Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
One week from now we'll have some football, folks. Let's chat about it.
Crazy Daisy (Borders Magazine Aisle)
Am I the only one that thinks the much-hyped Pitt ends up 7-5 or even 6-6? They have a killer OOC schedule now that Kelly has taken over the reigns at ND.
Brian Bennett (2:01 PM)
I'll have my worst case scenario up for Pitt later today, and it's along those lines. The schedule s brutal. Pitt is very talented, though, and should be able to win some if not all of those tough games.
Stephen (Tazewell, VA)
I have just been wondering why Cinci has been left out of a lot of the preseason talks for winning the BE? I know they lost Pike and Gilyard plus some key D players, but I still see them as a viable threat as much as WVU and Pitt. Is the depth on their D that thin?
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
I do think a lot of people are underrating them. It may have as much to do with the coaching change as any personnel losses, as well as residual hangover from the Sugar Bowl fiasco. But if this team stays healthy, it's very dangerous.
Justin (The Ville)
How much of Victor Anderson will we see in U of L's passing game? The WR depth wasn't great to start with and now Michaelee Harris is out. Does that mean Anderson could actually spend more time in the slot than at RB?
Brian Bennett (2:05 PM)
I don't know that he'll be a fulltime receiver or anything like that. But the offense, much like Florida's attack, is based on using the running backs in different ways. I would think they'd use their best player in as many ways as possible to free him up.
Brian - Good report on the Big East running backs and all of your entries during camp. But these backs need a good O-line to open up holes for them. What teams do you see as having the best O-lines this season?
Brian Bennett (2:07 PM)
Good question. I'd rank UConn as No. 1. West Virginia has four starters back and should be good. USF and Cincinnati should be strong as well. Pitt is great on the edges and has a few questions in the middle.
Now that training camp is in the books, how do you see the interior of the Pitt offensive line compared to where it was pre-training camp? Where do you think Tino is now compared to where Bill Stull was a year ago?
Brian Bennett (2:09 PM)
I think the coaches are fine with Karabin at center (there's not really another option). A little nervous still with Gaskins at guard and maybe hoping Jack Lippert still comes on. Hard to say with Sunseri. Stull didn't look great in camp last year but had a really strong season. I think Sunseri will be fine, but he has a tough opening assignment.
Other than Noel, Jock, and Geno,Who do you think will be the stars on the team?
Brian Bennett (2:11 PM)
Tavon Austin. Robert Sands. Geno Smith. And maybe Bruce Irvin.
Stephen (Tazewell, VA)
With Jones taking over for Kelly, do you see more QB option reads?
Brian Bennett (2:13 PM)
Yes. Not only because of Jones but because it so well fits the talent of Zach Collaros. Having him and Pead back there is scary stuff for defenses.
Will Syracuse Football have to build a state of the art practice facility like the basketball team has now to become highly competitive again?
Brian Bennett (2:15 PM)
Nah. Manley Field House is fine. It's just about getting more players. Takes a while to overcome a catastrophe like the Greg Robinson era.
Zack (USF) (Tampa)
Does USF have enough offensive weapons after the injuries at WR to pull off an early season upset in Gainesville? They did hold Christian Ponder and FSU to 7 points last season
Brian Bennett (2:17 PM)
Yeah but that FSU team was wildly inconsistent from week to week. Gators will be young, but I just don't think the Bulls will be ready to pull that one off in their second game under Holtz.
Are you done visiting practices, or do you have more planned?
Brian Bennett (2:18 PM)
Done. Games start in a week
Greg Scheeano (New Brunswick, NJ)
So which BE games are you going to this year? Also, what do you think the ceiling is for Tom Savage (yards/TDs) and Mo Sanu (rush yards/rec yards/total TDs).
Brian Bennett (2:20 PM)
I only know through Week 2, and I'll be at USF-Florida. As for Savage, how about 2,700 yards and 20 TDs. Sanu: 450/1000/13
Terry (Melbourne, FL)
Recently I read an ESPN magazine story about what stadium is the most intimidating to play a road game in within a each conference. It showed that in the Big East teams fear playing at WVU the most. Do you feel that WVU could take better advantage of their big crowds and nice stadium to set a better setting for night home games? I think VA Tech does a great job of that in the ACC.
Brian Bennett (2:21 PM)
Not sure what more they can do. Stadium capacity isn't that large and they have a dude with a gun standing on the sidelines, after all
Which opening game are you more excited for, Utah Pitt or Conn./Michigan?
Brian Bennett (2:23 PM)
Very excited for both. Want to see how good Pitt really is. Probably a little more excited for UConn/Michigan, though, given the atmosphere and the storylines on both sides
What do you think the prospects are of UConn being undefeated when West Virginia travels to East Hartford? Nationally televised night game could be the biggest in UConn's history if they are still without a loss, right?
Brian Bennett (2:24 PM)
If they can get past Michigan, the toughest tests will be at Temple and at Rutgers. So there's a better than average chance of it happening.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
What do you make of the Cards "wasted practice" today? Is it just a side effect of such an intense offseason, plus being back for the first week of classes, and practicing in the expanded PJCS for the first time?
Brian Bennett (2:26 PM)
Wouldn't be the preseason if a coach didn't rip his team for a poor practice at least once.
Michael (Saratoga Springs, NY)
One of the links you posted in the blog suggested that with a Big East Network, teams that play football could net 15+million a year. Not sure if that included a possible new television deal but this is much more competitive with the bigger BCS leagues in my opinion. Do you think this might help to keep the league together long term?
Brian Bennett (2:28 PM)
That number seemed awfully high to me. I have a hard time believing there's that much interest in Big East football. But I'm no economist. If the league could get that kind of number, it's not far off from other conferences (though still a bit below the Big Ten).
I've been thinking about WVU's QB situation and have concluded that Geno Smith will at least be the equal of what Jarret Brown was last year. Brown did not have a great year in '09. Critical interceptions and generally inaccurate.
Brian Bennett (2:31 PM)
As long as Smith stays healthy, I think he'll have a good year. He's really talented and really smart, with a great supporting cast and a more experienced line.
Hey Brian,WHEN pitt wins the big east....can you give me the selection order for the BCS bowls (assuming big east will get taken last) so I know where to book my flight
Brian Bennett (2:33 PM)
Fiesta Bowl has the last at-large pick. I think the Big East will end up there or the Orange.
Who bounces back first, Louisville or Syracuse?
Brian Bennett (2:35 PM)
Syracuse could be a little bit better than Louisville this year, but I like Louisville to reach Big East title contention faster than the Orange.
what's more likely to happen, Cincy three-peats or Rutgers wins the Big East this year?
Brian Bennett (2:36 PM)
Cincinnati three-peats more likely
Do you think this is the deepest the conference has ever been? The conference had a few really good teams in 2007 I believe but this year seems like every team can compete with the exception of maybe Cuse and Louisville but even those teams are on their way back.
Brian Bennett (2:38 PM)
Looks that way on paper, with what I feel like are four legit top 25 teams. But we'll see how it plays out.
Who has a better chance of winning their OOC game? Pitt vs. Utah, WVU vs. LSU, UCONN vs. Michigan, or Oklahoma vs. Cincy?
Brian Bennett (2:40 PM)
Great job with the blog. You have commented a number of times in your blogs about WVU's desire to return to double digit wins. I am most definitely biased but I feel that an 11 win season and top 5 ranking are not that far fetched outcomes for this year. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (2:41 PM)
Well, put it this way. There's no game on the schedule, other than LSU, where West Virginia won't either be favored or no more than a slight underdog. So there's that.
do you think expectations are to high on collaros even though he only started 4 games.. people in cincy talk about him like he is the next tim tebow
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
If people expect him to complete 78 percent of his passes and have a 10-1 TD to INT ratio like he did in his four starts, then they will be disappointed. But I think he will have a huge year nonetheless.
If Rutgers beats UNC (overrated), do they move into the top 25?
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
They'd have to be 3-0 at that point, but the other two wins would prove nothing (Norfolk and FIU). Depends, too, on what UNC does early
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, who do you see as the frontrunner as the next Big E team? Do you agree Big East needs to expand?
Brian Bennett (2:46 PM)
Central Florida. The Big East needs one more team, at least, but adding a mediocre C-USA program won't move the needle
Ryan (Pittsburgh, PA)
Hi Brian, with regards to bowl affiliations, who contacts who? Does the bowl go to the conferences? Do the conferences contact the bowls or both? I was thinking about the Big East?s bowl ties and wondering why they don?t try to partner with a bowl like the Las Vegas Bowl. Sure, it?s not a very prestigious bowl, but I think it would certainly entice alumni to travel to see their team play in a lesser bowl. I know it would be a much easier sell for me to ask my buddies if they want to go to Vegas to watch Pitt then it would be if they were playing in Birmingham or Charlotte. Is the bowl only interested in having teams closer to home?
Brian Bennett (2:47 PM)
The conference tries to find the best deals, and geographic proximity plays a huge factor, especially in this economy.
Taylor Ashby (Tampa, FL)
How Big of a year does B.J. Daniels need to have for the Bulls to contend for the Big East?
Brian Bennett (2:49 PM)
Huge year. Running backs and receivers aren't that impressive, and he's going to have to shoulder a huge load while minimizing mistakes.
SU have any shot in Washington? Both are rebuilding programs from terrible coaching regimes... Either way, a likely 3-1 start hasnt been seen in Syracuse in awhile
Brian Bennett (2:50 PM)
A shot? Sure. Washington isn't a world beater. Traveling all the way across country and pulling that off is asking a lot, though.
The Undertaker (Death Valley)
Which team do you see finishing dead last in the Beast this year?
Brian Bennett (2:51 PM)
Louisville is my pick for last. And then a sharp rise after this year.
pitt lost dorin dickerson and nate byham last year. who steps up on offense to replace the production of the best tight-end duo in the country?
Brian Bennett (2:53 PM)
Mike Cruz is a decent pass-catching tight end. The Panthers might just use Ray Graham and Henry Hynoski more out of the backfield.
Lynn (Monticello, FL)
Hi Brian, I know Pitt is favored to win the Big East with Cincy, WV not far behind. Who would consider a sleeper to win it if neither one of these teams win the Big East.
Brian Bennett (2:54 PM)
Every year seems a few teams surprise during the college season. Expectations for USF seem pretty low, do you think the Bulls can be one of those teams this year? In your opinion what would be a successful record for USF. For me it's 8-4 or 7-5, but I'm a bit of a homer.
Brian Bennett (2:55 PM)
With that schedule, especially with Miami and Florida on the road, 8-4 would be excellent.
How do you see Cincinnati's defense shaping up this year. I know it is inexperienced and has alot of question marks but I am hoping for a surprise. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (2:56 PM)
Starters are solid. Derek Wolfe is a beast up front. Schaffer and Stewart are good linebackers, though that entire unit is undersized. Secondary is fine. Just not much depth. At all.
5 years from now, the dominant Big East program(s) are...
Brian Bennett (2:57 PM)
I'm still trying to figure out 7 days from now.
What's your forecast for next Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium? It's going to be an amazing atmosphere! Do you have your press pass ready?
Brian Bennett (2:58 PM)
Won't be there, but wish I were. Leaning toward Utah. Utes play so well there and Pitt will be breaking in new starting QB.
Teams seem to scheduling tougher OOC games. Are we scheduling these games or are the OOC teams contacting us?
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
There has been a league-wide effort to schedule a bit more ambitiously. Of course, with five non-conference games, there's no excuse not to have a couple tough games on there.
Katherine (new york)
i read your blog everyday and i really cant help but feel you dislike/pick on usf. Do you really feel they are not a good team? you have them very low and even when discussing best and worst case situations for the other big east teams, if they win its for the worst case. you really should start giving them more credit. i really cant help but feel like i always want them to play better to get better writings out of you about them besides from the obvious.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Nothing against USF. I loved the Skip Holtz hiring. I just think they're a bit too young this year.
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
OK, that's all my time for today. Thanks for the questions and enjoy the last football-free weekend.