Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, 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 Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
Hey, everybody. Put down your brackets for a little bit and let's talk some football.
I know that Bill Stewart is catching some heat for 'thinking out loud', but as a diehard Mountaineer fan, I'm glad he said it. Someone needed to. Everyone knows the conference is sitting on the ledge as far as existing, and if the Big 10 does take more than one team, my main concern is that WVU isn't left behind in the rubble. I think they would be an excellent addition to any conference with their large and loyal fanbase and on field success, Agree or disagree? I wish I could say that it was about loyalty and history but money is the dictator in all of this and that's what will rule the day. It's going to be every team for itself. Ironic for an "amateur" sport...
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
I agree. I'm glad he said it, though it might not have been the right time/venue. Nobody knows for sure what will happen, but I think West Virginia will do just fine. There's so much passion around that program, and that means money. Some major conference will find a home for the Mountaineers if it's no longer the Big East.
How much does losing our 5 star recruit Anderson hurt our recruiting class?
Brian Bennett (2:05 PM)
It would have been nice to have him, of course, but he's just one guy. And he never really seemed committed to coming to West Virginia anyway. I wouldn't sweat it too much.
There was a healthy debate on the blogs this past week regarding the possibility of certain BE schools being picked/selected to join other super conferences. In the majority of the scenarios USF and Cincy were left out of the conversation. Do you feel that USF with its growing student body (9th largest in the country) and 12th largest media market will be left out of the equation and relegated to a C-USA-type conference? Personally, I think it would be foolish, but I do suffer from homer-ism.
Brian Bennett (2:07 PM)
Really, who knows? I would say South Florida and Cincinnati aren't as attractive as overall athletic programs as places like West Virginia, Pitt and Louisville. But this all depends on how many teams the Big Ten wants to add, and whether other conferences will follow suit. Far too early to say at this point.
JL (Charles Town, West Virginia)
Will Pittsburgh improve or at least do as well this year? Progress is never a straight line: will Wannstedt have a better year or at least do well enough to save his job? Can he survive a down year and will he have one?
Brian Bennett (2:10 PM)
I don't expect a down year. Love this team's talent and depth. Let's remember that Pitt won 10 games last year, so there's not a ton of room for progress, especially with a challenging schedule. It is time the Panthers break through and win a Big East title, though.
Jay (Rutgers, NJ)
Hey, Brian, love the blog, one of the few things that gets me through a long work day. Anyways, do you see the Knights finding a running game in the spring, and if not, do you think they may go more wildcat intensive?
Brian Bennett (2:13 PM)
Greg Schiano didn't sound too thrilled with his running game options when I talked to him earlier this month. Rocket Williams is going to be limited in the spring, and recruits there aren't coming in until summer. Plus, the offensive line needs to be remade and get better at run-blocking. So it's a project that will likely continue through fall camp.
Jay (Bloomington, IN)
I thought Syracuse made strides this year. How much longer before they are a conference title contender?
Brian Bennett (2:15 PM)
The Orange certainly showed some improvement, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. This year, they should be in the hunt for a bowl appearance. A league title will require significant upgrades in talent/recruiting, something that is still likely 3-to-4 years away.
Mike (New Brunswick)
Why did Tranghese openly admit the BE has nothing going for them? And has no cards to play? And is basically the red-headed stepchild? As an RU fan, I'd be thrilled with a B10 invite, but that doesn't mean I don't love the BE. As much as we're all in denial about the state of our conference, the BE is the weakest BCS conference and needs to do the most posturing of all. Try bluffing, at least!!
Brian Bennett (2:18 PM)
One thing you could always say about Tranghese was that he was a straight shooter. He's telling it like it is. No reason to lie, because no one would believe that lie anyway.
What's your prediction on ND and the Big 10?
Brian Bennett (2:20 PM)
I think Notre Dame will remain independent, unless it sees no other choice because of mega-expansion.
mark (pensacola, fl)
Hey Brian, who will be the best qb in the BE this upcoming season in your opinion?
Brian Bennett (2:22 PM)
Simply in terms of production, I believe it will be Zach Collaros. He's got lots of options around him and a very friendly system for quarterbacks.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
can anyone force ND to go to the big east?
Brian Bennett (2:24 PM)
If the Virgin Mary herself appeared in the Grotto and told the Irish to go to the Big East ... I still think the school would vote against it.
Hey Brian... two things. One, did I miss the Spring Superlatives on Cincinnati? Two, I guess I don't understand why Cincinnati wouldn't be an attractive school to add to the Big 10, outside of the small stadium at Nippert... Care to elaborate?
Brian Bennett (2:26 PM)
The spring superlatives series is running in reverse alphabetical order, so the Bearcats are last and theirs will appear tomorrow. As far as the Big Ten, I don't see Cincinnati as a good fit academically or culturally. Aren't many city schools in the Big Ten, you know?
Natalie Portman (Hollywood)
Hi Brian, I have seen that you mention me at least once a week in your blog. If I fly you to California, will you have a cup of coffee with me?
Brian Bennett (2:28 PM)
Now that is the easiest question in the history of chats. I don't even drink coffee, but I will start.
hey brian, i think big east fans are getting a little too worried at this point...the sky isn't falling. the conference just proved again that it is the best basketball conference. also, it is likely that the big ten only expands 1 school...mizzou or rutgers. i do hope the big east has a plan to grow the conference in fb....east carolina/ucf/bc/maryland/etc and maybe some $over the top$ deal for nd. the only thing sure about life is change. i don't think the big east goes away unless big ten expand 3 teams and 2 of 3 are syracuse/pitt/uconn...your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (2:30 PM)
Agreed, John. A lot of this talk is based on the assumption that the Big Ten plows ahead with radical expansion. And have we ever known the Big Ten to be anything but conservative in most things? That said, the Big East does need to grow; there just aren't any great candidates for addition out there.
Brian, you need some curtains in your office! Okay, enough of the chick stuff. Who do you think will get the majority of the carries for the Scarlet Knights this season...Jersey Joe Martinek, or perhaps Jawan Jamison, the Ray Rice clone??
Brian Bennett (2:34 PM)
If you're volunteering your services as an interior decorator, I'm interested. Anyway, if I have to choose between the two, I'm taking Martinek. We're talking about a veteran who rushed for almost 1,000 yards last year vs. a true freshman who won't be on campus until this summer. Maybe he's the next Rice or Dion Lewis, but I'll reserve judgment until I see him in a college uniform.
Megan Englund (Boise, Idaho)
Brian, If I were to rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together!!
Brian Bennett (2:35 PM)
So I guess that makes you a University of Idaho fan?
Ben (Hartford )
UCON QUESTION! UConn seems a good safety and corner away from a real shot at winning the Big East (outright this time). Will Blidi Wreh-Wilson be better even with the injury? Who is coming in to replace losing McClain at CB or Vaughn at safety?
Brian Bennett (2:37 PM)
I think you'll see Gratz and Wreh-Wilson at the corner spots, with Jerome Junior at one safety. The other safety spot is up for grabs and should be a fierce competition. There's no reason why UConn can't compete for the BCS bid if it fixes its pass defense.
Rob (South Bend)
How good do you think Dayne Crist could be this year in Brian Kelly's offense? He appears to have all the weapons in the world with Floyd, Rudolph and incoming Tai-ler Jones. If he comes back healthy could he be a dark horse heisman candidate if that line holds up?
Brian Bennett (2:39 PM)
If he's healthy, and there's no reason to believe he won't be by the fall at least, Crist should have a strong year. Brian Kelly always gets the most out of his quarterbacks -- see Dustin Grutza, Ben Mauk, Tony Pike, Zach Collaros, etc. Heisman candidate? Nah, not this year. But maybe later in his career.
Will (Washington, DC)
Which of WVU's young receivers are most likely to make an impact in 2010?
Brian Bennett (2:41 PM)
I continue to hear good things about Stedman Bailey, and Deon Long is an intriguing guy. I'm baffled as to what has happened to Logan Heastie. Hope for his sake that he makes it back.
Jay (Bloomington, IN)
Louisville looked like a train wreck last fall. Will things get better this year or will they continue to struggle mightily for a year or two?
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
I really like the direction they're taking under Charlie Strong, but it's going to take a while for the Cardinals to rebuild their talent base. I'm fairly certain the team will look more organized and disciplined on the field than it did under Steve Kragthorpe, and that alone could result in another win or two.
Rodney (New York City)
Which BE team(s) do you see being most explosive offensively in 2010?
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
Pretty much the same as last year: Cincinnati, Pitt and UConn. West Virginia needs to get more consistent offensively, which starts with a better effort from the line. South Florida is a wild card with a new staff and philosophy, because there's a lot of speed in Tampa.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
you wouldnt know what to do with natalie portman
Brian Bennett (2:46 PM)
First thing I would do is ask her how she said all those terrible lines in the Star Wars prequel with a straight face
Are you going to make it to any spring games.
Brian Bennett (2:47 PM)
I'm not sure if I get to any actual spring games. Those are more for the fans than for serious football junkies. But the plan now is to make it to seven of the eight schools for at least one spring practice each.
Bruce (Columbus, GA)
Overall, is the Big 10 Network a success? Does it draw viewers, is it making money, does it help Big 10 sports overall?
Brian Bennett (2:48 PM)
It's a major source of revenue -- though have you ever tried to watch that thing when there wasn't a football or basketball game on? Shudder -- and it's a major reason why the Big Ten will be able to pursue expansion candidates.
John G (Louisville)
What is your honest feeling about our football program? we all know this year will be hopefully a .500 season but are we expecting more in the next years to come???
Brian Bennett (2:49 PM)
That sounds about right. 6-6 would be doing some good work this year. Strong is assembling more talent. Give him a couple of years and the Cardinals could be back.
How competitive do you foresee the Big East actually being this year? Seeing that several of the schools have new coaches and that UConn and Pitt have most of their key players back, what is your prediction for the pecking order? Can Cincy and Pitt maintain their dominance?
Brian Bennett (2:50 PM)
I see it being extremely competitive, because I don't think you'll see a team go 12-0 like Cincinnati. The Bearcats, along with Pitt, West Virginia and UConn all are strong contenders, while the bottom two of Syracuse and Louisville should be improved. And Rutgers and South Florida will be young but dangerous. Should be a very fun season in '10.
thomas (los angeles)
west virgina vs. lsu -- what do you think?
Brian Bennett (2:52 PM)
I think I hope I'm at that game. Great opportunity for West Virginia, with a lot of starters back. But it's asking a lot for a young quarterback to go into Baton Rouge and win early in the season. At the very least, it offers a great chance for the Mountaineers to measure themselves.
Why haven't we recruited more Dline and Oline players when we are seriously lacking?? do you feel our offensive line has slowly declined each year since Trickett yet and is a major problem with our team
Brian Bennett (2:54 PM)
The O-line hasn't been as good the last two years, but if it as all Trickett, then FSU's line would have been a whole lot better than it was. You had some seniors underperform in '08 and then some young guys starting for the first time in '09. This will be a big test for that group in '10, since four starters are back and they played almost every snap together last year.
Rodney (New York City)
The WV fans always love to see Michigan lose. What are the chances that UConn opens the season with a win? Would that win give the BE a little boost in the polls? Any legit chance with voters for UConn to be ranked?
Brian Bennett (2:55 PM)
I like UConn's chances in that game. You know what the national spin will be if the Huskies lose, though; it will be all about Rich Rod's struggles. I think Connecticut deserves to be ranked in the Top 25 to start the year. They're legit in my book.
T-Pain (Vocoderland, Autotuneville)
Hey man...You should mention me once a week in your blog...I could teach you how to do your blogs and chats with vocoder and autotune...That would spice things up!
Brian Bennett (2:56 PM)
Let's get together for a video. "I'm on a blog!"
Chris (Annapolis, MD)
As a fan of Pittsburgh, a program rich in tradition, what is there likely destination if big 10 expanison plan decimates the big east. Is it possible that Pitt and West Virginia get placed in different thus eliminating the back yard brawl
Brian Bennett (2:58 PM)
If the Big Ten does decide to take a group of teams instead of just one, then I think there's an excellent chance it brings Pitt on board. As for the BYB, there's no reason why that can't still be played as a nonconference game. Too much history to ignore, though you might have said the same thing about Pitt-Penn State not too long ago.
Jay (Bloomington, IN)
What are your expectations for the Fighting Irish this fall?
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
I'm thinking about seven or eight wins. I believe Brian Kelly will always field a winner.
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
OK, folks. My time is up for today. Enjoy the greatest sports weekend of the year this week.