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 2 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (2:00 PM)
Hello and welcome to another Big Ten chat. Tell me what you got for Christmas and then fire away with your best football questions.
Zac (New Orleans on Jan 3rd )
Which version of my Wolverines defense do you expect to show up at the Sugar Bowl? The fundamentally sound group that played great in games against Illinois, Purdue, Minn, and Nebraska, or the out-of-place somewhat sloppy unit we saw early in the season and mainly in the final game of the season against O$U. Ill be there for the game, and i think if we keep the momentum from the final 3 games of the season, we will tear it up and give the Big10 a much needed BCS victory.
Brian Bennett (2:02 PM)
I expect the defense to play really well. Ohio State showed a lot of different looks in that game that it hadn't done all season. Virginia Tech is not an explosive offense, and with a month to prepare, Michigan should do well. I like the Wolverines a lot in that game
How many points do you see being scored in the Rose Bowl this year? Do the offenses live up to the hype?
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
It's a good question, and sometimes these games between high-scoring teams do not live up to the stats (see Auburn-Oregon and TCU-Wisconsin last year). Yet these two offenses are so dynamic and different that I think we could see quite a few points. I'm guessing in the 30s.
G.I. Joseph (Virginia)
With the stated goal of having the best staff(that money can buy), how does Meyer justify Vrabel or Bruce's grandson over Browles winner Heacock? Is this a case of good old American age discrimination?; lack of respect for his old boss?; lack of respect for Heacock's defenses per the NC 41-14 butt whoopin'? I've seen ya'll take notice, but I can't believe there are no whispers or rumours about this...got anything?
Brian Bennett (2:05 PM)
That's a fair question. I think Urban wants a younger staff full of top-notch recruiters. While Heacock has certainly done great things in his career, this gives Meyer a chance to let Fickell call the defense while bringing in a top-notch assistant like Withers. But there are some interesting personal dynamics at play here
mcs (state college)
hey brian...is it just me or do the bowl games get less and less appetizing each year. Appetites just aren't fulfilled without a playoff as the years pass on and all any team wants is a fair chance at a ncg like in every other sport played. The BIG vs SEC thing doesn't even work anymore for me. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (2:08 PM)
To each his own, but I do like having football on during the holidays, even if it's not always the most enticing matchups. The games so far have been pretty good. Let's face it: if all we had was a playoff, then most of the Big Ten teams would not be playing another game. There will always be room for bowls even with a playoff.
Bailey (Omaha, Nebraska)
In the 2012-2013 season which conference will be stronger? The Big 10 or the Big 12?
Brian Bennett (2:10 PM)
I can't say that I've studied the Big 12 rosters for next year in any real depth. TCU should help, and eventually Texas has to bounce back, right? I see the Big Ten being a lot like this year in '12. Lots of very good teams but probably none that are elite. Throw in the transitions at PSU and Illinois and the bowl ban for Ohio State and the league could even take a small step back in terms of national perception.
Ted (Omaha, Nebraska)
Brian: Reading between the lines it looks to me as if Bo Pelini was really anxious to get Rick Kaczenski onto his staff and that was a large part of his decision to pass on Mike Stoops. Am I over-rating that hire? Is Kaczenski a really good acquisition? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (2:12 PM)
I don't know that much about Kaczenski, but he's a young guy whose work on that defensive line in recent years speaks for itself. I think Pelini also really wanted to promote Papuchis. As for a big-name coordinator like Stoops, I'm not sure that was ever going to happen. Remember that Pelini is a defense-oriented guy and will always have a big hand in calling the shots on that side of the ball.
Bernard (Princeton, NJ)
In this week's edition of 'Name that coach,' who is the front runner for the Penn State job this week?
Brian Bennett (2:15 PM)
Boy, that search is confounding. There were reports this weekend about Penn State going after Chris Peterson of Boise. I can understand why, but it was always a waste of time. He's not going anywhere, especially State College. I don't know that there is any frontrunner right now, and the list of coaches who want that job appears to be small
Bryab (Hoboken, NJ)
Do you think there are any Big Ten coaches on the hot seat next year?
Brian Bennett (2:16 PM)
If Purdue doesn't play well in its bowl then starts off slowly next year, I think Hope could be in trouble even with his recent two-year extension. After that, everybody should be relatively safe.
steve (Jesup, Iowa)
Iowa's next D - Coordinator is?......
Brian Bennett (2:20 PM)
That's an interesting question. Here's a situation where I think a so-called "big name" could be a good idea to give the program a little juice. Would Stoops want to come back? How about one of the Penn State guys, like Bradley or Vanderlinden? I think Ferentz should be bold on this one.
We all know about the star power on each team in the Rose Bowl (Montee Ball, LaMichael James, Russell Wilson, both D. Thomas', etc......), but who are the players for each team who people are not talking about that you see making a difference in the 'Grandaddy of Em All'?
Brian Bennett (2:22 PM)
I think the linebackers for Wisconsin will be huge ... they simply must tackle in space and get lined up quickly and correctly. For Oregon, I'm interested in how their interior defensive linemen play. They don't get as much attention but are pretty good. Can they slow down the Wisconsin running game? So many good matchups. Can't wait to get to California!
Greetings from the Motor City! How big is getting Konz back going to be for the ? You said in your breakdown that the first key for the Badgers is pounding the ball. Konz is clearly much better than Groy and getting him back must be the single biggest piece of that Gameplan. Especially against a two gap defense.
Brian Bennett (2:23 PM)
Frederick has played pretty well, but Konz is an All-American. So it would be very big to get him back. That also helps the depth on the O-line. The Badgers need to stick to their running game and keep the Ducks' offense on the sidelines.
Randy (Clarion, PA)
How are you and Adam going to handle blog coverage all those Big Ten bowl games on Jan 2nd? Good luck.
Brian Bennett (2:24 PM)
Well, luckily there are two of us. I remember watching Adam try to keep up with all the games last year from the Rose Bowl press box. I did not envy him at the time.
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
There has been a lot of talk about teams being able to slow down Oregon after have a few weeks to prepare. However, it also seems the common denominator from Auburn, LSU, and OSU was their depth and talent at D-line. How does Wisconsin's d-line stack up?
Brian Bennett (2:25 PM)
You're right about that, and throw Boise State in there as well. Wisconsin has been pretty solid up front this season, but I don't think you can rank the Badgers along the same level as those other teams. So they will have to be really sound fundamentally.
Who do you think the biggest factor in the Purdue WM game on Purdue's offense will be?
Brian Bennett (2:27 PM)
I'm going to say one of the Akeems, Shavers or Hunt. Purdue needs to be able to run the ball against a bad WMU rush defense. That also keeps the Broncos' passing game on the sidelines. One of those two guys needs to come through with Bolden out.
Brian Bennett (2:28 PM)
Not many questions in the queue. If you've got one, now's a good time to jump in.
Orville (Lubbock, Texas)
Based on reports so far, it really looks as if The Urb has rocked recruiting in the Big 10. But, if you go back to his first days at Florida, things looked the same but in the end the only recruit he got that made a huge difference was Tim Tebow. If so, his early burst won't amount to anything to scare other Big 10 teams. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (2:30 PM)
I would dispute that assertion, as Meyer brought in a lot of great players. Now, in his final year or so, he seemed more preoccupied with getting guys who had the big star ratings rather than evaluating talent and fit for his system. I think he learned from that. But recruiting rankings mean little if you don't maximize the players' potential.
JL (Warrenton, Virginia)
Do most college teams have a coach dedicated only to special teams or is that an area left to a coach that has other responsibilites? It seems to me that this year I've seen a lot of teams that would benefit from a devoted coach as most pro teams have.
Brian Bennett (2:31 PM)
Some teams do, but most special teams coaches have some other responsibilities. With restrictions on practice time and the number of full-time coaches you can have, it's often tough to focus as much time as you'd like on the kicking game.
Over/Under 150 yards and 3 tds for me in the Rose Bowl?
Brian Bennett (2:33 PM)
Those are big numbers. I'll take the over on the yards, and a push on the TDs. Ball's season ought to end in style.
Does Northwestern have a chance to slow down the Aggies offensive attack? The Aggies almost beat Arkansas and the best win the 'Cats have is an inexplicable upset against Nebraska.
Brian Bennett (2:35 PM)
That's the big question for the Wildcats. Without Jordan Mabin at quarterback, it's going to be tough for a defense that gave up a ton of big plays in the passing game this year. A&M is explosive but has been pretty schizo this year. And with an interim coach, you never know. I think it's a shootout.
since you won't answer my question about Iowa's X-DL coach. how about thoughts on McCalls late night FB post about leaving Iowa then deleting the Post? also how do you think a combination of Canzeri and Rogers will do in the Bowl game?
Brian Bennett (2:36 PM)
I try not to read too much into those things, because you never know if someone has hacked a player's account or if it's just a young guy blowing off some steam. Still, by all accounts McCall's status on the team is shaky at best. The young guys have a stiff challenge in the bowl because they haven't gotten a ton of game experience this year. I certainly don't expect anything resembling Coker's breakout from last year's Insight Bowl
Randy (Clarion, PA)
It seems like Big Ten officials did a good job in making balanced divisions. Is there any future scenario where there could be re-shuffling of teams?
Brian Bennett (2:38 PM)
That's definitely an option for the future, and it will be interesting to see the sentiment that develops if Michigan and Ohio State have a rematch a couple of years in a row. But I think the league would like to stick with this format for a while and allow rivalries to grow (not to mention letting fans finally figure out who's a Legend and who's a Leader)
Lou (Rockville, MD)
Your Christmas gift from me is freedom to speculate without any information (unless you have some) without my objections. At this point is PSU really being deliberate in the coach search or is no one interested...?
Brian Bennett (2:40 PM)
I appreciate that. I can assure you it's a combination of both factors. Big-name coaches who would normally be very interested in Penn State don't want that job in its current state. And the search has been very deliberate, because the school absolutely needs to find the right guy to guide it through a tough transition. That's a difficult combo, which is why the Lions have gone 47 days without a permanent head coach
Orville (Lubbock, Texas)
Brian: I'm not disputing your answer to my previous question, but I would like to point out that once Tebow graduated, Meyer's teams his the skids big time. All those great players you mentioned didn't seem to help him win many games.
Brian Bennett (2:41 PM)
There were a lot of great players he recruited that played with Tebow, too.
Brett, louisville [via mobile]
Hey Brian, Quick question, do you intend to cover another conference once the big 10 struggles? Honest question
Brian Bennett (2:41 PM)
Ha. I go where my bosses tell me to go, Brett.
With Wisconsin's O Coordinator leaving, do you think that there will be a fall off the team?
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
I think it's possible, especially if Chryst takes Bostad with him. Chryst had developed into one of the best playcallers in the nation, and that will be a tough act to follow. And the QB situation for next year is very questionable. Still, with Ohio State banned from postseason and PSU and Illinois in transition, the Badgers are still in great shape to win the Leaders title in 2012
Will the Gator Bowl score be something like 9-6?
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
I wrote last week that a 6-6 tie at the end of regulation would be very appropriate for these two mediocre teams
JWebber (Tampa FL)
Will Michigans good recruiting continue still with Urban in the league now?
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
It surely won't be as easy for Brady Hoke to go down and poach Ohio kids, that's for sure. There should be some fascinating recruiting battles between the two. I think Michigan will be fine.
Bruce (Columbus, GA)
I'm sure that the Ole Ball Coach remembers his last encounter with a Nebraska team very well. Will this impact the outcome of the game? Will he be trying for some at least minor type of revenge?
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
Different players, different coaches. But it would not be out of character for Spurrier to remember a past grudge, now would it?
Randy (Clarion, PA)
Does the Ohio State bowl ban affect other conference teams in terms of the Big Ten's strength of schedule if they can't be ranked?
Brian Bennett (2:47 PM)
If I remember correctly, the same situation was in play this year with USC. The Trojans' computer numbers were still calculated for SOS numbers. They just couldn't be ranked in the coaches' poll.
Why doesn't Penn State name an interim coach and try again next year when things are better?
Brian Bennett (2:48 PM)
Because the program needs some stability and leadership. Besides, it would be nearly impossible to recruit that way.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Do you think that Ohio State should of be Banned from the Gator Bowl instead of Next Year's Bowl Game?
Brian Bennett (2:49 PM)
The problem was the timing of the NCAA ruling. In hindsight, Ohio State should have imposed the bowl ban for this year and been done with it. But the Buckeyes never thought a bowl ban was on the table. They miscalculated the NCAA's mood
Theres alot of rumors of Mike Munchak to penn state, and obviously with their current situation shouldn't they be looking at a coach with college exp.
Brian Bennett (2:51 PM)
I agree that a college coach is best, particularly in this difficult situation. Preferably someone who knows how to run a clean program
JWebber (Tampa FL)
Could Devin Gardner be the next Vince Young when Denard leaves?
Brian Bennett (2:52 PM)
Only Vince Young? That's no pressure on Gardner at all, JWeb
Larry (St. Louis)
Am I wrong or will Wisconsin have serious problems next year (and a few after) on offense? Top QB, really good RB (assuming he goes pro), and OC leaving. That leaves a lot of gaps and a lot of inexperience that will take time to fill.
Brian Bennett (2:53 PM)
Konz could also go pro. But I'll give Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt, just because the Badgers have been able to reload so often. Now, it probably won't be as good as this year with Russellmania, but that offensive line should allow them to still run the ball and be very effective.
You are dead wrong on your Cap 1 Bowl prediction. SC has beaten no one even remotely close to as good as Nebraska and they are highly over rated at #9.
Brian Bennett (2:55 PM)
Wouldn't be the first time I was wrong on a prediction. Though I would say Georgia is definitely as good as Nebraska, and the Gamecocks beat them. We'll find out Jan. 2. I think it's a fascinating matchup.
Brian Bennett (2:57 PM)
OK, folks. Gonna wrap up a couple minutes early today since it has been so slow. Enjoy the start of Big Ten bowl season!