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 the Big Ten Monday chat. This will be the final one of the year 2013, since I'll be traveling to the Orange Bowl next Monday. So let's make it a good one. Fire away with your best questions.
The common belief, voiced by your own Adam Shefter, is that the reduction in the size of Bill O'Brien's buy out is an indication that he might jump ship. I think the opposite is true -- why would PSU agree to reduce the size of the buy out? What's in it for them? The best answer -- B O'B has agreed to NOT jump ship at least this year. What do you think of that logic?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Hmmm....maybe. Or maybe Penn State did it to help keep O'Brien happy. Remember that he was blindsided by the NCAA sanctions and certainly was a big fan of that. I think there's a very good chance he goes to the NFL. We shall see very soon.
george (Arizona Husker)
Why do they talk about the great future for the Nebraska defense..we played Freshmen because recruiting has been so bad under BO...further we are not ranked in the top 30 recruiting classes next year..and this will be a defense that will probably be on a 5 loss team.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Nebraska played a ton of freshmen and first-year players this year on defense. I really liked several of them, including Randy Gregory, Vincent Valentine and Michael Rose. Having talented, experienced guys in the system is the best way to field a great defense, and overall, Nebraska was better on D this year than it was a year ago. Depth and speed are better. I think the future there is bright.
it's possible i'm taking this way too seriously but can you explain your team grading system and how you reached the grades you did? minnesota didn't get an an A in any of the categories you were grading, yet their final grade was an A. Going by the grades you gave them in the categories, their final grade should have been a C/C+. the buckeyes, by comparison, got a final grade of A-. are you really saying minnesota had a better season and deserved a higher grade than the 12-1 buckeyes? Are you grading on some kind of curve, or is it based on the expectations of the season and since the buckeyes fell JUST short of their national title aspirations, you punished them with a lower grade, where as minnesota exceeded expectations so they get a higher grade than they deserve? i'm just trying to make sense of this because if i had you grading my papers in school, i would have finished with a lot higher GPA than i did.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Ha. We'd watch a lot of movies in my classes. I wouldn't view these grades as the most serious thing in the world, and since different people on our blog are handing them out, you're going to see some variation. I didn't quite agree with Chantel's grade on Michigan today, for instance, but so be it. And yes, I am grading on a sort of curve, based on expectations and potential. As I wrote about Minnesota, the sum was much greater than the parts. Going 8-4 and winning four straight Big Ten games for the first time since '73 with the coaching adversity they had? Yep, that's an A season for me.
Chuck (Hot Springs, AR)
With all of Ohio State's defensive secondary problems, why didn't we see 5-star recruit Eli Apple in the line-up? Is he not as good as advertised, is he having problems with grades or something else?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
It's a good question, and the same thing for why we didn't see more Vonn Bell. The obvious answer is that the coaches didn't think they were ready. It can be tough tough to trust freshmen when you're chasing a national title. But I would have liked to see those guys get some more experience and opportunity. Will be interesting to see if they get more work in the bowl game -- especially Bell, given how bad the Buckeyes' safety play was against MSU
Tom (Lincoln Park)
So it's looking more and more like we're going to see Shane Morris' first start at Michigan. What's the level of PANIC going to be like in Ann Arbor if Morris struggles?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Panic? After his first career start, in what amounts to a mostly meaningless bowl game? Unless he looks just entirely incapable of being a QB, I don't see any reason to panic. Especially since Gardner is coming back next year. The Wolverines could very well struggle offensively in this game, however.
Hi Brian, wanted to show my dedication to the blog, so submitting this question while watching American Hustle.....it's not bad. In the past Wisconsin has primarily had to rely finding diamond in the rough rb recruits. Joe Mixon, a 5 star recruit, recently announced his top 3 and included WI, even with Gordon announcing he's coming back. Do you think we're going to continue to see this uptick in recruiting with GA's staff at Wisconsin? I know recruiting stars don't mean anything, but still it's nice to see the badgers being considered with some of the high profile guys
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Wow. I've been wanting to see that movie. Must not be that amazing if you're chatting during it. ... Or maybe this chat is just that mesmerizing. Anyway, I felt like Wisconsin's recruiting was already on a slight uptick. Andersen never really got in on five-star players at Utah State but has the personality to do so. The Badgers have gotten a ton of national exposure the past few years, and Russell Wilson and JJ Watt are nice NFL ambassadors. Wisconsin is probably never going to kill it on the recruiting trail but can certainly grab a few blue-chippers out of the region while maintaining its excellence in the region.
Tim (Cairo, Egypt)
Minnesota is playing in Houston tonight. In general, I'm curious if bowl locations increase a teams recruiting ability? If so how?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Is Egypt four days ahead? The Texas Bowl is Friday, my man. I do think bowl locations can help. We saw Nebraska go down and do some Florida recruiting last year. You know Urban Meyer will work some of that in during the Orange Bowl trip. And Texas has produced some nice players for Minnesota like current starters David Cobb and Damien Wilson. Gives a team a chance to get up close with some prospects, which never hurts
Kurt (Central IL)
Brian, could you rank in order which B1G teams have the easier paths to bowl wins this bowl season and add any wisdom to your rankings/listings. Merry Christmas!
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
OK. Well this will mostly be off the top of my head, but I think Minnesota has the best path. Not impressed with Syracuse. Might have gone Michigan No. 2 but not optimistic about the QB news. Pretty much all the other games look like tossups, though I like Ohio State if the Buckeyes can play any defense. Wisconsin should have a decent chance but South Carolina's very good. Not sure what to expect from LSU without Mettenberger and have some doubts about Nebraska. Michigan State plays the best opponent in what should be a very close game.
I would like Adam Rittenberg to be fired. That would be the best Christmas present ever! Go Bucks!
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
What kind of holiday spirit is that? I don't want to do twice the work.
Jonathan (Washington DC)
B1G rooting for the Terps to do well this week? A lot of players - injured stars included - will be coming back next year, so think the Maryland can make a small dent in their new division after this year's respectable campaign?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Sure, the league would like to see both Maryland and Rutgers get some bowl wins and build momentum -- and especially Rutgers, which plays ND. Both teams have some good players but haven't been very consistent. I think they will find some very tough sledding in the East Division next year but could make a bowl game with solid nonconference showings.
Faygo (Silver Spring, MD)
Season's over, it's bowl time, you're headed for Florida and Adam is going to the 100th Rose Bowl. This old Spartan will treasure this season, of course, but off the top, what's your five favorite moments from this Big Ten season?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Oh, boy. Going to miss some. Nebraska's Hail Mary. The Game. Michigan State's celebration in Indy. Minnesota celebrating with Jerry Kill. Penn State rallying to beat Michigan. Not sure those are my top five, but there's five good ones.
Is anyone else tired of the annual "Will Bill O'Brien Jump to the NFL" rumors? He's a top notch coach. He will probably coach in the NFL someday. That someday could be next year. But couldn't we please just wait until there is some tangible proof that he is actually looking to go as opposed to interpretation of random events (contract changes) before we start this nonsense again?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
"Tired of the annual ... " This is only the second year, so calm it down a bit. And what "tangible proof" do you want? Signed contracts? That's not how these searches work. It's all off-the-record chatter. Where there's smoke, there's almost always fire, especially when it's coming from reporters with track records.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Which bowl game(s) are you going to?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Orange Bowl, my friend. Leaving a week from today. Can't come soon enough. I'm cold.
Caleb (Los Angeles)
Bennett, not that it's an indicator of success but any Big Ten QBs on the horizon that can break the long drought of First Round QBs from the Big Ten? Hasn't been one since Kerry Collins in 1995 out of Penn State.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Pretty good chance the next one comes from Penn State. Christian Hackenberg. And I do think that's an indicator of success (though not a direct correlation. See Brady, Tom). More than ever, this is a quarterback's game, and the position just hasn't been strong enough of late in the Big Ten.
Pre Bowls, who do you see as the top guy off the board in the B1G? Dennard? Hoping to see more than one in the first round this year!
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Probably Dennard, but Lewan will have a chance to go top 15 as well. If Shazier comes out, his athleticism will be appealing. And I could see someone falling in love with Hageman after workouts. Dude's a beast.
Why don't you talk more about bands, such as the huge contrast between the high quality Michigan State Band and the Stanford "band"?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Hmm ... We sometimes mention the bands. I wrote a small piece about the Ohio State band in one of the rewinds this year. MSU is also really good and you've got to love the Stanford band if you have any sense of humor. But this is a football blog. There's not going to be a whole lot of band talk.
Brett (Iowa City)
Alright, let's talk Hawkeyes for a minute. From what you've seen with the younger talent on the team, how do you think the Iowa defense will measure up for the 2014 season after losing the triumvirate of linebackers and cornerback BJ Lowery?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
It's a good question, and that won't be easy. The good news is that the defensive line stepped up in a major way this year and should be a strength in 2014. Desmond King looks like the next in a line of standout CBs. When I talked to the three senior LBs last week, they each told me the position would be in good shape with young guys like Reggie Spearman, Quinton Alston and Chad Gilson. But their experience will really be tough to replace. You'd also hope the Iowa offense takes another step forward with Rudock back.
Brian:still didn;t see anything written by you or Adam, regarding Coach Meyer not playing Marcus Hall. You guys sured laid into him pretty good, yet nothing. Typical journalist.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Typical lazy reader. I wrote about it the Monday after the game in the rewind. Google is your friend.
Do I really have to watch OSU play Maryland and Rutgers every season? This is worse than Indiana and Illinois!
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Yes. But on the plus side ... trips to NYC and Baltimore. Crab cakes! I'm trying.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, long term for a program, which do you think is better? A Kirk Ferentz type situation where you have a non-superstar coach who stays for ... decades? Or a BO'B type situation with an in-demand coach who will probably bolt after only a few seasons?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Coaching stability is almost always a good thing. And I'd argue that Ferentz was considered a superstar coach at one point. You also want to win big and take your swings at national championships and BCS games. If you can get a coach to deliver those and then he bolts after only a few seasons you'd take that every time.
Joe (Evans, GA)
Brian, I agree with you and Adam about the Big Ten needing to do better in bowl games and be deeper quality-wise, i.e. being more than just OSU, MSU and WI being good on the National stage. Yet it seems like we have this conversation and outlook "next year" every year, do you see the Big Ten getting better both talent-wise and perception-wise, or is it just Ground Hog Day (movie) in the Big Ten? Has any of the sportswriters from other conferences seen/commented on any positive changes?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
The Big Ten is definitely still in Rodney Dangerfield territory when it comes to perception from other leagues. The quality of play this year was better than last year, and at least there were two Top 10 teams. Michigan remains a major disappointment, and Nebraska hasn't delivered. Penn State's problems are what they are. Wisconsin and Michigan State have helped fill the void, but more depth is still needed at the top
Why is Adam so much smarter than you? Northwestern?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Probably the glasses. I went to a school that actually has played in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Do you think the BIG10 title game will be hurt going forward by the fact it seems the conference's marquee teams and brands seem to all reside in the East division?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Could be, at least attendance wise. That's a long trip for Nebraska fans. Wisconsin fans would go to Indy, but the first two games didn't have the demand as this year's. Other schools like Uowa would probably be hungry to go. Remains to be seen whether the East will actually be that much stronger. A lot depends on Michigan
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Will any future B1G games play in the new stadium in Minneapolis? If so, when might the first one happen?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Right now, nothing's under contract except for Indy. I still think Chicago will get a shot at some point, and Detroit makes a lot of sense for a rotation in the future. Would love to see Minneapolis because it's such a fun city, but not sure the location is central enough.
Kevin (Miami (currently 81 and sunny))
Since you are coming to the Orange Bowl, I thought I would let you know that it is currently 81 today. I don't own any sneakers, only sandals. If you had to pick a favorite to win the east next year, based on what you know right now (IE players you expect to come back or leave), who would you pick?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
So jealous. If not for that pesky holiday on Wednesday, I'd be there already. I've got to take the safe route and take Ohio State, mostly because I think Miller comes back. If not, it's a lot more open and Michigan State might be my pick in the East.
Does Nebraska have the replacements on the offensive line to protect a young QB next year, Armstrong, Stanton or incoming freshman. They have the rest of the skilled positions on offense to be decent.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Huskers definitely lose some valuable seniors like Sirles, Pensick and Long. But plenty of young guys got work this year in part because of the injuries, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for 2014. Nebraska usually finds a way on the OL. I'm not too concerned about that
Mike (Psu Class of 13) (NYC)
What are some big name coaches Penn State will go after if B.O.B. leaves? Could they go after Narduzzi or maybe someone like Gruden, Cowher, or Dungey? Evenutally they will want to coach again I think.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
David Jones had a really good piece on that this morning, and he listed Mike Munchak No. 1 on the list. Makes a lot of sense, since Munchak very nearly got the job two years ago. PSU would at least have to feel out Al Golden, but I'm not sure why he'd leave Miami now. Narduzzi would be a very interesting choice.
With losing key seniors on defense for MSU, do you still expect their defense to be the best in the Big10 and one of the best in the nation next year, or will there be a relatively big drop off? Keeping Narduzzi is key, but I'm just worried about having to replace all of our starting linebackers and half our secondary
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
No question, there is some serious talent departing, including Dennard, Bullough, Allen and Lewis. But Calhoun comes back, along with Trae Waynes and Marcus Rush and Kurtis Drummond. So the nucleus is still there, and if Narduzzi is still around, the defense should be fine. Probably not quite as dominant as this year, but the offense should be much farther along to start the year as well.
John (Louisville KY)
Who do like to win the Big Ten next year?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Penn State volleyball? I haven't analyzed the schedules yet and we have to wait to see which big names go pro and which come back. I'm going to favor Ohio State among the top choices as long as Meyer is around. Michigan State should be really good. Wisconsin loses a lot but has a favorable schedule after the opener. Those jump to mind first.
Brian, Over/Under on how many games Palini has to win next year to save his job
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
If you thought the Pelini story line dominated conversation last year, just wait. It might not be division title or bust, but it could be close to that. Put the over-under at 8.5. Depending on other circumstances, of course.
Wasn't the first CCG pretty well-attended; thought I saw about the same attendance as this year's?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Turnout in '11 was good, but this year's crowd was a record for the event and they added extra seating. The demand for tickets this year was heads and shoulders above 2011.
Mike (Psu Class of 13) (NYC)
I would not be happy with Schiano or Munchak? Schiano had 1 good year at Rutgers and Munchak has had 1 good year at Tennesee. PSU needs to make a splash. I like Charlie Strong (even with his long term contract)!
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Define make a splash. If we had this same conversation two years ago, I doubt you would have considered Bill O'Brien a "splash" hire. But that worked out pretty well. More about the right fit than a big name. I can guarantee you it won't be Charlie Strong.
can clemson hang with the buckeyes? do you see it as a potential shoot out with the defensive issues the bucks have had?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Hang with? For sure. I was at a Clemson game earlier this season. That team has some flaws but it also has big-time athletes, especially on offense. Probably more so than any Big Ten team. Going to be a major challenge for a Buckeyes defense that was in tatters at the end of the season.
Which game next season will be more influential in determining who wins the East next season? OSU at MSU or OSU vs. Mich?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I'd say OSU vs. MSU. Still not sold on Michigan as a title contender, by any means.
Tim Beck (Lincoln)
Write this down... Abdullah and Bell have a combined 325 yards vs Georgia!
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Bold. And the Huskers might just need all of it.
I know that at an elite program recruiting can be a difference between great and "just good", but are Jerry Kill's awful recruiting rankings at MN as bad as they seem? Guys like Maxx Williams, Eric Murray, Thieren Cockran, and Drew Wolitarsky have shown real promise but were almost totally unrecruited outside of Kill's staff. The way I see it, Kill will never outgun the big boys for recruits, but he has shown a real eye for developing underrated talent into good players.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Yes, and that's the key, just as it is at Iowa and Wisconsin. Recruit to a system and develop it. And there are some blue-chippers who come through that state. Got to keep some of them home.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Brian - I'll give you the benefit of the doubt because you got a fab name, but what would be the use of keeping O'Brien happy by lowering his buyout if you know he wants to leave? Lowering the buyout was obviously a bargaining chip but there's likely a prid pro quo in there for Penn State as well.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
You don't want a coach who's so upset with the administration that he's determined to leave. Buyouts wouldn't deter an NFL team if they really, really wanted O'Brien. It's kind of a rich league, if you haven't noticed. Again, we shall see what happens.
How many crazy Nebraska people should we expect to thank for coming here? Heard they are all classy people.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Not sure how many will make the trip. That's a long way to go, and they're not exactly fired up to follow this team, especially with another trip to Florida. But, yeah, you won't find many nicer, more respectful fans than Big Red.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Merry Christmas!! What College Football Bowl Game Are you Looking forward seeing this Season?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
I'm looking forward to all of them. Bowl games, holidays, what could be better? Love seeing the Big Ten go at it against big-time teams from other leagues, especially since we got very little of that in the regular season. If I have to pick one, it's the Rose Bowl. Can't wait to see those two physical defenses go at it. And since you mentioned it, Merry Christmas to all!