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)
Welcome to another Big Ten chat. It's conference season, so bring your A game
Kyle D (California)
Who do you think has more to gain-lose in this weeks game in Camp Randall??
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Both have a lot to lose, as the loser is likely out of the BCS title game picture. But both can still get to Indy. I'd say Wisconsin has slightly more to lose, since it's a home game for the Badgers and they need to capitalize on this special Russell Wilson season
Hi Brian, What do you see as the most important matchup in the Wisconsin-Nebraska game?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Without question, it's Nebraska's front seven on defense against Wisconsin's offensive line and run game. The Huskers haven't been dominant up front yet. They'll need to be better
Tom (Lincoln Park)
Brian, is it just me or does the Legends division seem like an open race? I'd say that Nebraska, MSU, Illinois and Michigan all have a shot of winning it. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Well, Illinois is in the other division. I'll forgive you though since this is year one. Iowa and Northwestern are in the Legends and won't be easy outs, either. I'd still put Nebraska as the favorite, but it looks more balanced to me than the Leaders
Very excited for the return of Persa vs. Illinois. If I said Persa was going to throw for 300 yards, would you go over or under? Also, I'm willing to bet he is going to make Fitz very mad and try to run it at some point...
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
I'd take the under, just because Illinois' defense has really been playing well and Persa is bound to be a little rusty. If Persa isn't healthy enough to run it, he probably shouldn't be playing
I'm a concerned Michigan fan. Denard seems to have taken a step back from a passing perspective. If Michigan can't pass I think they'll have a big problem in Big Ten play. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I agree. Denard said last week he needed to work on his footwork, and then he went out and made some ugly throws against San Diego State. At some point, teams are going to make him use the passing game to beat them, and they probably won't be as generous there as Notre Dame was
I know Wisconsin-Nebraska is going to get top billing this weekend, but am I wrong in thinking the MSU-OSU game is more important in the league title race? The winner stays in the hunt, the loser probably doesn't.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
They're both important. The intra-divisional games take on extra meaning, though. You can lose to a cross-division opponent and still be OK if you take care of business against divisional foes. But I see where you're coming from. MSU has got to win some of these tough road games, and OSU can't afford to lose at home
Is Purdue any good and do they pose any kind of threat to Notre Dame this weekend? Do you think they try the same tactics that Pitt did to try to stop Mike Floyd?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
This is a big test for Purdue, which was in dogfights against Middle Tennessee and Rice. The Boilers did get the extra week to prepare, and their running game could cause ND some problems. But they will be underdogs. I suspect a lot of teams will copy Pitt's defensive plan
Ibrahim (East Lansing)
Hey Brian, I know coach D wants to run the ball alot, but if we have a great set of receivers, can't we allow the pass open up the run. We can't let our talented receivers go to waste
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Michigan State has got to be able to run the ball. But especially against Ohio State, with the state of the Spartans' O-line, I think this should be a pass-heavy game plan this week. I can easily see a low-scoring game in Columbus
Justin (Toledo, OH)
Is Miller really the answer right now? I feel like the issue with the offense of tOSU is the WR corp. They are all inexperienced and young (most being freshmen/red-shirt freshmen). They still need to develop route running skills and learn how to get open. Bauserman had no easy targets in the Miami game. The backfield is crowded with talent, why not use for formations with multiple RBs and TEs. They all appear to have great catching skills.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
The answer? He's probably the best option, solely because he provides an additional running threat. The receivers are young. But don't forget that Posey is back after this week, and Philly Brown should hopefully return from injury soon. That will make a big difference
Stoney (Kelso, ND)
Can the Gophers put their first 4 games behind them and start fresh? They still have everything to play for except the national title.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Minnesota has a lot of issues, and its defense is really struggling, especially in the back end. Add in the uncertainty around coach Kill, and I think this could be a long season
Roth (Champaign, IL)
Will Zook continue to put in O'toole for certain drives and if so how will that affect Scheelhaase and his play?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I've got to admit I don't really get what's going on with that situation. Seems especially odd in close games.
I think McGloin won the job after Saturday's performance, but I get a feeling that Bolden may be the starter at the end of the season.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
If the two truly were even, then McGloin should have moved ahead after Saturday, no? It appears Bolden is starting because of his potential -- and his potential to transfer. But it's not like McGloin has been lights out all season
Is Wisconsin really 9.5 points better than Nebraska?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
No one really knows. I know Nebraska has played better competition. But Wisconsin has dominated and it's at home.
shady (Findlay, OH)
brian those few drops the bucks recievers had really made braxton's stats look worse than they were, 8/9 of 13 sounds a whole lot better than 5 of 13, do you think the recievers can turn things around? we cannot affort too many more drops like that from here out
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
They are very young right now. I really like Devin Smith. They will improve, and help is on the way. But this is just not a very good passing team right now
Aaron (Lincoln, NE)
Brian, any chances that the brothers Pelini have been holding out on a defensive scheme all season? After the Fresno game, Bo said "they threw out a whole bunch of formations we have never seen," an admittance of being unprepared rarely heard from him before. Last year, they looked inept against Texas before handling Oklahoma State and Missouri in consecutive weeks when both were favored. Obviously the secondary still needs some work, but do you think we'll see a whole new defense in Madison this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Not really. I don't buy that they were holding back for four weeks, especially considering the Fresno and Washington games were not easy. They might use some different looks to throw off Wisconsin, but it's not because they were saving them. And having Crick and Dennard in the lineup for the first time together should help
Hi Brian-do you think that Wisconsin fans will sell their tickets ( Notre Dame ring a bell) or are they as die hard as Husker fans?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Any Wisconsin fan who sells his or her ticket to this game should have to renounce their loyalty to the Badgers. It doesn't get any bigger than this
Gary (Columbia, Md)
What do you think about fixing dennard's passing woes by letting him throw the ball 30-35 times this week against Minnesota? Giving him more opportunities to sort through his reads might do wonders for his confidence moving into the meat of their schedule.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I don't know if that's what Michigan wants to do, but Minnesota's pass defense has been so bad that this week should be a chance to gain some confidence.
Who is the B1G's worst team, Minnesota or Indiana? When will either program get back to being a .500 team or do you think that's unrealistic?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Indiana. At least the Gophers beat a decent FBS team (Miami of Ohio) and played well at USC. The Hoosiers have only one FCS win and lost to a really bad North Texas outfit. Both are probably two years away, at least
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Brian, MSU has been able to put up some very impressive defensive statistics through the first four games culminating in the #1 total defense in the nation. They've played some very weak teams, but it's nothing to sneer at. That said, they haven't gotten a lot of sacks. Is that such a big deal? I see them putting constant pressure on the QB, and the pick six this weekend looked like it was the result of Marcus Rush being all up in the QB's face. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
The Spartans have been very impressive on defense. Even in the ND loss, they gave up less than 300 yards. Ohio State could have trouble scoring this week.
Jeremy (Marshalltown, IA)
I love the blog you and Adam do, but I think Iowa should be above Penn State in the power rankings. I understand loss to Alabama is not near as bad as a loss to Iowa State and Iowa had to make a comeback on Pittsburgh, but Iowa hasn't had a close game against a non-AQ team and PSU squeeked by Temple.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Hey, Jeremy, did you see what Temple did to Maryland this weekend? The Owls aren't bad. Iowa also needed a huge comeback against Pitt, who isn't great, either. It's really, really close right now between Penn State and Iowa, but at least we'll find out when they play in two weeks.
I had (and sold) 12 tickets to the Wisconsin-Nebraska game. BUT, I sold them to Wisconsin fans (unless Nebraska has fans in the Green Bay area. And I'll be at the game anyway.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Good on ya. I bet you can buy a lot of brats with the money you made
Keeping with the over/under theme: Taylor Martinez, over/under 50% completion and over/under 150 rushing at Camp Randall?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I'll take the under on the rushing but over on the percentage. I have a feeling Wisconsin will really key on him in the run game and that may open some chances in the passing game
Why has qb James Vandenberg not getting more love from the media?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Well, we've given him helmet stickers the past two weeks and had him on our podcast. Plus I wrote a preseason feature about him. So we're doing our part over here. Iowa has yet to really play on a national stage this season
Steve (Columbus, OH)
Say Bennett,Would the Buckeyes benefit from mixing both Bauserman and Miller into all games? Florida proved that this plan can work in 2006 when they beat us in the NC game (still kinda sore about that) with Leak as the precision passer and Te-blow as the wildcat/run threat. Seems to me like we have the personnel to steal that plan and make it work for us. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I'm just not sure Bauserman is a "precision passer." Haven't seen much to make me believe that. You start to eliminate some of Miller's dual-threat danger if you bring in somebody else on obvious passing downs
While I know the odds of beating ND are not great, doesn't starting Robert Marve give the boilers the best chance to win? Will we really see Terbush take the majority of snaps on Saturday night?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I think you'll see both. I don't know that Marve is appreciably better than TerBush in anything but experience.
Phil (Lincoln, NE)
Brian,Nebraska defense has looked shaky against some less-than-stellar teams while Wisconsin's D has given up lots of rushing yards to teams with half the talent of NU. Nebraska should get a boost this Saturday as all of the preseason All-Americans will be on the filed, but our secondary is still very young. What are the odds this game becomes a shootout? Could you see both teams scoring into the upper 30s? 40s?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
That's very possible. I think the winning team scores in the mid-30s, if not more. Two very good offenses on the field.
End of the year; Is Denard in NY for the Heisman ceremony?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
No. I don't think Michigan wins enough games, and his passing numbers will hurt him
BB,I think you are underestimating Husker fans. You may not be able to see us in Camp Randall but we will be there. The NU athletic department had over 17,000 requests for tickets but were only allotted a few thousand.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I never said anything about Husker fans. I just said no self-respecting Wisconsin fans should sell their tickets to a Nebraska fan. I know the Sea of Red travels incredibly well
Sengalese Gopher (Dakar)
Hey Brian, if I can remember correctly, Marqueis Gray was a big time recruit, maybe the highest profile recruit Minnesota has had in recent years. He should have developed into a steady passer by now, is it down to the previous coaching regime or Gray, himself.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Well, he's really playing quarterback for the first time this year since he was at receiver last season. And it's a new system. He deserves some slack on that. Interesting to see what the Gophers do from here, though, as freshman Max Shortell has shown some encouraging signs as a passer.
Aaron (Madison, WI)
Will the Cardinals win the NL wild card?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
(Not saying anything. Afraid to jinx it)
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
What needs to happen for Purdue to beat Notre Dame this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Purdue needs Notre Dame to continue to hurt itself with penalties and turnovers. The Boilers will have to crank up the running game and control the clock, and they'll probably need at least one big play from special teams.
The thing though is if you were giving it to McGloin after one good game against a poor defense you should have already given it to Bolden after the Bama game considering McGloin threw for 0 yards that game. Against poor defense McGloin will play well. Against any team that plays anything that resembles a real defense he falls apart
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
A fair point. Like I've said, neither one has been great. But McGloin played so well Saturday that it seems like he should be given a longer look this week. And shouldn't Bolden be putting up better numbers against weak competition?
Mike (Newport News)
Hey Brian, it's great to have you with Adam running the Big Ten blog. Big Michigan fan here, and I want to ask a question regarding Michigan's schedule. Do you think Michigan will win 8 games max as a lot of people think, or can they possibly go higher than that, and why.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I think they're going to start 6-0. Things get a lot tougher after that. But a 9-win season is very possible. I expect this team to improve more than previous editions and the defense has shown a knack for coming up with turnovers
Jared (Tuscola, Illinois)
Brian,Illinois is 4-0, with a realistic chance at 6-0 going into a home game agianst Ohio State. We are very young and stout on the defensive side of the ball. Where do you see us finishing for the season? 9-3?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
That sounds realistic. The schedule is just so favorable. The offense needs to get it going again, though. Scheelhaase and Co. were grounded against Arizona State and W. Michigan
Dave (Aurora, NE)
Just the customary question...What do you think of the conference realignments going on??...Oh....Oops.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Thank goodness we're not talking about that this week
Tom (Northern Virginia)
Brian, what do you think Indiana's chances are of pulling off the upset this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Not good. Now, we know Penn State can at times struggle to score, which means IU could hang around. But the way the Hoosiers have played so far, it would rank as a monumental upset.
HawkeyePapyrus (Upstate NY)
B-Bens! Great work thus far on the blog. I know it's two weeks away but that gives my Hawkeyes two weeks to prep so who's better Oct. 8 Hawkeyes offense or Penn State's D?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
An excellent question. I'd probably lean toward Penn State's D, but without Mauti and possibly Lynn, that could change.
What sort of number would Russel Wilson need to put up against Nebraska to enter the serious Heisman conversation?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I think he's already in the discussion. If he puts up the same type of numbers he's been producing and Wisconsin wins, he'll be right in the thick of the race.
Rumor has it Nebraska is pulling out an all black uniform, you heard anything?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
The Huskers have denied it. Brandon Kinnie said today he didn't think there was any chance. We won't know for sure until Saturday evening, but it looks like a long shot.
If tOSU goes back to playing Tressel ball, how many wins do you see them getting?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
What would you call what they're doing now?
Bigger win: Bucky over #1 OSU last year or a victory over Neb on Sat?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I'd say last year's. That was a breakthrough win and led to the Rose Bowl. This year, Wisconsin still would have to get through a Big Ten title game, and it's favored to win
Brian, I don't know anything about Nebraska. Being a Badger fan what should I be concerned about or look for on Sat out of the Huskers?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Nebraska has a big-play offense. Whole lot of speed on that side of the ball, and they can break a huge gain off at any time. Defensively they haven't lived up to expectations, but they still have some great players there and I think it's only a matter of time. Also, Nebraska has been really good on special teams.
I think your going to see a different team in Iowa after the bye week. I think they are going to put in runs out of the shotgun formation and the defense is going to be a lot better, your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I do want to see the Hawkeyes establish a stronger running game with Marcus Coker. He's had his moments but it hasn't been consistent. That defense is going to get a lot of work during the bye week, I'm sure. And again, Penn State's offense is hardly threatening
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
I think we'll learn this weekend how pedestrian Russel Wilson will be in the Big10.. the windows are going to tighten up a bit over the next 9 weeks
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I don't know. Clearly the defenses he'll face will be much better. But you have to respect the Wisconsin run game, and that opens up so much in the passing game. Plus, Wilson is really accurate and smart
Ibrahim (East Lansing)
It's me again. I know that Sparty was 11-1 last year, but I think we understand that our schedule is tougher, so do you think the Spartan Nation would be happy with a 9 or 8 win season before the bowl game.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I think a 9-3 record, with that schedule and understanding there is already one loss, would be a good season. Would Spartans fans be happy with that? Are fans ever happy?
Brian (Portland, OR)
Brian - congrats on having such a great name. I'm sooo bummed about the news of Mauti's injury. He was headed for all big 10 and possibly all american status. Do you think the PSU defense will still be as stout without him? Best wishes to him for a full recovery.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Congrats right back to you. I am similarly bummed, because Mauti seems like a good guy, and I enjoyed watching him play. I think Penn State will be OK, though, because LB was their deepest position.
Lil BeauPete (West Laughalot)
Purdue disappointed in the OOC portion of the schedule, do you think they are able to make strides during conference play and get to 4-4, or are we looking at another losing record in conference?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I can't see Purdue going 4-4 in conference play unless the Boilers make a whole lot of improvements.
Can you sit there and think that Michigan doesn't have a chance to win in every last one of their games? I got them going 10-0 going into the Nebraska game. Michigan State is shaky at best, Iowa looks down, and Illinois is by far beatble. What do you think Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I agree that Michigan has a chance in every one of those games. I just think the Wolverines have been a little shaky thus far and have needed big Robinson runs to bail them out on offense. Don't know if that will keep happening as he plays better defenses and gets hit more
This looks like the best chance Michigan has had at beating Ohio State in a generation (slight exaggeration). Say they only win 6 or 7 games but beat OSU. Successful first season for Hoke?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
They're already 4-0 with Minnesota up next. So 6 or 7 wins means the Wolverines would have really collapsed down the stretch. I'd say 8-4 with a win over Ohio State would qualify satisfying
Do you see any teams as over/under ranked in the top 25 rankings this week?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I think Clemson is overranked. Two nice wins, but both came at home against overrated teams.
Randy Edsall (College Park, Maryland)
Brian -- do you think there is any chance that I might become a Big Ten coach?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
What? Maryland is your dream job, remember?
Jaymikk (Iowa City)
Hey Brian, nice work dominating Rittenberg in fantasy.If Iowa's defense turns a corner and plays anything like what they've been, do the Hawkeyes have a shot at a season similar to 2002, where they lost to Iowa State and finished 11-1? The offense has looked as explosive as I've ever seen in Iowa City, and if the coaches continue to run the no-huddle, the run game will stay on track.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Thanks, Jaymikk. Ritt wishes he had my mojo. Anyway, I do think Iowa's defense will improve, but I don't see this as an 11-win team. Too young in certain spots. The offense has put up numbers, but let's not forget Iowa was dominated by Pitt for most of three quarters and then put up stats against Louisiana Monroe. I'm not getting too carried away yet.
What are your biggest question marks moving forward? MSU's O-line? Nebraska's d? Michigan's Consistency? Persa's effectiveness?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I'd throw those in there, along with Ohio State's offense, Penn State's QBs and Iowa's D.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for today. Enjoy the start of conference play this week!