactly a ton, while Northwestern loses Kain Colter but brings back Siemian. But for the most part, there will be a lot of experience coming back at the position. That should help, and the position needs to get stronger throughout the league. It was not a great year for QB play in 2013, though many teams did play young guys there.
Willy Wonka (The Chocolate Factory)
How did you guys leave Cam Johnston off the 2nd team all B1G at punter? Just because Purdue punted a million times, it doesn't make him better
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Cody Webster was a Ray Guy finalist. Had a great year. It was a really strong season for punters in the Big Ten. And you're really upset about our choice for second-team punter?
Chris E (Wendt Library (Madison))
I think the Penn State loss may be better for my Badgers than a win. Realistically, we would be in the same bowl no matter what, but now we have a chip on our shoulders and may be taken not as seriously by USC. Any truth there?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Maybe, and perhaps it curtailed some of the controversy about the lack of a BCS game. But I still think it was a tough way for a very accomplished group of seniors to go out in their last home game. That class has done so much, but still needs a bowl win.
Mike P (Greater KC)
Now that the Nebraska AD has said that Bo is safe for next year... What about OC and DC Beck and Pupuchia... The Beck was able to evolve the Offense around Armstrong and Kellogg should warrant him returning but the way the defense looked has to be an indictment on the DC... Sure they have great players but as a whole the Defense looked horrible at times
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Beck is in no trouble. And given how loyal Pelini has been to his assistants, I doubt he makes any changes to his staff. On the plus side, that defense was very, very young. Has a chance to develop into a pretty good unit.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, not too long ago it seemed that Wisconsin, MSU and Iowa were at the same level. Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl. Now MSU is going. Iowa bottomed out and is progressing again. But will the Hawkeyes progress enough to earn a trip to Pasadena in the near future?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
That's a good question. I like the progress I saw from Iowa this year, rebounding from a tough season. Kirk Ferentz proved he's still as good as there is at developing talent. I think the Hawkeyes still need to improve at the skill positions to be a Rose Bowl type team. The wide receiver position in particular is a glaring need. Hard to win big in college football these days without a couple of difference makers who can make plays in the open field.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
I've search everywhere, but still haven't found any articles that praise Urban for keeping Marcus Hall out of the B1G Championship as well as minimizing (no plays from scrimmage) Dontre Wilson's playing time. A huge game and he (not the B1G) made the call...funny how when a guy does the right thing there's little to no mention...care to comment?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I wrote about it the following Monday.
What defense has faced tougher offenses, Stanford or MSU?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
No question it's Stanford. The Pac-12 is full of excellent offenses and great offensive-minded head coaches. Doesn't mean Stanford's defense is necessarily better than Michigan State's but it is outstanding in its own right.
What are the chances the Buckeyes go 12-0 next regular season? Losing Hyde and 80% of the O-line I'm worried Miller's flaws will be exposed and we could drop a few.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
That's assuming Miller comes back. And what if he and Shazier turn pro? All of a sudden, Ohio State would have a ton of question marks, and I'm not sure there even the definitive East Division favorite. So it's going to be a very interesting offseason in Columbus.
Not a huge question, especially with the bowls looming, but why is Mewhort getting so much more love than Lewan? Let's face it, if they switched teams and played this past season, would Mewhort grade out better than Lewan did? I doubt it.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Michigan would argue that Lewan graded out higher. But overall line success has to factor into the equation somewhere, and Mewhort was the leader of the league's best O-line and best offense.
Grant (San Francisco)
Does MSU have any early departures this year from its defense? Candidates would be Calhoun or Rush in my mind, but they both could cement themselves as early round picks if they stayed.
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Calhoun is the one real possibility. He's just a redshirt sophomore and seems to enjoy the college life, so I think he will stay. But it wouldn't be a major surprise if he left.
The answer about Iowa is, unfortunately, a no. I would even argue that this years team was as good as the BCS teams...but this years team had to play a tough B1G schedule. With the added teams and two divisions, Iowa would ALWAYS have to close with the real deal on the other side for the championship. I just don't see it happening...
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I don't agree they were "just as good" as the BCS teams. The Hawkeyes lost by double digits to OSU, MSU and Wisconsin, though they did hang around in those games. Just didn't have enough playmakers to finish the deal, in my opinion.
Scott (Up North)
I propose a 4 year emmy ban, 50% reduction in new series greenlights and a formal apology to actors Lewis, Patinkin and Danes for Showtime after what they allowed to happen to Homeland . . . your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I'm with you. Total and utter disaster. I don't plan on watching next season.
Gary (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Any good things you saw out of Purdue this year, something they can build on?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Not a whole lot, because that was maybe the worst Big Ten team I've seen in quite a few years. I do think there were some positives with Danny Etling, who should be a good QB, and DeAngelo Yancey at WR. But there are still a lot of holes to fill.
Grant (San Francisco)
With the playoff system coming, and lending itself really REALLY well to a 4-mega-conference system with conference champions earning a playoff berth, which four conferences would survive this shift, and which conferences would be split up?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I look at it differently. I think the current conference set up lends itself perfectly to an 8-team playoff. You take the 5 power conference champions, the best champion from the other leagues and Notre Dame and then two wild cards. Enhances the conference races and only forces committee to pick two teams and seeding. I think we'll end up there if logic wins out.
kirt (sec country alabama )
hey brian saw an article today on 10 heisman candidates for next season and was very surprised to not see gardner on the list. The o-line has to figure to be better next year and we have big offensive weapons coming back in funchess, butt, darboh, chesson and drake harris. Also i think green will have a breakout year next year as well taking some pressure off gardner. So why no love for Gardner and do you think he has a shot. I was at the ohio game and to me he can be as electric as anyone when given time in the pocket.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I see where you're coming from, but Gardner is not going to be on a list like that after all the turnovers he committed early in the season and all the hits he took in the second half. He could work himself onto the radar again if the OL can hold up. But for now Michigan's offense has much bigger questions to concern itself over.
Willy Wonka (The Chocolate Factory)
you can't be serious...you're gonna automatically put Notre Dame in an 8 team playoff?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Maybe it wasn't clear. Five power conference champions and the best champion from the other leagues OR Notre Dame.
Jeff (SW Missouri)
Brian-We all know about "The Hit" last year in the Capital One Bowl. What must UW do to prevent a repeat of that?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
First of all, don't let Clowney come through the line unblocked, as he did against Michigan because of a miscommunication. I'm no coach, but I would think he's the one guy you always want to make sure you account for. No doubt he can make unreal plays. But this Wisconsin line is much, much better overall than Michigan's was last year, and Lewan controlled Clowney most of the game.
Jake (State Farm)
Here's a thought: O'Brien is overrated. He didn't turn PSU around (they went 9-3 in 2011). They already had talented players on both sides of the ball and great senior leadership. I would hope that a team with Allen Robinson, Hackenberg, DaQuan Jones, Deion Barnes, and all the tight ends would go 7-5. Any NFL team would be taking a risk with O'Brien. More unproven than people think.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Any unproven NFL head coach is a risk. O'Brien has experience running the offense with the Pats, but not all former Pats assistants have worked out. That said, do I think he's overrated? No. No coach has had to deal with all the things that were thrown at him, and he's handled them beautifully.
How good can MSU's offense be next year? They return almost everyone.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Has a chance to be really good. And throw in Damion Terry somewhere, whether that's as a change of pace QB or a slash kind of guy. Those young receivers and tight ends should continue to develop. Could be like the 2011 MSU offense.
I couldn't agree more with you on the 8-team playoff format. It is what I have been hoping for since the beginning. How awesome would it be to start off the "Bowl Season" with those 8 teams in the Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and Rose Bowl games-followed by the rest of the bowls spread out like it currently is- and then the Semi-finals and finals to finish off the Bowl Season! People that want a playoff would be happy AND the Bowls can stay!
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I'd use home sites for the first round. Can't have that much travel for teams that make the final, as you'd be asking fans to travel to league title games and three playoff sites. Plus, campus atmospheres are the best thing about college football. Use that for the first round and I think it's just about perfect.
Jeremyq (Milwaukee, WI)
Just a fun hypothetical here. How do you think UW season ends up if Bielema stays at UW? I think Alex Harris goes to UW because he left the U to join Bielema at Arkansas. If UW somehow got to another BCS bowl with him and maybe won, would he have been a hot pick for the Texas job?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Hmmm... I can't say it would have gone too much different. One of the main knocks on Bielema was his game management at the end of games/halves, and those two areas killed the Badgers at Ohio State and at Arizona State.
chondell holloway (columbus ohio)
im a first time writer so sorry for the mistakes how do u see the new commitment of new 5 star inside linebacker and do u see that helping other recruits following suite now that they see help on the way
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Welcome, Chondell. There is such a thing as momentum in recruiting, as great players want to play with other great players and like to see programs that appear to have a buzz. But I also never worry about Urban Meyer's ability to recruit. He's one of the game's great closers, and he has proven that Ohio State can go to different states/regions and pull out a five-star kid. Impressive stuff.
Michigan can beat Kansas State if _____.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
The offensive line can make major strides this month. Kansas State is not a great team by any stretch but did play well in the final month or so. Michigan is just as talented but has no chance if it can't protect Gardner or field some semblance of a running game.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
MSU loses all but 1 offensive linemen correct? I think MSU offense will have similar problems to what Michigan had on the line this year.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
The Spartans bring back two starters in Conklin and Allen plus Travis Jackson. And they have some promising younger guys
Josh ( New York)
Do you think Narduzzi sticks around for another year, or does Treadwell's story make him double think the jump to HC?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I think he's smart enough to know he should only go to place that's set up to win. According to reports, he said no to UConn because the Huskies didn't offer the type of salary pool for assistants he had hoped for. Right now, there aren't a lot of great jobs open. But that could change as he carousel gets moving, especially with that giant Texas domino out there.
Should Taylor Martinez get drafted?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
He has to prove he's healthy first, because Martinez has now has some recurring foot problems, which is scary for a guy who relies a lot on speed. He also has to be willing to show he can change positions, because I don't see him getting drafted as a QB. More likely he's a UFA.
Jason (Smyrna, TN)
What is the one advantage and one disadvantage that Iowa has on LSU?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
The one advantage is that LSU lost its starting QB to an ACL in the final game of the regular season. So an experienced Hawkeyes defense might be able to exploit that. The disadvantage is obviously a athleticism/speed gap. LSU always has freak athletes, and Iowa will have to find ways to neutralize that.
Why does everyone consider the Texas coaching job the best in the country? I personally think its 3 behind Alabama and Ohio State.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Money and access to talent. Texas is richer than anybody, and the Longhorns don't have to recruit so much as they just choose who they want. It's also easier to navigate through the Big 12 than it is the SEC. The downsides are all the politics and now media demands that go along with the job.
Wisconsin's only first or second team all big 10 player was Chris Borland, while Ohio State had 3 such players. Wisconsin's defense put up better numbers as a unit statistically, shouldnt this be reason for you to pick borland over shazier for DPOY? while shazier had better numbers, he had a better supporting cast (according to you) and a worse defese (according to stats)
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I supposed you could make that argument. If we had a third team, a few Badgers like Brendan Kelly, Beau Allen, Dez Southward and Sojourn Shelton would have been on it. Wisconsin probably had fewer frontline stars but much more experience and depth than Ohio State's D. I think Borland is probably the best defensive player in the Big Ten for all that he does, but I thought Shazier had the better year, if that makes sense.
Grant (San Francisco)
Lots of good NFL prospects in this year's B1G crop... who is the first one drafted? At the end of last season would have been Lewan (who chose to come back). This year my money is on Darqueze Dennard.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I think it's Dennard, especially given how pass happy the NFL is and how valuable top-flight CBs are. But left tackles are gold, too. Depends on what teams need in the first round and whether someone falls in love with Dennard or Lewan first.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Hey Brian! Is it wrong that after a 9-3 season (nothing to sneeze at, but finished with a disappointing loss to PSU), most Badger fans, including me, still have total faith in Gary Andersen and his staff? Yet, after 3 Rose Bowl consecutive appearances Bielema never won the Wisconsin faithful over? I know he had kind of a bland personality, but who cares if the results are there? Is it because GA seems so genuine? Was Bielema?s poor bowl record too much for fans to overcome? How do you explain it? Also, congrats to MSU. I know Wisconsin and MSU have been at odds in recent years (including much of this season), but if the Badgers can?t be there, it?s good to see the Spartans in Pasadena.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Timing is everything. After a 7-5 record in the regular season and a third straight Rose Bowl loss, people weren't too sorry to see Bielema go. Had he gone 9-3 this year, there would have been some grumbling. Andersen does seem to connect well with fans, and for the most part Wisconsin looked very well coached all over the field. The loss to Penn State was troubling, however, and he was coaching what Bielema had long said would be his best team. I like Andersen a whole lot, but he needs to prove it when he has his own players.
Why have so many people become obsessed with star rankings in recruiting? You see Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska with mostly 3 or fewer star rated players always in the division/conference title talk. Yet look at a Michigan who has recruited all these high star rated players, but haven't produced. That has long been my knock on Mack Brown. In 16 seasons only 2 conference championships, yet supposedly top 5 recruiting classes annually. Wouldn't recruiting & coaching up players who fit what you want to do be more important?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Preaching to the choir, my man. Your margin for error is smaller and the ceiling often higher on the highest-rated recruits. But teams like MSU, Wisconsin and Iowa recruit to a system, know what they're looking for and develop talent. That's more important, in my view, than star ratings, especially in a sport where players need to mature, get stronger and have a burning desire to improve once in college.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, that's all my time for today, folks. Enjoyed it as always. See you next week.