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 (3:01 PM)
Hey, everybody. Time for another Big Ten Monday chat. I'm still full of food from a weekend of holiday parties, but I'll give this my best shot. Fire away with your questions!
Bob Marley (Cary NC)
Are Michigan fans taking the Hokies too lightly? Beamer has alot more bowl-coaching experience. VT manufactures points in their kicking game. They will keep the game close. Michigan is not playing at home. Do you smell an upset?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I wouldn't call it much of an upset if Va Tech were to win, because the Hokies are ranked ahead of Michigan, after all. VT isn't going to be a pushover, but that program has had trouble winning BCS games. If Michigan's offense can get going, I have a hard time seeing the Hokies keeping pace without some big special teams plays
Hey Brian, do you see any potential national title contenders from the B1G for 2012? As a Husker and new Big Ten fan, I'm ready for this conference to end the SEC's reign.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I could see Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in the Top 15 next year, and possibly Wisconsin if its QB situations shakes out. But I don't see any of those teams as a legitimate national title contender. I think 2013 is more realistic.
Defenses equal, who is harder to stop, Oregon or Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Good question. They're both difficult in their own way. I think Oregon's style is so unique that it's tougher to stop in a regular-season situation. With a month to prepare, the Ducks are a bit easier to slow down. Wisconsin's, meanwhile, is in many ways rustproof and a lot of teams are shocked at the size and athleticism of the Badgers' offensive line when the game begins.
Mohammed (Columbus, OH)
Should OSU fans be weary of the spread offense coming to the Big Ten? This conference is much more defense oriented than most, will it work here? (see: Rodriguez, Rich)
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Mohammed, RichRod's offense worked just fine; the Wolverines just couldn't stop anybody. The spread works at Northwestern and has worked at Penn State. There's no reason to doubt it can work at OSU, though I thought it was interesting today when Meyer said the Buckeyes will line up in the I and pound the ball at times.
Waffle Haus (House of Waffles)
Hi Brian, what will my Spartans have to do to beat those dreaded bulldawgs and win a bowl game for the first time in a decade?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Well, Georgia's defense is really good, with some excellent linebackers. Michigan State will have to loosen that up by running the ball successfully enough to open up the pass. The Spartans also have to disrupt Aaron Murray, because the Dawgs' running game is unspectacular. I think this will be a close game and is a pretty even matchup
What are the odds that Fickell gets the Pitt HC job? Do you think it'd be good for him to take it instead of mentoring for a couple of years under Meyer?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Sure sounds like FIU's Mario Cristobal is the frontrunner there. But if Pitt decided to go with Fickell, he'd have to take it. That's a good job, and he knows how to recruit the area.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Brian, just wanted to get your thoughts after your first season as Big 10 blogger. Since I'm sure you've been accused of being a homer for every team in the conference (and Notre Dame), I was just wondering how we (Big 10 fans) compared to your previous experience. Thanks for the chats and everything else!
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
That's right, GBK. I love [insert your rival's team name here] and hate [insert your team's name here]. I've enjoyed my time in the Big Ten. Fans seem very knowledgeable and are certainly passionate about their teams. I've been treated very well in Big Ten towns. Thanks for reading
Jonah (Lincoln, NE)
Is it hurting the Huskers that Bo hasn't made a decision on a DC. Seems to me like a recruit might want to know who he is going to be playing for.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I don't think so. It sure sounds like Pelini knows who he wants to hire, and I'm sure he's letting recruits know. Also, he's very involved in the defense, so a recruit will know what type of style he's getting into.
GreasyRumpton (Da Hangout)
Kill currently has a lot of recruits for the next class, but most come with a fairly low "star" level. I expect these are similar to the guys he recruited at NIU, which he got a fair amount of production from them. Is this the type of recruits we should expect from Kill and that he can coach them up, or do you think he will be able to go after some bigger name type players now that he is in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
That should be expected, given how the program overall has struggled. The key will be whether Kill can get in on some bigger recruits once he starts to get things turned around. He needs to keep the best players in Minnesota home as much as possible.
HFGoof (Quad Cities)
Is Iowa good enough to beat the Sooners at their best? I'm thinking talent wise on paper this is pretty even.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Sooners at their best? Probably not. But Oklahoma has had a lot of injuries and hasn't played at its best for a while. And the Sooners might not be too thrilled about playing a 7-5 team in the Insight Bowl, which gives Iowa a chance.
Pete (Chicago )
I notice that there is very little in your chats about the Illini- is that becuase they don't interest you or perhaps there are few questions about them?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Usually not many questions. Hit me with some. Speaking of which ...
Jim (Barrington, IL)
Brian, since you've agreed to take my questions because Adam ignores me, I thought I'd reward you with a change-up from the typical post-Zook Apocalypse coaching question. What does Illinois have to do vis-a-vis recruiting and infrastructure to become competitive within the Big Ten? Given the recruits that come from in-state, I'd think that keeping the talent at home has to be high on that list.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Getting top-notch players from Chicago and St. Louis is key, though there's a lot of competition there. Illinois isn't going to wow you with its stadium, but there no reason the program can't compete at a high level. The right leadership is always the key.
mcs (state college)
Is the BIG looking into banning one year graduate transfers like SEC did? It is going to get abused.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I hope not. It's one of the few rules that really benefits the players. Graduate, and you can transfer for free. The rules too often tilt way too much in favor of the schools or coaches.
Louis Freed (State Penn)
Brian, should Penn State move their football program to Division III for 10 years? These Sandusky trials are going to be on the front pages of newspapers around the country for years. Winning at B1G football is hard enough when you have no distractions.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Well, the news is going to be there no matter what. It's not going to be easy for Penn State. But the football program is very important as a revenue generator for the school. That's why it's so crucial that Penn State hires the right coach to get them through this very difficult situation.
Brian, what are your personal thoughts re: OSU given permission to have Meyer on the recruiting trail while Fickell coaches the bowl team? This team has violated the rules, and in doing so, the NCAA is rewarding them? They are taking talent from schools while other teams are focusing on bowl prep and keeping their coaches during the coaching carousel. Ohio State will NEVER feel the effect of cheating.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I think it's been wildly overrated. Happens all the time when coaches go to teams that are in bowls. Different wrinkle here is that Fickell is staying on staff (probably). Issuing a waiver is routine and has nothing to do with rules violations or sanctions -- two totally different sets of people making those decisions
Brian, is Paul Chryst a really bad interview, or is he just humoring schools? How can the head coach at Florida International get more love than someone who's coached very well at the AQ level? If he hasn't been offered a head coaching opportunity yet, will there come a time when no one's interested in him anymore?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Chryst may not have the super-energetic personality that makes him come across as wildly impressive in interviews. But he certainly deserves a chance given what he's accomplished. We've seen a lot of schools hire head coaches instead of coordinators/assistants this carousel season for whatever reason.
4dorr (BTH(Big Ten Hangout))
Do you think that this will be the least viewed BCS NCG? A lot of people nationwide are not going to watch it.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I don't buy it. College football fans want to watch college football, and when Jan. 9 rolls around, they will tune in. Even if you don't like the SEC or hate the rematch idea, you have to be interested in what happens
Tom Bradley (State College)
Why will I not get hired at my alma mater ?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I'd like to see it, because Bradley is very deserving. But Penn State probably needs to make a clean break from the current staff just for PR purposes. It's a shame.
Hey Brian, I'm just curious about your take on the Mike Caputo situation at Nebraska. As a Husker fan, I'm torn. Obviously, Caputo is a huge asset on the O-line, and from that standpoint, I'd like him to play. On the other, he was arrested on suspicion of DUI, and while the circumstances around his case are unique (he wasn't actually driving), I don't know if Pelini should make an exception. It seems like long-term, it may be better to be consistent and suspend him, but Caputo overall seems like an upstanding kid.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I don't know the details of the situation beyond the police report. Pelini has been pretty solid on discipline during his tenure, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt right now. That said, DUI is a very serious offense and in my mind almost always warrants at least a one-game suspension. I'll withhold judgment until we find out a little more.
Why might McGloin not be available for the bowl game? Is it because of potential medical issues, or for disciplinary reasons?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
He had a concussion and said he wasn't 100 percent physically today at practice.
I heard you say the BCS games are more about money and revenue and that?s why Michigan and VT got into the Sugar, If so why do we rank teams at all? You might as well schedule the bowl match ups before the season even starts. This year like so many in the past proves not every game counts.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
You still have to finish in the Top 14 of the BCS standings to qualify for an at-large bid, so that's why the season matters. But aside from the title game and conference title tie-ins, the BCS bowls are free to choose any qualifying teams. They'll almost always go for the brand name.
Hello Brian, With all of the hype about Urban Meyer's spread offense, what does it say to you that his first three big recruits are all defensive linemen?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
It tells me that Meyer knows from his SEC days that you win with great defensive lines. Remember that his Florida teams were great defensively, even though that aspect might have been overlooked amidst the Tebow hype.
Beau Jackson (KC)
Better chance at winning their bowl game, Iowa or Northwestern?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I'll say Northwestern. Even though Texas A&M has a huge geographic edge, the Aggies have an interim coach and can't be too fired up after so many late-game collapses this year. Both are uphill climbs for the Big Ten.
Where do you think Russel Wilson will go in the draft next year?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I'm no Mel Kiper Jr., but I'd have to say the late rounds at best. Wilson's lack of ideal size (he's in the 5-10, 5-11 range) will hurt him in the eyes of scouts. But the guy is a winner and I think he can make it in the pros with the right opportunity.
Hey Brian, I don't see 2012 as the breakout year for Nebraska in the Big Ten. I think it will be 2013, we drop OSU and Wisconsin from the schedule and pick up Purdue and Illinois. I think 2013 is when the Huskers should be the favorite for the Big Ten title, and possibly a dark horse for the Natl title. Your thoughts? Have a Merry Christmas!
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I could see that. Martinez will be a senior quarterback then. Key will be recruiting and filling some holes with better talent. I think Ohio State will be the favorite in 2013, though
Team more likely to regress next year: Wisconsin (with or without Crist), or Michigan (due to not getting every difficult game at home)?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I think Michigan could be as good or better but with a worse record because of a tougher schedule. Wisconsin should still be about a nine-win team, I think, if it can get solid QB play.
Do you see Indiana winning at least 1 big ten game in the next two years? Hey there is always Basketball, right?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
All right, an Indiana question! Even if it might be in jest. Sure, the Hoosiers will win at least one game. They were ridiculously young this year and can only get better. IU is probably still going to be in the Leaders basement for the foreseeable future, though
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
Brian, I know the Big Ten needs to win BCS games to help with its national reputation but with Michigan facing an underwhelming VA Tech team (from the ACC), which is the biggest game we need to win outside of the Rose Bowl?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I would say it's a tie between the Capital One and Outback bowls. You've got two of the better Big Ten teams (Nebraska and MSU) going against two good SEC teams (South Carolina and Georgia). Both are winnable contests, and the Big Ten could enhance its reputation (and dent the SEC's just a bit) by taking both of them
Fuzzy Llama (BTH)
Bigger embarrassment for the state of Michigan (and B1G for that matter), a close loss to Va Tech in the Sugar Bowl or a 2+ TD loss for Michigan State in the Outback?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
A Michigan State blowout. The Spartans were the best team in the league during the regular season (7-1 conference record) and can't get manhandled by a Georgia team that lacks good wins on its resume
Gene (Altoona Pa)
Will Houston hammer Penn State in the Weed-Eater bowl ??
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's very hard to predict PSU's state of mind for this game. The Lions did a good job of staying strong after the Sandusky news broke, but the players are clearly disappointed about their bowl destination. I wonder if PSU can keep up if Houston puts points on the board like it usually does. But the Penn State running game and defensive line should have a field day if it comes to play
Earlier today you predicted the big ten going 2-1 against the SEC in their bowl games this year. Who is most likely to win; OSU, MSU or Nebraska?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I think all three should be close games. Of the three, I think Nebraska's matchup is the most difficult
Over/under Adam wins more than 2 fantasy games against you next year?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Bet the under, for sure.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
This Iowa bowl game has the feeling of the year they played Texas in the Alamo bowl and lost a close one. Would you be totally shocked if Iowa pulls the upset?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
No. Iowa is really good in bowls under Ferentz, and as I said earlier, Oklahoma has had a lot of injuries and may not be fired up for this one. Still, the Hawkeyes are going to have to deliver one of their best performances of the season to pull it off
When everyone mentions Urban Meyer why do they always mention his NCs and never his unspectacular years, i.e his last year at Florida, the 8-5 season when Tebo was the Hisman winner. And Floriday is 6-6 this year with his recruits. Is Meyer ovewr-hyped?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Let's see, undefeated season at Utah, two national titles and four overall BCS bowl wins? That's pretty good. Is he infallible? Of course not. But Ohio State could hardly have hired a better coach
Tony Danza (hanging out B1G style)
How about the forgotten big ten bowl team Purdue? What are our keys to success? We're facing a good offense here!
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
There are the Boilers! Hard to get questions on Purdue, IU and Minnesota in here sometimes. Western Michigan is a good offense, but Michigan and Illinois were able to slow it down. The key, I think, is for Purdue to run the ball. With Bolden out, the young players have to step up. WMU is dreadful defending the run, and the Boilers should be able to pound the Broncos into submission
Phil (Winchester, VA)
What kind of offense will we see from Ohio State in the Gator Bowl? Has Urban Meyer had much input in it, or is it still Jim Bollman's offense?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I would hope Bollman opens things up like he did against Michigan. Florida's defense is awfully good, and it Ohio State doesn't have balance then it could get ugly fast. There's really nothing to lose for Bollman, so why not let the players have some fun?
Pavlov's Dog (BTH(Big Ten Hangout))
What B1G bowl game are you most excited about covering and why?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
The Rose Bowl is always a joy to cover, and the Wisconsin-Oregon game should be a ton of fun. I'm headed to Pasadena for that one and can't wait.
Samuel (Iowa City, IA)
Fighting among team mates is so common, its uncommon for it not to happen?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I agree this is not that unusual. It probably wouldn't have been a story at all had McGloin not hit his head in the fall, not to mention the intense scrutiny already on the program. Still, you don't want your starting QB fighting teammates, do you?
Will there be a dropoff in Illini recruiting from the Zooker to Beckman?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Zook's recruiting had dipped of late. It remains to be seen what kind of Big Ten recruiter Beckman will be, but I think having a better head coach will make it a wash at worse for the Illini
Jeff (LA County)
Brian--What are the pros and cons of having Crist next year as UW's QB. I know having Wilson this year worked out wonderful. But do you see it working half as well next year?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
The pro would obviously be experience. Wisconsin doesn't have any battle-tested guys to play the position again next year, and Budmayr's future is uncertain at best. Crist had his share of struggles at ND, though, and to expect him to match Wilson's greatness would be unfair. There would be a lot of pressure on him to do so
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the holidays!