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)
Welcome to another Big East/Notre Dame football chat, everybody. Let's get rolling. Fire away with questions
jared (Sacramento )
Why does the commissioner continue say they're not waiting for Villanova But then continues to wait on Nova? At this point they could add the "Little Sisters of the Poor" and we'd all just be glad it was over.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
It should be over soon. Villanova's board meeting to vote on the decision is April 12. And it looks like the Wildcats are leaning toward yes. The Big East will have another option ready if that doesn't happen.
Vincent (Louisville, KY)
Who do you think the starting QB for Louisville will be? Stein, Bridgewater, or other?
Brian Bennett (4:03 PM)
Charlie Strong had some really nice things to say about Will Stein yesterday. I'd imagine both he and Bridegwater play this year.
Tom (New Jersey)
I know that Rutgers had a down year and all, but... planning on having any of their players in your top 25 any time soon?
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
Don't hold your breath. I mean, which Scarlet Knights would you put in the Top 25?
We all know the Big East doesn't have the greatest of OOC games coming up, but does that really matter? The last Big East team off the top of my head who really got helped by their schedule was South Florida in '07, but Cincy in '09 had a pretty pedestrian schedule and was one second away from being in the title game. Winning out trumps the schedule almost all the time.
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
Agreed. You just need a couple of name schools on there. Cincinnati had Oregon State and Fresno. The knock will be conference strength if a Big East team were to go undefeated. We all know that.
Brian, looking at UConn's out of conference schedule how weak do you think it is and how do you think UConn will fair with the new coach and Robbie Fry leaving?
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
When Iowa State and Vandy are your two best games, by far, you know it's really weak. I think UConn will find a running back. I'd be more concerned about the quarterback spot and the inexperience there.
Sanu when healthy. Which he wasn't.
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
Exactly. I think Mark Harrison will be in preseason Top 25, for whatever that's worth.
Do you think you can find way to spin it so the Big East sounds like it is the best conf? Trying to win a bet here, don't let me down.
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
Sure, just use one word: basketball.
Dave (Ithaca, NY)
How important is ND's first commit of the class of 2012, Tee Shepard? Will this get the ball rolling for more commitments?
Brian Bennett (4:09 PM)
It's important insofar as he's a cornerback, and Brian Kelly said that was one of the priorities for 2012. But it's March 2, so I'm not going to get too worked up over any verbal commitments at this point. Too much can change in a year's time.
Any observations from the schedule release? Do you agree with WVU @ USF as the showcase game for the final week? Seems logical.
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
I included most of my observations in a post on Friday. I think WVU at USF is the right move -- they were 1-2 in my first 2011 power poll. I like Pitt/Syracuse that week too as a sneaky interesting game. Would have liked to see all eight teams play on the last weekend this year.
Bill (New Haven, CT)
Hi Brian - What's Notre Dame's best options at RB this year? It appears that area is their weak spot on 'O;' just wondering if BK has s sleeper or two for the backfield.
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
Best option is to get consistency out of Cierre Wood, who has the tools to be a star. Also a chance that Theo Riddick moves back there, and I think he can be very good. Not a ton of other obvious options at this point.
Who's going to be the first big east player taken in the draft?
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
I'll say Baldwin still, but Todman had a nice combine.
Matt Rob (Pittsburgh, PA)
Is there any news on (not) renewing the Friends of Coal Bowl between WVU and Marshall? Is the series finally done after this year?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
With the Big East going to eight and potentially nine games with Villanova, there's not really room on the schedule for a home-and-home with Marshall every year. It will likely become more of an occasional series.
Any word on how Geno smith is doing with his foot injury? is he on schedule ahead or behind?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
He told reporters today he was fine and should be ready to go for spring. But he's still got another X-ray to take, and I imagine they will be very cautious with him. No reason to rush him at this point.
Harrison had more yards, more yards per catch, and more touchdowns than Baldwin. If he's not on your top 25 list then you sir are a sillynin.
Brian Bennett (4:17 PM)
But not as big of an impact. More than a quarter of his stats came in one game -- at Cincinnati -- in which his team was completely blown out.
Whats going on with MCclain at the combine. Haven't heard much of him?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
He did fine. Was among the top at his position in bench press. He's not going to wow anyone with his 40 time but showed his strength. He's a definite draft pick, but probably not first two rounds.
steve (largo, florida)
I know Tavon Austin likes being a W R but with his speed why do they not put him a RB ?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
You'll see him all over the place. The key is to get him on the edge and in space. He's not a guy who's going to pound it in between the tackles.
John (New Brunswick, NJ)
Any news on how Lefeged fared at the Combine?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Posted very good numbers, including a 4.5 40-yard time. Hopefully for him that makes up for his second-half swoon last year.
Ben (Lexington, KY)
What are your thoughts about Shawn Watson as the new OC at Louisville?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
He's not the OC. He's the QB coach. And he seems like a really good choice for that role.
Hey BB, Question about expansion... Why are we even considering Nova over UCF? Nova would have to expand their stadium and do a bunch of upgrades and even then still will be nothing more than a 2-4 win team for I would think at least 3 or 4 years. Also UCF gives us a better TV market, better Recruiting market, and a winning program that has been ranked in the top 25 within the last couple of seasons. I just don't get it... I know the basketball issue but why not drop a couple of teams likes Depaul etc??? Do you think the Big East needs a New Commish???
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Because it is more politically palatable for the basketball schools. Remember, the commissioner works for the presidents and universities, not the other way around. Trying to get 16 (now 17) different schools, some of whom have completely different missions than the others athletically, is never easy.
What would a win for WVU over LSU this season mean for them and the conference?
Brian Bennett (4:26 PM)
Huge. LSU could be a top 5 team. It would give instant credibility to the Mountaineers and the Big East.
BB - Will the Horned Frog be the coolest mascot in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
It's unique, but that thing freaks me out a little bit.
steve (largo, florida)
Will Bill Stewart end up being just a yes man on the football team for this coming year and how much will he have to say about play calling?
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
Yes Man is too strong, but the offense should be almost entirely Holgorsen's. Think of Stewart as the CEO. But what happens the first time they have a major disagreement on something?
I know you said USF was the early favorite to win the Big East, but what does that translate to nationally?
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
Fringe Top 25ish team right now. They get a chance to prove themselves right away with that opener in South Bend.
In regards to the coolest mascot in the conference, I think the Capital One Mascot Challenge has shown, two years in a row, that the Bearcat is the coolest mascot in the Big East. I mean, he got arrested during the Pitt game... how cool is that?
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
Getting arrested is not cool.
LG (Columbus, Oh)
BB,What are your thoughts on Notre Dames' "Barnstorming Tour". Using home games to play teams closer to their campuses (Maryland in DC, ASU in Tx, Navy in Giants Stadium and Temple in Philly). Do you think it benefits ND, plublicity wise, that much since EVERY one of ND's game is on a national, if not worldwide networks?? Wouldn't it benefit ND to play 7 or 8 home games a year like alot of teams???Thank you
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
It's mostly about playing in big metropolitan areas, for their alumni and to get seen by recruits. Notre Dame's plan is to play seven home games and one "neutral" game every year.
Michael (Bristol, England)
if TCU were joining the BE THIS year what do you think their conference record would be? would they run the table? one loss? two?
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Hard to say, because the Horned Frogs lost an awful lot of talent from their Rose Bowl team. I don't know how good they'll be in 2011. But I'd definitely make them the Big East favorite.
thewasp (kansas city)
Who will be the best team defensively in the big east next year?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
Good question, because a lot of really good defensive players graduated throughout the league. I'd say WVU and USF might have the most on paper. UConn has a chance to be good, too, if it finds some linebackers to replace Wilson/Lutrus.
What do you think Louisvilles record will be this season and how long will it take until Louisville has a chance to make it to a bcs bowl game?
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
I think a 7 or 8 win season is possible and sounds about right. Strong said the team was two recruiting classes away, which would mean 2013 or 14. Again, sounds about right.
how big would it be if syracuse beat usc this year in los angelas?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
It would be a signature victory over a flagship program, even though said program is not as strong as it used to be. Would still turn a lot of heads. If I'm a Syracuse fan, I'd also like to see them beat somebody in the Dome this year
OUCH, report came out today saying UCONN absorbed 14,729 tickets after only selling 2,700 of its allotment, costing the school 2.9 million, for a net loss of $1.8 million. Gotta believe going to the desert instead of Florida was the biggest factor here, right? Do at-large schools have the ability to petition for the bowl that would best suit them?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
Yeah, you knew that was coming. Not just the travel, but the fact that so many cheap tickets from other sources were available instead of the pricey ticket allotment. The bowls hold all the cards in these situations. It's highway robbery and I'm stunned that college presidents don't see what a financial bath they're taking.
How close will you be covering TCU and Nova/UCF this fall for us blog junkies?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
My plan is to give periodic updates -- probably once a week -- on the future members. TCU will also continue to be covered in the national blog this year.
Kanyon (Barboursville, WV)
Whats the score of the TCU vs WVU when they face each other?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
Really? You want me to predict the score of a game two years from now?
Dave (Rutherford, NJ)
Brian, Why didn't the Big East schedule Rutgers to play Louisville the last weekend of the season? This way everyone gets a double bye over the course of the season. As a Syracuse fan, I really think that we were hurt without it last year (especially considering the depth issues). Let them play on the Big East network game of hte week - why not?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I agree 100 percent. The only explanation is the league wants to maximize its exposure on the final weekend, and there are two few teams to give everybody double byes, or else you'd have some really light, uninspiring weekends (of course, we already do have some of those).
If you could blog for any conference (not including The Big East, your favorite :) ) what would it be?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
Whichever blog Rachel Bilson reads.
With the lack of depth behind Geno, any chance we see Brad Starks move back to QB in an emergency role/ maybe some wildcat?
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
I doubt it. This offense needs depth at receiver just as much. I think you'll see WVU try to get the two freshmen up to speed behind Geno, and probably have Coley White be the emergency guy. Starks needs to be a deep threat target and concentrate on that.
BigCyclone (Des Monies )
If I'm correct Iowa State plays UConn next year right? Do you think Iowa State has a shot at beating them considering Oklahoma's pounding in the Fiesta Bowl?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
Yes, the Cyclones are in East Hartford in September. I'm not sure there's much correlation with the Oklahoma game. The Sooners played a style that the Huskies simply didn't match up, unlike Iowa State. Should be a close game, though.
OK ok, so if RU added two mascots and one was Scarrlet Johanson and the other was Rachel Bilson, would you then show how much of an RU fan you are?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
Who do you think will be the best Running Back in the Big East? Pead from cincy was able to keep his 5-6yrd avg but isn't the model of consistency and Graham from pitt doesn't seem to be able to carry the full work load and still be the top guy... Who do you see as the Best Back in the Big East in 2011?
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
I'm going to say Graham. I just think Pitt's offense will use him in a variety of ways and he'll have a big, big year. If he can get over his fumble problems.
I get the feeling that BK is not completely sold on Crist as his QB. He talks a lot about him needing to earn the job, how he will make sure Golston gets plays, etc. Some of it may be coach-speak, but I am not sure. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
Would you be completely sold? Crist has a lot of talent and by all accounts is an excellent leader. But he made some costly mental mistakes in games last year. He still needs to prove himself -- and prove he can stay healthy.
I thought I remember hearing that with TCU and potentially Nova, the Big East could petition for a championship game. If they do, when is the earliest they could play it?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
It has been discussed but not decided. With the Big 12 apparently opting not to do it, that would seem to hurt the Big East's case. Personally, I see no need for it. Simply play a round-robin schedule and that's that.
Predict the reception the new Pitt (former WVU coaches) recieve in Mo-town this year. Specifically Magee and Gibson.
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
I could be wrong, but I don't think football assistant coaches get too much razzing from opposing fans. It's not like they're introduced to the crowd or anything, and some of them stay in the booth. It's not like WVU-Pitt could get much nastier anyway (and I mean that in a good way).
Dave (Brooklyn, NY)
Brian, what's that status of the "Big East Network" that was discussed last summer? With the league's desire to own NYC and St John's basketball doing well again (not to mention SU and UConn's standard seasons), one would think the conference would want to strike while the iron is hot. While basketball might not mean much for conference realignment, it does carry a lot of weight for cable subscribers here. And go Cuse!
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
First the league has to finalize its 10th member. And its current TV contract has a couple more years on it. So this is still in the discussion/research phase for now.
What is Bill Stewart doing at this time next year?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
That's an excellent question. Seems like he'd make a terrific fundraiser/ambassador for the athletic department, if that's something he's interested in doing.
Do you see Andre Davis redshirting, or will he play for USF immediately?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
Depends on how good he is and what the state of USF's receiving corps is during fall practice. But it's easier to play right away at WR than it is at other positions, so he's got a chance.
I went to HS with Stein and saw him light up the field and I really think he is a real player However, I am skeptical of him in the NCAA. How do you think he would fare? What kind of record do you see the cards harding this year?
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
Stein has handled himself well when called upon the last two years. Kid is tough as nails and a great competitor. If he were three or four inches taller he'd be a star. I think Louisville can win games with him, but I'm not sure they can beat the very best defenses on their schedule with him.
derek (st louis)
after seeing the SI report, it really looks like wannstedt was fired not over wins and losses, but rather his turning the other cheek on arrests. Do you think graham makes an example of the recently arrested player?
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
I wouldn't say he turned the other cheek. All those guys mentioned were dismissed except for Sheard, who had an impeccable track record and, by almost all accounts, mitigating circumstances in his incident. The player who was cited over the weekend had already left the team last summer and will not be invited back.
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
But, yes, the arrests themselves had a lot to do with Wannstedt being dismissed.
Mack (ohio )
How would an NFL lockout effect the Big East and College Football alltogether?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
I think teams in pro cities and areas (Cincinnati, Pitt, USF, especially) could get more coverage from the media. But I think NFL fans tend to be NFL fans, and college fans are college fans.
I don't get why Jordan Toddman is predicted to be drafted so low. He was The Big East's leading rusher! One of the nation's best!
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Only because he's a little on the smallish scale (though he's quite strong for his size). He impressed at the Combine and will get a shot. Running backs don't get drafted as highly as they used to unless they're otherworldly
How come ND isn't getting more attention heading into next season? They are a serious National Title contender, yet nobody is talking about it much.
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Nobody talking about Notre Dame? That is never the case. I don't agree that they're a serious national contender. Top 20 team? Yes.
Scott (Buckhannon, WV)
I see Paul Millard at the #2 QB spot behind Geno this year. No way does Starks nor Coley take snaps. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
I agree, although I don't know if Millard is better than Athey since I haven't seen either one yet.
you have to have the best job in the world, talking football all day. How did you pull that off?
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
I ask myself that every day. I am very lucky indeed.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
That's all my time today, folks. Thanks for all the great questions.