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. I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best football questions.
Jack (State College)
With 3 strong commitments this past week for PSU and the hopes of one more big one this Friday, What are your thoughts of Coach O'Briens efforts thus far and where do you see PSU's recruiting class stacking up with the likes of Michigan and OSU this year? Obviously winning on the field is the only thing that truly matters, but while games aren't being played you can't do much better than this! Go Lions!
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Just the fact that people are excited about PSU recruiting is an excellent sign for the program. Let's be honest: there was some concern about how the Sandusky scandal would affect recruiting. But with those three commitments and the possible addition of Breneman on Friday, that's one heck of a start for O'Brien and his staff. It probably doesn't hurt to have a head coach who's more actively involved in recruiting.
With the success of the first Big 10 championship game and the Super Bowl, will Indy be named the permanent home of the Big 10 championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I'd still like to see Chicago get a chance, just because the city is such a destination and the ultimate Big Ten town. But few cities can match Indy's ability to put on big events. I would expect it to be, if not the permanent host, then the city that most often hosts the Big Ten title game.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think both the Wolverines and Buckeyes will pull in top 5 classes by the end of the recruiting season given their excellent starts?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Both are off to impressive starts, but as far as the Top 5 that might be tough. We all know that the southern schools and players from the south get extra recruiting hype. But class rankings mean very little to me.
Brett (Durham, NC)
What incoming freshmen will contribute to Michigan this season right away? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
The guy all our recruiting experts liked to play right away is LB Joe Bolden. I think you could definitely see some freshmen in the OL two-deep, especially Kalis. And then there are some other areas of need where freshmen like DL Ondre Pipkins, TE Devin Funchess and CB Terry Richardson could at least contribute.
What are your thoughts on Nebraska's new DB coach Terry Joseph? He has worked with BO before so he won't have culture shock with BO?s passion for the game and he seems to have great recruiting tangibles (SEC and New Orleans ties as well as being Tennessee?s recruiting coordinator). He also did a good job scraping together a hurt secondary last year putting up pretty decent numbers along the way.
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I didn't think Tennessee's secondary was anything special last year, but as you said he had some issues to deal with. His recruiting expertise is intriguing, especially when it comes to working down south. That could be a big help. Pelini knows how to coach DBs as well as anybody, so if he trusts Joseph then we should as well.
Which two teams will be playing for the BIG championship and who'll be the last one standing?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Justin, I think it's wide open this year, especially in the Legends Division. I'd give Wisconsin a slight edge in the Leaders, only because OSU is ineligible and Penn State is going through a transition. I'd take Michigan State slightly over Michigan right now. So if I had to pick today, I'm going with the rematch, and the Spartans as your champs. I reserve the right to change my mind, especially after seeing some teams in person this spring.
What is it going to take for the Gophers to be competitive in the Big Ten (other than a miracle)?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
First, some coaching stability, and I do believe Jerry Kill will do some good things if given time. The Gophers also need to keep as many of the top in-state players home as possible and develop a real identity of toughness. They're not far away from being competitive, though they're not that close yet to getting to in position to contend for a division title.
In recent years Big Ten schools have played away games in NFL stadiums in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Cleveland against MAC opponents. How do you feel about these kind of arrangements and do you think Big Ten ADs should continue to schedule them?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I like it. It gives fans in different areas a chance to see their teams in a new setting, and it's beneficial both for Big Ten teams in scheduling because they don't have to play a true road game and for the MAC teams that can get more revenue from bigger stadiums. As long as MAC teams are cool with not getting true home games in return, it should continue.
Kevin (Reno, NV)
What is your gut feeling on whether DeAnthony Arnett be allowed to suit up for the Spartans this season?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I tend to be fairly pessimistic in these cases, just because I'm cynical about the NCAA and the way it views athletes' welfare. But Arnett seems to have a pretty strong case given his father's health situation.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think Urban Meyer will continue the trend of Florida kids coming to Columbus? And perhaps even increase the numbers given his success with the Gators?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Sure. I think we'll see Meyer recruit nationally, and given his ties in Florida and the number of top prospects there, the Buckeyes will certainly recruit the area hard.
Brian, Why do you like Chicago as a championship game host? I would love to see it move, I thought Indy was disappointing. As soon as we were a block away from the stadium, you wouldn't have any idea there was a game happening. No local interest, lame bars. Chicago has location, the biggest alumni associations outside the home state, and is FUN!
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
No question there would be more of a buzz in Chicago, which has a lot more Big Ten fans and is just a more exciting city in general. What Indy has going for it is everything is so close and centrally located. Fans can walk from their hotels to restaurants and bars and to the game. And of course the game is indoors. Soldier Field presents its share of problems in those regards, but I'd still like to see it tried there at least once.
What do you think of the new Caoches at Iowa ? Will there be a lengthy transition period - What kind of results do you see coming ?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
I doubt there will be much transition for Phil Parker, who's been on the defensive staff for 13 years. There could be more transition on offense with Greg Davis, but I believe we won't see a huge change in philosophy. I don't think coaches will be the issue for the Hawkeyes this year. I think inexperience in certain spots, like DL, WR and RB, will be
What do you think is the most likely outcome to the BCS talks. What are the odds that the AQ bids will stay? What are the odds that we get a four or more team playoff?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Support for a four-team playoff seems to be running high, but there is little appetite for an 8- or 16-team field. I think we'll get some version of that. I hope the notion of requiring teams to win their conferences to be eligible doesn't come to pass, but there might be an ill-advised knee jerk reaction to the Bama-LSU rematch.
Go Blue for God Sakes (facebook)
Brian, just wondering if you have the guts to answer what school you would go to knowing just what you do now, if you were a football player and the whole Big Ten was recruiting you?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
If Big Ten schools were recruiting me to play football, they would have made a huge mistake in player evaluation.
How much senior leadership is returning to Madison? I'm worried the change of coordinators will hit durning the time the team is in flux.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
There aren't a ton of returning starters who will be seniors. Montee Ball obviously sticks out as someone who needs to be a team leader. Same for Mike Taylor and Marcus Cromartie on defense. It's really going to be an interesting situation to watch unfold this year.
Nathan (Lake Seneca OH.)
Brian, what do you think of how Hoke and his staff have done at developing their players? Basically the same core of players on the Michigan Defense couldnt stop anyone in 2010, i.e the wisconsin game when they knew they were going to run the ball every play and still couldnt stop them, was one of the nations top 20 defenses and in the top ten in important scenarios like 3rd down and redzone D. Do you think that the staff with the talent coming in could be in the ballpark of what we seen from Bama and LSU last year, year in year out?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I don't see how anyone could not be impressed with the player development. You saw it from the defense and also on offense with guys like Fitz Toussaint and Junior Hemingway. Michigan is always going to get talent, so the program should get back to being an annual Big Ten title contender. I'd say Bama and LSU are on a different level than just about everybody in college football right now, though
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Best Quarterback in the Big-10 in 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Denard Robinson should be the preseason pick based on his experience and past results. Taylor Martinez is in the conversation if he takes another step forward. Darkhorses are Braxton Miller and James Vandenberg. Interested to see how Vandenberg develops under Greg Davis, a noted QB guru.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
What needs to happen for Purdue to win the Leaders division?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Purdue is an intriguing darkhorse pick in a division full of transition. The Boilers need to find a real identity on both sides of the ball and overall become more disciplined. They've been plagued by bad penalties and turnovers. And they need to make Ross-Ade a tough place for opponents to play, as Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan come into W. Lafayette this season
How many B1G teams will be ranked when the B1G schedule starts after the non-conference games are finished this upcoming season?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
The Big Ten nonconference schedules aren't terribly taxing, and Michigan shouldn't get penalized too heavily even if it loses to Alabama. I could easily see Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all ranked headed into Big Ten play, with Purdue a possibility as well if it can win at Notre Dame.
Tom (Northern Virginia)
Do you see Illinois improving this season, or taking a step back?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Improving on the 0-6 finish or stepping back from the 6-0 start? That was an odd team last year. I think Illinois might struggle to adapt to Tim Beckman's spread offense in Year One simply because the Illini appear to lack weapons at receiver and RB. The defense should still be strong but could take a small step back. I could easily see another 6-6 season, but I'm not sure if that would qualify as progress or stepping back
Fitz T. (A2)
Brian, How studly was my 1000+ yds this year seeing that it came in basically a half a season? Also do you think that I have the chance to be the Big Tens leading rusher and Heisman finalist?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
It was an impressive breakthrough season, and I could see even bigger things in 2012. The Heisman seems far-fetched just because Toussaint shares the same backfield with Denard. And leading the Big Ten in rushing will be tough in a league with the likes of Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, Silas Redd and others. Tough competition.
Braxton Miller (Woody Hayes Athletic Center)
Which receiver on the roster is going to step up and be my go-to guy? Lord knows I need one!
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
You sure do. My money is on Devin Smith, but it's not clear cut. That and the OL are the biggest questions marks right now, methinks.
Do you think Penn St has any interest in renewing a long-term deal to play Pitt?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
They are scheduled to play again in 2016-17, but a long-term series may not be beneficial for the Nittany Lions. The Pac-12 partnership starts in 2017, so that leaves only three nonconference games per season for Big Ten teams to schedule. Does Penn State really want another tough game on the slate every year?
FFX Lion (DC)
Much has been said about how weak the Leaders Division is compared to Legends. Do you agree? And which Leaders team do you think will do best in cross divisional games?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
There's just far more transition. Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois all have new head coaches, while Wisconsin lost a bunch of its staff and has major questions at QB. All the head coaches return in the Legends. The Leaders teams will still win their share of cross-division games, especially since some of the bigger ones (Wisconsin-Michigan State, Ohio State vs. Nebraska and Michigan) will be on Leaders turf.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Other than the interior of both lines, which is huge, what areas are also of concern to Coach Hoke and his staff entering spring ball?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Definitely wide receiver. Michigan needs Roundtree to rebound and some younger players to emerge there. And the Wolverines would like to get better at LB as well.
Dave (San Diego)
How much more success do programs like Michigan State and Wisconsin need in order to catch up to programs in the upper tier of the B1G (Michigan, OSU, Nebraska)?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Depends on what you mean by catch up. Both teams won their divisions last year and tied for the title the year before, so on the field it's the others who have to catch up with them. Neither school is going to match the tradition of those three you mention. But if they keep winning, that's all today's kids (recruits) will know about.
Jared (San Diego)
Will UM take a step back this year because of a tougher schedule . . . or because last year they weren't quite as good as their record? Barely beat an overrated ND team, lost to MSU, barely beat a terrible OSU offense, skated by a few other times, and were handed a gimmie in the BCS. They didn't exactly play an Oregon in their BCS game like UW did. Hoke is doing really good things there, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I don't want to take away from Michigan's 2011 because it was really good. But I do see a small step back for the Wolverines in 2012. I don't think they'll beat Alabama, and the rest of the September sked is sneakily tough. Plus road games at Nebraska and Ohio State, who both will be hungry for revenge.
Zoey (your heart)
What records do you think Michigan and Ohio St enter THE GAME with?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I'm mostly just answering this because your handle is so awesome. But let's go 9-2 for Michigan, 8-3 for Ohio State. And since I just said Michigan would lose more than two games ... well, you can figure out where I'm going with this.
What are your thoughts on Nebraska's offense for the upcoming year? Will Martinez continue to struggle with his passing game or will we finally see some of his experience take shape on the field?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I think Martinez will be a little better. Don't forget it's his second year in Beck's system, and some of those receivers should be maturing. But I don't ever see him as a super accurate QB because of his throwing mechanics. That said, Nebraska has enough weapons to potentially lead the Big Ten in scoring in 2012.
Who, in your opinion, do you think will be the biggest deep threat at receiver in 2012 in all the B1G conference?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
It's a very good question because so many of the best WRs in the league are gone from last year. I'm tempted to say Justin Brown of PSU or Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin, but I'm not sure they have QBs who can get them the ball. So I'll take a stab and say Keenan Davis at Iowa puts it together.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for talking some football in the middle of March Madness. See you next week!