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 (4:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. It's a winter wonderland here. Let's dream of the fall and talk football. Hit me with your questions.
Ben (Austin, TX)
Brian, love the blog. What are your initial thoughts on Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson? With quarterback depth thin, do you think they'll both compete as freshman for the backup job, or will one of them be redshirted?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I'm interested to see what West Virginia does here. I think they'll let Brunetti and Johnson battle it out, and if one is clearly better than the other than perhaps the runner-up changes positions. Ideally, you'd redshirt one of them to put separation between him and Geno Smith, but with Smith's history of foot problems, West Virginia may not have that luxury
Until you put UC number one in your rankings, they will be a joke. Almost a complete joke like the Pac-10 in basketball this year. But not quite.
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
Well, we'll see. Cincinnati certainly still has a lot of talent. But how many teams have basically turned over their entire staff and maintained a championship level? Not many, that I can recall.
Will (Washington, DC)
Can Pitt sweep its OOC schedule in 2010?
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
That's a tall order, with Miami, Utah and Notre Dame on the slate. Should Pitt pull that off, though, the Panthers would have a great shot at cracking the Top 10 again.
Mike (Storrs, CT)
I know it's early, but care to make a prediction on UConn-Michigan?
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
I like the fact that it's the opener, because UConn will be a veteran team going into Ann Arbor. I think the Huskies have a real shot.
What's your take on hiring Tyrone Wheatley as the SU running backs coach? He comes with lots of accolades being a NFL star for 10 years and a Michigan star but can he coach? With SU's deep running back's position do you think he'll be able to excell in Doug Marrone's system as a coach, mentor, leader, and recruiter? My gut feeling is the SU will be back in the hunt for a Big East championship within 2 years, whats your take?
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
I don't know what kind of coach he is, but if his job is to mentor running backs, he surely has the background and knowledge for that. The name recognition should help on the recruiting trail. Two years seems way too soon for me, but I do think Syracuse will be back in the hunt for bowl games by then.
Lucas (Norwalk CT)
When will fans of the Big East realize that we sat idle and lost our two greatest teams and one good one in BC to the ACC did nothing about it and now we're sitting idle again doing nothing when the Big Ten might come. Will fans and writers realize the conference will probably be gone if this happens and there goes the big money games and dreams of a national championship, that won't happen when Uconn joins the Conference USA cause we lost everybody again, this is very simple, we have to go on the attack and steal others. Picture if we raided the ACC and kept penn state when Paterno wanted to make an eastern power conference, we'd be SEC worthy.
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
Big East officials are very aware of the dire nature of the situation; they're just not talking about it much publicly. Let me ask you this: what incentive could the Big East offer to entice an ACC or Big Ten team to jump ship? Because it's not more money, and money drives everything.
steven (new jersey)
Do you think Rutgers can make a push and win the title this year? Also if they do win, do you think the big 10 will recognize it and pick them?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
I think Rutgers is a year away from serious contention. The Scarlet Knights are going to be very young in several key spots, but they're set up to make a run in '11 and '12. The Big Ten won't be so shortsighted as to make its decision based on one season.
Doug Cross (Ohio)
Robert Sands...All Big East again....or All American???
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
If he plays like he did in the second half of the season, he's an All-Big East guy for sure. All-American? More of a stretch.
While the talk around South Bend has been of championships, the recruiting seemed down from Weis and no one seems to think that's a problem. Is Kelly going to develop these guys into 5-star players or will the talent drop-off be even more pronounced after a few more "non-top-10" classes?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Well, first of all, Brian Kelly had a short amount of time to try and put together a class. So this shouldn't be too expected. Weis got plenty of 5-star players but couldn't win with them. Kelly will develop his players. I'd rather have the latter.
Love the blog, keep it up. But Brian my man, show a little more love for UCONN. They play Pitt, Cincy and WV at home. They have two weeks to prepare for Pitt. You said you would vote them in the preseason top 25 but still no better than 4th in BE?
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
Yes, but I've got all four Big East teams in my Top 25 right now. Call me crazy. I think my top four of Pitt, WVU, Cincinnati and UConn are all very, very close right now.
Looking at the schedule for next season, it looks like my huskies have a pretty favorable Big East slate. Any thoughts on which team has the best conference schedule? And do you think that uconn may be a legitimate favorite to win the conference next year?
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
When I'm looking at most favorable Big East schedules, the first thing I look at is who has the four home games. And then I try to see who has the most favorable road contests. That's why I think West Virginia might have the best schedule. The Mountaineers have to go to Pitt, Louisville and UConn. They've never lost to UConn, and Pitt isn't much of a road game because of all the fans who make the short trip to Heinz Field
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
And yes, I do think UConn is a legitimate Big East contender. But the Huskies need to get that monkey off their back and beat West Virginia at home.
what are the chances the cards can get to 6-6 next season, and do you expect strong to stay around if he turns the program around? thnaks
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
Assuming Louisville beats Eastern Kentucky, Memphis and Arkansas State in the nonconference games at home, it only takes three more wins to get to 6-6. Still, I think it's going to be tough given the talent on hand. Strong is going to be a very attractive candidate once he gets it going with the Cardinals.
Brian (Bel Air, MD)
Brian, thank you for your work on the blog. Two Questions:What are your highlights and lowlights of the league schedule?Of the three Big East games on December 4th, which one would you want a ticket to?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
I don't see too many lowlights because the league is so balanced. But I probably won't be going to Louisville-Syracuse again. As for Dec. 4, I want to see Pitt-Cincinnati. Could be three years in a row that game is for the Big East title, and it's turning into a pretty good rivalry.
I want to expand on Lucas' expansion idea. If the Big East could actually pull off a reverse steal and take back Miami and V tech, and add Penn State, which team would they want to try and add (assuming they could actually get the teams to go along with it) for the 12 team championship format? I imagine Kentucky would be perfect, because they would increase the basketball slate immensely.
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Why stop there? Why not take Ohio State, Texas, USC and Florida? And why don't I take Rachel Bilson out to dinner on Friday?
Scott (Ringoes, NJ)
Noticed that Rutgers plays USF on a Wednesday night in early November this year. Is that a good thing in your opinion? Usually that matchup is on a Thursday or Friday night.
Dave Wannstedt (the 'Burgh)
What do you think of us now? With our manly man's OOC schedule in 2010, am I merely a solid QB away from making the BCS NC game? Can we get there with 1-2 losses?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
It's odd, for sure. Don't think it makes any difference, though as bad as South Florida has been on Thursday nights, perhaps it will help the Bulls.
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
Well, I have Pittsburgh No. 1 in my power rankings for 2010 right now, so obviously I like the Panthers. BCS title game? It's probably going to take an undefeated season and some help. Pitt should worry about trying to win the Big East.
As far as schedules go, how about Cincinnati's 4 game stretch to close out the season? That's alright though...the offense will be fine tuned by then. Playmakers all over the field at WR, Pead as the most underated RB in the league, and Collaros as a natural fit in Butch Jones system. I think the league comes down to the UC/Pitt game just like last season.
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
at West Virginia, Rutgers, at UConn and Pitt. Pretty rough stretch, but that's what happens when you're the defending champ and a contender again. A lot of those games will be attractive TV matchups.
Drew (Morgantown )
Any updates on Latwaan Anderson? Also, even though he doesnt have the flash of Rich Rod, dont you think its time WVU pay respect to the great recruiting skills of Bill Stu and staff??
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
West Virginia coaches are confident that Anderson is still coming, but who knows what he's thinking. At least as far as rankings are concerned, Stewart has taken the Mountaineers' recruiting to a higher level. But wins and losses are the ultimate bottom line.
What would happen to the Big East if the Big10 attempted to capture the Northeast market by adding Rutgers, Syracuse, and UConn?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
If all three left? The Big East as we know it would effectively be dead.
Mike (Jeddo, Michigan)
What kind of season do you project for Noel Devine (assuming he stays healthy)?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
With West Virginia perhaps not wanting to rely on sophomore quarterback Geno Smith too much, perhaps Devine could make a run at 2,000 yards. But I also wouldn't be surprised to see Ryan Clarke get more carries.
WV generally doesnt recruit all that well due to location. Due to this should they continue to try to recruit and build the offense around a balanced attacked with traditional schemes. Or should they go back to spread style attack and try to land key players to make it work. Don had WVU doing alright like this but spread but us back on the map. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
I'd have to disagree. West Virginia has been pretty well, especially in areas like Virginia and Florida. They're still running a spread, just with more passing. Defenses were starting to figure out the option-heavy attack.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Hypothetical: the Big-10(11)(+1) invites Pitt to join. Do you predict we accept, for the money and football? or decline due to hoops?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
Pitt would accept in about 1.2 seconds. Too much money to turn down
Knute (South Bend)
What is with this schedule?! Back in my day, we road across the country playing the best we could find. Western Michigan? Tulane?
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
It's a different world, Knute. Making the schedule a little more, uh, manageable is the right idea for Notre Dame.
I hope you get your date this Friday! Maybe next year we can get that Texas vs USC Big East battle :)
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
I'll let you know if either happens
Mike (Storrs, CT)
With everyone talking about 2010 being a potentially big year for the Huskies, after this year, they only lose Zach Frazer, Anthony Sherman, Zach Hurd, Scott Lutrus, Bama Wilson, and depending if he takes a redshirt this year or not, Greg Lloyd. There's a lot of talent that I just mentioned, but UConn is set up for a little bit of a run here. Agree or no?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
Randy Edsall has done a good job of trying to redshirt as many freshmen as possible, and now he's got it going to where they can reload every year. So, yes, I agree.
Rachel Bilson? You must be joking because she is going out with me. As for the Big East, if they lose a team how do you expect them to respond?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
Congrats, Younger. Let me know your secret. The Big East's only choice would be to add another team(s), and the first option should be to try and pry a team like BC or Maryland from the ACC. I'm just not sure what the Big East can offer those teams, though.
Greg (10ft under snow in NYC)
I am a Miami C-A-N-E-S fan any chance the big east looks to get the Canes back if the Big 10 steals Rutgers or Pitt so they can have their conf championship game?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
The Big East would love to have Miami back. But it's not happening.
Why is the Big East so poor financially? What factors make the other conference have so much more money than the Big East and why can't the Big East do something to even the playing field?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
The Big East isn't in dire straits financially. But the league has only eight teams and doesn't have the huge fan bases that other leagues have. And its TV deal pales in comparison to what the SEC and Big Ten makes.
With Rutgers last minute flurry of recruiting activity, do you think this is indication that they have "turned the corner" as a well recognized program. What do you think they need to do to get over the stigma of programs such as WVU as far as recruiting.
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
I think Rutgers' recruiting has been pretty good. How about Ray Rice and Kenny Britt? Anthony Davis is No. 4 in McShay's latest draft. The hump they need to get over is beating West Virginia and winning the Big East title.
Q Money (Charleston, SC)
Uhhh...ahem. No WVU in Schlabach's Top 25?? Let's see...a team that was a couple plays away from a BCS game with 18 starters coming back not worthy of the Top 25?? I hope you and your colleague MS don't see eye to eye on this one. What are your thoughts on this years WVU team B??
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
I've got WVU in my Top 25, for sure. So many starters back. Quarterback is an issue but I think Smith will be good, and that defense should be strong.
What will it take for the Big East not to be a "stepping stone" league? Frequently, coaches use the Big East as a launching platform to larger jobs. Also, entire schools transition out of the league for greener pastures. What does the Big East need to do to make itself a final destination league?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Bigger fan bases, better TV deal, more marquee wins. The Big East isn't going to compete with the Texas, Ohio State and USCs of the world, though.
Brian, I love your blog. I think UC will need to find itself. After the staff turnover nothing is for sure. I think it will be another battle for the Big East and hopefully UC's tough early schedule will help them in league games.
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
The Bearcats will be a fascinating story to watch. Coaching transitions are rarely easy, but at least Butch Jones has experience picking up for Brian Kelly.
How do you think that Charlie Strong does at Louisville? See them winning the Big East in the next 5 years?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
I thought it was a great hire, and I think Strong will do well. He's already been a great recruiter; now we'll see how well he can handle being a head coach. I think he'll get Louisville back, but it's going to take a couple of years because the challenge is steep.
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
Well, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the questions. For those of you dealing with snow, I hope the sun comes out soon.