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)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
I'm here for the next hour so throw some tight spirals with those questions.
Joe Bilardello (Ohio)
It is starting to appear that Ohio State is the best team in the B1G already. What do you see happening at the end of the season in each division. Will Ohio State win the Leaders division?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Not so fast, Joe. I agree Ohio State looks like the best team in the Leaders right now, but the Buckeyes defense isn't as strong as I expected, and somebody has to help Braxton Miller. OSU hasn't had to leave Columbus yet and must prove itself against the best team in the conference -- Michigan State -- on the road at the end of this month.
Brian (Wash DC)
Did Maxwell turn the corner a little bit this weekend vs CM or do we have to wait until after he faces Notre Dame to make further assessment? Will this be his biggest test yet?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Hard to read too much into a game against Central Michigan, but that should be a confidence booster for Andrew Maxwell. I didn't think he played as poorly as his Boise State stats suggested -- one of the interceptions was definitely not his fault -- but I have little doubt he will improve. Notre Dame's defense is pretty decent, so this will be a good test.
Luke (South Bend)
Indiana outright lead in leaders division...BOOYA
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Ha. Not really true, as Ohio State can win the division, technically. And standings don't matter until league play starts. But bully for the Hoosiers.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Does the axing of the offensive line coach signal panic in Madison after only two games?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Panic might be a little bit of a strong word but it's definitely a bold, surprising move. Bielema knows there's a tremendous opportunity this season to win the Leaders Division, a task that will only get more difficult next year when Ohio State is eligible. And the line simply wasn't performing. For whatever reason, Markuson wasn't meshing. Better to fix it now than wait. But he has to accept some blame for making a bad hire originally, and the book is still out on Matt Canada, too
Pavlov's Dog (Mother Russia)
Northwestern is for real! Are you ready to jump on the bandwagon? I am changing my prediction to 9-3 with a 7-0 start and their first bowl win. Buy in BB, buy in!
Brian: Any word if espn Gameday will be in East Lancing this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Sorry for the double posting of questions there. I like what I saw of Northwestern, particularly its defense, against Vandy. If the defense can keep that up, this team could be dangerous. I originally had the 'Cats at 6-6 but now think 7 or 8 is much more likely, provided they beat BC this weekend.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
And Corey, GameDay will be in Knoxville this weekend for Florida-Tennessee
Hey Brian - After Iowa's first 2 games, how much has the ceiling fallen on the offensive potential? I know there is no place to go but up, but how far up can I reasonably expect them to go?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Sheesh, one TD in two games, none at home against Iowa State. That's really bad. Haven't liked the play calling very much with its emphasis on short passes, but I'm not sure the receivers can get separation downfield. I still think this offense will improve -- it can't get much worse -- but you may be wistful for last year's attack this season.
Given Beliema found a way to lose 3 games last season with an NFL-ready QB and a vastly superior o-line, and he lost multiple key assistant coaches during the offseason, is it really that surprising UW has struggled early this season? What is a REALISTIC record for UW this season given what we have seen so far in 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
It's surprising that Wisconsin is only averaging 2.9 yards per rush. That's crazy. I picked the Badgers to go 9-3 and that didn't include Oregon State. I could see 8-4 or 7-5 now. But the rest of the league isn't exactly lighting the world on fire.
brian "The" Commeans (Columbus)
This weekend looked more like bowl season for the Big Ten. Do you forsee the Big Ten ever shaking its slovenly image or will it take 5 or 6 seasons of Urban and Brady dominating everybody else to wake up the rest of the league?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Brian (great name by the way), it's hard to figure out what the problem is. Big Ten teams have all the resources you could want, from money and facilities and TV exposure. The league produces lots of NFL players and has great coaches. So why can't it stop losing on big (or, like this weekend, medium) stages? Adam and I will discuss this in our podcast and try to figure it out. Getting OSU and Michigan back to the top will be huge, but I don't see how that helps other league teams.
Steve (Burlington, VT)
How can Michigan State's defense improve?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
The defense is awfully good and has yet to give up an offensive touchdown. But did you know the Spartans have only one sack this season? Michigan State is getting pressure but can do better in taking the QB down.
Brian: Any word if College Gameday is going to be in East Lancsing this weekend?
Should I be overly concerned about ND's game against Purdue, or was Purdue truly a quality opponent, albeit it one flying under the radar? Their D line sure looked good
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I think Purdue is a good team. The Boilers need some more explosive offensive playmakers, but they've got an excellent defensive front and are solid in a lot of areas. In fact, Purdue's loss might have been one of the Big Ten's best showings of the weekend.
Chad (Flint MI)
Hey Brian, big fan of your work. Ok enough buttering you up, here is my question. You guys seem to be down about Michigan, but am I wrong thinking we don't know that much yet about who they really are? First they played a very good Alabama team, and let's face it any big ten team would have lost to them. And then we played Air Firce with an offence we never see and a short week to get ready. Am I crazy for thinking the Big Ten title is not out reach? The only team at this point in our way besides ourselves I think would be MSU. Nebraska, Iowa don't look as difficult as games as they once did, Northwestern looks good but not good enough. Am I wearing maize colored glasses or does it still look like we are on track.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
You've seen this Big Ten, right? No way is it out of reach. I'm not really down on Michigan. I thought the Wolverines were overrated to start the year because of their depth and D-line issues, and hey, they're somewhat lucky not to be 0-2. Picked them to go 8-4. But I could very clearly see them winning the Legends Division. The defense needs to tighten up, the receivers and running backs have got to step up and they must avoid injuries. But Michigan is very much in the thick of things.
John Schmidt (Minneapolis)
Just what is Marqueis Gray's ceiling this season? Do you think he can be proficient and consistent enough in the passing game, along with his spectacular running and athletic ability, to lead the Golden Gophers back to a bowl game for the first time since 2009? I like the odds. What says you Mr. Bennett?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
We projected Minnesota to make a bowl in our latest bowl outlook on Sunday. The Syracuse game will be huge. I like the improvement Gray showed in Week 2 from Week 1, even against an overmatched opponent. He can be a 1,000-yard rusher and a 2,500 yard passer if he puts it all together. No reason Minnesota can't win at least two Big Ten games again
Big-ten bowl preformance (January 1st )
Over-under on me being ugly for the league again? 30-40% win percentage? I dont see these teams standing up to the best of the Big12 or SEC very well at all.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Yikes. Well, it is a long way from now until January. Matchups will be key. If the Big Ten gets another BCS at-large bid, that probably means a lot of league teams will be facing uphill battles in their bowls. Might help the reputation to sit this one out this year. I shudder to think about possible Rose Bowl matchups with Oregon or USC at this point after seeing Nebraska in that stadium on Saturday.
Max (Oklahoma )
Who is overrated now ?????? LOL I know OU is a little overrated BUT the most overrated in the country as you said ? Not even close . We also have an excuse . We have quite a few last minute new faces on both lines . as they get more reps they will improve greatly. The BIG10 is just always overrated and never more so than this year. Now have the guts to post this I dare you!
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Max is very excited about that win over Florida A&M by the Sooners. Look, I never said Oklahoma was a bad team, just that they were ridiculously overrated at No. 4 in the preseason. That has nothing to do with how the Big Ten plays.
With another disappointing out of conference loss and what looks to be a soft defense, is Bo on the hot seat in Lincoln?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
No, not yet. But this is a big year for him. Nebraska can't go 8-4 or 7-5 without him feeling some pressure. Even another 9-3 type year without a conference title will cause some unrest. But it's too early to say he's on the hot seat. Lot of season left, and he's won a lot of games.
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
So, obviously losing Tre isn't good for the Hoosiers, and we'll miss his play making this year, but am I crazy in thinking that Coffman will do just fine in his place? He and Tre were neck and neck throughout the off-season, and I think it's safe to say that he's more of the kind of the QB that Wilson helped develop at OU. At this point, I'm more worried about a lack of depth more than anything!
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Indiana fans in here today. I like it! I think Coffman will do a decent job and can be an accurate passer. The problem, I think, is Roberson brought the extra dimension as a runner that I don't think Coffman can match. IU could use that extra threat. I still think the key issue will be the defense, and Ball State will provide a challenge this week with a rushing attack that's averaging nearly 300 yards per game.
Sparty (East Lansing)
Will Notre Dame's strong front 7 expose our young QB next week? With these 2 great defenses I think the team making the fewest mistakes wins.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
It will be without a doubt the best front 7 Michigan Sate has faced yet. Remember Boise State had all new starters in the front 7. The good news is Michigan State is getting healthier on the O-line. Could be low scoring again
Mike Slive (Birmingham, AL)
Maybe it's time you guys stop picking B1G teams to win 9 out of 10 OOC games??
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Yep, we stunk on our picks. No doubt. I still feel like I should get at least half a point for the Penn State pick. Lions won that game in every area except the scoreboard.
Brian what should my expectations be for this husker team, 6-6 7-5. Only way I change my mind and see us getting to 9 wins is if UCLA ends up being that good and surprises everyone winning the Pac 12.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Justin, I was pretty impressed with UCLA and the athletes the Bruins had. They're a couple of injuries away from being in trouble, but the Bruins are clearly better. Nebraska is too good to be a 6-6 team, especially once Burkhead gets back. I still see it as an 8- or 9-win team in a down year for the league. Don't overreact to one loss.
Not impressed at all so far with PSU's new coaching staff. Yes, they have a TALL order but some very questionable decisions... a LB retuning kicks in game 1, moving Paul Jones to TE and having an 18 year old kid as your QB2, hiring Ted Roof who's scheme's have allowed opposing teams to convert 3rd downs at an alarming rate (66%) over the past 3 halves....What changes should I look for this week to give this team a much needed win?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
TK, I didn't love all the coaching decisions in Week 1. But I thought the staff did a pretty good job in Week 2. The defense dominated, and the offense should have scored a lot more points. Hard to blame a kicker's bad day on the coaches. This week, plain and simple, they've got to coach up against the option. The talent advantage should pay off vs. Navy as long as the defense stays disciplined.
I realize we are only two games into the season...but i have one really quick question for you. How awesome is Venric Mark? On a scale from 1-10?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Uh, 9.5? Mark is fun to watch. Not a big guy at all but takes hits and keeps on coming. Tougher than I realized.
Braxton Miller (Columbus, OH)
Will I become Urban Meye's second Heisman Trophy winner before I leave Columbus?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Predicting Heismans is tough because there are so many variables, but Miller has a great shot if he plays three more seasons. He's already in the conversation this year.
Brian, I understand that there were issues with Markuson, but the playcalling by Canada was just awful and I don't understand what he was thinking. Have you heard anything about what he was trying to do?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I haven't much liked the playcalling either, but what exactly are you going to do when A) your offensive line gets zero push and B) you have no dependable receivers once Abbrederis goes out? I'd like to see a little more creativity, for the Badgers to use James White and Jacob Pedersen more. But no doubt there are issues.
Brian, let's be real. A Heisman winner won't come from a team on sanctions so Miller isn't in the conversation right now.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Why would that matter? I don't think he wins it this year by any means, but if Ohio State is 12-0 and he has a huge year, why not? Voting is done before the bowls
Will Penn St win a game over the next 5-6 years??
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Shoot. Lions will win this week. Mark it down.
Zac (Athens )
How impressive was Devin Funchess(spelling?) early in that Air Force game? Kevin Kroger was always a solid blocker but not the most productive tight end receiving wise so having a freshman with his size and ability come in gives me great hope for that kids importance in this offense moving forward.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Yeah, who knew? I mean, we knew Funchess was talented, but to do that in the second game of his true freshman season? Very, very impressive. Future is incredibly bright.
So you have the hawks going to a bowl game? I only count 4 games that are not near guaranteed losses. After the last two weeks most of us would be shocked if this team even won 5 games.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
For now, yes. Nothing will come easy, but the Hawks should beat Northern Iowa and CMU. Minnesota and Penn State at home and Indiana on the road are highly winnable. I think this team will improve as the year goes on. How much? That's the key question
David (Chicago, IL)
Is Michigan-Michigan State still your most anticipated Big Ten game or has that been replaced with Ohio State-Michigan State?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Yep, especially after that Twitter incident last year. Venom will be at an all time high, and it might just decide the Big Ten title. Can't wait for Oct. 20.
Craig (Braintree MA)
Gophers running game -there is some improvement but they are a long way from Glen Mason days. (I admit they had very little passing game in those days). Will they be able to run in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I've been impressed with Donnell Kirkwood. Looks like a different player. And the O-line has been better. This won't be a Mason-esque running team but should do enough to keep defenses honest.
I am not trying to defend the Big 10 because it was bad but this weeka??s results really intrigue me on how the selection committee uses strength of schedule in the future. College football fans place great emphasis on the undefeated season and does not have the a??entire resumea?ý mentality of college basketball. The SEC had 8 non-conference games this week. Only two against teams from BCS conferences and they went 1-1 in those two games. And although the Big 10 was a miserable 1-6 against BCS teams at least they played 7 games against BCS conference teams. So I will be really intrigued about how SOS will be looked at in the future.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Alabama destroyed Michigan and LSU did the same to Washington. Elite SEC teams are at another level. But once you get past the top few, the SEC ain't all that great. You saw Arkansas, right? Still, the Big Ten can't worry about the SEC at this point. Keep playing good schedules (and remember, the only ranked opponent last week at the time was Notre Dame, so it wasn't murderer's row). Just win some.
Bo has a tendency to put his stars back on the field before they are 100%. What are the chances this happens with Sexy Rexy? Does he put him back in due to eligibility and dependability or does he let him wait out until full healing because of a more than reliable RB corp?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Pelini said today that Burkhead was rehabbing well and that it was originally thought to be a 10-to-20 day recovery. If so, the high end could put him back this weekend. But I wouldn't play him until the Wisconsin game. No reason to, and the running game will be fine the next two weeks while he gets completely healed.
Do you know how much of this Qb rotation is Hope's doing? Does Nord have any say whatsoever or is Hope just like an evil tsar who decided to put TerBush back in to start the 2nd half?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'm sure the coaching staff works together on the decision, and Hope has said TerBush was the clear No. 1 all throughout practice. Since all of Purdue's offseaosn practices were closed, we can only take his word for it. TerBush's numbers were almost equal to Marve's in the first half.
After the first two games being over with, do you expect NU to enter the top 25 this season? If so when do you predict them to. I think if they beat Boston College we can see them getting ranked after an Indiana win. If not the Indiana win then definitley a Penn state win. I also believe they are the biggest sleepers in the legends division. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
A 5-0 Northwestern team would almost certainly be ranked, even though some of the competition would be suspect. Think about this: With BC, South Dakota, Indiana, at Penn State and at Minnesota coming up, the Wildcats could be 7-0 heading into the home game against Nebraska, whom they beat last year.
Any word on when we'll hear more about Abbrederis's injury? I don't see any reason to play him until the Nebraska game.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Bielema said today that there was no structural damage and that Abbrederis could play this week. The issue is that he had a mild concussion. Don't sleep on Utah State. The Aggies just beat Utah, and the way Wisconsin has played thus far, anything is possible.
Which fanbase is more hostile after this weekend's disappointments?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I don't know about hostile, as losing tends to humble people. I'd say Nebraska and Wisconsin fans have to be the most disappointed. Both were dreaming of undefeated seasons but saw serious issues crop up on one side of the ball (defense for Big Red, offense for Bucky)
Is there really not like a 15 yard pass play in the Iowa Playbook? I feel like Ferentz is so afraid of interceptions that he would rather settle for little 2 yard passes and go three and out every series then take a chance on an interception. No running game, no speed at receiver, why not take a chance on some 10-15 yard pass plays to move the ball. If Vandenburg throws some interceptions, so what! Stanzi had like 100 ints and we went 10-2!
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
They got a few going on that final drive against Iowa State ... and then Vandenberg threw a bad interception. The passing game is simply not in sync, and some of that is on the receivers. I'd also like to see more balls thrown to Fiedorowicz.
With Belton out, and Day out for portions of the game with an injury, were you surprised that Akeel Lynch didn't make it into the game? Is he that far behind in the depth chart or are they not as willing to burn his redshirt? Also, didn't think twice burning Bench's.
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
A little surprised, but the coaches likely were concerned about ball security with a true freshman in a tight road game. Also, I thought Curtis Dukes played OK
How bad is the leader's division? How bad is the B1G in general right now? Is it Michigan State/Michigan/Nebraska's title to lose right now?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Leaders Division is wide smoking open. But I always thought the Legends Division was stronger and that the champ would come from there. Very confident of that now
Waffles (Rose Bowl)
Hi Brian. I was at the UCLA-Nebraska game. Very exciting, and best game I've seen so far. I think the B1G's troubles nationally comes from a lack of strength, not speed. We all know the ACC has the fastest league from the combines, but they are irrelevant. When I see great defenses from LSU and Bama, I'm not seeing the Flash on the field. I just see guys in the right position making strong tackles, preventing yards from being gained after contact. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Interesting take. Nebraska sure missed a whole lot of tackles, and it didn't get a great push with its front four. But that doesn't seem to be the issue with the Big Ten in general. I wonder where the elite skill players are outside of a few quarterbacks and running backs. The answer may lie somewhere in between.
BB, MSU feeling the pressure of being the bell cow for the conference?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
We'll see. This is obviously something new for Michigan State in being the hunted for the entire league, and the Spartans have a very tough schedule. It's that schedule, more than the pressure, that could do them in.
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
Does the B1G implode if IU makes it to the Conference Championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Would love to see it happen. Realistically, IU has a long way to go to truly compete and contend in the Big Ten
B1G Sean (Midwest)
Next year, B1G revenge in week 2...
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Let's hope. The league (and its bloggers) can't take too many more weeks like the one we just had.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week.