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 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
Hey, everybody. I'm here for some college football talk. Bring me your best questions on the Big East and Notre Dame and I'll answer as many as I can in an hour. Fire away.
I know you commented a few times about the replay decision in the WVU/Cincy and said how WVU did not lose the game based on that call and they should have scored more points. However if Cincy has seven less points WVU wins. I know you could say what if Cincy stopped them and scored well at the same time what if WVU breaks a long run and they score (then they are up 14 points). That was a huge call and a huge mistake that had a tremendous impact on a close game. There is no doubt the replay official was very bias in his call and should be removed from that position immediately. Do you think the Big East will take any action?
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
It was a big call, but when a call like that happens in the first half, it's impossible to project how the rest of the game would have played out because teams would adjust the way they attacked based on the score/situation. Bottom line: West Virginia had chances at the end of the game to win it and didn't. The Big East doesn't appear to have any action planned, but a simple announcement on whether the call was right or wrong and why could earn the league some credibility, in my opinion
Mike M. (Pittsburgh, PA)
You are hesitant to jump Pitt over Cincy in your power rankings. But do you honestly think Cincy is better than Pitt?? I think you are hesitant because of the one loss that Pitt had over a not-so-great team. Let's face it, Pitt is one of the hottest teams in college football right now and I may be biased, but they are the better team overall when comparing all three phases of the game. I think deep down you know who the better team is. So what's going to be the deciding factor in making Pitt #1 on your power rankings other than a win on Dec. 5??...perhaps a big win over wvu in morgantown..? Let's hear your analysis! PS great job on the blogs, I follow them religously.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
After 11 weeks, you have to take into account the entire body of work when making power rankings. And Cincinnati has simply done more than Pitt. The Oregon State win was better than anything on Pitt's schedule. That said, Pitt seems to be peaking late, and I might even make them a slight favorite in that game on Dec. 5.
Do you think the Orange Bowl Committee will take into consideration the fact that both the Penguins and the Steelers play in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, receptively, on January 3rd when making their at-large invitation if Pitt is available?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Interesting, Kyle. I did not know that. I do think, if Pitt beats Cincinnati and TCU stays undefeated, there's a very good chance we'll see Pitt in the Orange Bowl and TCU playing the Alabama/Florida loser in New Orleans
Brian, they shut down the tracking of the Notre Dame airplane 6 months ago. I don't know why they did that, but people had been tracking it to see where coaches were going on recruiting trips. I don't know why this is just getting reported now.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
It's getting reported now because of the entire Charlie Weis situation. As I wrote Monday, that and the canceling of Weis's Sunday press conference (for the first time in five years) are by themselves not big deals. But in the larger context, they raise all kinds of speculation and rumors. ND should go ahead and decide now whether it wants to keep Weis next year.
Bryan (Syracuse, NY)
What do you think their records would be if Syracuse and Rutgers swapped schedules? Not just non-conference, but think about how Rutgers got to play South Florida after the Bulls had started their yearly down-spiral, while Syracuse played them before.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Well, I don't think Rutgers would be 7-2, though it would have been a lot more prepared for Cincinnati in October than on Labor Day. I think Rutgers would beat South Florida in a parking lot on Easter morning at this rate. It owns the Bulls.
Frank (Evansville, IN)
Being a UofL grad and football fan, just wondering if there is any new scoop on the Coaching situation. Also there has been a lot of speculation about the OLine this year. Do you see any new recruits being able to step up. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
No scoop yet, Frank, but it's just a matter of time now. I would expect some sort of announcement no later than the Monday after the Rutgers game. Hot names du jour are Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin and Kyle Shanahan, but take those all with a grain of salt at this point. Not sure what you're talking about in regards to the O-line; I just know it's not very good.
Do you think the winner of the BE COY award will come down to which coach's team wins the de facto championship game on 12/5? teh.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Easy one here: Absolutely.
What are the chances that LSU makes it to a BCS Bowl Game and what did you think of the ref calls in the LSU alabama game.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Zero percent chance. Florida and Alabama are going to the BCS and only two per conference can go by rule
In your recent stock down column, I dont think it is fair to criticize uconn for playing games off campus. Storrs connecticut is one way in one way out. Traffic backs up for basketball games which has 10,000 people what would happen if there was 40,000 people coming to storrs ct. I mean uconn fans dont get in their seats already before kickoff add in traffic we would be lucky if fans arrived by halftime if this was the case. I think uconn has grown accustomed to traveling for home games. It is not like no students go. The students take busses and are their before the game starts.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
It is what it is. Nothing wrong with the 'Rent. I was just pointing out that the Big East probably has as many off-campus games as any league in America, and it hurts the atmospheres in general
Mark Schlabach and Bruce Feldman have USF going to the PapaJohna??s.com Bowl and the International Bowl. I could see USF going to the PapaJohna??s, if ND loses out and the BE makes the gator bowl, but if they dona??t, the Int Bowl seems like a bad choice. They also both have Rutgers and S.Miss in the St Pete bowl. For fan traveling purpose in a down economy, would it not make more sense for Rutgers to go to the Int Bowl, and USF to stay in St Pete, also with UCF tied in the conference w/S.Miss, would they not be a better opponent, the former a??I-4 wara?ý
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Bobby, did you spill something on your keyboard? Look, I think West Virginia is going to Papajohn's at this point, barring the Gator Bowl opening up or some other developments. The question now is between the International and St. Pete. Does St. Pete want USF for a second straight year? And would a 10-2 Rutgers settle for the International Bowl? At this point, I say Rutgers gets rewarded with a trip to Florida, while the Bulls get shipped north of the border. But it's a fluid situation, as they say.
BB, can you clarify the supposed "2 win" agreement that the Gator Bowl has with the BE/ND? If ND goes 7-5, is the Gator REQUIRED to take a 1 or 2 loss BE team instead, or is this a handshake agreement that the Gator will just ignore since it's their last contract yr with the BE?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Yep. To clarify, it's a handshake deal that's complicated by the fact that the Gator and Big East have no further relationship after this year. The Gator would have to be willing to tick off a lot of people by taking a 7-5 Notre Dame team over an 11-1 Cincinnati or potential 10-2 Pitt. Going to be fascinating to follow.
Would a 1 loss Cincinnati team get into the BCS over 2 loss Iowa?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Highly doubtful, Dave. As unfair as it would be, Iowa has a better reputation for bringing more fans and TV viewers, so I think the Big Ten would get a second team in well before the Big East
Brian, love your blog. Gosh, can you believe it's been 21 years since ND won the title? -- and every time I turn on the T.V. all they talk about is ND. What the heck is the deal?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
The people who say Notre Dame is irrelevant are often the ones watching Notre Dame games and commenting about them on message boards. Ironic, no?
Brian two questions, First: Nobody (Sport website writers/bloggers) seems to want to answer my question as to why UC doesn?t deserve to be picked over a 10-2 Iowa for a BCS Bowl (Projected Fiesta)? Especially if OSU gets beat this weekend by MU making Iowa?s loss to OSU even worse to go along with it?s NU loss if Cincy were to loose a close away game to an 8th ranked Pitt on 12/05? Teams like LSU, Iowa and the once great USC either drop a couple of spots, or in the case of LSU, slide up a couple of spots when loosing to a top 10 BCS team.Second: They say/said Cincy didn?t travel well last year to the Orange Bowl because there were some tickets remaining. As for my family and many others I know that went to Miami last year, we went to alternate ticket outlets to get better seats. That didn?t mean UC didn?t have more fans there than the number tickets allotted to UC to sell! What if anything can/is our BE Blogger doing to help promote the BE getting two BCS Bowls if both UC & Pitt end up 11-1? Thanks
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I'll answer your long question with the famous quote from The Unforgiven: Deserve's got nothing to do with it. It's all about $$
Marc (Waynesburg, PA)
Time to take of the kid-gloves. Who do you feel would represent the Big East in the Sugar Bowl better, Cincy, or Pitt? It appears the BE will either play Florida or Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and really this will be the best stage for the BE to show where our league is. With that being the case what team matches up better?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Barring a BCS title game appearance, the best thing for the league would be to take on the Alabama/Florida loser and either win or play extremely well. While Cincinnati has the offense and the best coach in the league, Pitt may actually match up better because of its terrific offensive and defensive lines.
Going with the assumption Kragthorpe will be fired at the end of the season, how long do think it would take to get Louisville competitive again?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
If you're talking about competing for Big East titles, it's not going to be overnight. That roster has some serious limitations. It will be at least a two- or three-year process
Zack (Bayonne, NJ)
Does Rutgers have the two best offensive tackles in the big east, Davis and Haslam seem to shut down big name d ends by the week?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Their both really good, and excellent pro prospects. I wish Davis were more consistent, but he does seem to be coming on. If I were picking the All-Big East team right now, my tackles would be Linkenbach and Pinkston because of their consistent production.
This morning Todd McShay called into question Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan past the end of this season. If that happens, what do you think the chances are that he goes to another Big East school (i.e., Louisville)?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
My man Adam Rittenberg is convinced Rich Rod gets another year. The NCAA investigation is the wild card. Bringing him to Louisville would be a whole lot of fun, and makes sense in a lot of ways. I just wonder if he's turned a lot of people off with his actions at the end of his West Virginia run and now in AA
Terry (the 'Burgh)
These Kelly-to-ND foregone-conclusion rumors remind me of when Greg Schiano turned down Miami, essentially saying Rutgers was a better job (better to be a big fish in a small pond). And GS was right. Repeated history? Sez here that coaching an powerhouse program in the up-and-coming Big East has definite advantages over the bare lightbulbs & hot seats in South Bend.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Couple of differences here, Terry. Schiano is a Jersey guy, where Kelly has no real ties to Ohio. Rutgers had already made a huge commitment to football, while Cincinnati is just trying to get there. Miami was a rebuilding job at the time, while I don't think Notre Dame is that far away.
Josh B (Granville)
Brian whos a better pro prospect, Pead or Lewis?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Interesting question. I'm no Mel Kiper. But I would guess Pead, simply because he has a more prototypical NFL body than the smaller Lewis. But Ray Rice was called undersized too, and he's not too shabby, eh?
Mike Terzano (Old Bridge NJ)
Brian - What are the odds of the Big East champion playing either TCU or Boise St. in a BCS bowl? I hope it doesn't happen because if we get blown out the BE bashes will be back in full force. On the flip side if we win big the "talking heads" will spin the loss by a non-BCS team rather than a win for the Big East.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
The only place where I could see it happening is the Fiesta Bowl, if the Big 12 doesn't supply a suitable second BCS team after Texas. The Sugar and Orange are locked in with the SEC and ACC, respectively. I'm not sure it doesn't the Big East any good to play TCU or Boise, as you point out well.
Brian,Why do everyone assume that ND is that great of a gig right? Over the last 15-20 all they have done is consume the next up and coming coaching prospect and spit them out. After a while is it not fair to say the problem is with the program and not the coach?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Roger, I'm not sure I agree that's the case. Bob Davie had never been a head coach. Ty Willingham did some nice things at Stanford and went to a Rose Bowl but I don't remember him being labeled a genius strategist. Weis had no college or head coaching experience. What could a proven college guy like Meyer, Stoops or Kelly do there? Talent and facilities aren't an issue
Jon (Syracuse, NY)
Coach Marrone is putting his faith in Greg Paulus to finish the season as his starter, do you agree with this move or would you give Ryan Nassib the chance to lead the team?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
The bigger problem right now is a near-total lack of receivers. Marrone has been giving Nassib a lot of snaps, and frankly, I'm not sure he's even going to be the QB next year. Marrone may choose to go with Loeb or recruit Johnny Miller
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Mike Leach to Louisville? Wow, that's a new one. First of all, doesn't he have a much better gig being the king of West Texas?Secondly, do the Cards have fat girlfriends (too)? Would they let him still be a pirate?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Who knows if there's any truth to it? The thinking would be, Leach was obviously unhappy with the administration this past offseason and it's a heck of a lot easier to win in the Big East than it is to butt heads with Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 South every year. Leach and Pitino on the same campus would keep things interesting year-round
Josh (Bozeman, Montana)
Greetings form the Treasure State, BB. Kelly has mentioned running the ball more the last two games. And the PITT big O-line looks promising to give Cincinnati fits if they don't shore up they're D. What do you think the chances are of Cincinnati trying to change their game plan too much this late in the season, as opposed to going with what has worked for them all season? Is PITT just to good to beat with what UC has been throwing out there so far this year? Is a drastic change needed? Although, I?m still not convinced Brian Kelly isn't smarter than everyone else, so what ever changes he makes could be just perfect.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I don't think Kelly is suddenly going to start using the I-formation. I think he just means there could be cold weather and/or snow on Dec. 5, so the Bearcats better be ready to adjust. I have no doubts he'll have his team fully prepared.
BB, no "experts/analysts" give Bearcats ANY credit. Yes last 2 have been close but doesnt change that we have BACK-UP QB (regardless how good he seems) and TEN NEW starters on def. Why is this and will it change WHEN we blow out illinois AND pitt?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I'm not sure who you're referring to, since most analysts seem to heap quite a bit of praise on the Bearcats. You can't play the 10 new starters card any more, though. It's Nov. 18.
If you're the coach, which WR do you take first: Jon Baldwin or Mardy Gilyard?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I love Mardy, but give me Baldwin every time. 6-5, 40-inch vertical and runs like a deer? Yes, yes and yes.
Brian, what's it going to take for Leavitt's seat to start getting a little warm? I think he at least needs some accountability for what's been going on the last 3 years.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I agree that he needs to be held responsible, Ben, but he's not going anywhere. He's the second-highest paid coach in the Big East, he signed a long-term extension not long ago and USF doesn't have the money to buy him out and afford another top-flight coach.
Will (Washington, DC)
How important is it for the Big East that Wannestache has gotten Pitt into the top ten AND there is no chance he is leaving Pitt? Recently it seems that the most successful coaches in the league have been using their teams as a stepping stone to larger programs.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Clearly, Wannstedt has got that thing rolling in the right direction. There's no reason Pitt shouldn't be competing for Big East titles for the next several years.
I am assuming you would rather cover a good team then bad one, so who do you think ND should hire if Weis is let go.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
As long as the team's interesting, Tim, it doesn't much matter to me. If I'm in charge, I check in on Urban Meyer first. Then I go to Kelly.
Patrick Mineo (Ohio)
Per the question about the ND program being the problem. You don't think talent is the problem at ND? Do they send as many players to the NFL as USC every year? I have heard some argue that while ND has no problems recruiting, they have problems getting the university to allow some of the recruits to attend the school. Its not harder to bring in all around talent at a school where the athletes have to get the grades too?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Look at the recruiting rankings the past few years, and Notre Dame is right up there. Weis has done a great job of working with the admissions department and getting the right kids into school. Clausen, Tate, Floyd, Rudolph, Te'o -- these guys would start for any team in America. It's the defense and perhaps motivation that seems to me to be the problem areas there.
A 'heck of a lot easier' in the BE? The Big 12 offers one tough game this year, Texas. The rest of the conference stinks. Sure the BE would have been easier to win last year. But not in 2006 and not this year (IMO).
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Really, Barry? Oklahoma is not any good? Oklahoma State, with all that T. Boone Pickens money, is not a challenge? Not buying your story.
Brian, Don't you think Cincy having a healthy Tony Pike, running back and a full back that doesn't have a broken hand will make a hugh difference in the last two games?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Collaros has played great in Pike's absence, so I'm not sure how much having Pike back helps. And Pead was terrific. Cincinnati doesn't use a fullback, so not sure what you're talking about. The defense is the biggest issue right now, mainly the front seven.
KJ (Princeton, WV)
Does WVU have a chance against Pitt?? Everybody I've seen discuss it says no, but this is the type of game WVU has won in the past.... The "Us against the world" attitude..... Your thoughts???
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Of course, the Mountaineers have a shot, especially at home. But Pitt has better players, and it has had WVU's number the past couple of years.
IF CK is not able to recruit the same at ND, is he the same coach?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I'm not quite sure I understand your question, but I'll say this: Brian Kelly has been winning big with mostly no-name recruits. Give him the resources and access to blue-chippers at a place like Notre Dame, and he could be scary good.
Jordan (Kingstree, SC)
Why can't GT make it into the bcs if they lose the acc title game and are 11-2?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Possible, but Georgia Tech doesn't have the biggest fan base and I don't think the ACC has earned the respect to get two BCS teams
Jon (Syracuse, NY)
Brian, I postponed my wedding from this past fall until next spring because my fiance wants to get married on a Saturday and I didn't want to miss college football...was that wrong?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
You were absolutely right. There should be no weddings on fall Saturdays or during the month of March.
Chris (Piscataway, NJ)
What's the best possible bowl for a 10-2 Rutgers team and would they be competitive in that game?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Best possible is the Gator, if everything breaks right. More likely, the Meineke Car Care is the ceiling. Not sure yet if Rutgers can compete with some of the better teams out there, but the Knights are improving every week and that defense is legit.
Re: Notre Dame Recruiting. Maybe the recruiting rankings are not as accurate as you're led to believe?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I'm not a big fan of recruiting rankings, and I've written that often. But you can't deny that Weis has brought some highly-coveted talent to South Bend. That illustrates that attracting talent there is not really the issue right now.
is stew on the hot seat?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
No, definitely not in his second year after winning the Fiesta and Meineke bowls. But he's going to need to do better than four losses next year to keep the heat away.
Brian why in the world is rutgers ranked? There schedule is weaker then don boscos and I think cincy just scored on them again
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I'm not going to hold the Cincinnati game against them any longer, since that was Labor Day. Plenty of teams have had bad losses. But I agree that Rutgers shouldn't be ranked yet because of the schedule
Any chance Ray Graham transfers to WV next year?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Do you think Romeus and Sheard will both be back at Pitt next year? Is either one projected as a first day draft pick?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Just guessing here, but I'd say Romeus goes and Sheard stays. Romeus is a big-time prospect
Jose S. (NYC)
SEC: Bama or UF?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
If they played today, 'Bama
BB, I know you have touched on this, but gut feeling on Iowa getting a BCS bid or the loser of Pitt vs UC?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Again, yes. Iowa would go first
Rutgers has been really good recently.........don't overlook their only two loses are to top 10 teams... Why do people come on a BE chat and complain about BE teams?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Agree to a point, but it's a weak argument to point to who Rutgers lost to. Who'd they beat?
Do you really think the Big 12 is better than the Big East this year BB? Only 3 teams with less than 4 losses and almost every single team has a loss outside the conference. I think Cincy and Pitt can play with Texas and beat the rest of the teams in the conference more often than not. I also think Rutgers and Uconn can compete favorably with most of the teams in their league. They have they're own "Cuse and Louisville with Baylor, Colorado and A&M. At some point, recruiting rankings have to be thrown out and performance on the field has to be considered.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Never said it was. In regard to the earlier Leach comment, though, of course it's incredibly difficult to go up against Texas and Oklahoma every year. Those are two of the richest programs in the country, and Oklahoma State is getting there.
Does UCONN have a shot on Saturday at ND?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Definitely. Who doesn't have a chance against ND these days? Key will be running the ball well and keeping the Irish offense off the field, because UConn's pass defense is pretty ragged right now
why is tcu ranked above cincy when the big east is clearly a tougher conference thean the mountain west just look at the top 25
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
TCU has been more impressive of late and has wins over three current ranked teams. I think Cincinnati goes back in front if it wins out. Two very good teams, very close.
Can Pitt be a legit National Champion contender next year? They have a decent non conference schedule with Utah, Notre Dame, and Miami on the schedule.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
If the Panthers finish strong, they should be ranked very highly next year with Lewis and Baldwin back. Question will be at QB.
The same argument we've made against Rutgers can be made against Penn State (except for 54,000 extra seats in their stadium).
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Penn State has beaten nobody, agreed
With ND losing the past two games, does Clausen's draft status drop enough to warrent staying? Or will this be a wait and see who the coach is?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
That should have no bearing on his draft stock. He's played extremely well
Brian when the Big East negotiated their bowl line why do you think they kept the Papajohn's bowl over say the Eagle Bank bowl in DC? I would think getting fans to DC would be easier for most team than Alabama.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Probably because of the SEC affiliation on the other side.
Not disagreeing it's a weak schedule........they crushed S.FLA, beat a good Uconn team, and crushed Maryland the week before they beat Clemson... They are #25 in the AP poll......not ranked in the top 10!!!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
You can't use Maryland. Sorry. Terps stink. Just keep winning, and everything will be all right.
Another awful year for the Orange. Please give me some reason to hope for next year.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Lots of young players in key roles. But it's going to take some rebuilding there. Greg Robinson tore it down.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks, my hour is up. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy the weekend.