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)
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
The season is so close, we can smell it. I'll be here for the next hour to take your questions, so fire away!
The Incredible Hoke (AA)
Why is everyone on my case for letting two kids practice? Did everyone's short-term memory kick in since they forget that I suspended our best WR last year for the entire year, then kicked him off the team this Spring? As well as the others I have disciplined. Different situations, different kids, but the goal remains the same: teach life lessons and win football.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I don't think anybody is really upset about Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark coming back to practice. They're just wondering if either guy is going to be suspended for the opener against Alabama. Both guys have been charged with pretty serious offenses, so people will be watching closely to see what Hoke does. By not announcing his plans and having the two practice, some have theorized that they'll play. We shall see. I think both need to sit out the opener.
Joey (full house)
Today brings number 15 in the countdown of players and it is fitz toussiant. I would have thought speed power bulldozer Le'veon Bell would be 2nd in the conference to only Montee Ball. My question is, in a somewhat strong running back year, who are your top 5 backs in order at the end of 2012 if all are healthy
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Gotta give the edge to Toussaint now because he's done more. But I think Bell could have a huge year. My call for 2012: Ball, Burkhead, Bell, Toussaint and... then a big dropoff. Maybe one of the Iowa backs emerges
If you are incoming freshman or a 2013 recruit at PSU, do you ask Bill O'Brien to redshirt you to give you 1-2 years of bowl-eligibility?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
It's a good question, and it will be fascinating to see what O'Brien's redshirt policies will be. But I think it will be extremely difficult to redshirt anyone with only 65 scholarships in the near future. And one of the things Penn State can sell is immediate playing time.
Luke ( South Bend)
Who would you rather have Tre Roberson or Braxton Miller?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Braxton Miller. I think Roberson can be really good, but Miller has the potential for greatness.
Bruce (Columbus, Georgia)
Brian - The reports about Tyler Moore leaving the Husker team have been vague, uncertain, and lacking specifics. Why did he leave? Will he return? How big an impact on the Husker offense will his departure be? Please provide all the specific info you have. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
What we know is that Moore has gone home to Florida and apparently will attend classes at a junior college. He may or may not come back early next year. Could have been homesick but we don't know for sure. Anyway, it's a loss, but Nebraska has other options. Hurts the OL depth more than anything.
Dan, Indianapolis [via mobile]
Brian, with a combination of defensive talent (Short, Gaston, Allen, Johnson) and returning experience and depth on offense, Purdue seems poised for a breakout season in 2012. Is an 8-4/9-3 season a real possibility in 2012, or am I just drinking the Danny Hope Kool-Aid?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I agree that a breakout is very possible. This is the deepest, best team Hope has fielded. I would think 8-4 is a very realistic expectation. But Purdue will have to make Ross-Ade a more intimidating place to play for visits by Wisconsin and Michigan.
Why are a lot of people predicting msu to beat UM this year? I realize how good the state defense s, but don't you have to have a quarterback to win games? Are you guys putting blind faith into Andrew Maxwell's ability as a QB?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Um, where have you been the past four years, Tim? Michigan State has taken control of this series by simply being more physical than the Wolverines. Michigan likely will be favored because it's at home, but it must prove that it can withstand the heat Michigan State brings on defense. I can't wait for that game.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Have you guys gotten a sense from the other B1G schools as to how PSU players and even fans will be received when PSU comes to town?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I would hope it's a favorable reception. It's fine for people to be really upset at what happened at Penn State. But to blame the current players and coaches for that is unfair.
Jason (Los Angeles)
What are your thoughts on Kain Colter this year? Can he make the improvements necessary to capitalize on Northwestern's top notch receiving core, or would Northwestern be better off turning to Trevor Simeon, who has looked promising in his limited play?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Colter is a smart guy and a great athlete. His arm strength should be better the further he gets away from that shoulder injury. He showed me a lot in how he filled in for Persa last year, especially at Nebraska. He should definitely be the QB and I think he'll have a good year, aided by a very good WR corps.
JB (Ann Arbor)
If Penn State and Ohio State were to finish 1 and 2 in the Leaders division why not just use the previous conference ranking formula to pick the two best teams to play in the CCG? If there is a tie for the 2nd spot then just take the team from the Leaders Division.
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
The schedules are just too unbalanced with division play and 12 teams. I would have been OK with some sort of special provision this year, but it's too late to implement that with the season so close.
Edward N. (Gotham)
Phil Steele has Wisconsin in a 3rd straight Rose Bowl, and Mich St recieving the at large bid to play LSU in the Sugar bowl. Accurate?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Wisconsin is an overwhelming favorite to make it to Indy, so a Rose Bowl berth is very much possible. Right now, I have Michigan State winning the Big Ten title, but the Spartans are better off finishing as Legends Division runner-up if they want an at-large BCS bid. I can see a scenario where the Spartans finish 10-2 and 6-2 in the league, but Michigan goes 8-4 and 6-2 and takes the division title.
When you took the job as the B1G blogger, did you ever think you'd have to type the phrase "national helium shortage"?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
There's always something, and I was unaware of such a thing. Will be sad not to see the Nebraska balloons. Breaking Bad has also taught me that methylene is in short supply.
Brian, how can you support the NCAA sanctions against PSU yet state above, "It's fine for people to be really upset at what happened at Penn State. But to blame the current players and coaches for that is unfair."?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Two different things. The NCAA always punishes those left behind when a school is hit by sanctions. It's unfair, but it's life. Yet that is no reason for opposing fan bases to boo or protest the players who decided to stay and play through the sanctions.
Jake (Bascom Hill) [via mobile]
I was wondering if you could explain how the PSU and OSU post season bans effect the B1G bowl alignments and whether having less teams in the post season will be good or bad for the conference. Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
It will mean one more bowl-eligible team. But as you'll recall, the Big Ten needed an extra spot last year for Illinois. I would expect a big shuffling of bowl agreements once the playoff system kicks in. Not having an eligible Penn State might hurt the Big Ten's initial agreements to some degree, but bowls are always eager to bring in Big Ten fan bases.
Did you just say that maybe one of the Iowa backs emerges to be a top 5 back in the conference? Is that based on something you have heard or seen, or just a gut feeling?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
More of a gut feeling. We know there will be a huge opportunity. Iowa is usually able to run the ball. If somebody can just stay healthy and out of trouble, they can put up good numbers there. Big dropoff after the top four backs in this league now that Silas Redd is gone.
Francis (Baton Rouge)
Is urban meyer going to bring his same philosophy that he used in Gainesville up to Columbus? Or is it going to be completely different to compete against the tough hitting teams of the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
You don't think the SEC had hard-hitting teams? Meyer's offense still has power to it, it's just in a spread formation. There will be some tweaks but will basically be the same.
Waffles (Southern California)
Do you believe the NCAA will be sued for millions by Penn State if it turns out that some of the major allegations in the Freeh report turn out to be unfounded?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
It can be sued, but I don't think Penn State would have any chance of winning. The NCAA doesn't have the same standard of evidence as the justice system. And remember that Penn State not only agreed to the sanctions but said it accepted the Freeh Report -- which, we must remember, it commissioned and paid for -- as a record of fact.
Atlanta has the Chickfila Kickoff. Dallas has been known to host some high profile OOC games at Cowboys Stadium. Do you see any Midwestern NFL stadiums hosting a successful annual kickoff game of a similar calibre?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Indianapolis is a natural fit. Soldier Field would also be great, and next year's Illinois-Washington game there is a step in that direction. Ford Field another strong possibility. Think you would have seen all three in play had the Pac-12/ Big Ten series worked out.
With the issues at weakside defensive end for Michigan, what are the chances that Pipkins gets the start opposite Campbell and Black starts at weakside for the Alabama game?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I don't see it. Black has been at DT all offseason, and you don't want to start a true freshman at DT in his first college game against Alabama no matter how good he is.
Brian, I'm with Waffles on this. Since the Freeh report was full of assumptions, there is a chance that information could come out during Curley's and/or Schultz's trials that show the NCAA acted inappropriately, costing PSU millions. There should be grounds for a suit and PSU would stand a good chance of winning.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
No, they wouldn't. Once again: THEY AGREED TO THE PENALTIES. Penn State needs to move on.
Did you read the article about urban in ESPN the mag? I thought it was a great article. I think his job at OSU will be more of a hobby then a job to him. I think the One Year bowl ban actuallys helps Urban in the sense of not over working because he won't have such high expectations the first year. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
It was a great story by Wright Thompson. I can't agree that this will be a "hobby" for him. Hopefully, Meyer has learned how to better balance his life and work, but he's still super intense. And like all football coaches, he'll be working his tail off.
I know you're only a sports blogger, but I wish you would refrain from repeating this notion that PSU somehow legally accepted the factual findings of the Freeh Report. Mark Emmert in the court of public opinion may use an off-hand comment by a BOT member as an "acceptance" -- but those comments have absolutely no legal significance at all. I mean literally 0 significance. ESPN sportswriters aren't expected to be legal experts, but I would hope that ESPN writers would just avoid answering the questions -- rather than merely spreading mistaken legal analyses.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
You're right, Jon. A consensus decree signed by the president of the university is by no means a sign of acceptance. Denial is a very strong emotion.
With Wisconsin having so much RB depth going into this season, how do you think the new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will use the combination of Ball, White and Melvin Gordon? I've heard good things coming out of camp about Gordon this spring. I could see White getting some looks, potentially in the slot, with UW's WR depth in question.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I liked what I saw from Gordon this spring and think he's a future star. I think we could see some two-back sets and White being thrown in the slot some. Ball will still get a ton of carries, but there are plenty to go around at Wisconsin.
Question related to how Wisconsin handles their season. Assume they are 5-2 going into the season ender, and PSU is also 5-2. You can also assume OSU is 5-2 or anything for that matter, but no one is within 2 games. So, the game is meaningless for Wisconsin. Do you think they will sit their starters
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
No, that just doesn't happen in college football. There's too much passion and too much on the line with every game. And Bret Bielema is not exactly known for taking his foot off the gas pedal.
Addison (East Lansing)
Drew Stanton,Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins, and now Maxwell. Has MSU gained enough of your confidence to believe a 4th year junior with more "perceived" talent than the above mentioned will do just fine in his first season in green an white?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I'd feel better if he had some experienced receivers around him. But the combination of game inexperience at both positions is a little frightening. Still, with the defense and improved offensive line, I think Michigan State will be OK
I think Hoke is doing exactly what Saban would do... Keep his opponent in the dark and have them prepare as if Clark and Fitz were playing. Hoke has all ready made his mind up on these two for the opener, but why tell Alabama?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Agree. No reason to tip his hand yet. But, again, I believe both should sit.
Odds of Minnesota winning national championship this year?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Dan Stark (St. Paul, MN)
Brian, love the blog and everything you and Adam do, keep up the great work! Looking at Iowa's schedule, a schedule that seems to favor the Hawkeyes, what do you think the chances are of this team making a run like the 2009-2010 Iowa team did? I understand that the teams are very different, especially when you look at the uncertainty of the Defensive line of this year?s team. If the Hawks can get out to a 5-0 start, which is very high possibility considering their first 5 opponents, a confident Iowa team who has a before it travels to East Lansing could squeak out a win and remain undefeated after MSU. After MSU the schedule seems to become weak again with the likes of Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, and a Penn State team that no one knows what will do. Their next real test would be at Michigan. I understand this is a stretch, but I don?t think anyone saw the 2009-2010 team making their magical run either, I know I might be dreaming but man does this schedule look pretty for a repeat of 09-10!
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I agree that the schedule sets up very nicely. I just think the big difference here is, as you mentioned, the defensive line. Maybe they will surprise us, but being that young on the defensive line is usually not a formula for success in the Big Ten. I could still see Iowa winning eight or nine games, though, and if they catch a few breaks, who knows?
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Brian, yes we have to move forward. We are. I'll take a different tack on the NCAA. Why is no one, and I mean no one, taking Emmert to task for a) his comments that football is the lifeblood of LSU when he was chancellor there, b) his lack of comments on his alma mater and former employer Washington recruiting and getting a commitment from an 8TH GRADER and c) that let's face it, he addressed this (his words) moral issue with threats and coercsion (that's moral?) He should be held accountable for his actions, just like everyone else.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I've seen plenty of criticism of Emmert in a lot of places, and rightfully so. And he'll face more if the NCAA doesn't become more consistent in its punishments in cases like UNC and Miami. Ultimately, it's up to the NCAA membership to hold him accountable.
Walter White (NM)
Do you think that players getting caught with non-performance enhancing drugs should be such a big deal like for the honey badger. A little meth never hurt anyone.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Not true at all, but funny
Tony (Richmond, CA)
How likely is it that William Gholston wins Big Ten DPOY and then goes and then leaves early Jerel Worthy?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Could easily see it. If he plays up to his potential, Gholston is as good as any defender in college football. He could be a high first-round pick who'd almost have to go pro in that case.
Last year vs MSU was Miller's first start and he wasn't much more than a deer in headlights. After some invaluable experience, and an offensive system that plays to his talents, he should be much more prepared for the B1G opener this year. However, these unit rankings you and Adam have been doing remind us all that MSU and OSU seem to have two of the best defenses in college football this year as well as significant questions on offense. Can you give us some reasons to hope this doesn't end up like last year's game in the Shoe?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
I was at that game, and it was pretty ugly. But the weather was also bad, and Ohio State's offense was completely inept at that point. Mark Dantonio knew he didn't have to take many chances offensively. I'd expect it to still be a defensive-dominated game but think we'll definitely see more points.
Vishnu Ganesh (Knoxville, TN)
Dearest Mr. Brain.Do you realistically seen any B1G squad running the table this season? If so, who would you think has the best chance?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I don't think any team finishes with fewer than two losses, because the league is that balanced. But the team with the best chance is Wisconsin: manageable non-con schedule, and one really, really tough road game, right off the bat at Nebraska. Other than that, toughest road tests are at Purdue and Penn State. And we know how good the Badgers are at home.
What do you think about Meyer moving Stoneburner to WR? Smart move or necessary due to their lack of proven receivers?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I think it says something about how the other tight ends must be playing. Stoneburner is not a dominant run blocker but is a very good receiver, so it makes sense. He'll still be used like a tight end in a lot of ways.
The Like Ninja (Unknown)
More deserving of making a BCS bowl, an undefeated Toledo team (this year that would mean winning @Arizona, @NIU, @WMU, vs Cincy, and likely vs Ohio in the MAC CCG) or a 10-3 Illinois team (the 3rd loss being the CCG)?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
First things first: Deserve's got nothing to do with getting a BCS at-large bid. See: Virginia Tech in 2011. It's all about who the bowls think will be the best draw. That said, a MAC team has little chance to get an at-large bid. Nor would a three-loss Illinois team that lost in the CCG, because those type of teams almost never get invited. So, the answer is neither would go
Bobby K. (Bloomington)
Over and under on Indiana wins at 3?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
You nailed the right number. Right now, I'm going with 3-9. All depends on whether: A) IU can go at least 3-1 in the noncon and B) whether it can still a Big Ten win. I say yes to A and no to B
Dan, Indianapolis [via mobile]
Raheem Mostert emerged as a legit scoring threat last season returning kick-offs for the Boilermakers. Assumning that he'll see more time this year at the slot or even WR, will he have a similar impact on offense as he did on special teams?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I think he'll be a nice complementary player. Will be used a lot in slot and on screens. Wouldn't expect huge numbers but do think he can turn in some big plays.
Do you know where you'll be the first weekend yet?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Planning on being in East Lansing on Friday night.
Waz (Mendota, IL)
There hasn't been a ton of chatter about the Illini offense anywhere. The defense should be solid (if not excellent), but I'm VERY worried about the offense. What can I expect Brian?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
It's easily the key to Tim Beckman's first year. I'm skeptical that Illinois has enough playmakers at WR and RB. But if Josh Ferguson is as good as advertised and another couple of players like Donovonn Young and Darius Millines make the leap, it could be good enough to win, given the expected strength of the defense. Still don't see it as one being in the top half of Big Ten offenses this year, though.
Who is looking like PSU's starting WR's now that Brown is gone?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Had a post on that this morning. Kersey, Kenney and Allen Robinson getting some good reviews early on. Several other youngsters in the mix. Think this will have to be a situation where they really spread it around.
Tom (Waterloo, IA)
Who do you give the edge to for OL U in the Big Ten. Wisconsin or Iowa? Wisconsin seems to have had the edge lately, but it seems both schools always turn out high quality OL players. You could also say Iowa does very well on the DL side for players. But speaking on the OL, who do you give the edge to?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Interesting question. Both have been fantastic. I think I give the edge to Wisconsin for college production. Just a dominant, dominant run game. But Iowa seems to be better at making pro players. Great topic for debate.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Who in the Big Ten has an underrated defense in your opinion?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
You know what, I'd probably say Wisconsin. Very good numbers, but failures in key spots/big games color our overall impression of the Badgers' D
Loving the new rule that allows Northwestern to go bowling at 5-7 due to being number 1 in the APR. Will Northwestern be able to jump 6-6 teams if they go 5-7 or this rule in place in case there aren't enough 6-6 teams? Bowling should be easy for them. They always play an instate school which counts for one and then they need to win 4 the rest of the year which sounds easy
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
All the other 6-6 teams would have to be placed ahead of them, so basically it's like a last resort. 5-7 is certainly not a goal Northwestern should be aiming for this year.
Spread it around huh... sounds awfully familiar to an AFC east team..
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
My thoughts exactly.
Nttnypride (Harrisburg, PA)
Besides allowing players to transfer, NCAA sanctions against Penn State also allow players to quit the football team but stay on scholarship. Reserve tackle Luke Graham became I believe the 2nd player to exercise this option. Will these players still count against PSU's 65-scholarship limit?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
The 65-limit hasn't kicked in yet. Would imagine they can move him off scholarship next year or count him in a different way, but I'd have to check on that one and get back to you.
Fantasty Fanatic (Home)
You and adam planning on mixing it up again, a suggestion have all the bloggers in one league but they must only use players from their conference
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
The other bloggers are too afraid to take us on. Especially the SEC guys.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, that's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and I'll see you in this same time slot next week (one week closer to the season!)