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)
Hey, everybody. It's June, not exactly the heat of football season. But there's always stuff to talk about. So fire away with your questions.
MJ (the island from LOST)
considering how Pitt's poor secondary play really burned us against NC state last year, how concerned should i be for this years secondary?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
Hey, MJ. Are Hurley and Ben still in charge? The secondary got burned some last year, but that NC State breakdown was as much on the inability of the linebackers to cover in space. The staff thinks Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru/Buddy Jackson at the corners could be as good and possibly better than last year. A little more athleticism at both spots.
What do you think the chances are that USF can beat Florida early this season. It seems like a crazy mismatch but the Bulls do seem to have a thing for pulling off wins early on that no one think they can.
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
The Bulls are the kings of September surprises. Still, pulling that off in The Swamp early on in a coaching transition seems like a nearly impossible task. If you were going to get a crack at the Gators, though, might as well do it early in the post-Tebow era.
Do you think if the conference splits up there will be the same animosity between the schools that lingered after the ACC raid? Obviously the Backyard brawl would survive if they get split into different conferences, but what about Rutgers and UConn? I like that rivalry. Also what about just plain old OOC games? Do you think we will still see some of these games?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
Interesting question. I think a lot of the animosity from the ACC raid came because A) both leagues were viewed as pretty much equals at the time and B) there were a lot of secret negotiations and hypocrisy about who was going. It's a little different this time because the Big Ten is offering so much money that any school would be foolish not to go.
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
As for the out-of-conference games, you'd hope ones like UConn-Rutgers and Pitt-West Virginia would be saved. But -- and especially if a larger Big Ten means more conference games -- those schools who leave might not have the incentive to play difficult nonconference games.
Mike Buckley (Troy, MO)
Brian - Do you really think that Savage is the answer at Rutgers for the next couple of years? Can he go to the slate with power and produce some wins? His numbers were shaky - he struggled against good defenses (look at Syracuse and W.V.). Is the plan at Rutgers to milk this kid like a common dairy cow for the next couple of years? It would be a real hoot to see Rutgers return to national prominence, for old tymes sake! Good Luck!
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
His numbers were shaky? He was a true freshman, playing behind a poor offensive line and with very few options at receiver. I'd say all in all, he performed admirably. If that O-line comes together, I think he'll be great.
Does any team in the conference have the strength of schedule to compete for a National title if they go undefeated?
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
Pitt does, for sure. West Virginia would have a strong case by beating LSU on the road. Same with Cincinnati with Oklahoma on the sked.
What Heisman candidates could come out of the Big East and why?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
You have to consider Dion Lewis and Noel Devine the top candidates. Baldwin and Collaros as dark horses
rod #12 lagrange georgia [via mobile]
do you think jake locker will win the Heisman?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
I don't think Washington will win enough games. So, no.
David (Morgantown, WV)
How many questions have you gotten concerning conference changes?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
I can't count that high.
Let off some steam, Bennett! I know Tavon Austin was a freshman, thus the spot duty and minimal touches last year. But in those flashes, he showed he has the makings to be the most electric player in the Big East not named Noel. When you get a chance, can make sure you let Billy Stew and Mr.Mullen to get this young man the rock more?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
They want to get Austin the ball more. But they also have Devine and Sanders, and Clarke and Starks. There is only one football. But Austin will be a bigger part of the offense. They need him at wideout
The Mustache (Pittsburgh)
TJ Clemmings is coming into Pitt with an awful lot of hype. I see one of the preseason rags projects him as a starter. I don't know that much about him and with the depth Pitt has on the D line, I would find that to be a tall order. Is he that good?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Hard for me to tell you how good a high school kid is. But Pitt has plenty of depth on that D-line and would rather redshirt him than play him this year.
Seth Iser (Ridgeley, West Virginia)
I remember you saying a while back that the Big East itself will be fine once more rivalries are created. In your opinion...(I'm going to be a bit of a jerk here) what are the top three new rivalries created by this new Big East thus far?
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
Not sure I remember what you're referring to exactly, but I'd say the new rivalries are: Pitt-Cincinnati, UConn-Rutgers and West Virginia-South Florida.
Rutgers has 5 career catches at the TE spot and they are ranked #2 going into the summer? Are you still sipping some of the left over kool-aid from last year?
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
Have you ever seen D.C. Jefferson in person? I'm projecting, to be sure, but he could be as good as any tight end in the country.
Drew (Dayton, OH)
What are your thoughts/predictions for Cincinnati's game vs Oklahoma? Do you think it was a good idea to move it off campus to Paul Brown Stadium?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
I'm not sure the Sooners would have agreed to play in Nippert. Cincy fans need to fill Paul Brown up and make it a hostile environment, because that's going to be an awfully tough matchup.
Grant (Long Island)
Brian,Do you think it will be possible that the Cuse get to 6 or 7 wins? they could very well start off 4-0 with wins over Akron, Washington, Colgate, and Maine. They should be able to beat Louisville and then upset at least 2 teams? They are going to need to win 7 if they plan on going to a bown since only 1AA win will count towards the bowl.
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
I think 6 is possible. Seven seems like a stretch. With 70 bowls, there's a chance that 6-6 teams with two FCS wins could get into the postseason. Either way, that would be major progress.
Brian, you do a good job with the blog, keep it up. I am a UC grad lving here in Buckeye Country--- the only coverage I get here is negative articles about my alma mater in the Dispatch. I noticed some of the football previews mags have come out, and most have severely underrated the Cats in my opinion. A couple have them ranked in the 40's and have predicted they will finish 6-6 and 7-5. Considering what they bring back on offense don't you agree that is a tad ridiculous? Why hasn't more media outlets fallen in love with the Bearcats like they have other programs that have risen like Boise, TCU, Va Tech, et al.
Brian Bennett (4:33 PM)
A lot of people seem to be betting that Cincinnati takes a step back under Butch Jones and that the defense will struggle. While I think the Bearcats will be hard pressed to go 12-0 again, they have too much talent and Jones is too good of a coach for them to fall off too much.
What are WVU's chances against LSU this year?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
Trying to win down there with a first-time starting quarterback will be awfully difficult. West Virginia has the talent to match up, though. Points will likely be at a premium. I'd say the Mountaineers are 7- to 10-point underdog.
Over/under 2500 yds and 20 TD's for Tino Sunseri this season?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
I'll take the over for yards, under for TDs.
Mike (Storrs, CT)
For my Huskies this year....I will be happy with 10 or more regular season wins, content with 9, and disappointed with 8 or fewer. Am I setting the bar too high? If 8.5 were the over/under, what are you betting on?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
Well, they've won 7 the past two regular seasons, and this should be the best and most well-rounded team of the bunch. So it's right to expect improvement. I can see nine wins. I would stop there.
Louisville and Syracuse will go a combined 0-12 against the rest of the conference. True or False?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I think you sold the big east short on number of interested prospects on the espnu 150. I saw a bunch
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
What I wrote was that the highest-rated uncommitted prospect to be officially considering a Big East team was No. 31. I didn't say anything about how many were interested in Big East teams.
Brian, why no love for USF?
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
I have plenty of love for everybody. No idea what you're talking about, Chris.
Any chance Louisville can sell out a game in the expanded stadium in the next two years?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
I expect the opener against Kentucky this year to sell out.
Expansion, expansion, expansion, and expansion. I'm getting tired of it, when/if it happens, then lets talk, until then all the speculation is pointless as pre-season polls. So with that said, how much of a priority is a network for the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
The priority is finding ways to build revenue and closing the gap between the Big East and other leagues. The network idea may be the way to do that, if it's feasible.
Rich (New York, NY)
Hey Brian, great job with the blog. Just wanted to know what you thought of Rutgers' chances of getting a couple monkeys off their backs in Cincinnati and West Virginia. Also, call me an optimistic Rutgers alum, but I really think if the O-line manages to come together at all (a real question mark, I'll admit), they could be a real dark horse this year. I know you've said they're a year away, and I agree, but there's an undeniable amount of talent on the team this year and I think they could make a lot of noise and surprise people. What are your thoughts on that?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
I agree that this is a very talented team, though one that's extremely young. That O-line is the key. Could they surprise? Sure. The problem is that they probably have the toughest league schedule, having to go to Pitt, to Cincy, to WVU and to USF. That's hard for a young team to pull off.
Geno Smith (Morgantown)
I'm a very talented quarterback, but it seems as if I'm injury prone. Should I be worried about Barry Brunetti taking my spot? I mean the kid hasn't lost a game since seventh grade.....
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
Stay healthy and you'll be the starter, no question. Seventh grade and BCS football are a little big different animals.
Because you cover Notre Dame, you have seen how a successful independent football team works. Do you believe Texas could 1) go independent, and 2) survive as an independent?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
Football-wise, I think Texas could make it. But it's almost impossible to compete in men's basketball as an independent.
How much do you think the loss of good, experienced o-lineman for Pitt will affect Dion lewis and/or Jon Baldwins numbers. Im nervous.
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
The interior of that O-line does need to get fixed. John Malecki was an underrated presence on that line. It could affect their numbers a little bit, but I think they'll mostly be fine.
Ed (New Brunswick)
I can't take it anymore. Please just tell me if I want Rutgers to join the Big Ten. Note: I can't take more losing like the 1990's. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
You definitely want to hop aboard the money train. Will Rutgers be bringing home Big Ten football championships? Probably not. But there's no reason the Scarlet Knights can't compete with Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana, and teams of that ilk.
Jeff (East Hartford, CT)
Hey Brian! I was wondering what you think are UConn's chances of finally earning some respect in college FB? I figure if we convincingly beat Michigan and Vandy, we could break into the top 25. Am I crazy?
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
If not, pollsters are not doing their job. UConn deserves preseason Top 25 recognition and should at worst be just outside the polls to start the year.
Daniel (Walkersville, MD)
Given how well Coley White played in the spring does it make more sense to redshirt Johnson and/or Brunetti and leave him as the #2 this year? I know he wants to be a Wide Out now but the WO spot seems stacked if the freshamn can play?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
I think you'd want to redshirt one of the freshmen to put another year between him and Smith, that way he has two years of eligibility once Smith graduates. But circumstances may dictate otherwise.
Expansion is the big question this offseason. Many speculate that a couple of Big East teams will go to the Big 10.. My thoughts on the matter are two things-1- Would it really help the Big 10 financially to add LOSING teams (Rutgers and Syracuse) to their conference? 2- Would it help or hurt the Big east to lose those teams? Sure they'd be out some "revenue" but they'd look stronger with fewer losing teams.
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Not sure why you're calling Rutgers a losing team when the Scarlet Knights have been to five straight bowl games.
Can Jordan Todman lead the league in rushing?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
If he proves to be an every-down type of back and UConn feeds him the ball, then yes. But it will be hard to beat out Lewis and Devine, and I think UConn will spread the ball like it did a year ago.
I know it's early, but Pitt vs. Miami, who do you like?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
I like Pitt's chances to win that game at home better than I like its chances to win at Utah to open the year.
Brian, Rutgers and South Florida are the only current Big East schools to not win at least a share of the Big East title. Which of those two do you believe will be first? Also, Connecticut and Pittsburgh have never won an outright title. Which of the 4 that have never won an outright title will be first?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
I think Pitt should be first. Rutgers and South Florida will both be really good in a year, I think.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions. Keeps us thinking football even in June.