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 (4:01 PM)
It's time to talk Big East/Notre Dame football. What's on your mind?
Cole (West Virginia)
After the first two weeks, based on what you've seen so far, who is the favorite for the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I can honestly say I have no idea. I had Pitt in the preseason, but the loss of Romeus is huge. West Virginia was right there too but now Hogan is gone. This is as wide open as it's been the last few years
Tim (Portland, OR)
I keep hearing "must win" for all these Big East teams. What does that exactly mean? To earn respect? Keep their automatic BCS berth? I think the Big East has proven its self many times the past four or five years. In OOC games and bowl wins. Everytime the media has a chance to belittle them they jump all over it. It has started slow this year, so what. They haven't lost to JM. This "must win" doesn't seem fair. Am I wrong?
Brian Bennett (4:05 PM)
I did a video post on this yesterday, and I said these are almost must-win situations. Think about it like this: Does Cincinnati want to be 1-2 going against Oklahoma? Does the Big East want UConn to have a blowout loss to Michigan and one to Temple on its resume should the Huskies win the Big East? And if WVU's goal is to win 10 games, then losing to Maryland isn't an option unless you think it can win at LSU.
What does Rutgers offense have to do to get on track. Doing you think the problem is Savage, the offensive line or the fact that the play calling is extremely vanilla.
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
Can I say all three? Look, the O-line is not dominating subpar competition, which is troubling. Savage has been off. The receivers are very inexperienced. And the playcalling hasn't been very creative. There are a lot of factors at play here.
Daniel (Cedarville, Ohio)
I unserstand your skepticism about WVU's victory over Marshall but you still had USC ranked in the mid teens in your poll after a 3 point win as well. And they were at home against a less than spectacular Virginia team. Why did you drop the Mountaineers and not the Trojans?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
Virginia > Marshall. At least I think so. The way the ACC is going, maybe not.
Irish Guy (Tennessee)
Through two games, what are your thoughts on ND's final record assuming Crist remains healthy?
Brian Bennett (4:09 PM)
I've said 8-4 all along and am sticking by it. But this week is a big swing game, no question. Stanford's looking a little tougher than before the season, while Pitt is not. And Utah will be a difficult game, even at home
Greg S. (Rutgers)
Wait...run, run, 3rd and long pass, punt isn't creative?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
Exactly. In Rutgers' defense, there aren't a ton of options, and when you have that strong defense and special teams, you just want to make sure you don't do anything stupid on offense
Blunt question time. What is wrong with Cincinnati's offense?! Scoring lowest point total in years at Fresno then being held to 10 points (2 were from a safety) by a FCS school who has gone 3-50 something. Did I enter a weird alternate reality where Cincinnati is lead by its defense?
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
It is very perplexing. The troubles start with the line play, which has been disappointing. Collaros and the receivers haven't really clicked either. Remember that this is a new system, even though it looks similar to the last one. But I expected much more.
Sean (Hopewell, PA)
The local Pittsburgh media is suggesting the 2010 BE is as bad or even worse than the 2004 version. I disagree, but I guess we'll know a lot more in a couple of weeks.
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
I think the teams are better this year than they were that year, though the records might not indicate it. The league has played some tough road games so far and has come up short. Long way to go, though.
Kevin (East Hartford)
Brian, you said this week is a must win game for UConn, and while I agree it is extremely important, I think there are too many people overlooking the fact that Temple is probably the best team in the MAC this year (not to mention its on the road). Don't get me wrong, I know that if we plan on being Big East champions and playing in a BCS bowl this year we sure as heck better be able to beat the best team in the MAC, but would you agree that Temple is going to be no cupcake even though some might think otherwise (a.k.a. people not giving UConn any credit even if we do win / crucifying us if we loose)?
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
It's not going to be an easy game. Temple has played UConn tough lately and has the game at home. It's a statement game for the Owls. But they also needed a late rally to slip by Villanova and had only 10 points against Central Michigan in regulation. UConn has more talent and should win this game, even if it's a slugfest.
Brian (Fairfax, VA)
If Dayne Crist is in for the full game against Michigan does ND win that game?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
I think so. The Irish moved the ball well and scored with Crist in the game. When he was out, they were shutout and Rees and Montana each threw a pick. They also left a touchdown on the board late in the first half that I believe they would have scored with Crist. But those are the breaks.
Chris (Washington, D.C.)
Brian, do you still think Dion Lewis will win the Big East rushing title? While Devine might not be blowing it up, at least he's averaging 111ypg, and (although below his career average) 4.8ypc.
Brian Bennett (4:17 PM)
Believe it or not, I'm starting to think Jordan Todman wins the rushing title. He was my darkhorse before the year, and he's off to a great start.
Baron (Large, PA)
Generally speaking, do you buy the theory that Wanny plays not to lose as opposed to playing to win (vis a vis decision-making, play-calling, etc)? Thanks
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
I think he has an old-school NFL mentality, given his background. And that is, play great defense, run the ball, control the clock. Worked last year when they won 10 games.
6 weeks of rehab puts Greg Romeus at the Louisville game, which I wouldnt play him in, then a bye week, followed by the Uconn game at 8 weeks of rehab.... Do you think he will play on November 11th?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
This is a really tricky situation. Back injuries tend to follow their own timetables, and who knows what kind of shape Romeus will be in? He missed a lot of fall practice and only played in one game. I don't think we'll see the Romeus we remember at all this year. He may be a guy who plays some limited snaps when he returns. That's just my hunch.
What are your thoughts on Floyd not having many catches thus far for ND?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
I think defenses are concentrating on him and probably will until T.J. Jones and Theo Riddick establish themselves as bona fide threats. The good news is, Kyle Rudolph has been open and very productive.
With talks of NOVA joining the BE in football what could the wildcats possibly bring to the table.
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
First of all, Philly is a big market and is already a Big East town. Secondly, the basketball alignment wouldn't have to grow or change with Nova added to football. And lastly, 'Nova just won the FCS title, so it's got potential. Still a lot of other issues to figure out, though.
A lot of the talk for Cincinnati has been on the very poor offensive execution. But the defense has been surprisingly good to this point. Was last year's poor defense just an aberration?
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
If you'll recall, last year's defense was excellent until about November. Then teams started pounding the ball at the Bearcats and their linebackers were too small/injured to do much about it. I like this defense when it comes to the starters. There's not much depth there, however. (And don't read anything into a performance against Indiana State).
Jim (Highland Park, NJ)
Brian,Have you had any thougths of including Mohamed Sanu in your offensive player of the year list? I know his stats have not been incredible yet but he is the only one scoring for Rutgers. He has over 150 all purpose yards, 1 rushing td, 1 recieving td and 1 passing td. Sanu and Lefedge were the only reasons why Rutgers beat FIU.
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
I've considered him, but the Rutgers offense is so bad as a whole it's bringing him down. No doubt, though, that he's been one of the lone bright spot
Patrick (Herndon, VA)
Do you think Brandon Hogan will put on a WVU uniform again this year Or was this the final straw? I know that Hogan was a huge part of WVU's D and I think the loss will hurt a little at least for now. But I seem to remember Broderick Jenkins really stepping up in fall camp and the coaches were raving about him. Do you that Jenkins has the ability to make us forget about Hogan?
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
That ultimately is up to Bill Stewart, who I know has a fondness for Hogan despite his mistakes. We have to remember we're dealing with an accusation only at this point; but if the charges are correct and he's convicted, then I see it being difficult for Hogan to play again this year.
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
As for Jenkins, coaches love his talent. It's just the experience thing that's going to hurt. He can get his feet wet a little this week against Maryland, which hasn't shown that it's much of a passing team yet. But at LSU next week? Sheesh.
Of all the teams in the BE, isn't PITT best situated to survive after losing a Greg Romeous? No other team comes close to our depth on the D-Line
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
USF and Rutgers have some pretty good depth there as well. Look, Pitt has some talented young players at the position, no question. It's just hard to replace a fifth-year senior who's the best defensive end in the conference. There's going to be some dropoff.
Brian (Columbus, OH)
Love the blog BB, How come no one has said anything about Steadman Bailey in the WVU-Marshall game? He caught everything thrown his way, he even had two great catches that were low. And right before Geno's TD pass to Will Johnson you could hear Marshall playing Eminiem's Not Afraid song and was noddin his head along really getting into it, What song do you listen to to hype you up before you make your picks post?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
I've been very impressed with Bailey, and he was on my "Stock Up" list a couple weeks back. Great hands and he should get more looks.
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
As for my song, well, I'm a Radiohead fanatic. So how about "Everything in Its Right Place." I was 8-0 last week, after all.
Ryan (pittsburgh, PA)
Please explain to me how Bill Stewart keeps his job? With the program going the way of "Coker's Canes'". How does Bill maintain one of the positions in the B.E.?
Brian Bennett (4:33 PM)
That's pretty simple. He's 21-8. Let's at least see how this season plays out. The Mountaineers are 2-0, you know
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
What do you make of the report that Dominique Brown was seen wearing white at practice on Tuesday? Should we expect to see him line up as a WR on Saturday if the receiving corps isn't performing up to expectations?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
I make of it that Louisville's receiving corps is desperate for help. Injuries and a lack of playmakers at that position is really holding the offense back. So why not give Brown a shot there? I don't know if he'll be ready Saturday. He's a true frosh apparently learning a new position. On the road at Oregon State not the easiest place to make a debut like that.
Sane (West Virginia)
What's your take on Maryland? It looked to me like Navy handed them a game, and then they beat up on some second-tier team. They claim to have a killer defense, but Navy was unstoppable except on the goal line late.
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
You've got it about right. That Navy game was weird, as the Midshipmen seemingly got to the goal line and stalled every possession. Can't read much into a Morgan State game. I think it's a solid defense that has multiple looks, but WVU will be the best team it has seen.
Nick (Jefferson City)
The D lost the game and gave up 500 yards to one player, yet almost pitched a shutout in the second half. If Dayne had played the whole game we probably would have won, yet he's obviously still not in sync with the receivers. So overall as an ND fan, should I be encouraged, discouraged, or neither?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
I'm still in wait-and-see mode. Irish looked great against Purdue, and then Michigan was just an odd series of events, with Crist being hurt and Denard Robinson being Superman. I think the Michigan State game -- on the road vs. a physical team -- will tell us a lot about this team.
Jonathan (Boston, MA)
I think Rutgers was holding back on their play book for the 1st 2 games and we'll see a different game plan vs. North Carolina. How good is Sanu? 1st round draft pick? Big East player of the year candidate? Heisman candidate?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
It would have taken a lot of guts to hold back the playbook last week when the game was definitely on the line on the road. Plus, having watched Rutgers offense for the last few years, do you really think there's a whole lot more in that playbook?
On a scale of one to Gary Busey, how unpredictable is this conference?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
It's the Full Busey
Upset alert for this weekend?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
In the conference, UConn and WVU have to be on high alert. Cincinnati is the underdog at NC State from what I've seen
Brian, How about a grade for the job Skip Holtz is doing so far this year.I'm giving him a B. O-line in Tampa is looking much better but BJ still trying to do everything. Need to calm that young man down a little. Think just being in the game at the end of the second half at UF had Daniels so pumped he started trying to do it all instead of trusting the system. Which I think was working in Gainsville.
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
It's too early for a grade. I mean, they beat up on a bad FCS team and then lost by 24 at Florida but, as you said, were very competitive. That's probably about all anyone could have hoped for so far. I will say I really liked the game plan against the Gators, and I think this program is destined for really good things in the future.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, is Nova's invite for the 2011 or 2012 season? Any updates?
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
This is a good time to clarify this situation, which has been a bit misconstrued. Villanova has had a standing invitation to the Big East. From my understanding, the Wildcats got kind of nervous with all the conference realignment going on that they'd eventually be left out in the cold. So they decided to seriously investigate whether moving up to the FBS was a good idea, and they checked with the Big East to see if the league was still interested.
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
So it's not like the Big East made some formal demand/offer to Villanova. But the earliest the Wildcats could gain full FBS qualification would be 2012.
Timmy G. (Fairfield CT)
Is there any "real" value in beating up on FCS teams Like Texas Southern? To me, I don't know if I learned a thing about UCONN because the opponent is so weak. I'd like to know your thoughts.
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
Other than getting the revenue from a home game, gaining some confidence and getting young players experience, not really. Not all FCS teams are created equally. Texas Southern wasn't much of an opponent.
If RU beats UNC and WVU fells LSU next weekend, all this Big Least talk stops ... for like four days, right?
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
I'm not sure the UNC win would have a ton of impact. Now if Cincinnati could beat Oklahoma and Pitt beats Miami ...
Denard Robinson creates a major problem and the fact that he rushed for as many yards as he did can't be an alarm for the ND defense. The run/pass threat neutralizes the defenders and the fact that he's basically a Wildcat QB allows for UM to have an extra blocker. With 4 traditional QB's the next 4 weeks. I expect to learn alot more about the Irish. Do you agree?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
I do. They're not going to see anything like Robinson again this season. That's also kind of where I'm leaning with UConn's season-opening performance. Robinson is just an unstoppable force of nature right now.
What do you think of TJ Jones and the player from Marshall dropping the football before crossing the goal line?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
I think it's boneheaded and totally unnecessary. Both are lucky they didn't have touchdowns negated. Or else they'd be in a world of trouble with their coaches.
Ryan B (Louisville)
What do you think louisville's chances are on sat, and what would they have to do to win?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
Boy, it's going to be really tough. Difficult environment, and Oregon State has had a week off to fume about its loss against TCU. Plus, the Beavers remember that whipping Petrino put on them. I expect them to come out breathing fire and the Rodgers brothers running all over the place. Just don't think Louisville has the players to keep up.
theJTL (Iowa City)
Brian, there's a lot of doom and gloom among the Mountaineer faithful, which is not unusual. Seems there's plenty of blame to go around for our stellar, improbable comeback win. It almost seems like winning made some folks even more angry. Do you think the real WVU showed up in the last 8 minutes of the MU game, or should we expect more of the first three quarters? I want to know if I can join the blame game too.
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
I thought the fact that Marshall went into prevent mode too early and started giving up tons of short passes played a huge role in that. How much influence did Doc Holliday's knowledge of the Mountaineers have on that game? I think the only way we find out is to see how WVU responds this week against Maryland.
Dean Hood (Bethel Park)
Chances of Jon Baldwin winning the Biletnikoff? He's made some great plays already, and with A.J Green suspended for awhile, it seems like he has a decent shot at it.
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
He's going to need bigger numbers than he's got so far. And big games against Miami, Notre Dame and the key games in conference.
Dan (Atlanta/ GA)
Any idea what's become of Ivan McCartney? He seemed to be getting as much fall camp hype as Bailey but he's barely seen the field.
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Bailey's a redshirt freshman and McCartney is a true frosh. We're two games in. Give him time.
After last week, which is now a bigger game: ND-USC or Michingan-OSU?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Really depends on what both teams do from here. I know that sounds like a copout, but remember that Michigan started strong last year, too, and then collapsed.
Ron (Harrison, OH)
What do you think the odds are of Hazelton being allowed to play an additional season by the NCAA?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Looks like the argument Cincinnati will make was that his ankle injury his junior year at USC cost him a year. That's a tough argument to make unless there is proper documentation, as the Bearcats found out in the Ben Mauk case. You never know with the NCAA. I hope for Hazelton's sake he gets a shot.
Will (Washington, DC)
How helpful do you think the bye week will be for Pitt to prepare for Miami?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
Especially while adjusting to life after Romeus, it's very important.
Cole (West Virginia)
If the Big East beats every ACC team this week, do you thing we would be thought of as a better conference?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
Wins over Maryland and NC State aren't going to impress many people.
Chase (Harrisonburg, VA)
I'm a diehard WVU fan attending James Madison University... can I get consideration for best weekend ever?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
Sir, you are living right
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy this week's games.