Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten 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 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.
Daniel (Washington, DC)
Brian, hypothetically speaking (because we all love hypotheticals), if Wisconsin and Michigan/Nebraska/Iowa win out, is there any chance the B1G still has 2 BCS teams?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Interesting question. Let's say that happens. Both Big Ten title game participants would then be 10-2. The winner would go to the Rose. The loser would be 10-3 and coming off a loss, something that bowls don't usually like. It's probably a better chance for Michigan, if it were to climb up the polls before losing a close game in the title game (and bowls love the Maize and Blue fan base). Still, it seems like a long shot this year.
Jeff (Southern California)
Brian-How much would you say the resurgence of Montee Ball is the return to Bostad's style of O-line play, versus Canada's more varied playcalling, versus a healthy Ball?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Can I give a little to each column? There's no doubt the line is playing better than it was a couple of weeks ago. Ball also deserves credit for running hard and really focusing on getting yards after contact, something he did a tremendous job at Saturday. And I think Canada called his best game of the season on Saturday. Of course, it helps when the O-line gives you a chance to make plays.
Chris (New York, NY)
It looks like you and Adam at this point of the season have Michigan over Wisconsin in the B1G Champiionship game. At this point, how close do you see the game being and where do you see Michigan having the edge to take a victory over Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Long, long way to go still, Chris, but that game could be a really interesting one, especially since the teams haven't played in a while. Obviously, Michigan would have to stop the running game and do a better job against a pro-style power offense than they did against Alabama. Conversely, Wisconsin would have to prove it could stop a speedy spread offense and Denard Robinson. Would be a lot of fun.
Johnny K (San Diego)
Brian - I see you finally fell off the MSU bandwagon. Do they even end up at .500 and see a bowl game this year?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Yep, I'm still dusting off my clothes and bandaging my wounds from that violent fall. The Spartans better get some things solved fast, because I could see them finishing below .500 with that schedule. I think they still end up winning seven games, but it won't be easy. What a disappointment.
Brian from Springfield Mo [via mobile]
I was curious if you think the Iowa offense will show up this week or at any point this season. I realize new O coordinator but the D is playing fabulous and as a senior QB, he's just disappointing. The receivers are slow and fail to get much separation, but what gives? Maybe we should ask some of the Cardinals baseball players how to score more???
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Love this question because of A) your name, B) you're from my wife's hometown and C) you referenced my beloved Redbirds. Anyway, I think the Iowa offense might just be what it is now -- a solid power running team that is just not very good in the passing game. Some of last week's struggles have to be blamed on the weather and MSU's great D, but I wouldn't expect Iowa to suddenly become an explosive attack. The good news is, the defense is playing great right now.
BB, Morgan Burke has a new boss in December and Danny Hope is struggling mightily (understatement) with his "best team yet". Who's seat is hotter?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
There's no doubt that pressure is rising on Hope. Purdue fell on its face in its two biggest games, and the lack of fans in the seats against Wisconsin said it all. Problem is, he's signed through 2016. Will Purdue have the stomach to eat four years of his deal if things continue to go south this year?
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who is your Big Ten MVP at this point of the season?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
It's got to be Braxton Miller. By a fairly large margin.
Steve (Des Moines)
What does Nebraska have to do better to stop mobile quarterbacks? Is it recruiting, coaching, just playing better?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It's a great question. I talked to Alonzo Whaley today, and he insisted it's just little mistakes. Bo Pelini says it's just better execution. But it makes you wonder when this is a continual problem. Good mobile QBs are a problem for almost all defenses. But I wonder if there's some sort of fundamental flaw in Nebraska's defense against that particular type of player. We'll learn more this weekend, I suppose
If the Big Ten doesn?t grab an at-large bowl bid this season does that work to the Big Ten?s advantage when looking for a good conference bowl performance? Last year the big 12 only had one team in a BCS bowl game and they went 6-2. It?s kind of hard to deny that wasn?t a direct result of them facing unranked opponents that had 1-2 less wins. Ironically, the best way for the conference to look good nationally might mean only having one BCS bowl team.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Not playing in an at-large BCS game should make for better matchups for the league. But then you start looking at which teams might take those bottom-run bowl slots. Minnesota? Purdue? A scuffling Michigan State? Big Ten may need a lot more help than that this bowl season.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Illinois seemed so lifeless on Saturday. I didn't expect a win but thought Illinois would put up a fight like last week. Could Beckman be losing his team? Hopefully he can pull something out of his hat for Indiana. (NEVER thought I would have to say that about IU)
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Yeah, it's sad. I would definitely make Indiana a favorite over Illinois, maybe by more than a touchdown. The Illini are a complete mess of a team right now in every area.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
What area of Iowa's defense do you believe PSU should attack on Saturday? Do they have any glaring weaknesses that could be exposed?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
The Hawkeyes have been playing very well. But Central Michigan was able to spread the defense out a little and hit on some quick passes. That could be an advantage for Penn State and the short passing game. Using the tight ends could also work well against Iowa.
Do you see Vendric Mark playing in the NFL?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
He's an awfully small guy, so his best bet would be on returns and maybe as a third-down guy. But Mark is very fast and a smart player, so he'll have a shot.
Urban Meyer (Columbus, OH)
Brian, are you enjoying me crashing the Big Ten party as much as I am? Is this season laying the groundwork for a huge national title run in 2014?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Well, it's been very interesting to watch, and you're the only Big Ten team in the national spotlight right now, so we're grateful for that. There are still some holes on the Buckeyes, mainly on defense. But if this is a sign of things to come, the rest of the league could be in trouble.
RPF (Minneapolis, MN)
Brian, with yet another hard loss Saturday, including MarQueis Gray getting re-injured, do you believe the brief light that was the Gophers post-season aspirations is getting extinguished? The only other probable win that I can see on the schedule would be against Illinois in a couple of weeks, but beyond that there isn't much room for optimism. Do you believe the U will be able to notch 2 more wins this season? Or are all hopes out the window?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I do see the Gophers getting two more wins. They should beat Illinois. Purdue at home is also highly winnable, the way the Boilers are playing. And beating Michigan State at home is possible. Getting Gray back is very important, however.
Jonny (Ann Arbor)
If you have one national championship game to coach, assuming all other things such as surrounding talent are equal, would you rather have a fully maxed out Denard at his absolute best, or a fully maxed out Braxton at his own absolute best?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Good question. I think I'd rather take Braxton Miller. I trust him more as a passer. Denard Robinson at his best is as good as there is anywhere, but he's just too inconsistent.
Mental errors have really hurt MSU so far this year (7 personal fouls vs. Indiana in a half, failing to spike the ball at the end of the first half against Iowa); given MSU's difficulties moving the ball, how "perfect" a game does MSU have to play this weekend to beat Michigan? No personal fouls, no turnovers, and forcing two of our own might be required.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The Spartans will have to play by far their best game of the season to have a shot. That means no dropped passes, no dumb penalties and the defense will have to create turnovers. Michigan State's offense has been so brutal that it's hard to envision the winning streak continuing.
Steven (Madison, WI)
How do you like Stave's potential in the coming 2-3 years? A four year starter has been a rarity for the Badgers to say the least, but there's always Bart Houston waiting in the wings (not to mention a certain ACC transfer).
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Stave's a big guy with a strong arm. He just needs to make better decisions. His throw into double coverage in the end zone last week was dumbfounding, and he underthrows a lot of open receivers. But he's young. He has a chance to be pretty good, and Wisconsin will finally have some QB depth.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)
Who is over-rated/over-paid coach in the B1G now! Eat it bloggers!
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Hey, I'm the guy who defended Ferentz in a blog debate with the Big 12 a few weeks ago, remember?
Thomas Green (Columbus, OH)
If you had an All-B1G squad and could line up 3 WRs and 2 TEs, who do you choose?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Assuming everybody's healthy, I'd take Allen Robinson, Jared Abbrederis and Kenny Bell. Then give me Dion Sims and Devin Funchess (love that kid's potential) at TE
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
I think it's been so long since PSU won in Iowa City that the NCAA actually counts it as a victory. Anyway, it seems like a good matchup for the Lions this time since they are so strong vs the run. Are PSU's chances really good to continue the run, or will the pink dressing rooms doom them again?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I think the teams match up pretty evenly. Iowa isn't going to be able to blow many teams out. If Weisman truly can't go for the Hawkeyes, that's a big loss.
Dan (The mountains)
MSU is really only 2 plays away from being 5-1. The blown fumble call vs OSU and the screw up FG vs Iowa and they win those 2 games. Their D seems to keep them in every game even with how bad their O is. Now the real question is, aren't they back in the legends division hunt with a W this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
That's an optimistic view. Remember that the Spartans almost blew the Boise State game. And that would have been a long FG against Iowa, with a kicker (Dan Conroy) who's been erratic. They pretty much have to win out at this point to win the Legends. That seems out of the question.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
Brian, I know IU has a big hill to climb defensively but I am getting the feeling coach Wilson is starting to get his players to beleive.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I know this: The Hoosiers fight like crazy and never give up. That's a great sign and means the coaching staff is doing something right. Still have a long, long way to go on defense, but that offense is legitimately potent with some good receivers and RBs.
Brian, Cards are looking good and look to be on their way to the World Series, who do you think they will face, Detroit or the Yankee's?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Not taking that jinx bait. Still got three more to win against San Francisco.
A-Duke (Madison, WI)
Your preferred kickoff strategy: kick it through the end zone/ kick a high, directional kick?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Assuming I could trust my kicker to put it in the right spot and not kick it out of bounds, and my coverage team was strong, I'd go directional. There's also something to be said for booting it out of the end zone and never having to worry about a big return.
What's wrong with Purdue's defense? Are the LB's just that bad? Any chance Hope pulls the redshirt and plays Appleby this year?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Looked to me like the entire front seven got pushed around the last two weeks. It's all about the terrible run defense. Missed tackles by the linebackers have a lot to do about that, but I'm disappointed in the play by what was supposed to be a very good D-line.
Transplanted in STL for work. I guess the Cards are pretty big deal here. Who would of thought? When the Huskers where in the Big XII in 2009&10 they shut down spread offense (lead the nation in scoring D in 2009) So I think its more of players vs Pelini not knowing how to stop it. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Funny how much better Pelini's defenses looked with Suh, huh? Yeah, players is a big big deal. We said going into the season that this defense lacked stars, and that's still true. Pelini's defenses need great defensive linemen, and I haven't see many the last couple of years on that roster.
Rafa (Miami, FL)
We're seven games in and Northwestern is the only bowl-elligible B1G school. Should I expect it to start raining frogs soon?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Ha. Love what Northwestern is doing, but did you know the Wildcats have played the easiest schedule in the Big Ten (according to NCAA stats, anyway)?
Matt (Hopeless in Indiana)
So what names should we look forward to being mentioned for Purdue's upcoming coaching search? Could James Franklin be lured north from Vandy?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Still too early for that. If Hope gets Purdue to another bowl game, I think there's still a good chance he's back next year. But I feel your pain.
As of today, who are the top 3 defenses in the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I'd say Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan.
Jon U. (That Special Place in the North)
Is it safe to say that even with a 4-2 record, Minnesota made a good move signing Jerry Kill for such a long contract? Related note, can't express how relieved I am to hear that his seizure post-game was minor and he is already back with the team.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Yes. Kill is a proven program builder, and the Gophers will reap tremendous benefits with him there long term. I'm also very happy to hear that Kill is back with the team.
Mike Mauti (State College)
Ummm, I think you've forgotten me and my defense on several occasions during this chat session.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Penn State would be No. 4 in my book. I like what the other three teams are doing defensively a little better.
John (Jacksonville Fl)
Do you think the NCAA is kicking themselves for banning Ohio St from a bowl this year, especially if they run the table? Lots of money in an undefeated Ohio St.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Gene Smith should be kicking himself, but not the NCAA, which gets no revenue from bowls.
Indiana offense that good or OSU defense that bad?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
The Hoosiers have proved they can score on everybody so far this season. But Ohio State has just been bad against spread teams. It's a real weakness and one that may end up costing them before the season is out.
Danny Hope (West Lafayette)
So you're thinking a trip to Little Caesar's bowl saves my job? I like it. Love Detroit in December and all the $5 pizza's a man could wish for.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
With four years left on your deal, it probably will. Though I can't imagine what Purdue fans would go to that game.
Dave (Ann Arbor)
If Michigan had swapped Alabama and Notre Dame for, say, Boise and UAB (in addition to UMass and Air Force) and was sitting at 6-0, would there be a different perception of the Wolverines?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Interesting question. And definitely so. Michigan started out as a Top 10 team and would likely be in the top 5 now if it had played a much easier schedule. At some point, pollsters have to recognize that the only two losses were to top five teams. If Michigan can finish 10-2 with those as the only losses, this may be a better coaching job by Brady Hoke than last year.
Riley (Joliet, IL)
Best traveling fanbase in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Lot of good ones, but Nebraska is probably the best in the country.
You have Northwestern ahead of Iowa in the power rankings but Iowa going to a better bowl? Please explain.
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Fan base. Iowa has a bigger one. Bowls are about making money, not rewarding teams with better records.
Joey (Standing in the Purple Reign)
Why have the Cats been unable to get Kyle Prater involved in the offense
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Good question. Prater wasn't fully healthy in the preseason, and that slowed him. He also had to learn a new system. You'd think a guy with his physical attributes would be more involved in the offense, though.
Brian, whether it's the Derby or baseball, your picks are usually pretty good. But as far as defenses go, putting PSU at #4 is a sure loser. How many points did they give up in the 1st half of all their games combined?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I believe football games have two halves. And my Derby picks are horrible.
Why so much love for Penn State in the power rankings? I have read numerous stories on how Ohio State and Penn State are the top 2. Penn State is at best middle of the pack and will lose 2-3 more games this year. Their best win is over an unranked NW team and they lost to 2 mediocre teams earlier. I feel like people are making them out to be a redemption story way too soon. I hope for the football players and fans who are not culpable for what happened that they have some success and heal faster. I just am not enjoying the overhyped early season story.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Simple. Penn State keeps winning. In this league, that's all it takes to be among the top of our power rankings. But the Lions have played well, too. They should have beat Virginia in a game they dominated. Only bad performance was against an Ohio team that is undefeated, in O'Brien's first game. Penn State is not a top 15 type team but is playing very well.
So lets be honest, how bad did the Braves get screwed with that bogus infield fly call (I'm a huge Braves fan)? Anyways, how good of a shot do you give Northwestern at making it to the Rose Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Terrible call, but the Braves were down by three runs and we had our closer warming up. They still would not have won the game. Haven't you seen how much heart the Cards have late in games? Anyway, it's all about the next four weeks for the Wildcats, as they have Nebraska, Iowa and the two Michigan schools. I think this team is still a bit too young to win the division and probably will suffer two more losses. But if they can finish 8-4 or 9-3, that's a very good year.
Lisa (Harrisburg PA)
If you had a vote would you have M Mauti in the running for the Lombardi award? Do you think it his injuries the last 2 seasons or other reasons keeping him out of consideration?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Absolutely. He's the defensive player of the year in the Big Ten for the first half.
Mike (Rotch, AK)
Any idea yet where you and Adam will be headed this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Adam will be in Iowa City. I'm staying home. Had you told me before the season that neither of us would be in Ann Arbor this weekend, I'd have had you burned at the stake as a heretic.
can we hear again how badly you guys overestimated state? I love hearing you admit the mistake and it has to just slowly crush their spirits. Even with going 4-0 during 3 of the worst years in Michigan football history they still have a horrid record against Michigan... where's the threat?Go Blue!
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
It's true. We did. We own that mistake. Still, don't get too cocky until Michigan actually beats the Spartans!
do you find yourself rooting for certain teams in the B1G (no need to name which)?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
No. I'll sometimes root for coaches and players I like to do well and sometimes for the best storylines to emerge just because I'm selfish as a writer that way. But I don't really care which teams win or lose. Nor does any journalist I know.
Please tell me how crazy I am by allowing myself to draw parallels between tOSU first year under urban to the first year under RR up north I wont give my reasons I see that want to get yours . RIP Beano
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Not exactly sure what you mean, but certainly Urban Meyer's tenure in Columbus is off to a much better start than Rodriguez's in Ann Arbor. It doesn't seem like it was such a major culture change, going from Tressel/Fickell to Meyer, and indeed several defensive coaches stayed on. Having Braxton Miller in place also can't hurt.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, that's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy the week!