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, guys. It's time to talk Big East/Notre Dame. Big week. Fire away!
Of the big non-conference match ups this week, which looks best for the Big East conference's resume with a win?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
Oklahoma is the highest-rated team. But I think West Virginia's win would be the biggest, followed by Pitt. That would give the league two legitimate ranked teams with quality wins, and establish a pecking order in the league
Matt Rob (Pittsburgh, PA)
2 Questions, BB:1) Odds of Brandon Hogan playing on Saturday in Baton Rouge?2) If Pitt loses on Saturday (and WVU continues to win), what team do you think is in best position to take second place in the Big East behind the 'Eers?
Brian Bennett (4:03 PM)
1) 60-40 he does play. If Hogan is going to practice, travel and dress, it will be awfully tempting for Bill Stewart to play him. 2) That's a great question. It's wide open, and Rutgers and USF would have a good chance to move up. I still think UConn is going to turn it around eventually.
Should Pitt just punt it out of bounds tonight? I understand it's easier said than done, but so is stopping "the U"'s return game
Brian Bennett (4:05 PM)
Punting the ball out of bounds and not shanking it is harder than it looks. But clearly, Pitt must be really prepared on special teams. The Panthers should have two videos on a loop: Miami's returns against Ohio State, and Mardy Gilyard's KO return TD last year
Brian - why do you feel the need to add disclaimers to Syracuse posts about playing against Maine or Akron, but you didn't seem to do that when other BE teams play Coastal Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, or Texas Southern?
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
You must not be reading closely enough. I always mention when the competition is lousy.
poonky (new hampshire)
What's your opinion on Zach Frazer, who seems out of synch? Should UConn's Randy Edsall make a QB change this week to get the new guy ready for the Big East schedule?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
It's odd, because Frazer used to take too many chances and now it seems like he's playing too cautiously. Endres is back now, so if Frazer doesn't pick it up, Edsall has a veteran option.
No Love for jared holley on D-PoY he does have 2 interceptions, thats 2 more interceptions than Robert Sands
Brian Bennett (4:09 PM)
Pitt is 94th nationally in pass defense. So no, not yet.
Cole (West Virginia)
You said in one of your previous blog posts that Geno Smith was a contender for the heisman. How would he have any chance at the heisman in a so called weak league in his first year as a starting quaterback?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
No, no. I didn't say he was a contender. I said he was putting up great numbers and if that continued and West Virginia kept winning, people might start paying attention. There's a big difference.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, I've been checking ND's schedule, am I the only one that realizes that after this wks game playing Utah could be their toughest game left? Do you see a demoralizing loss to the Utes at home or a strong perf. and victory coming off a bye week? Utes are coming off backtoback at AF and TCU w/the travel to South Bend!!
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
Utah will be a tough game, for sure. But don't forget at Boston College, Pitt and at USC. Irish need to focus on these next three weeks before we even think about Utah
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
What do you think about Strong picking up commitments this week from Florida safety Calvin Pryor and cornerback Terrel Floyd? Both are highly rated players out of Florida.It's good to see Strong keeping up the recruiting momentum, despite 2 really tough losses at the beginning of the season.
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
Just more of the same. Strong and his staff have been doing a terrific job on the recruiting trail since they got to Louisville. It won't be long before the Cardinals are back.
Dave (Cincinnati, Ohio)
What do you think the chances are for UC this weekend against Oklahoma if the offensive line shows up?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
Well, it's a zero percent chance if the offensive line plays like it did against Fresno and NC State. If they can give Collaros some time, Cincinnati can score some points. It's still going to be a major uphill battle.
The Rutgers RB Situation (Frustration-ville, NJ)
Could someone in the media, ie - you (Dr. Big East Beat writer), explain to the common folk, why Schiano continues to put players... D'Antwan Williams in doghouses. No one seems to ask these questions. Is he that bad? Could he be worst than the preverbal Rutgers 1st down run between the tackles and fall down at first contact. Can't we play to win for once? No have the defense keep us in the game and get a few points on special teams. TELL ME!
Brian Bennett (4:17 PM)
If Schiano thought Williams was the answer, Williams would be playing more.
Lou F. (Norwalk, CT)
I grew up a Syracuse fan and am glad to finally see some bright spots in a program that has been faltering for the past ten plus years. I know it is early, but do you think the Orange have a legitimate shot at a bowl game this year?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
Well, they should be 3-1 after this week, barring a disaster. They have to get to 7-5 to assure bowl eligibility because of the two FCS teams on the sked, and four more wins is going to be tough. However, there's a chance they could get three and get to 6-6, and with so many bowl games this year they could possibly go to a postseason game if there aren't enough eligible teams.
Do you really think the Domers have a reason to complain about the playclock violation? It seems like all ND does is complain when they lose. Last week it was because Crist was hurt, this week it's the playclock.
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
No, and no one on the team or coaching staff has complained about it. Yes, it could have been called, but it was also really close. Bottom line: you've got to make a stop there.
Will (Washington, DC)
What happened to the offensive lines in the Big East? It used to be a strength for a lot of team over the last few years (WVU, Rutgers, UConn, Pitt, Cincy), now its pretty much a conference weak spot.
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
It's a good question, and one I've been thinking about writing about. Not sure if there have been recruiting misses or what. Some good players graduated, but the dropoff has been severe so far at places like Rutgers and Pitt
Frank (New Jersey)
Brian, I know the Rutgers offense has struggled mightily and a lot of the blame is being pinned on Tom Savage. But in the games I have watched, it seems a lot of the time in the pocket Savage has the time but there is no one open. Could a lot of the offensive struggles be attributed to the receivers inability to get open?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
Oh, indeed (as Omar from "The Wire" might say). Clearly the inexperience at receiver is hurting the offense. I also think Savage hasn't been as sharp as expected, though.
also thanks for the props to Nassib, Jones and Smith on this weeks stock report. Hope to see them mentioned even more as the season wears on.
You were at the Maryland - WVU game, as was I. It was pretty loud on that first Maryland drive, and clearly caused problems with several penalties right off. Who do you have as the loudest places to play in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
I'd say WVU takes it. When there's a big game at RayJay, that place can get pretty loud. I would still like to see what the Carrier Dome would be like if it were packed and rocking.
Shane (Morgantown, WV)
Because I'm just a fan and not a player I'm allowed to look ahead right? Let's say WVU wins on saturday night in Baton Rouge (not going to be easy), what would be the one game you would think WVU could lose (oustide of the backyard brawl, because thats the easy pick).
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
There would still be plenty of potential potholes. WVU isn't that much better than the rest of the league. UConn, USF, Rutgers and of course Pitt would still be challenges.
Jimmy B. (Syracuse)
"I would still like to see what the Carrier Dome would be like if it were packed and rocking."Come on out for a basketball game some time.
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
I've been to a basketball game. But the football atmosphere would have to be better with the entire Dome full, no?
Eric (Wyoming, OH)
Should I take some hope into Paul Brown Stadium that Oklahoma looked pretty bad against Air Force and Utah State?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
Except that Cincinnati looked much worse against Fresno and NC State.
Are Chas Alecxih and Brandon Lindsey (5 sacks v. New Hampshire) good enough to get pressure on Jacory Harris without too much blitzing, or were the NH results just a result of a weak offensive line?
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
It's nearly impossible to compare New Hampshire and the Hurricanes. I think Pitt can get some pass rush. I'd be more concerned about Lindsey stopping the run
When Jock Sanders was arrested for DUI he was away from the facility for a whole summer and had no previous run ins, but when Hogan is arrested for a DUI it takes only one week even though he has had previous run ins. I think Hogan should be out till the bowl game for Coach Stew to keep credibility, agree?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
Stewart said Hogan's previous record wasn't as bad as Sanders'. Only the coach knows for sure whether Hogan is deserving of another chance. On the face of it, it definitely looks bad and Stewart is leaving himself open to criticism.
Brian Kelly (South Bend)
Do you believe in my "5 Minute plan"?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
It's worked everywhere else. But I didn't expect this team to become a 10-win outfit overnight. I see signs of progress despite the 1-2 record.
Andrew (Emerald Isle, NC)
Brian,The perception of the Big East seems to always be that of a "weak" league. The way I see it, no matter what a team from the Big East does, good or bad, it always get's looked down on. So, a loss for Pitt, WVU, and Cincy this weeked is "what is supposed to happen" against better opponents. Victories for Pitt, WVU, and Cincy, they (ESPN's Stellar ThinkTank), will find an excuse for the other team, such as "an off year", "looking ahead", yadda yadda yadda! What's it gonna take for the Big East to earn some respect? Especially WVU. They have won the big match-up games in the BCS of late, and if I am correct they have only one loss to an SEC team in the last 10 years and that was Auburn last year.
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
You've got to win your fair share of nonconference games. The Big East doesn't play a lot of high-profile opponents in bowls, so it needs to win BCS games whenever possible as well. People's opinions in this sport are often very entrenched, however.
What will WVU do to compensate for lack of size going up against LSU's offense and defense lines?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
I think the Mountaineers will be OK defensively. Offensive line is an issue. They need to get a push up front against what is always a talented defensive line. Perhaps some screens, the shotgun and a little old-fashioned zone read can slow that down
Which WVU receiver do you expect LSU CB Patrick Peterson to cover? Will WVU's smaller receivers have trouble against LSU's size and speed on defense?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
I imagine he'll cover Bailey since he's more of a deep threat than Austin. Will be interesting to see if WVU can get some of the YAC it has been getting against a faster -- and presumably better-tackling -- defense.
Paul J. (Fairfield, CT)
In light of the recent Ohio - Ohio State mascot brawl, which two Big East mascots would you like to see go at it?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
Give me the Scarlet Knight vs. the Mountaineer. One's got armor and a sword, the other a shotgun. Let's get it on.
Most fun player to watch in the Big East? I'd go for Henry Hynoski (for real!) and Mohamed Sanu.
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
Depends on your preference, I suppose. I'd stick with Noel Devine and Jon Baldwin, with Dion Lewis and Tavon Austin right there too
Brian - if you had to choose between elevating Villanova football to the Big East, or adding Temple for football only, who would you pick?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
Temple would be easier initially, since the Owls are already decent and have a place to play. But the politics in the league make Villanova a better pick
Louisville is going to a bowl Game this year Brian.
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
OK. If I were you, I'd make sure my plane and hotel tickets were still refundable at this point, though.
What's the deal with WVU's Ryan Clarke. Wasn't he supposed to start at RB if Devine went pro?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
Clarke is the big back. Tavon Austin would be your starting tailback if Devine weren't around
BB,Do you think Mason not starting against Miami is a big loss for Pitt? Granted he's extremely talented but thinking about it, going against a team that throws the ball very well, and Mason always playing the run first, I think Gruder's experience in the middle is a better fit against the miami offense. what are your thoughts? also is besides Romeous ovbiously being out, is there any other injury issues for tomorrow?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
Mason has looked pretty lost in pass defense, and you know Miami will try the middle of the field. So his loss might be a gain. There are some nagging injuries to Chris Jacobson and Dom DeCicco, but Pitt's hoping they'll be OK
Andy (Elk Grove, CA)
Brian,I'm torn. I would never root against my alma mater WVU - but at the same time - I think Stewart needs to go in order for the team to get back its swagger. There isn't a killer instinct to be seen in the current coaching staff. Is it too much to ask for success and for Stewart to ride off into the sunset?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
Wow, I'd hate to see what you'd be feeling like if WVU wasn't 3-0 and ranked in the Top 25.
So you still dont think Heinz Field is that good of a place to play college football? Not even the Notre Dame or Cincinnati or WVU games of recent were good atmospheres?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
When it's packed and it's a big game, it's a good atmosphere. But isn't that true everywhere? Just not a great college environment overall. Too much of a pro feel.
Shotgun??? Its a musket! And take into consideration that any mountaineer would be a good shot as well.
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
Right. Such a huge difference
How many of the 4 big games you mentioned (Pitt, WVU, Rutgers, and Cincinnati) do you think the Big East needs to win this weekend?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
Two would be considered a success.
Scott S (Washington DC)
Considering how well Ryan Nassib is playing did Syracuse waste a year on Paulus, when Nassib could have been getting game time expereince?
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
I think Doug Marrone would tell you that Nassib got a valuable learning experience under Paulus. And he did get to play a lot. Hard to play the what-if game, but Nassib looks pretty good right now.
Chase (Harrisonburg, Va)
How long does Geno have to play at this level before he starts getting talked about nationally? He's playing out of his mind right now but I feel like he's really flying under the radar.
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
Answer: This Saturday night.
Pete (Clearwater, FL)
Hey Brian, I was wondering what you think about the USF Bulls so far? Do you think that Demetrius Murray is the #1 RB we've been looking for since the Andre Hall days and is David Bedford the second coming of George Selvie/Jason Pierre-Paul? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
I wouldn't go that far on either guy. Murray showed some things against Florida but doesn't look like a 1,000-yard back just yet. Bedford has had a nice start but not the enormous impact Selvie and Pierre-Paul had when they were at their peaks.
Jim (Newport Beach, CA)
Doug Marrone has stated that Syracuse has got to get to a bowl game this year. After this week, they should be 3-1. How do you define "success" for Syracuse as they move into BE play?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Two Big East wins would be doubling their recent best output. Three would be a wild success.
I know the style of the win and the way other games play out will affect this, but abouts-where will you rank Pitt in your ballot next week if they beat Miami?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
Like you said, many factors at work. But in a vaccum, probably 16-to-19 range.
Brian, can we have guys like Andy's brain examined? I am embarrassed by my fellow Mountaineer fans and their attitude toward Bill Stewart. Why don't you rate worst fan base in the Big East. I say ours takes the cake!
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
All fans are crazy and passionate. It's why guys like me have a job.
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
One more question. Somebody give me a good one.
Geno Smith or Pat White?
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
I'll settle for that since it's from South America. Geno is playing well, but he's got a long way to go to match the legacy of Pat White.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
That's all for today, folks. Enjoy this weekend's big games!