Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another chat. We're just a little more than two weeks away from the season now. So bring your best questions (Big Ten and Notre Dame topics welcome).
Cheesehead Sports Nut (@CheeseheadSN)
The Wisconsin Badgers don't seem to get a ton of national credit despite turning out impressive offensive lineman (i.e. Jake Long and Gabe Carimi) and defensive lineman (i.e. O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt) almost every year. Why do you think that Wisconsin continues to fly under the radar despite performing well on the field and putting out first round picks almost every year?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I don't know that Wisconsin is under the radar. The Badgers are ranked in the Top 10 to start the year in the coaches' poll, after all. I think maybe the program has lacked a lot of household names, but even that is changing after the success JJ Watt and others had and the addition of Russell Wilson. Wisconsin seems like a hot program right now.
What are the chances the Buckeyes give Braxton Miller the starting job? Clearly he is more gifted than Bauserman and gives the team a chance to develop around a young dynamic player for the future.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I don't think we'll see it to start the season. I was at practice last week, and Miller was fourth in line for reps and he looked like his head was swimming a bit. I'd be surprised if Fickell turned the reins over to a true freshmen to start the season when he's on a one-year contract. But I think Miller will play some and could take over midseason a la Pryor his freshman year. That's my hunch, anyway
You know its coming, so let's get it over with. Will the B1G feel the need to "keep up" with the SEC should they expand?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I think it will probably have to, just because if the SEC and Pac-12 scoop up the remaining teams to form superconferences, the Big 10 doesn't want to be left behind to fight for scraps. The key thing, as I wrote earlier today, is for the Big Ten to make sure it gets the right fit and not just expand to expand.
Are you hearing anything today regarding Bubba Starling to the Royals?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
No definitive word yet. He's got until midnight. Obviously this is a tough decision for him and he's taking his time. Probably helps his negotiating power as well.
Eric (Harrisburg, PA)
Hey Brian, great job with the blog. Who do you think will be the next head coach at Penn State and when do you thunk the take over? I have heard rumors about anyone from Jay Paterno, (please no) to Bill Cowher, to even Urban Meyer. I would love to have Meyer or Cowher, though I think there is a much better shot with Meyer. Thanks for letting me bounce some ideas off you and I look forward to your response.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Come on, JoePa is going to coach until he's 100. Seriously, that's a really interesting situation, because I don't know who really wants the challenge of following such an icon. Would Al Golden come back to the state? Can Greg Schiano raise his status back up? I see it being more of an up-and-comer or assistant rather than an established head coach
Danny (Hawkeye Nation)
is this finally the year that the hawkeyes knock off Northwestern? Will they stumble in Happy Valley?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Iowa's futility at home against Northwestern is one of the odder streaks in the league. The game is so far away it's hard to predict, but I do think Iowa could be 4-0 and riding some momentum into Happy Valley
Josh (South Bend)
How shocked would you be if ND was 11-0 going into the Stanford game? Its not likely, but not unthinkable either.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Shocked? Not really, because there's not a team on the schedule that you look at and say the Irish can't beat. But the thing about that sked is there's just very little let up, so it seems inevitable that Notre Dame will drop at least a game or two unless the team really has improved that much.
Randy (St. Paul)
Why is everyone automatically throwing the Gophers into last place this year? They only played two games last year that they were never in, so it's not like they were getting blown out on a weekly basis. Plus they return almost everyone except for Adam Weber who a lot of fans don't really miss. You saw what they did the last two games of the year with an actual coach, but now with an even better one why couldn't they go to a bowl game?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I guess you mean last place in the Legends Division, because most people have Indiana as the 12th place team. I wrote earlier this afternoon that I think the Gophers will surprise at least one team this year. But that division is stacked. No reason to pick Minnesota ahead of Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern or Michigan in the preseason.
Jeremy (Marshalltown, IA)
What Pittsburgh players should Iowa fans be most worried about when they face each other at Kinnick Stadium?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Ah, yes, I can use a little of my Big East knowledge. Pitt has always had talented players but hasn't always used them correctly. Running back Ray Graham is a stud. Receivers Mike Shanahan and Devin Street are tall and skilled. Brandon Lindsey has an incredible burst and will be flying off the edge of that 3-4 defense. Looking forward to seeing how quarterback Tino Sunseri runs Todd Graham's new offense, especially with only one tuneup game under his belt before coming to Iowa
Caleb (Fowler, MI)
What's your over under for Michigan's wins this year? Any projected bowl game?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I love over/unders and hope to do that for the whole league with Adam sometime in the very near future. Haven't broken it down fully yet, but I would imagine the Wolverines' over/under would be around 7.5.
Max (north pole)
ok, you got to tell us what the deal is. did you dye your hair red in your picture or did you dye it blonde in your videos. this is a very big subject on the boards. and if you could clear that up it would be great! thanks again.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Well, I don't know why anyone would care, but I've never had red hair. Something weird is going on in our mug shots (Adam's eyes make him look like an alien), and in certain light my hair can take on an auburn tint (Not Cam Newton's Auburn). But I definitely have light brown/blondish locks, with plenty of grey mixed in now
Is it more important to be returning more starters on defence or offence?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I've never really thought about it that way. I'm not sure it matters, unless your team particularly leans toward more of an offensive or defensive slant. I think it's more important to have starters back at the key positions, like quarterback and on the lines
Nate (fleming island florida)
Brian, do you think Nebraska will be able to run the ball on the Big 10 defenses?? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I think so, though perhaps not quite to the level of success they had in the Big Ten. I'd be more concerned with the Huskers passing offense. Their defense and running game will be the team's backbone.
Kurt E. (Chesapeake, Virginia)
Brian, Michigan State has played really well in Notre Dame Stadium over the last 10 years. Notre Dame has a hard time winning in the Big House. Which game is Notre Dame more likely to win - @ Michigan or home vs. Michigan State?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Excellent question. Notre Dame probably matches up better against Michigan, especially in the second game under Hoke. But the Irish probably should have beaten the Wolverines the last two years and didn't, and that atmosphere will be insane. So I'm going to go with Michigan State, whom the Irish could have beaten last year except for a wacky overtime play.
If Texas expressed interest in moving to the Big Ten, should they big ten take them? Also, if they did decide to eventually expand to 14 teams, who would be the two teams that fit the best?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Texas would be a huge addition, but Nebraska would probably revolt if that happened. The way Texas likes to dominate things, I'm not sure the Big Ten would want to put up with that. I see the Big Ten trying to get at least one team in the east to go with Penn State, and Rutgers or Maryland could be good fits. I think the other targets should be Oklahoma and Notre Dame
Which B1G team(s) do you think will regress the most compared to the 2010 campaign?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Ohio State. That was a 1-loss, BCS bowl winner last year. While the Buckeyes are still good, I expect some regression with the coaching change and suspensions. Michigan State the other top candidate because of its tough schedule
With what you saw at practice, do you think the Buckeyes will feature a back who gets the bullk of the carries for the first 5 games, or will it be running back by committee?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
It's interesting, because I went in to practice thinking Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith were the top two guys, and Carlos Hyde -- whom I'd assumed had falled down the depth chart -- got major reps and had a great practice. So I think the Buckeyes will be able to run the ball really well and may go with the hot hand until Herron comes back. He's still clearly the best option
Brian, do you think an Oregon style offense would succeed in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
You could make the argument that Michigan and Northwestern have already proved that point, though their offenses are obviously not quite the same. The weather could make it a bit of an issue, but I don't see why it wouldn't work with the right players and coaches
Which is more likely: ND starts 3-0 or ND starts 1-2?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I say 1-2 is more likely, because people don't realize how good South Florida is. I'd bet on 2-1, though.
Tom (Lincoln Park)
Brian, do you think expansion past 12 is a good idea? I already dislike the fact I have to wait 4 years to see Michigan play some teams in the other division, and that would only get worse with expansion. Also, you may want to mention to Cheesehead that Jake Long went to Michigan, not Wisconsin.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I really don't like the idea of a 16-team superconference. Either you don't play a bunch of teams in your league on an annual basis or you play so many conference games that are no more interesting intersectional matchups. 12 seems like the best number. (And you just told Cheesehead yourself)
How do you like being a Big Ten blogger? Would you rather be blogging for another conference? What was your first choice of jobs?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
My first choice was to be Zooey Deschanel's masseuse. Still working on that one. Heck, are you kidding? I get to cover Big Ten football and they pay me for it?
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
My sense is that the NCAA will add some minor additional punishments to the Buckeyes self-imposed penalties, but no bowl bans. If this turns out to be the case would you be more surprised or disappointed?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
That's exactly what I expect to happen, unless something else comes up. I could see maybe a loss of five scholarships or something. The only other way it happens is if the NCAA is in a mood to really set some sort of example after talking tough last week at the presidential retreat. But the reality is that different people sit on the COI.
Waffles (Southern California)
Adam likes to talk about moving the needle nationally. Would it be wise for Wisconsin to schedule Notre Dame in the future? How does a game like this sound to someone from the East Coast? It would be a huge hit out here.Shout out to Bucky as well.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
A Notre Dame game would be fun, but people are used to ND-Big Ten matchups. So I don't know that nationally that would be as huge. Want to really move the needle? Play an SEC power like Alabama or Florida.
You vs. Adam in an NFL combine style workout, who wins?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I'd kill him in the 40 and cone drills. I have no vertical, so he'd probably get me there. Never seen Ad-Rock in the weight room, so I can't speak to his bench press ability.
Rob H. (Omaha, NE)
Who would you say has the toughest schedule in the BIG this year? (you have to answer at least ONE of my questions, I'm stuck at work!)
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Michigan State, without question.
How good do you think Vandenberg can be this year?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I'm optimistic about him. I think he's talented and I know he's a bright, fearless kid. Just talked to him over the weekend and will have a story coming soon.
Kyle (Ann Arbor)
Given Michigan's fairly easy schedule, is it outrageous to think that they could win the Big 10? I see MSU and Iowa as the only two tough away games.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I see what your saying, but the problem is that Iowa and MSU are in the same division, so that's a disadvantage. Can Michigan knock off Nebraska and Ohio State to end the year? Seems doubtful
Eric (Toledo, OH)
With the options that appear out there for B1G expansion, wouldn't it be wise to allow the SEC or another conference to play the role of guinea pig with a 14 or 16 team conference?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I see where you're coming from and it makes sense. But you also don't want to be left grasping for air instead of chairs when the music stops. If you can get a holy grail kind of team (Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas), you might as well go for it
If you land that Zooey Deschanel masseuse gig can I have your autograph?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
My hands would be too busy to sign anything, I'm afraid
Which blog is David Ubban looking to go to? SEC or PAC-12?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Ha. Well, if we go to 16 teams in the Big Ten, do we get three bloggers?
hey brian! i would love to see matt mcgloin take the starting job over rob bolden, hes the underdog and a former walk-on. i know his last game against florida definitely was not starter worthy. but i like that he brings a fire to the huddle. chances of him getting the job over bolden?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I certainly think he has a good chance. He probably outplayed Bolden last year and brought none of the offseason drama. That's got to weigh in his favor with his teammates at least. That said, Bolden still has a higher ceiling, and I think the coaches are secretly praying he plays well enough this month to seize the job.
Cory (Ann Arbor, MI)
I have a bunch of friends trying to convince my that Michigan will beat ND this year. As a huge Michigan fan, that D-Line has me pretty worried, despite what happened last year. With all of our changes, I feel this one could get ugly, with us keeping it close due to emotion. Am I crazy?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Given the recent history between these two, I don't expect it to be lopsided in either direction. ND has the benefit of staff consistency and a much tougher opening game as a warmup. But the Irish aren't that much better talentwise.
Nick (Ann Arbor)
Everyone needs a nickname. What is your feeling on AR and yourself being affectionately dubbed Chip and Dale, respectively.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Al (New York)
Does NW have any other weapons other than Persa that the blackshirts need to be aware of? or is it safe to say that if we shut Persa down, it will be an easy win?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Of course. We have Jeremy Ebert rated as the top receiver in the league, and the receiving corps as a whole is underrated. The question is whether the Wildcats can establish a consistent running threat outside of Persa, which will help protect him.
T.J. (Bloomington, IL)
Kyle (ann arbor) doesn't think Illinois is a tough road game....is there something wrong with him??? Does he not remember the game in Michigan Stadium last year??? I think Illinois wins that game easy!!! Michigan still has no special teams!!!
Al (New York)
Buy or Sell: Nebraska fields 3 first round draft picks in 2012
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Sell. Definitely on Crick. Possibly Dennard. But who's the third? Lavonte David is an outstanding college linebacker, but I think he's much too small to play that position at the next level.
Brian, which game(s) are the must-wins for a successful Irish season?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Well, since there is no conference title to win, Notre Dame needs to get to 10 wins for a BCS bowl. And it really doesn't matter who they come against. But I think their hopes will be greatly helped if they can beat the two Michigan schools to get off to a hot start.
Sean (South Bend)
I think you mean "masseur", since a "masseuse" is a female. . . What are you hearing about ND's new defensive line recruits? And will they have an answer for Robinson?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Good point, although if I had that job you could call me anything you want. If you're talking about the freshmen, I saw them in person and was very impressed with them, physically. Lynch is obviously farther ahead because he's been there. But I expect several to contribute eventually. I'll have a post on ND's 2012 recruiting later this afternoon, so stay tuned for that.
So looking at the Wildcats' schedule starting 7-1 seems entirely possible, however with games against Nebraska and Michigan St finishing strong does not seem likely. Is it normally better to have this type of situation (be 7-1 and get some national attention) or to have it reversed and have some tough games early but have momentum going into bowl season?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I don't think there's any such thing as momentum heading into bowls. We've seen so many examples of teams that were playing great stinking up their bowl game and vice versa. The long layoff makes it almost random. I'd rather start strong -- that's the kind of momentum you can use, as players simply gain more confidence in themselves when they're winning.
Just curious if you could offer a minor spoiler from your BIG top 25 players for me and tell me there is a Hawkeye in the top 10.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Shaking the Magic-8 ball ... Signs point to yes.
Charles (Dayton, Ohio )
Good Afternoon Brian Realistically where do you see Ohio St at in the Big Ten raise, I can see them with the talent they have running the table this year
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I don't agree with the running the table part. They had more talent last year and couldn't do it. But if you don't think the Buckeyes will be right in the thick of the race and a major factor all season, you're kidding yourself.
Matt (Marion IA)
You feel ND is close to joining the big10?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Not at all. But if the 16-team superconferences thing happens, their hand may be forced. The Irish will go kicking and screaming all the way, though
Is 7-5 considered a good season for the Boilers?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Getting back to a bowl game is the main goal. It's been way too long, and Danny Hope needs to build some more momentum or he's going to be in serious trouble.
Montee Ball #11?!?! Is Rittenberg getting sauced at work again or what?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Is there something about 18 rushing touchdowns you don't like?
Is Marqueis Gray the second coming of Denard Robinson?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Much different kind of athlete. Denard is incredibly quick but he's a small guy. MarQueis is huge, around 6-foot-5 and very well put together. If he harnesses his skills and figures out the new offense, he could be a dangerous dual threat. I wouldn't want to try and tackle him.
Jake (Madison, WI)
Lets say Wilson does some magic down in Bloomington. How long would he stay the coach there before moving to greener pastures?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
A very fair question. If he proves he can turn around Indiana, with an exciting offense, I'd see him being in high demand. IU hasn't exactly been a catapult for coaches.
What do you think Mike Mauti has to do this season to solidify his title of the "next great linbacker" at LBU
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Stay healthy. Everything else is there
Brian, why all the DTs in the preseason team? You and Adam had a legit offensive line, but that's not a defensive line any coach would run out on the field(no edge rush). There wasn't a single DE good enough to make the cut?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
DE is not a loaded position, at least not on paper. And we expect Crick and Simon to line up at end at times this season
No, there's something about Ball not being in the top ten that I don't like!
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Oh, misunderstood and thought you were saying he was ranked too high. The one thing that holds down the Wisconsin RB ranks a little is the sense that a lot of backs could succeed behind that OL.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
OK, time for one more.
Top three B1G QB's this season?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Robinson, Persa and Cousins
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all the time I have today, folks. Thanks for joining, and I'll see you next week when we'll be even closer to kickoff.