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)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten chat. Lots to discuss and I'm sure expansion is a hot topic, but we will also talk about real football.
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
Fire away with your best questions. I'm here for the next hour.
Hi Brian. Both you and Adam have written that you don't think there will be an undefeated Big Ten team this year; after 3 games have you seen anything to change your mind on that point? I think with the recent struggles of other B1G teams the badgers chances of leaving EL and C-bus with a W are getting better, don't you?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Wisconsin sure looks like the best team in the league, and you'd have to favor the Badgers in all their remaining games. But those are still some tough road environments, and let's remember that the Badgers haven't played anybody who's any good so far. I'll withhold full judgement until late in the night of Oct. 1
Did Luke Fickle seal his fate in Miami by giving up in the last 3 minutes of the game? IMO the entire Tress era staff needs to go.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I don't think so. Fickell didn't call timeouts late, but no one could have realistically thought the Buckeyes were suddenly going to march down the field on offense when they didn't complete a pass to a single receiver. They had a better chance of scoring off a defensive turnover. Fickell should be judged on how he performs with a full roster.
John (Happy Valley)
Brian, sorry you'll be on the couch this weekend. As it appears Penn State will continue to alternate QB's this weekend, what are the chances JoePa names a full-time QB before the start of B1G play regardless of how they both play this weekend? Or does this continue at Indiana?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I'm not sorry, John, as there are no games really worth traveling to this week, and staying home allows me to focus on more teams. Though I wish this week were more interesting. As far as Penn State, sooner or later that situation has to settle itself. But just when it looks like one guy is establishing himself, a la Bolden before Temple, he plays worse than the other guy. Fact is, neither one of the QBs is all that good right now, and that's the problem
Nate (HawkeyeNation) (Mankato, MN)
Brian, love reading the blog, keeps me busy when I'm in class. In the fourth quarter Saturday did Iowa's offense learn that they may have one of the more dynamic passing offenses in the conference if Davis and Martin-Manley continue to make plays and give JVB more options? Does Iowa try and pick up their pace a little bit on offense now?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Kirk Ferentz said no when asked about that, and some of the success could be contributed to a very average Pitt defense. But Iowa has weapons in the passing game and Vandenberg seemed comfortable running a high tempo. For whatever reason, Iowa hasn't been able to establish Marcus Coker nearly enough so far this season.
Joe (Lincoln, NE)
Am I the only one impressed with Taylor Martinez this past week? The coaches asked him to do a few simple things; reduce turnovers, stop taking unnecessary hits, make better reads, and call the right audibles, and he did just that. His stats don't reflect the way he managed saturdays game.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I thought he played a really strong game. And then listening to Tim Beck afterward describe all the things he asks Martinez to do, it became more impressive. I also liked that Beck didn't ask Martinez to do too much and went to the power running game in the second half to protect the lead.
Will Dan Persa ever play this season or will they injury redshirt him?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
He says he'll be ready by the Illinois game Oct. 1. We'll see. I doubt we'll see a redshirt.
Waffles (Walla Walla, Waffleton)
If you had to rank your top 10 Heisman candidates, where would Russell Wilson fall? Would there be anyone from the conference higher than him in your mind?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I can tell you that Russell Wilson (doesn't this guy need a nickname) was No. 5 on my ESPN.com Heisman ballot this week, the lone Big Ten guy on there.
Jim (Grand Junction, Colorado)
What's the latest on the major injuries at Nebraska - Alphonzo Dennard and Ameer Abdullah? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Pelini said Abdullah tweaked his ankle and could have come back in Saturday. Dennard is supposed to practice today and there's a good chance we see him this week at Wyoming
Champaign Tony Eason (Illinois)
Its great to see a motivated and well coached defense in Champaign this past weekend. Do you see the Illini continuing to get better or will the Big Ten conference schedule bring them back down to earth?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
You know what, their Big Ten schedule is manageable. Ohio State and Wisconsin at home, no Nebraska. I think Illinois could be 6-0 and is a threat in the Leaders, though I still like Wisconsin much more
Ramsey (Livonia, MI)
I traveled to ND just to see my Spartans get crushed. I put a lot of the blame on the new offensive coordinator Dan Roushar and his horribly called game. You had a down ND team that would naturally come out aggressive and blitzing to avoid letting down, and an offensive coordinator running up the gut on first and second down into the blitz and a team that typically has to pass to set up the run. Am I right in blaming Roushar?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I didn't think it was necessarily a great game plan, but the real problem was that offensive line couldn't handle Notre Dame's front, and the Irish knew it. Make Michigan State one-dimensional and it's much easier to beat them. Now with Burkland out, the Spartans have some real issues on their O-line.
TJ (New Haven, CT)
Big Michigan fan here, Michigan is now 3-0. Little Brother has a loss and so does the big "O"h no and Michigan is ranked in both polls. I know we havent exactly played heavyweights yet. But now that we have seen a few games where do you put them in the legends division? Think we can actually win the division? I am starting to believe it but not becuase of the 3-0 start (I remember last year all too well) but becuase the other favorites are loosing.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I see no reason why Michigan can't at least finish second in what looks like a wide-open Legends if things go right. And if Nebraska stumbles, who knows? Then again, I'm assuming this team improves. I don't see much difference in this Wolverines team than the last two years. They still rely on Robinson to make a big play and still need him to run a lot. If he gets banged up, look out.
Andrew (Fremont, Indiana)
Same ole Sparty is back! My blood was boiling after the fake field goal attempt, but I digress. After this week I'm feeling pretty good about Purdue's bowl chances. So far our season has been a roller coaster, close win against Mid Tenn, close loss to Rice ugh, and then we blew the doors off SEMO, but that combined with so far with truly lack luster performances by the rest of our Big Ten brethern, I am confident it will happen. Notre Dame looks very beatable, unless we play flat like Sparty, as does Minnesota, Indiana and even Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa look like they could be struggling for bowl berths. That combined with a better than expected preformance by TerBush and barring no repeats of the injuries of last season a bowl seems likely. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I don't know. I still think Notre Dame is good, and if the Irish get some confidence by beating Pitt this week and have a two-game win streak, they could be tough to handle in West Lafayette. Purdue needs to win that game. SEMO was a total mismatch. I think that Rice loss will come back to haunt the Boilers.
Your Boss (Bristol, Connecticut)
Would you like to stay here, or help Heather Dinich cover the ACC now that they have 14 teams?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Oh, I'm staying here. At least Big Ten teams win some BCS bowls
SH Tan (Singapore)
Hi Brian, great job on the B1G blog! With the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, not only has ACC destroyed the Big East, it has also stolen a march on the B1G - Pitt and Syracuse are the only schools in the East of value in football and basketball, and the ACC has also locked up candidates like Maryland. Are there any realistic options to the east for B1G, or should Jim Delany move quickly for Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Kansas and K-State? He'll be known as the man who rekindled the OU-Neb rivalry, and Kansas is a premier basketball program!
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
OK, I made it through a third of the chat before getting to expansion talk. Proud of myself. I agree that Eastern options are dwindling for the B1G. The best one left is probably Rutgers, and Rutgers is more of an idea right now than an attractive program. Notre Dame is the key, I think. Without the Irish, any Big Ten expansion will be underwhelming
sean (manchester nh)
Brian, with all the upheaval going on in the conferences, is this the year ND finally has to join a conference or could it somehow, oddly enough, strengthen their independent status?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
It depends on what happens with the Big East/Big 12. If the remnants of that league become very unappealing, which is possible, then ND might want a different home for its nonrevenue sports and a spot in the superconference shuffle. Then it would be up to the Big Ten to make the TV deals work out.
Ryan (State College)
In the lunch time links today you posted a link to an article about Penn State joining the ACC. Did you get a chance to read that article? What do you think about this? Seems pretty unlikely to me even with the "New ACC"
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
It makes sense geographically and Penn State wants another Eastern Big Ten team, which is becoming less of a possibility. But I don't see the Lions leaving for the ACC. For one thing, the money is better in the Big Ten, and Pitt and Syracuse joining the ACC won't change that.
The B10, last year's aggressor in Conf Realignment, seems to be asleep at the wheel this year with everything going on over the last month. Should we be worried that they may lose out on adding a marquee team or two, or is that worry just much ado about nothing?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
No way Jim Delany is asleep at the wheel. This is probably keeping him up at night. Who has the Big Ten lost out on so far? Texas A&M, Pitt and Syracuse aren't exactly marquee teams. Let's see how this shakes out, and I'm sure Delany is on top of everything
Is there any chance for the B1G to remain at 12+/-ND if everyone else goes to the superconference?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I think it could happen, if the Big Ten doesn't feel like any expansion candidates really add value. And the current schools would rather split the pie 12 ways than 14 or 16 if they're not growing that pie significantly
after Notre Dame, who is the next most attractive team to the big ten? Mizzou seems to make the most sense from an on-the-field/court perspective, especially since there's not a sister school (like okie st with OU) that has to come with them
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I agree that Missouri makes a whole lot of sense, and fits academically. It didn't work out last go-round, and maybe that causes problems again. But of the available schools, Mizzou is a strong candidate
if the B1G increased to 14 or 16 teams how many conference games do you think should be played per year?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
That's one reason I hate this idea. I don't think you can play more than nine conference games a year because you still want attractive nonconference games and a couple of guaranteed home games. And nine games in a superconference means you don't play a lot of schools. That's no fun
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
OK, that was 10 solid minutes of expansion talk. Back to football, though you're welcome to submit more good questions on that topic
BeauHunter (Arrowhead (Stadium))
Getting away from expansion talk and skipping the exhibition games this week - Are you ready for conference play to get underway? I know you don't pick where you go, but aren't you already dreaming of the Neb-Wis game and the atmosphere for some real football?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Cannot wait. As bad as this week is, next week should be a whole lot of fun.
Josh (Des Moines, IA)
I was more than relieved to see Jerry Kill finally get his first win as head coach of the Gophers last Saturday. Very emotional game! But this team still has a lot of holes, namely a lack of a true running game and a struggling defense. I was encouraged by the second half play of Donnell Kirkwood and the weak spots in the defense (line and secondary) seemed to step up when needed in the 4th quarter. But again, this was against a MAC team. Do the Gophers have the talent there to develop and get better as the season goes on (and hopefully collect some wins in the Big Ten) or do you think these same struggles with be prevalent throughout the year?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I think you'll see some improvement. This is a whole new staff, a new style and some young players are getting a lot of snaps. Ultimately, though I think Minnesota will spring at least one Big Ten surprise, this is a rebuilding effort that's going to take a couple of years.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
I'm not sure why you're saying Fickell can't be judged until he has a "full roster"? It's Ohio State, he has a "full roster" as is even without the suspended players. The offense was atrocious with the players on hand. The offense was not prepared and that falls directly on his desk.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
The receivers are seriously young, especially without Corey Brown, and you're asking a career backup and a true freshman to play QB against a very talented defense. Wasn't easy. I'm not saying Ohio State didn't fail on just about every level on Saturday, but that doesn't mean you can judge Luke Fickell as a coach on one game in difficult circumstances. Let the season play out and see what he does with a little more talent.
Quiz: What is South Dakota's mascot?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Dan (Iowa City)
Please try to help me understand what I saw this weekend in Iowa City. Is this team pretty good who didn't show up for 3 quarters? Pretty bad who got lucky in the 4th quarter. Or just an average team?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I think it's an average team with some issues. Good talent in spots but also some young players still who need to grow. And as someone who watched a lot of Pitt football, I was not at all surprised to see the Panthers collapse.
Dan (Des Moines)
Who would you say is the Big Ten offensive and defense player of the month?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Interesting. I'd go with Russell Wilson as the offensive choice, followed closely by Taylor Martinez. Defensive player of the month is tougher. Not sure there is one standout guy, though Mauti and Kovacs have had big moments. Open to suggestions there.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
The B10 has no one to blame but themselves for this conference realignment towards superconferences because they started the fire (the Pac10 to a lesser extent but they didn't burn the landscape per say). If they hadn't taken Nebraska from the Big 12, the Big 12 might not have had to negotiate the Longhorn Network. Had the Longhorn Network not been created, Texas A&M wouldn't have left the Big 12 out of pride. See how it spirals. The question is, when does it stop? I'm thinking conspiracy as the Big 10 has wanted Notre Dame in the conference for decades and what better way to get them here than starting the fire for superconferences?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Interesting point. Clearly, the Big Ten announcing it was going to expand put a lot of wheels in motion and got people thinking about the whole idea. I think someone else might have done it eventually, though, given all the $$ at stake
Stoney ((Kelso, ND))
Bad!? We have NDSU vs Minnesota in what should be a thriller.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
North Dakota State is a good FCS team. Don't sleep on the bison. (Also, actually sleeping on a bison is not recommended).
I really thought Chandler Harnish was going to test the Badger defense. Was he just over-hyped or has the Badger defense really improved since there struggles with UNLV in week one?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I think there has been some improvement. Hard to tell against Oregon State, which has all kinds of offensive problems. But the showing against Northern Illinois was impressive. Going to be a real test in two weeks against an explosive Nebraska attack
Brian, the local media reaction to Saturday's game against Washington seems to be mostly positive, and some articles even mention the Husker defense improving. While I agree that the Blackshirts may have taken a small step forward, I am still worried. On the other hand, the offense played a great game, and if they keep that kind of play going, the Huskers will be hard to outscore. It seems to me that the D-line improved against the Huskies, but our secondary was atrocious for the second week in a row. Do you think a healthy Dennard will fix most of the defensive problems? Do you have a more positive feeling about the Big Red this week than last?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
The offense did play very well, and it showed more variation and consistency, which was a great sign. I thought the defense played a little better than it did against Fresno, but I'm still concerned about the lack of quarterback pressure, some of the broken tackles and the secondary. Getting Dennard back helps considerably, but it's not the only thing.
JN (Tulsa, OK)
I keep hearing a lot of talk from you and others about tOSU getting its players back. Are the receivers that are coming back going to be throwing the ball and catching it? As you said yourself earlier, they will still have a freshman and a completely inexperienced senior at the helm for this team how are the buckeyes going to turn the corner?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
It's a good point. Clearly, I think, this team needs to really see what it has in Miller and develop him.
Brian, Robert Marve looked crisp in his return this weekend, albeit against horrendous competition. How do you see the quarterback situation working itself out the rest of the season?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Danny Hope seems determined to play two QBs. And with all the injuries they've had, I can't blame him. I think TerBush remains the starter unless he struggles or gets hurt
Hey Brian, how did you like your trip to Lincoln? Did you get to try a Runza?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I was thrilled to see a game there for the first time, and the crowd didn't disappoint despite some truly lousy September weather. Unfortunately I had a brutal travel itinerary and stayed briefly in Omaha so didn't get to taste much local culture. Next time, hopefully.
Happy Monday, Bennett. With Wilson's early success do you see Wisconsin becoming more of a top tier QB destination? They run a pro-style offense with perrenial top level talent on the O line and have a rich history of good running backs to help keep pressure off the QB. I feel like the lack of 4 and 5 star recruits at the QB position is what's keeping the Badgers from being National Title contenders.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I think this has at least shown other QBs that Wisconsin is not afraid to use talent there and open up the offense a bit. That can't hurt. The more the Badgers win, the more attractive they are to recruits. Plus, Madison is a big selling point.
Andrew (New York)
Hey BrianRead your article today about early season games. Maybe the B1G would seem more relevant early on if the supposed frontrunner played anyone halfway decent. Wisco's got noplace to complain given their schedule
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Actually, Adam wrote that, but we both agreed on the point and the idea. You're right about Wisconsin's schedule, though the Badgers didn't know Oregon State would be so bad. The larger point is that other leagues are having showcase conference games in September while the Big Ten is giving us this garbage week. It's bad for the fans.
Why Mizzou and not kansas?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Better football program, better markets. No Kansas State issue
Hi Brian, love the blog, but I was curious how you and Adam balance being objective and supporting the BIG? Whether you and Adam like it or not, BIG fans rely on you to support the conference and promote positive attributes to the worldwide leader in sports, who really does have a lot of sway in national perception. I'm sure it has to be tricky but we all look to you to really pump up the BIG when you can.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I don't ever think about supporting the Big Ten. My job is to be fair and accurate. Now, sometimes I feel like we can give a perspective from the Big Ten's point of view that may be lacking nationally, and we certainly like writing good stories that are happening in the conference. But our job is not to be cheerleaders. (And Adam wouldn't look good in a skirt, I don't think).
Terry (Quad Cities)
Comment - Zook went from deep on the hot seat hot seat to getting #3 in your guys' B1G power ranking in just one year. Quite impressive.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
No doubt this is a big year for the Zooker. It's still early, and he needs to capitalize with this favorable schedule.
Any rumblings of college football adopting the NFL's new kick off at the 35 rule?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I haven't heard that specifically, but there were some coaches who supported Greg Schiano's idea of eliminating kickoffs entirely. If the NFL's plan works and injury rates decline, you could very well see college football moving kickoffs up in two years
Is Northwestern's win over BC diminished significantly now that BC lost to Duke? It seems like NW hasnt done anything impressive now that BC is 0-3
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
BC is not good. Still, given the circumstances -- on the road, no Persa -- that was a nice win by Northwestern. Losing to Army cancels it out, however.
"But just when it looks like one guy is establishing himself, a la Bolden before Temple, he plays worse than the other guy. Fact is, neither one of the QBs is all that good right now, and that's the problem"I agree with this, but the fact that this is probably as good as McGloin will ever be has to make them just go with Bolden, right? Please say right.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Bolden needs to be more consistent. McGloin outplayed him in the Temple game. What a maddening situation this is for Penn State fans.
No matter what Iowa does this year I refuse to talk about whether Kirk Ferentz is the "right guy." I've always felt a great sense of pride in having him as our coach. He has produced a lot of quality next level talent, we've had some great seasons, and he is consistent. Did you see his EMOTION at the end of the PITT game!?? Hawk fans (myself included) need to recognize what we have and take the good with the bad. THoughts Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Agree 100 percent.
Brian, after 3 weeks, it is fairly obvious that Wisconsin is the best team in the league (although their competition thus far is lacking). How big of a gap do you think separates Bucky and teams like Nebraska and (I guess) Illinios?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Wrote about this a little bit ago on the blog. I think Wisconsin is clearly the best team right now, with the caveat that they've played a weak schedule. I'd put Nebraska as No. 2 and then a gap to the rest. If Illinois is the third-best team in this league, then the Big Ten is not nearly as deep as we thought it was
What about planking on a Bison?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
You let me know how that goes for you. I'll leave my bison activities to enjoying the occasional bison burger. Mmmm.
First off, You said Wilson needs a nickname. The local media around here started caling the hype around him "Russelmania". I like it. Second, He's been the biggest free agent signing in Wisconsin since Reggie White decided to come to Titletown, wouldn't you say?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
That's not bad.
Randy (St. Paul)
Look at all the big named players who are hurt after only 2 weeks in the NFL. It has nothing to do with kickoffs.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
The NFL will study it at the end of the year. The feeling was that a lot of concussions happen on kickoffs because players are running at full speed down the field against each other. We shall see. It's a worthy experiment for player safety, at the very least
WHat does Mich have to do to get consistency on offense? Too much Denard the last few weeks and his passing seems to have regressed.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
They need to find a running back who can take off some of the pressure. Toussaint got off to a good start and then got hurt. Is it time to try one of the freshmen? I don't think this is going to be an elite passing team, but an even stronger running game opens up even more through the air.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. I'm out of time for today. Thanks for all the great questions. Talk to you again soon.