Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big East 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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's talk some Big East football
what is the biggest non conference game for the big east this year?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I think it's Miami-Pitt. Pitt is supposed to be the preseason favorite, so it should beat the 'Canes at home. That said, if West Virginia can beat LSU, Cincy can beat Oklahoma or USF can beat Florida, that win becomes the biggest in the league.
Brian (Bridgeport WV)
What do you think about WVU's preseason ranking with the talent and experience coming back this year? Fringe of Top 25 in most polls.
Brian Bennett (4:03 PM)
I think West Virginia should be toward the bottom of the Top 25. Lots of returning players, but this group needs to prove it's better than 9-4, and there's a new starting QB
I have been watching Syracuse games with my hands over my eyes for the past 5 years. When can I finally put my hands down and actually ENJOY watching the Cuse??
Brian Bennett (4:05 PM)
I thought the 'Cuse was more watchable last year and should be competitive this season. But it's going to take another couple years for Doug Marrone to really restock the talent. Greg Robinson left a smoking crater there.
Adam (Philadelphia, PA)
Last season it took Cincinnati, Pitt, and WVU awhile to garner any national respect in the polls. Does Pitt have a chance to crack the Top 10 with wins over Utah and Miami early in the season or will they be held back by the Big East bias early in the season?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
Pitt should start out the year in the Top 15, so it won't take long to get in the Top 10 if the Panthers get on a roll early. Remember, no Big East teams were ranked to start last year.
Andrew (Emerald Isle, NC)
I was kind of puzzled by your mention the other day regarding geography and the possibility of Louisville being looked at for the Big 12 Expansion. You said they would be a better fit for the ACC, when Kentucky is in SEC. I don't see how Louisville would be geographically "unfit" for the Big 12, but geography "sound" for the ACC and their biggest rival part of the SEC?Guess my point is when it comes to expansion...Geography be damned. Just an cloudy observation, seeking clarification. Hopefully, I can post a question later and get it answered.
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
Actually, Andrew, I said to forget about geography in my answer. I was talking about cultures and fits. Louisville doesn't fit with Oklahoma and Texas. It fits with a more basketball-centric conference like the ACC.
chris (east hartford, ct)
Ok Brian I'm giving you a chance to clear this up for me. Why isn't Zach Frazer on your list of 25? I know he isn't the best qb but he has to be better than the one who is listed at number 24?
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
Frazer played well at the end of last season and looked good this spring. He's had a couple nice games. He's had a lot more mediocre games and several flat-out bad ones. He still needs to prove more to me.
Brian,who's development is more important for Pitt this year? The three new offensive lineman, the secondary, or Tino? Good job with the blog?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
I'll answer the second question first: Yes, great job. As for Pitt, it's actually the two offensive line spots -- center and right guard -- that are worrisome, and what I think are the biggest question marks for the Panthers.
Chuck (Galapagos Islands)
Which conference is most likely to survive BCS Darwinism...the Big East or the ACC?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
The ACC. More established programs, and they just signed a big new TV deal
With the Sterling Griffin injury, the bad news keeps coming in for USF. Already thin ranks being depleted even further. Is a disaster looming for Skip, or does he have enough young talent left to work with this year?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
Well, it looks like Griffin might be back in time for the start of the season, or just around it. And other than the Florida game, which is probably unwinnable, the Bulls have some games in which he can ease back in. I think this is going to be a learning year for the Bulls because they are so young at so many spots. But they've got enough talent to get to a bowl game for sure.
Ben (Bridgeport DubV)
I feel like Tavon Austin is the most disrespected player in the Big East. It's just not right for him to not be in your Big East's top 25 players. The kid is explosive beyond belief. I've seen speed in Touchdown City via PW, Slaton, and Devine and I believe Austin is right up there with those guys. If he is in your top 4 Big East Players, I apologize but if he isn't then something is just simply wrong. Robert Sands also got the shaft not being in the top 5 as he will be a first round NFL draft pick. Lets go Mountaineers and its pretty obvious we are going to shock the nation this year, but we won't be shocked here in WV because we know what to expect from our guys. We are extremely talented and we can go undefeated if Geno can compete at a high level. Our defense is extremely tough and underrated.
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Again, that list is based on past production and this season's potential only. While I agree that Austin is a special talent and bound for great things, he didn't do a whole lot last year. And with Devine and Sanders around, he's going to be a third option at best.
Clearly Dave Wannstadt has made improvements to the Pitt football program. Looking next year at the 2011 class, there seems to be a lot of great talent coming out of Western PA, however, a lot are still leaving for OSU, Notre Dame, and Penn State. What does Wannstadt need to do to keep the top level recruits in Western PA?
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Heck, I don't think talent has been much of issue in Pittsburgh. Check out my Big East top 25 list ... it's dotted with Panthers, including three in the top five.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
If the Cards don't come out any better than last year (4-8), what do you think the feel around the program would be for coach Strong's second year?
Brian Bennett (4:26 PM)
I'm not sure the record will be much better. I think 5-7 is about the best the Cards can do this year unless they get some breaks. Regardless, I am certain this team will play hard and compete and look far more organized than the last three editions.
Why do you hate USF so much?
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
I have absolutely no idea why you'd think that.
Zach Hurd may be one of the best linemen in the Big East. Why so low in your top 25?
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
These lists tend to favor the skill players heavily. Hurd is one of only two offensive linemen in my Top 25, and the only guard.
how bout some rutgers love? Give me a breakout player this year. Freshman to keep an eye on?
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Any time, Tom. I'll give you several breakout players: Steve Beauharnais, David Rowe, Tim Wright and Quron Pratt. As for the freshmen, I think Jawan Jamison and Casey Turner will be given a shot to compete for the RB job. Not sure where Jeremy Deering will end up, but I expect he'll be a factor somewhere, even if it's just special teams. How's that for love?
Do you think a Three-peat is a possibility for UC?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
Absolutely. Should have the best offense in the league. Defense has some questions, but haven't we said that a couple years in a row now? It's hard to three-peat, though, especially when going through a coaching transition.
Josh (Melbourne, FL)
It's BS that Pitt is going to end up ranked in the Top 15 and WVU will be lucky to sneak into the Top 25. WVU beat sPitt head to head, returns a majority of it's starters, and has more play makers on both sides of the ball. Both teams have new starting QB's (Smith has more experience). Yeah Pitt has Lewis and Baldwin, but WVU has Devine, Sanders, Austin and then McCartney coming in. And don't say he's unproven because you've hyped up Hazelton for a year and he didn't prove jack at USC.
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
I don't think it's that much of a gap. If I'm doing a Top 25, I've got Pitt around 13-15 range and WVU in the 21-24 range. The difference? The Mountaineers lost four games last year and their bowl. Pitt won its bowl and went 10-3.
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
As for Hazelton, he caught 50 balls as a sophomore starter at USC. If you can start there, you're pretty good. And he dominated practice last year at times on a 12-0 team.
John ((McKinney, Texas))
So are you going to get a mowhawk style haircut before the start of fall camps ?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
My hair couldn't look any worse than it does now.
Manny (East Brunswick, NJ)
What would you say Rutgers' ceiling is this year? I don't think inexperience is as big of a factor as you make it seem. We found out last year that just because a person is young, doesn't mean he can't be a star. The team looks pretty good on paper/spring practice. Much better than last year. Can we make a run at conference champion THIS year?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
Ceiling? I'd say the ceiling is a Big East championship. There's enough talent to get it done. But teams this young rarely win conference titles, and that offensive line is highly questionable right now. If it plays the way it did in the spring -- and there were injuries that contributed to that, no doubt -- Rutgers has no chance of winning the league.
Matt (West Virginia)
What's your opinion of WVU's offensive line? I think our biggest issue last year was that Brown never had enough time to make reads before he had to take off and run. I think that if they can gel and give Geno some time in the pocket, our offense can get some of its old firepower back.
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I wasn't real impressed with the line most of the year, particularly in its pass-blocking as you mentioned. Most of those guys were young or first-time starters, though. There's talent there ... I really like Jenkins and Barclay. I expect it to be a lot better this year.
If USF beats UF? You mean when USF beats UF...ahhh I can dream right? That's going to be a task. Anyway, Brian maybe the lists are a bad idea, they create ripples in my otherwise peaceful Big East Football Blog. Anyway, no problem with your list here, USF players are too young and haven't lived up to expectations here in FLA. Do you think Skip will be able to get better performace/consistancy out of the talent here in Tampa?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
You're right, Brad, that list necessarily has to take into account previous production. Guys like Dion Lewis, Jason Pierre-Paul and Armon Binns weren't known this time last year. And I think Skip Holtz is really going to turn that program into something special. Leavitt did a great job getting it going, but he couldn't take it to the next level. Holtz is a much better Xs and Os coach, and he's got a sleeping giant on his hands.
With such parity in the conference, what chances does a second place Big East team at really playing in the Champs Sports Bowl this year? Basically, does Notre Dame stand a good chance of knocking off a 10-2 Pitt, WVU, or Cincy team?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
That's an excellent question, and I'm going to approach it from the other angle. Brian Kelly is way too good of a coach to have the Irish go 6-6 every year. I don't think Notre Dame is talented enough to go 10-2 this year, though, which means there's a very good chance the Irish are right in that 7- to 9-win window where they can go to the Champs Sports Bowl. And that could knock a very deserving Big East team out of that spot.
sub par conference.
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
You're nuts. (Thank you, I'll be here all week)
Why did Robinson leave such a crater? Poor recruiting? coaching? I mean, SYR used to be a top 20 team regularly for a long while.
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
All of the above. He just never understood the culture, got Syracuse away from the things that had made it successful and made some bizarre choices. Why, for example, would he cut out strength testing and not have the best strength numbers posted in the weight room?
You really think whether a team wins or loses a bowl is any prediction of next years success? You say Pitt won their bowl -- ok so what? That hardly is any indicator of success for the coming season.....
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
No, it does not. But does it have a bearing on how teams are ranked in the following year's poll? Of course.
brian, i'm sure the expansion questions are getting old but if you were the commish, which school is your 1st call for big east expansion? tcu? houston? ecu?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
the Big East's bowl lineup is a disgrace as well as a public slap in the face t the football schools. It looks like Marinatto slapped that together in 15 minutes after he woke up in a strange motel room short a kidney.
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
CJ, do you think the Big East didn't try to get better bowls? You can only sign on to the bowls that want you. The Big East still has some building to do before it can get the kinds of deals the SEC and Big Ten have.
is it just me or did it seem like B.J. scrambled on just about every play because he had to. Just seems to me like the O Line couldnt stop anyone. Can i expect better protection this year?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
He scrambled an awful lot, but I'm not sure I'd put it all on the O-line. I thought there were times that he got happy feet and scrambled too soon. And with no real legitimate running game behind him most of the year, defenses could pin their ears back and come after him.
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
Big market. Florida base. Excellent facilities. Growing alumni population. Natural rival with USF. It's not perfect, but it's the most logical candidate out there who will say yes
Steve (Cincinnati, Ohio)
I am a huge Cincinnati Fan, We have never really had a heisman hopeful. Even if Zach Collaros puts up extrodinary numbers would a player from Cincy ever really stand a chance of winning such an honor?
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
It would have been interesting to see if Tony Pike would have been a finalist had he stayed healthy last year. He was climbing up the weekly Heisman polls, and he would have had huge numbers and a 12-0 team. For any Big East player, they need either otherworldy numbers or an undefeated season to get into serious contention.
who said aything about the Big 10 or SEC? The ACC and Big 12-2 have respectable bowl lineups and comparable talent (don't want to hear about TX and OK. We get enough of that from Schlabach and Maisel) The real problem is the deferential treatment the commish gives to the B-ball schools and Notre Dame, of which only G'town and Villanova have earned.
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
Those are two totally different issues. And I would argue that the ACC's bowl lineup isn't THAT much better.
John ((McKinney, Texas))
It will be pretty hard for the Big East to really improve their Bowl line-up, since Bowls really only care about making money. The schools with the Biggest Fan bases (ie BIG TEN, SEC) will always have better bowl line-ups
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
You are correct, sir.
patrick brick (arizona)
HEY WE LIKE THE BIG EAST OUT HERE IN PHEONIX,BUT PITT HAS TO PLAY AT UTAH ......SORRY BUT U THINK THEY WILL BEAT UTAH?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
You guys must like the Caps Lock key out there too. That's going to be an awfully tough game for Pitt to win. If I had to pick right now, I'd take Utah
How can you say that Tavon Austin hasn't shown you enough to put him on the top 25 and then put Sunseri on there from pitt?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Because Sunseri will be throwing to Baldwin and has Lewis to take off pressure. I'm still not exactly sure what Austin's role will be, especially if they follow through with the idea of lining him up as a wideout.
Samir Sampat (New Jersey)
Why is Temple not in the discussion for Big East expansion? They bring a rising football program and an established basketball program and play in a major city (Philadelphia)? They can replace DePaul or Seton Hall in basketball (clearly not worth keeping).
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
That was tried once before, you know. Temple's resurgence is a nice story, but they need more than one or two decent years to prove they're a viable BCS caliber program.
Shawn (Manchester, CT)
Will UCONN get more 4-star players in football if they beat Michigan?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
Randy Edsall has never been caught up in the star system. He recruits guys that he think will fit his style.
With the Syracuse vs. Penn State at the Meadowlands game being announced, why doesn't the Big 10 and Big East have a similar Kickoff game series like the SEC and ACC at the Meadowlands every year?
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
I doubt the interest is there from the Big Ten. I mean, they've got their own network to run
What's your take on the rutgers' co offesive and defensive coordinator system. Seems like it would create more confusion than it would do good
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
As long as the playcalling duties are clearly defined, and I'm sure they are, I don't see it being a problem. Coaching is always a collaborative effort, and lots of places have running game and passing game coordinators and the like. Titles are just titles.
Brian Bennett (5:01 PM)
Time really flew today. Thanks for all the good questions. Have a great Fourth of July weekend, everybody!