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September 24, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Brian Bennett

Brian Bennett
  (3:00 PM)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. Lots to talk about, so fire away with your best questions.

Sam (Washington DC)

I know you guys collectively have Nebraska as your Rose Bowl pick, but if you had to pick a team personally, who would it be? And what kind of record do you think is needed to win the respective divisions?

Brian Bennett
  (3:02 PM)

The Huskers are a bit of a default choice, but we're still talking about a team whose best wins were over Arkansas State and a rebuilding (to put it kindly) Southern Miss. It's wide open. I'm sticking with Michigan State at least through this week since I had the Spartans all offseason. But I may very well change my pick once October hits.

Brian Bennett
  (3:03 PM)

As for the second part of your question, 6-2 or 7-1 gets it done in the Legends. In the Leaders, with two teams on probation, 5-3 might be enough.

Justin (Nebraska)

I am kind of disappointed in Adam, yourself, and the Big Ten. Burkhead comes back from injury only rushed 8 times for 119 yards and 2 tds. Yet you guys discount him handing out helmet stickers and the big ten doesn't even get him co-offensive player of the week. Instead you two and the Big Ten give that honor to Bell who it took 36 carries to get 253 yards and 1 td. I understand we only played Idaho State but Michigan State played Eastern Michigan who has the worst rush defense in the nation.

Brian Bennett
  (3:04 PM)

Justin: Our general policy on helmet stickers is to not avoid them to teams playing FCS opponents. That Idaho State game was like playing against air for Nebraska. Great to see Rex back, but that game meant nothing.

Will (Chicago)

Is Saturday a must-win game for the Hawkeyes? Despite more than half of the season remaining, I imagine with a loss things could spiral even more out of control than they already have for Captain Kirk.

Brian Bennett
  (3:06 PM)

You know, I think it might be, as weird as that sounds this early in the year. The mojo is not good in Iowa City right now, and a third straight loss to the Gophers, especially with a bye week and a trip to Michigan State to follow, would be brutal. It's hard to see how Iowa could do much better than 6-6 if it doesn't win Saturday.

Joshua (Wilmette, IL)

I have been a Wildcats fan for essentially my entire life (since 1996) and know that Northwestern is going to slip up somewhere down the line but also surprise everyone and have a big win. I know they are rolling right now and Fitz has their confidence up but my question is who, other than Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan St., are potential losses? In other words, which is their "slip up" game and which upset do the 'Cats pull off?

Brian Bennett
  (3:08 PM)

Northwestern is usually good for one upset and one head-scratching loss per season. I'd say the best chances for each are as follows. Upset: Nebraska. The Wildcats won in Lincoln last year and get the Huskers at home. Upset: at Minnesota. The Gophers are playing well and could be on a serious roll going into that one.

Chuck (Miami) [via mobile]

Can you believe Madmen walked away without a single award? Ridiculous! Anyways, who would be a bigger loss if they couldn't return this week: Montee Ball or David Gilbert?

Brian Bennett
  (3:10 PM)

Ridiculous. When is Hamm going to get a trophy? Anyway, I think Gilbert might be the bigger loss this week. Badgers are OK with White and Gordon at RB, but they need all defensive hands on deck against a powerful, diversified Nebraska offense that's really clicking right now.

Greg (Evanston)

Does a win against Indiana get the Cats in the top 25?

Brian Bennett
  (3:10 PM)

Has a win over IU ever propelled anyone into the rankings? Northwestern is really close, and it depends on what other teams at the bottom of the poll do

Riley Feldmann (Minneapolis, MN)

The atmosphere here at the U of MN is unreal right now. I?ve never seen The Bank so rocking in such a long time and it was amazing to be a part of it. My question is: Do you believe the Gopher?s win over Syracuse this past weekend legitimizes the team, if only a little bit? Or do you think we?ll have to wait to see how we perform on the road against real competition (i.e. Iowa) to become a recognized contender? Correct me if I?m wrong, but I believe the rest of the B1G needs to be careful coming into TCF Bank Stadium from here on out.

Brian Bennett
  (3:12 PM)

Glad to hear it, Riley. Don't want to get too carried away about beating Syracuse (I used to cover the Big East and can tell you that was not viewed as much of an accomplishment). But the Gophers' defense was excellent against a very good passing offense. That was the single most encouraging thing. Minnesota is no longer a lightweight and must be taken seriously.

John (Michigan)

Hey Brian, after Michigan State's dismal performance Saturday, and Ohio State's struggles as well; how does each team come out on top? Does OSU once again use Braxton as their crutch and MSU use Le'Veon? Or by some miracle will each team be able to find someone else on their offense who can ease the workload?

Brian Bennett
  (3:14 PM)

Pretty simple for Michigan State: Defense has to dominate, and the receivers have to play their best game of the season. Ohio State has to load up against the run and make Maxwell beat them, and Braxton will have to Braxton, with some help from the running game.

Stephen (Chicago)

Can Hoosiers get to 6 wins?

Brian Bennett
  (3:15 PM)

I don't think so. The Ball State loss was a killer. While Navy looks beatable, winning there means IU still has to win three Big Ten games, and I don't see that happening.

Jared (Work)

Teams have been running quick release offenses against the OSU defense to negate the d-line. MSU runs a pro-set. Could this be the week we see the d-line get to show what they can really do against a pro-style offense?

Brian Bennett
  (3:16 PM)

Ohio State really seems more suited to go against a run-first, pro style offense with that big defensive line. The linebackers and safeties haven't been great tackling in space, and the Spartans aren't going to spread you out. Seems like a good matchup for a Buckeyes D that has underperformed.

ATLBoiler (Atlanta)

I know its a few weeks away, but I think Purdue's D is built to stop Ball and wisconsin this year. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett
  (3:18 PM)

Well, if Utah State's defense can do it ... But, yeah, I see what you mean. Purdue's strength is its defensive line. And with Wisconsin's offensive line not playing like previous editions, the Boilers have a great shot at home.

Cj (Philly)

Would u expect some chippiness from PSU and their coaches this weekend against Illinois after they sent half there staff to state college this summer to poach players?

Brian Bennett
  (3:19 PM)

Definitely, although Penn State just committed a bunch of penalties against Temple and doesn't want to get caught doing that again. But there is certainly some bad blood between the teams right now. Winning is the best revenge.

David (Dobbs Ferry)

Hey Brian. I know Denard was terrible on Saturday night, forcing throws even I wouldn't have, but doesn't Borges get any blame here? There were no quick slants, no bubble screens and not even a screen to try to take advantage of blitzes. Also, the one time Denard was hot, he called the Vincent Smith pass.

Brian Bennett
  (3:21 PM)

Denard was bad and missed some easy throws. But I didn't like the game plan much, either. Hated, hated, hated the halfback pass call. Borges has a tendency to get a little too cute at times. Obviously, Michigan respected the excellent Notre Dame front seven, but it didn't seem to play to Robinson's strengths enough. Of course, six turnovers will make any game plan look terrible.

Drew (Illinois)

How about tailgating at the University of Illinois. I'm a MSU fan, but I will say the tailgate experience at Illinois is beyond expectations. The team is terrible, but the atmosphere is fun and enjoyable. Join us next to the stadium, there will be fans of all B1G teams there, even have some Gator fans, but they dont count. If you havent been, you need to go. Just sayin

Brian Bennett
  (3:21 PM)

Well, at least there's something positive about Illinois football right now

Mike (Denver)

Brian - do you feel like the talent of the big East has followed you to the B1G?

Brian Bennett
  (3:22 PM)

I was told I was going to cover a higher level of football. What happened?

Desperate Measures (Desperate Times)

Is there any way the B1G can salvage its image in any way during the conference season? Does a dominate player need to rise up and crush their conference schedule so that the rest of the country might think that we've got at least one power player in the game? And if so, who would be the best team to do this, considering the losses suffered by Neb, Wiscy, MSU and Michigan and OSU's current post-season ban?

Brian Bennett
  (3:24 PM)

Probably not, only because your reputation is built in out of conference play. It likely will take a big bowl season to change things. But Nebraska and Ohio State probably have the best chance, if they were to get on a serious roll. The Huskers have that outstanding offense, while Ohio State went 4-0 in the non-con, even if it wasn't always pretty.

TK (Philly)

Uh Oh..... Looks like Penn State got it's 3rd down issues fixed and B.O.B's offense is starting to click... should the BIG10 be on alert? Talent, scheme, nothing to lose....DANGEROUS!!

Brian Bennett
  (3:25 PM)

Like what the Lions are doing right now and think they will be competitive in the Big Ten, as I said in the preseason. Defense is very good and the offense is clicking. Problems, of course, are depth and overall playmakers on offense. I'd love to see what O'Brien could do with a full deck of high-level skill players.

Jeremaiah (Mustache Country)

Brian, on your August 27th chat you said in regards to Purude "the defense is not second-best in the league." Are you a believer now?

Brian Bennett
  (3:25 PM)

Based on what? The bye week?

Mike (Michigan)

I think last weekend showed how Michigan really won against ND last year....... GOOD RECEIVERS. Denard was just throwing the ball up AGAIN this year hoping his recievers could win the jump ball but with the lost of their receivers they couldn't get it done. This is an overrated Michigan team because Denard cant throw and teams arent afraid of his throwing especially with the lost of his number one receiver last year.

Brian Bennett
  (3:27 PM)

Robinson's receivers, and Hemingway specifically, definitely bailed him out on a lot of throws last year. But Robinson was also able to run wild on Notre Dame last year and couldn't do that against a much better defense. Last year's offensive line was also better. I actually saw encouraging signs in a lot of Michigan's performance. Still very much a factor in B1G race, but remember I did predict this team to go 8-4. Feeling good about that.

Brian (Chicago)

Not going to praise Borges' play calling, but the halfback pass was open? Smith just threw it 3 yards behind the receiver.

Brian Bennett
  (3:29 PM)

And that's the point. He shouldn't have been throwing the ball.

Leo (Louisville)

Which team are are you surprised more by: Louisville or Michigan?

Brian Bennett
  (3:30 PM)

Neither. Thought Louisville would be good, and Cards haven't really beaten anybody, and Michigan is about what I thought.

Joe (KCMO)

Weisman appears to be a miracle worker. Maybe he should play defense too?

Brian Bennett
  (3:30 PM)

I think he'd make an excellent middle linebacker. Great, great story on that kid.

Dan (State College)

Seeing Penn State improve each week, how many wins do you think the Lions get this year? How do you see PSU matching up against Ohio State in the night time white out?

Brian Bennett
  (3:32 PM)

I picked 6-6 in the preseason, and I have a hard time seeing Penn State do better than 4-4 in the league. Remember, a couple of injuries would be devastating. 7-5 seems like the ceiling. Ohio State game will be fun. Based on way the Bucks have played, it's a toss-up right now, but I expect OSU to improve.

Nate (Lincoln)

Just wanted to point out that Rex Burkhead would have completed that halfback pass! ;-) How big of a ground attack do you see this weekend vs Wiscy? over under 300 on the ground for the Huskers

Brian Bennett
  (3:33 PM)

You're probably right. Or he would have just bowled his way into the end zone. I'll go under 300. Wisconsin's defense has been playing pretty well and is better against the run than the pass.

BigDaddy (Nebraska)

Brian...Do you really think Northwestern is better than Nebraska or do you only have them ranked higher because they are undefeated?

Brian Bennett
  (3:34 PM)

Because they have better wins. Who has Nebraska beaten that's any good? At least Northwestern has beaten three power-league teams and won on the road.

Adam Rittenberg (Chicago)

Three cheers for the Shorties!

Brian Bennett
  (3:34 PM)

And three losses.

pomeroyarn (lagville)

Both of you didn't pick MSU in your top 25, a top ten team two weeks prior with one loss wit the #6 defense in the country, yet you rank South Carolina in the top ten, a team that struggled with Vandy. What do you base your rankings on?

Brian Bennett
  (3:35 PM)

Body of work, always. Not going to punish Carolina for playing a tight game on the road versus a conference team in the opener. Gamecocks have destroyed people since then. Michigan State has gone backwards since its opener.

BigDaddy (Nebraska)

I'll agree that Northwester has better wins but that doesn't make them a better team.

Brian Bennett
  (3:36 PM)

That's your opinion. I'd rather base my rankings at this point in the season on body of work.

ghostofsparta (Sparta)

Hey Brian I was wondering what you thought of Dantonio's post game comments. I know AR was kind of pissed about it based on his twitter comments. But you have to realize that MSU sucked for 3 and a half quarters against an EMU team that has allowed 40 Points per game. Dantonio wasnt too pleased about it and the questions were kind of generic. So the question is, are the comments a big deal like some make it out to be?

Brian Bennett
  (3:38 PM)

I thought it was childish and unprofessional. It's not about the media's questions -- coaches have a responsibility to explain what happened to the thousands and thousands of fans who follow their program and support it financially. Dantonio is better than that and is usually pretty good with the media. There was no reason for him to act like Lane Kiffin.

gogogophers_1 (Minnesota)

Athough I do enjoy watching Max Shortell behind center for the Gophers I really do think they missed Marqueis Gray on Saturday night, at least in the red zone. Shortell is a more accurate passer and moves the offense pretty well, but when you get inside the 20 I think Gray give them better options. Your thoughts.

Brian Bennett
  (3:39 PM)

I think that's a reasonable take, given that Gray gives you the running option near the goal line. Shortell is also inexperienced, and Minnesota had a few penalties. They'll need to clean that up this week.

Nick (Upland)

You mentioned seeing encouraging signs in the UM game. Will the Michigan D be the strength of this team in B1G play?

Brian Bennett
  (3:40 PM)

Maybe. Notre Dame is not an explosive offense -- the Irish didn't score a whole lot against Purdue or Michigan State either. But the Wolverines showed improvement on that side of the ball. I expect continual progress there, and the running game really needs to be a strength given the personnel on hand.

Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)

Haven't seen much blitz packages from Narduzzi this year. Seems like we blitzed linebackers and corners all the time last year. Do you think they're being conservative with the play calling to save it for conference play, or is there a shift in defensive strategy?

Brian Bennett
  (3:42 PM)

It's a bit off, because Michigan State's defensive numbers are great (No. 6 nationally, same as last year), but the Spartans aren't getting many sacks or turnovers. Saw some blitzes in the opener but not a ton since. Hoping to examine this further later in the week.

That Guy (Chicago, IL)

Are you and Adam going to do revised, mid-season predictions for the conference championship game? I have to imagine the picture looks even hazier now.

Brian Bennett
  (3:43 PM)

I'm sure we will. Hopefully the next couple weeks will bring some clarity.

jeff (Hudson)

Explain to me why, Ohio State is ranked in the top 25 when they are suspended for the year...Which might screw with placing at the end of the year.

Brian Bennett
  (3:44 PM)

Buckeyes are not eligible for coaches' or Harris poll, which is in the BCS formula. AP poll means nothing for the BCS.

Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)

I don't think the QB change at Wisconsin fixed all their problems. What panic button does Bret hit next?

Brian Bennett
  (3:45 PM)

Not all of them, but getting Abbrederis back sure helped. There was progress against UTEP and that was the best overall offensive performance to date by the 2012 Badgers. Baby steps.

B1G ND Fan (Lexington, KY)

Brian, seriously, how relieved are you that Notre Dame doesn't have a game vs. the Big 10 any more? 0-3 is a pretty homer record, no?

Brian Bennett
  (3:46 PM)

I covered ND and was waiting for the inevitable flop. Didn't happen. I was wrong. Ranked Notre Dame No. 6 this week, so I'm impressed.

T Bone (C-Bus)

Time for some Big Ten play! I'm sure you're excited to only have to cover 5-6 conference games than the 11-12 non-conference games.

Brian Bennett
  (3:47 PM)

Thrilled. Especially when some of those 11 or 12 are against FCS and terrible FBS teams

TerribleFootwork (InThePocket)

How many picks does Denard throw this weekend? Yes, I know its a bye week, but the over/under has to be at 2.

Brian Bennett
  (3:47 PM)

Ouch

Ibrahim (East Lansing)

as an MSU fan, is there anything to be excited about. We hear that the receivers catch passes in practice but flop in the game. How about we start with basic screens and stuff like that.

Brian Bennett
  (3:48 PM)

Sure. The defense is still great, and so is Le'Veon Bell and Dion Sims. I think Maxwell has been better than people think. A least the receivers are young. They can only get better, right?

Justin (Kearney)

Where will you and Adam be this weekend? Hopefully one of you is in Lincoln for homecoming and those awesome alternate uniforms to some and hideous alternate uniforms to others.

Brian Bennett
  (3:48 PM)

I'll be in the EL. Adam at home HQ.

Tom (Chicago)

I'm sorry ND has one good year against the Big 10 in the last decade and they are talking trash?

Brian Bennett
  (3:49 PM)

Truth

Hank (Washington DC)

Do you think Michigan will get it done in West Lafayette in a couple weeks? That game should be a dandy.

Brian Bennett
  (3:49 PM)

Really, really interested in that game. Could be season-defining for both sides. Hoping to be in Ross-Ade for that one.

PurpleCat (IL)

You're talking out both sides of your mouth in giving all these props to NW and then not backing it up in the power rankings...what gives?

Brian Bennett
  (3:50 PM)

Adam and I combine on our power rankings, so it's a collaborative effort. I have Northwestern ranked ahead of Nebraska in my Top 25 but he does not. Complain to the Northwestern alum, not me.

Bigzx2 (Santa Monica, CA)

Man, it seems you and AR are upset over the Dantonio presser.. maybe if the questions weren't so simplistic, he wouldn't have gotten so mad

Brian Bennett
  (3:51 PM)

I'm not upset. It was just childish and unprofessional. Coaches always get generic questions after a game. 99 percent of them do not act like Dantonio did.

Mark (Knoxille)

Obviously I'm bummed at the B1G's national perception and poor performance in the non-conference. But come on, its time for conference play. Everybody is 0-0. Race is wide open. I'm looking forward to it.

Brian Bennett
  (3:52 PM)

Agree wholeheartedly. September struggles will be forgotten when we get into these great conference rivalry games. Bring it on.

Craig (Braintree, MA)

Are any B1G head coaches at risk because of this season?

Brian Bennett
  (3:52 PM)

Nope. Thought going in that only Danny Hope would be in danger if Purdue took a nosedive. But Boilers look pretty good.

Nate (MisplacedInMissouri)

Hello Brian! I dont think Ohio State or any other Big Ten teem will ever be a truly elite team running the spread offense. High schools in the midwest specifically Ohio where most of the talent in this region comes from dont use the spread. Because of this they wont be as skilled running the spread as southern players while their every bit as talented. Your thoughts?

Brian Bennett
  (3:53 PM)

I disagree with that. The spread is everywhere. The Big Ten just needs to get more speed at the skill positions and at quarterback. Unfortunately, much of that talent lives in the Sun Belt.

Nick (Chicago)

Is the Illinois defense feeling the effects of losing Vic Koening or is it just not deep enough talent wise?

Brian Bennett
  (3:55 PM)

I'm very surprised by how poor the defense has played. The spread has given them nightmares, and the Illini look slow defending the field side to side against speedy players. Pass rush hasn't been effective enough against teams that play quickly. Penn State's offense should be a better matchup for them, though.

PurpleCat (IL)

AR must see something you don't in NW. Explain yourself!!!!!

Brian Bennett
  (3:56 PM)

I fear for your reading comprehension

Derrick (North Carolina)

How do you respond to this for the Nebraska vs. Wisconsin game? Utah State was the only top 40 (ranked 37th) rushing offense Wisconsin has played with other teams ranking worse than 90th.Don't you think the 'Wisconsin run defense' has just as much to prove as the Nebraska offense?

Brian Bennett
  (3:57 PM)

I think Wisconsin is better against the run. Badgers have two good tackles in Hemer and Allen, and we know their linebackers are good. Secondary is still shaky and pass rush from the edge isn't outstanding. So while Nebraska's running game will give many people problems, the strength of Wisconsin's defense is in that area.

Stick (Dead Horse)

I understand how the media would not like the way in which Dantonio conducted himself. I take it you're not buying the theory that he was sending a message to his team about how unsatisfied he was with their performance? His responsibility should be to motivating and coaching his team first, the fans and media second.

Brian Bennett
  (3:57 PM)

You can do both. Want to send a message to your team? Tell them directly.

Nate (Lincoln)

I for one support Dantonio in the way he acted. And we know quite a bit about childish and unprofessional coaches around here, having dealt with Pelini in this exact situation. I put the blame on the media... if you ask a stupid no point question, you should get an answer just like he gave!

Brian Bennett
  (3:58 PM)

You're wrong. Those weren't stupid questions. Dantonio had decided he was going to act like that before any questions were even asked.

doug g (San Antonio)

Brian-I know my Badgers have been shaky, but I have also realized that we are also "fairly" young. I am a glass is half full kind of guy. Our loss to Oregon St. currently does not seem that bad. I know Nebraska has had this week circled on their calendar after last year in Madison, but does Wisconsin have a chance? I have already found many 42-17 type predictions in favor of Nebraska. Thanks

Brian Bennett
  (4:00 PM)

A chance? For sure. But the defense and special teams have to play really well and keep this from becoming a track meet, because I don't think the Badgers can score 35 or 40. (Feels weird to type that). And the offensive line has to turn in its best performance of the year by far. I think Wisconsin should be a double-digit dog, but the Badgers certainly have the talent to get it done.

Brian Bennett
  (4:00 PM)

OK. That's all my time this week, folks. Have a great week and enjoy the start of conference play!