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 60 minutes, so fire away with your best questions
Who is the Big 10's best hope of breaking the SEC title streak?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I don't see it happening this year. Just don't think the league has a legitimate title contender, though I sure hope I'm wrong. I think Ohio State has the best chance in the next couple of years, but Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Penn State all have a chance to hit the next level. Hopefully for the league, one of them will break through
From Afar (Ann Arbor)
Brian,This whole Zooey Deschanel becoming newly single after you finally pop the question with somebody else has probably been pretty rough for you.Speaking of difficulties with people we don't know personally and yet have strong feelings about, do you think Denard will be able to cut down on his interceptions this year? More broadly, do you think it's possible for quarterbacks to make significant jumps in accuracy from year to year? Or is accuracy a factor of ability to read plays, comfortability in the pocket, O-line protection, vision, and muscle memory that some people (even those made from dilithium) just do not possess?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Rougher on her than me, FA. I absolutely think it's possible and probable for QBs to become more accurate with age. We see it all the time. It's all about experience, comfort level in the system and improved decision-making. This is Denard's second year with Borges, and I think you'll see him cut down on some of the bad throws, though I don't think he'll ever be a 65-percent-plus kind of passer. With his other skills, you can live with it
Steven (Apple Valley, MN)
Which team is in most need for the talents of Betty Draper-Francis? Could the Badgers use her to reload the O-line? Or do you see her more as a defensive player?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Ha. Iowa has to replace a lot on the O-line, so maybe Betty can take her Bugles and ice cream sundaes to Iowa City
Ryan (Boone, N.C.)
Brian,With Bill O'Brien at Penn State now, will we finally see the TE's utilized better in the offense? It seems like it's been a long time since that position was significant in the PSU offense but was a HUGE success when it was utilized well (Kyle Brady - 1994). Also, what will happen if Silas Redd goes down? I'm not real confident in the backups right now.
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Absolutely. There's no question that O'Brien will involve the tight ends more. The only real question is whether the PSU tight ends are good enough to be major difference makers. Depth at RB is a concern right now, but with Belton moving back there and Lynch coming in, I think they can get the job done in a pinch
Addison (East Lansing)
Assuming DeAnthony Arnett gets his waiver, who do you feel like is going to be the better receiver, Arnett or Lippett?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Arnett. Lippett is a great athlete but hasn't had a lot of experience at the position since he has spent so much time on defense.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Who you got, Kansas or Kentucky and by how much?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Too afraid to jinx it by answering ...
Brandon (Schoolcraft, Mi)
Hey Brian, I have know with Brady Hoke being in his 2nd year with Michigan that both sides of the ball should operate more smoothy, hopefully. What I want to know is what is your out take on Michigan's OL and their DL?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Major question marks on both sides. There is some experience there, but even some of the veteran guys haven't played a whole lot at their current positions. I buy Hoke and Mattison as great teachers but think it could take a while for the lines to gel. Which isn't a great thing to say with Alabama as the opener.
How likely is it for IU to have a winning record
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
About as likely as Jessica Pare serenading me with "Zou Bisou Bisou" tonight after the title game. Look, I think the Hoosiers make some strides this year. But to go from 1-10 to 7-5? No way
David (State College)
With regards to a playoff and only conference champs. I see both sides and as much as it hurts for me to say it Bama and LSU were the best two teams this past year. Couldnt an alternative be to limit the number of teams in a 4 team playoff to 2 per conference. And if there are two from a conference force those two to play each other no matter there ranking in the Semi-final. This will keep everyone interested in the title game because it will represent two different conferences.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
David, I like your points except the last one. I think the idea of three conference champs and one "wildcard" is fine. But I prefer a true, seeded Final Four arrangement, and if two teams from the same league are good enough to win semifinal games against conference champs, so be it.
Matthew (Zionsville, Indiana)
You?re Purdue AD Morgan Burke. You just gave Danny Hope a contract extension - but it comes with a buyout that consists of a mustache grooming kit and a new whistle. What?s your minimum expectation for the year?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Getting back to a bowl game is obviously a must. I think this team ought to be good enough to expect more than six wins. So a 7- or 8-win season is a fair expectation level.
Explain to me how everyone is picking MSU to either win or get second in the Legends division...they were hit hard by graduation last year and the most obvious of all, they don't have a QB. Am I the only one that realizes this? There is no way they can beat UM, NU, IA, and NW without a QB. They were embarassed last year at NU even with Cousins, I just don't see them being near as good as people think.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Andrew Maxwell is inexperienced, but I think he'll be fine. It is true that winning a league title with a first-year starting QB is tough, but every team in the division is flawed. And that Spartans' defense should be one of the very best in the nation again.
Tony (Denver, CO)
Brian will you be backing off your blog work once you win the starting QB job at Oregon...oh whoops, wrong Bryan Bennett
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Or is it?
So, not much hope for the a championship this year, but what about a Heisman? How about Montee Ball or Rex Burkhead as contendors?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
They are definite contenders, especially Ball, who will likely begin the season as the top rated contender (along with Matt Barkley). Don't forget Denard Robinson, either
Ralph (Memphis, TN)
More excited about Urban's offense: Jordan Hall, or Jake Stoneburner?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Good question. Stoneburner will love finally being consistently utilized in the passing game. But I think Hall should be the most excited since he seems like the most logical choice to play the Percy Harvin type role. Running, receiving, moving all around the field -- what player wouldn't love that?
Are you starting to buy in to the hype that Martinez has improved his footwork and/or mechanics that much? I realize he has really worked on it this offseason, which shows great dedication and maturity...but its still going to look like a one winged duck flying through the air right?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I buy the footwork angle, and that can have a real effect on the way you throw. I doubt we'll see a huge difference in his actual throwing motion, as that is much harder to change. But some improved footwork and decision making by Martinez and a better job by the receivers could make this Huskers offense very dangerous.
Think it's possible for Mich to go 2-2 in non-conference (losing to Bama and ND on road), but still win the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Sure. Why not? Nonconference games have no bearing. We saw Michigan State get beat up by ND last year and win a division title. As I said earlier, it may take a while for the Wolverines' lines to gel. But as long as they do so by the start of October, Michigan will still be in good shape.
Steve Schumacher (Wisconsin)
In your view, has the Badgers' landing of Danny O'Brien from Maryland made them the favorite for the Big Ten football title the way Russell Wilson did last year? Is O'Brien good enough to have the same kind of impact?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I don't think O'Brien is as good as Russell Wilson, but that's not a knock on him as much as it is respect for Wilson's record-breaking season. Wisconsin doesn't necessarily need O'Brien to be that good to win the division. I think he makes them the Leaders favorite with Ohio State ineligible and PSU and Illinois going through a transition. But I still have the Badgers a notch below the two Michigan schools
Does Illinois have a shot at surprising people this upcoming season?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Possibly, but I have a feeling there will be some growing pains in Year One for Tim Beckman. I don't like the lack of depth at RB and WR for that new spread offense. The defense, however, should be strong. The Illini could certainly match or exceed the 6-6 finish last year, but I don't see them as a true division contender this year
You have any good reccommendations for a RB for the Hawks! Geese!
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
A goose would be an interesting choice but probably would struggle with ball security. I predict Greg Garmon will get the most carries, but I'm not walking under any ladders or by any black cats if I'm an Iowa RB
Alright Brian. Simple question. We all know quarterback is the most important position in football. What is the second most important?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
It's an interesting question. I still think you win up front, and a dominant defensive tackle is the hardest position to fill. We saw what excellent DTs did in terms of impact on the league last year
IF osu was eligible would they or WI bee the favorites and why?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
It would be a very close call. I probably would have picked Ohio State before the O'Brien news. Now, especially with the Buckeyes having to go to Madison, I'd lean ever so slightly the Badgers' way
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
5 short months away until kickoff... what do the Hawkeyes need to do to contend for the Division title? Other than QB what are the Hawks biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Definitely find an RB, for one. The defensive line is a major question mark and is extremely young. Tough to win with youngsters there. The offensive line also has to get patched up. On the flip side, the cornerbacks should be really good, and Iowa may have the best pure passer in the league with Vandenberg.
The Dude (Your Local Bowling Alley)
Gopher wins this season +/- 5.5
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I'll go under, though I think 6-6 is a real strong possibility. The nonconference schedule is very manageable, and if Minnesota can go 4-0 there, all it would need is two wins in the league. Still a big leap from 3-9, though, and there are several major question marks on the roster
Rob (New Egypt NJ)
Brian, Why do you always take the easy/questions that can easily be awnsered without inputting any sort of opinion? Your chat is quite dull...I can get all these point of views from looking at your blog for 15minutes every other day or so...
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I answer the questions that are asked. Ask me a better question if you don't like the ones I've chosen
After watching Bama toy with Penn St the last two seasons and completely humiliate MSU in the '11 Capital One Bowl, and given the SEC's overall dominance of the Big Ten over the last decade, does Michigan REALLY have a chance agaisnt the Tide in Dallas. IMO, anything less than a 14 point loss should be considered a moral victory.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I don't like Michigan's chances very much unless Alabama has a major national title hangover. Possible, but not terribly likely under Nick Saban.
Matt (Pittsburgh Pa)
Brian a stout d, a good special teams, and a good running game, do you see the penn state nittany lions suprising alot of ppl?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
What would constitute a surprise? A 10-win season or a division title? It sure helps basically trading Alabama for Virginia on the non-conference schedule and having Ohio State and Wisconsin come to Happy Valley. I tend to be cautious in most coaching change situations, however, and still wonder about the QB position there. I'd go with 8-4 or 9-3 for the Lions this year
Since OSU has a bowl ban this season, what are some goals Urban Meyer is looking to accomplish in this season?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Get his program fully installed, identify playmakers and leaders and build some momentum. The Buckeyes have a pretty soft nonconference schedule and could easily be in the mix for a 9- or 10-win season if things go well. Oh, and beat Michigan, naturally
Addison (East Lansing)
With another great season, do you see Gholston leaving for the draft after this season? If so, is he looking like a 1st round pick?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Definitely. He's so physically gifted and should wow NFL scouts in workouts.
DuckI (Camp Randall)
Brian,Why do you think the other BB gets no love for never taking an opponent lightly? In his tenure, Wisconsin hasn't really been upset, and I think that is an amazing stat. Is that due to preparation, coaching, talent, attitude or what?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
That's a good point, and Wisconsin has been dominant under Bielema at home. The team usually seems well prepared and just physically mauls lesser opponents with that O-line. While the Badgers could still use a marquee out-of-conference win or two, Bielema is actually underrated in many circles.
Adam Rittenb. (ESPN)
"I tend to be cautious in most coaching change situations".. you mean except OSU in which Meyer is God and NC's are all but guaranteed.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
In the first year of a coaching transition, yes. If you've noticed, I haven't predicted an undefeated season or anything like that for Ohio State in 2012
Who is your choice for the best B1G team from the past 15 years? Just trying to get you in trouble.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I'll go along with the people's vote. Respect the heck out of that 2002 Ohio State team, but I thought the two '97 title teams were the best. Slight edge to those Huskers.
I have noticed that 6/9 of your dream road trip games feature a MSU matchup. Is this more of a result of Hollis and Dantonio not shying away from touch non-conference scheduling, or the recognition that MSU is playing at an elite level?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
They've got two really good nonconference games (Boise State and Notre Dame) and some good conference matchups with crossovers against Ohio State and Wisconsin. Plus, I have them as my preseason No. 1 right now. So that's why I've been so Spartan-heavy so far.
Jake (Hyderabad, India)
Evening Brian! I'm in Hyderabad for work but I had a question I needed to ask. With DOB coming to Wisconsin, what are the chances we see Bart Houston red shirt for his freshman year?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Greetings, Jake. I would say those chances are excellent, especially given Houston's recent arm surgery. Redshirting him would also put another year between him and O'Brien, who has two years left. Then you could see Houston getting some reps as RS freshman and taking over as a sophomore, if all goes right (and Bielema doesn't land another QB from his farm system, the ACC)
MarQueis Gray (Dinkytown)
Word out of Dinkytown is I look like the Big Ten's next big thing. If I lead my team to 6-0 (BT Ws over Iowa and Northwestern), you and Adam will show up to watch me reclaim the Axe in Madison, right?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Would love to see it because I'm dying to get to Minneapolis for a game, though it seems a little far-fetched. Love what Gray brings to the table, but I just wonder how much help he'll have.
Tony Montana (Miami)
You may have not visited all the schools yet, but as someone who gets an inside look at campuses, facilities, weight rooms, lounges, impermissible benefits, etc.. which schools most impress?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
This is not at all surprising, but the usual suspects -- Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska -- all have wildly impressive infrastructure. As good as anywhere in the country.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Was Iowa vs Iowa St left off the Road Trip schedule because they are not expected to be very good? To me that seems like the most intriguing match up that week, especially considering how exciting the games have been over the last few years.
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
No offense to that game. I just don't see Iowa as a really strong contender for the division title this year and would prefer to see teams that will be ranked higher earlier in the season.
Chris Borland (Madtown)
Hey Brian, if the Gophers start off 6-0, you and Adam are going to come watch me shatter some delusional Gopher dreams, right?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Ha. Gotta say, that would definitely inject some life in that rivalry.
With Abberderis out with the foot injury, these young recievers are getting a lot of reps. Which one emerges to be the number two for UW?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Like what I'm hearing about Mason thus far, though it's early. I'll be heading up to Madison later on this month and will be able to give you a much better idea then.
Brian, not including Alabama, which game do you think is the toughest on Michigan's schedule? @ND, MSU, @OSU, or @NEB?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I wouldn't overlook the Air Force game, either, which could be tricky. The ones you mentioned are all very tough. I'll say Michigan State, even though it's at home, since the Spartans have won four straight in the series and I have MSU and Michigan as my top two Big Ten teams right now.
I checked out OSU spring practice on Friday and was really impressed with the defensive line; obviously this unit is the heart and soul of the team. With that being said how do you see Urban incorporating the 3 big freshmen (spence, washington, pittman) when they enroll this summer?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I think you could see them being situational pass rushers, especially Spence. Lot easier for a freshman to come in when all he has to do is get after the quarterback on an obvious passing down. If those youngsters can handle more than that right away, then they're going to be really special
"I just don't see Iowa as a really strong contender for the division title this year and would prefer to see teams that will be ranked higher earlier in the season."Hmmm, well I don't see Ohio St. as a really strong contender for the division title this season, but you don't have any qualms about going to their nonconference games...
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
And exactly what part of "teams that will be ranked higher earlier in the season" didn't you catch? The Buckeyes will be a Top 25 team in September. Iowa will not.
DuckI (Camp Randall)
What do you see for the Illini in the non-conference season? A great start and one upset of Wis/Mich/OSU, and they could have 10-wins. Is that possible?NC I could see 4-0 or 1-3. Western Michigan has had their number, LaTech which is actually really good, and at ASU. But if they win out, I think it will propel them this year.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
At Arizona State is obviously the toughest one on paper, but the Sun Devils are very similar to Illinois -- moving to a new spread offense under a new coach (Todd Graham). Total toss-up game, as it was last year. A 4-0 start would be huge.
whos is the better BB? you or Bret Bielema?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
L'monte "Mega Millions" Trevy (All city, USA)
Yo. If there was a hybrid animal, like a koala/dog, would you buy one? Cause on the real, I would in a second mayne. Anyways, does my homie Fitz have what it takes to get the real NU back to a bowl game this year? And can they win it?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Um, OK. Sure, Northwestern can get back to a bowl, though their nonconference schedule is loaded with potential trouble. It all depends on how Kain Colter comes along and whether that defense gets any better. The Wildcats' problem is that they have been a 7-5 type team that gets matched up often with teams with better records or talent because of the bowl structure. They've been very close and it's just a matter of time before that curse is lifted. But will they make an NCAA tourney in Adam's lifetime?
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
I will bet you an entire Pizza from Falbos in Iowa City that Iowa will finish with a better record than Ohio St... and Falbos may have the best Pizza in the midwest that doesnt come from Chicago
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
That's a deal.
William Leib (MCAS Miramar, CA (Maize n Blue at heart))
Good afternoon Brian, my question is who do you think will be more impressive this year, Denard Robinson in his senior year at UM or Braxton Miller as a sophmore in his first year under Urban?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Denard. Senior, second year in the system. Love Miller as well, but he's a sophomore learning an entirely new offense. And Denard has a nice safety blanket now in Toussaint.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the questions and enjoy the rest of your week.