Chat with Brian Bennett
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 in The Show at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's talk some football.
West Virginia's offensive production has declined this year, but is it fair for Mountaineer fans to expect the offense to pick up where it left off last year with there being a whole new coaching staff? Do you think Jeff Mullen needs to have a chance to get some players on offense he needs? Look what he did with Ben Mauk and Riley Skinner at Wake.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I do think some dropoff should probably have been expected, and I think the loss of Owen Schmitt hurt more than anyone realized. Still. this team should be scoring more than it is, given its production and talent. Give Mullen a little more time to grow into the job, but the Mountaineers need to get better if they want to compete for the league title this year
Alex (Cincinnati, OH)
Let me say first that UC's continued success despite the QB situation is not a surprise to me. If BK stays, please dear God, do you think UC could become the front runner of the big east battling WVU and USF for league titles year in and year out? also do you think Cincinnati getting top flight players from the greater cincinnati area has hurt Ohio State(i.e. byrd, nelms, D. Smith, mickens, goodman) ? If so could a new rivalry be born between OSU and UC?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Kelly will always have Cincinnati in contention as long as he stays there, and who knows how long that will be. Let's give Mark Dantonio credit for recruiting most if not all of the players you mentioned. And I don't think Ohio State will ever be hurting for talent. They'll always have their choice of the best guys.
Hi Brian, What's the bowl scenario for the 2nd place Big East team this year? Is the Gator Bowl locked in to having to take a Big East team, or ND?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
The Gator Bowl can choose a Big 12 team or Notre Dame if it's eligible, and with the Irish's schedule, I think they'll get there. If I had to predict, I'd say ND takes that spot, and then the Sun Bowl goes with a Big 12 team. That would be really bad for the Big East. I plan on writing about this soon.
J-Mac (Lewis Center, OH)
If you consider all of the schools added to the Big East Conference from non-BCS conferences (UCONN, Cincy, Louisville, and South Florida) after the ACC mugged the Big East, which school has benefited the most, or has shown the most improvement, from joining the Big East. I noticed Cincy is is looking tougher every year and they are talking about stadium upgrades. Not sure if that is coaching or just getting more money and exposure from being in a BCS conference.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I think South Florida has benefited the most. This is a program that didn't exist 12 years ago, and now look where it's at. Of course, all have been helped by the move.
When will the Big East finally realize that it is a basketball conference, and suspend all football operations?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I don't know. I guess soon as Oklahma does, since the Sooners lost to the Big East champ in last year's Fiesta Bowl.
Bobby (West Warwick)
I'm making the trip to Jersey to see UConn. Is it worth the drive or will Rutgers be able to exploit Frazier?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I think UConn should win that game, especially with a bye week to prepare. But Rutgers is certainly going to be playing for its life on Saturday at 1-5. I just don't think the Scarlet Knights have enough answers on offense
Michael (Charleston, WV)
Does West Virginia have a legitimate shot to win the BE again?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Not unless the offense improves. The defense has been pleasantly surprising, however.
Why is Pitt ranked? I mean, really, they beat an overrated S. Florida team, and.....well, nothing else. Oh, wait, they beat the worst CFB team in recent history, Syracuse, by 10. Nevermind. They should be top 15.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Somebody has to fill out the bottom of the top 25. Not sure if the Panthers belong there yet or not, but they are a young team that's improving. And I might argue that Washington or even Wazzu is worse than Syracuse right now.
Shawn, Hollidaysburg, PA
Following up on Tyler's question earlier: Was it a big mistake for WVU to hire an position coach as their offensive coordinator? It seems like WVU is suffering through Mullen's on the job training.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Too early to say it was a mistake. I mean, the guy deserves more than six games, especially when Pat White has missed one of them.
Craig Thompson (Mountain West Commissioner)
Hey, Bennett, give it to me straight. Any one of my three top dogs (BYU, Utah, and/or TCU) would win the Big East this year.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I think BYU or Utah probably would, yes. I'm not as sold on TCU.
Brian (Cambridge, OH)
Who is suffering MORE? West Virginia or Rich Rod? Both have looked painful this season.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I'd say WVU right now, because people knew Michigan would need a rebuilding year, while the Mountaineers started off ranked No. 8.
Do you think that Wannstadt has finally turned the corner with this Pitt team, and do you forsee it continuing in the future?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Hard to say he's turned a corner. I mean, would you have said that in the third quarter at Syracuse when Pitt was down by double digits? I do think there have been some encouraging signs, for sure. But I need to see more to be a true believer in this team.
What are your true thoughts on Rob Lunn's blog (uconn DT) and could this land him a writing or commentary job after graduation
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I think he's very witty and a good writer. He can do whatever he wants to do. He's planning on law school, and his dad is a New York supreme court justice, so I think he has higher sights than being an ink-stained wretch like myself.
Justin York, Pa
Alright who single person or group of people are the x-factors for both Pitt and Navy in this "revenge" game? Offense and Defense.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I'll say the Pitt defensive ends. They're great at rushing the quarterback and getting penetration, as we saw in the South Florida game. But they're going to need to keep their contain and mind their assignments against that Navy triple-option. I think Pitt's offense will do fine.
Kelly (South Bend)
Why does the Big East champ still get an automatic invite? We could be looking at another unranked Big East champ getting creamed in a BCS bowl game. Again. Lets hope the Big East champ gets to play the ACC champ in the Orange Bowl so that it can atleast be a "close" and entertaining game.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I'm pretty sure I type this in this chat every week. Maybe I should just do it at the beginning every week. 2005 Sugar: West Virginia over Georgia 2006 Orange: Louisville over Wake Forest 2007 Fiesta: Georgia over Oklahoma
It seemes obvious that USF blew their chances to play for the national title after loss to Pitt. Will USF rebound from the loss, win the rest of their games and possibly win the Big East championship? Or will they get beat a couple more times this season? What are your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I think they lose one more game, simply because I haven't seen enough consistency from this team to believe it can win six straight. A 5-2 record might be good enough to win the league still, if the Bulls get some help.
Tommy, Phil and Ty (conference call)
Which one of us is next to get fired?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
What, no Greg Robinson on this call?
So if that bowl scenario plays out (which it seems likely)...the Big East will be left with a BCS game, Meineke, Papa Johns, and the International bowls? Not a very inspiring list.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Don't forget the St. Pete bowl. But there may be another opening somewhere if conferences (cough, cough, Pac 10) don't fill out all their slots.
Michael (Charleston, WV)
Correction: 2007 Fiesta - West Virginia over Oklahoma
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Whoops. Obviously. I was typing too fast.
Bill (Unionville, CT)
Which Big East team has the best chance to run the table from here on out?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Honestly, I don't think anyone will. There's no way, in my mind, any team finishes 7-0 in the league, and I mentioned my reservations about South Florida earlier. I'm sticking with my prediction that the league winner has a 5-2 conference record.
Lane (Shawnee , OK)
What are the chances Oklahoma gets back in the title race? Also, could there be a rematch of Oklahoma/Texas in Miami for the National Championship? It would be a great game if so.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I definitely think Oklahoma can get back in the race. I wouldn't be surprised if the Sooners still won the Big 12 South. A rematch is not going to happen, not with a conference title game.
What's your over/under on the WVU/Auburn game? Mine is 7
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Ha. Yes, we could be looking at 3-2 again. It is the disappointment bowl, for sure
JP (Columbus, OH)
Sorry - no props for beating Wake Forest at football. WVU beat two EXCELLENT programs, though. Good for them.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
They were still the ACC champs. If anyone wants to talk about rescinding BCS bids for performance, look at how awful the ACC has been in bowls for the last several years.
Ian, Hollywood CA
Cincy's next five opponents: UConn, USF, West Virginia, Louisville and Pitt. I got them going 4-1, losing only to Pitt. Your thoughts? Am I a terrible Bearcat homer?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Well, if they go 4-1, then I think they'll win the league, because only Syracuse would be left. I think 3-2 is far more likely.
Shawn (Hollidaysburg, PA)
In your estimation, why is Bill Stewart and the WVU staff so against handing the ball to Tyler Urban, Will Johnson, or even Terrence Kerns, as opposed to running Jarrett Brown on short yardage? What happened to WVU's offensive line in the off-season?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Obviously, they don't have confidence in those guys from what they've seen in practice, because they needed all the help they could get in those situations earlier this season. All those guys are young and inexperienced, too.
Brian...what's the rule in the BCS guidelines for underperforming BCS conferences? Lets say that the Big East champ is not ranked at season's end and the trend continues (unlikely, but could) through the next few years. Could the Big East be in danger of losing it's auto-bid in 2010 when the BCS is renegotiated?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I'm going mostly off memory here, but there's a four-year evaluation process that takes into account how the conference has performed overall, with emphasis on the number of top 25 teams and their rankings. The current evaluation period began in 2007, so the Big East gets credit for the Fiesta Bowl win and West Virginia's top 10 ranking last year. The Big East would need to seriously underperform in the next three years to be in any danger, and at the same time another league would have to outperform it in the polls.
Don, East Hartford, CT
Do you think the Big East lacks identity? If so, what would it take to fix this. For example the Big school that is a draw such as a USC, a Florida, a Penn State, MI, etc. I mean even the ACC has some identity issues. Where is FSU, Miami, or Clemson? I say this because the traditional big schools in the ACC are not performing but those schools still get attention. In the Big East, who de we have? So what would it take to fix this problem and does the conference recognize this?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Well, let's remember that two of the Big East teams (UConn and USF) basically did not have D-IA programs until this decade. Louisville is a relative newcomer, and Cincinnati and Rutgers haven't done much until recently. The Big East needs those programs to continue to win and it would help if the flagship programs of Pittsburgh and Syracuse would get back to their winning ways.
Got to ask a big east guy why the USF coach is not getting mentioned with some of the other big names as a potential canidate for the Clemson job. Seems like a heck of a coach to me.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Schools have made a run at Leavitt before, but he's not shown any inclination to leave. He's paid well now and has a good thing going. And as much as he's built that program, he still hasn't gotten the Bulls to the next level. Yet.
will all the top ranked teams getting beat in 2007 and so far in 2008, shouldn't the preseason polls be scrapped and the top 25 teams selected starting first week in October based on MERIT instead of hype?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I've always thought that's the way it should be, Ralph. Here's why it doesn't happen: fans LOVE preseason polls and predictions and such. So someone is always going to provide them.
Tommy Bowden (Clemson, SC)
Any chance I should start looking for homes in Central New York?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
You interested in Syracuse, Tommy? That's not the worst idea I've ever heard, though I think the Orange need a fresh start with an up-and-comer.
All I hear about is how terrible the Big East, but the mediocrity of the ACC seems to be given a pass. Why is that? Hasn't the Big East earned some respect over the last few years?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Preaching to the choir here, Tom
Gary, Dallas, TX
Texas Tech - Overrated or not? Media pundits beating the overrated drum are also the ones voting them 7th in the AP poll. So which is it? You all can't have it both ways.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
They hadn't played anybody of any consequence until Nebraska, and didn't exactly impress in that OT win. But they are undefeated and that seems to make a big difference in pollsters' minds. Don't worry, we'll find out about the Red Raiders as they get more into that Big 12 schedule.
what are the odds of three BE teams going 5-2 and, who would they be?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I'd probably need to take a statistics class to tell you the odds, but it sounds reasonable. To me, Pitt, UConn and South Florida are the top three contenders right now, with Cincinnati and West Virginia right on their tails. Any of those five can win it, really.
Brian, Is the Pitt/Notre Dame game the premiere OOC game left for the Big East or am I missing one? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
There's still Auburn/West Virginia, though that has lost a lot of luster.
Chuck (Ridgewood, NJ)
Comments on the rumors that West Virginia may join the Big Ten at some point? How do you think the Mountaineers would fare in Big Ten play?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
My comment is that's pure silliness
If there is a big 12 team with 1 lose and a sec team with 1 lose and USC with 1 lose will SC get left out because of the pac-10 is so bed this yr??..dont forget we are 5-1 in our last6 BCS bowls
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
In that scenario, yes. USC's strength of schedule will keep it out of the title game.
How competitive would Boise State be in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Not sure, but the travel would sure be a headache
from what i see, fans LOVE to whine about the polls more than anything. scrapping them until October would end all this stupid crying about "overrated" and "not playing anybody"
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
If it wasn't the polls, there'd be something else to obsess over.
Troy (La Plata, MD)
If FSU goes 11-1 and doesn't get into the ACC championship do they get an at-large bid?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Well, I don't see them running the table the rest of the way, and I don't believe the ACC can get two teams into the BCS.
Do you feel Louisville will pull through and make a run for the title or finish 5-7 6-6?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I'm thinking 7-5. They've got the advantage of a lot of home games, but they're a little too inconsistent and young to make a title run this year
How do you see the rest of Pitt's schedule playing out? Can they run the table?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
As I've said, I think they'll finish 5-2 in the conference, and possibly lose at Notre Dame. So .. 8-4 or 9-3, either of which would be a major improvement.
Kyle: (Gainesville, Florida)
There was a voter in the Harris Poll who voted Utah number one! Are you serious!? Do you believe that a undefeated Utah or BYU could be put in the title game over a one loss Florida or Georgia?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Nope. Never going to happen unless everybody else in the country has two losses.
Do you think the Big East will get an at-large BCS bid before the end of time?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Forever is a mighty long time there, Mr. Commish. It is an uphill battle. My hope is this dumb BCS system doesn't last too much longer.
Ian, Hollywood CA
Can Cincy go for another 10+ win season?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Absolutely, especially since it gets to play 13 regular season games.
alex (cincy, OH)
Is Kelly getting named as a possible replacement for Clemson? Should Cincy be worried about this job?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I have not heard his name in connection with Clemson, though there has been some speculation about Tennessee if that opens. Believe me, he will be a hot name in the next coaching carousel.
Brian, Looking forward, assuming more parity in the conference for the rest of the year and no one takes a huge leap forward, who's the favorite next year? Whoever wins the conference championship or is there a team that you think is just one year away?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Interesting question, Will. I'd have to say at this point, the two favorites next year would be Pitt and South Florida. Pitt will probably lose McCoy to the draft but should have a lot back, while South Florida will have Grothe as a senior and a lot of weapons on offense.
Brian (Fairfax, VA)
Although I've been less than impressed with the WVU offense thus far, I have been even less pleased with the behavior of much of my team's fanbase. If the offense turns things around, do you think these malcontents will be willing to eat a little crow?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
From what I've seen of fans, they'll jump right back on the bandwagon as if nothing ever happened. I understand some of the frustration and disappointment. But the team is still 4-2 and undefeated in the Big East.
Brian, any idea why Demetrius Jones hasn't even sniffed the field yet for Cincinnati?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Kelly says it's because Jones has not had enough time to learn the offense, but it is curious that he hasn't played at all. I wonder if it would not be beneficial to simply redshirt him at this point.
Randy Edsall (Storrs, CT)
I have built the uconn program from virtually nothing into a contender for the Big East title. Where should I expect to get calls from looking for my services? Please not Syracuse. I will not waste my time trying to rebuild that mess of a program.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
If Syracuse does not at least call you, they're fools. But I wouldn't expect you to take that job. You already turned down Georgia Tech. I think you like where you are and what you've got going there.
Justin York, Pa
You mentioned about McCoy leaving he has mentioned that he would like to stay all four years to make a legacy and play MIAMI in his senior year.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
A lot of players say that. And then the draft rolls around and they see the zeros on those contracts.
David Letterman (Muncie, IN)
Why doesn't Ball State get more love? BSU has one of the best offenses in the country with QB Nate Davis, RB MiQuale Lewis, TE Darrius Hill, and OL Robert Brewster. Add to that the improvement of the defense and this is a pretty talented team that is one of only three teams in the country that are 7-0.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Ball State's ranked in the Top 25 for the first time ever. I'd say that's love.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
OK, my time is up for today. Thanks for all the questions.