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 (3:01 PM)
I'm sure you'll want to talk about this story: http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/70464/b1g-ads-weigh-number-of-league-games.Fire away with any questions you have.
Carlos Hyde looked like the best back in the B10 down the stretch last season. How would you rank him amongst the top RBs heading into the 2013 season?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
He's right there in the conversation about the best in 2013, along with Ameer Abdullah and Venric Mark. Melvin Gordon is a name to watch. It will be interesting to see if Hyde gets the same number of carries with Jordan Hall back and some other young backs at Ohio State coming up.
K (North Carolina)
Does a highly ranked recruiting class really matter? I'm super excited for my Wolverines and their awesome 2013 class, but all the Debbie Downers on the blog are all, "JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY CHOKE LIKE THEY DO EVERY YEAR," and it's harshing my buzz.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Does it matter? Well, there are countless stories of hyped recruits not panning out and under-the-radar guys turning into star players. It guarantees nothing. But all things being equal, I'd rather have a star-studded recruiting class than the other option.
Doug G (san antonio)
Brian-I do believe my Badgers could be sneaky good next season. Who gets the nod at qb? We have 3 guys that have all started games, as well as heralded recruit Bart Houston. Personally, I lean towards Joel Stave. Thanks
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
It should be an open competition, especially with a new coaching staff. I think it will come down to Stave vs. Phillips. Stave showed the better arm in 2012, but Phillips could improve in that aspect as he gets farther away from his last knee surgery. Phillips also is very respected within the team. I think it will be a great battle.
Tim (Columbus, Ohio)
It seems pretty much like a forgone conclusion that we're headed towards four 16-20 team superconferences. My question is, shouldn't there be uniformity in how each conference goes about their in-conference scheduling (how many games), championship game, etc. There will be much more clarity that way then how it's been before, especially with some conferences not having a conference title game (Big Ten before 2011). It's a new day in age for college football, and I expect it to barely resemble the "good ole days" (before 2013)
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Uniformity in college football? Perish the thought. While that would make the national title picture easier to sort out, remember that this is still a sport ruled by little fiefdoms, not one greater entity. But the differences makes things interesting -- and give us lots to debate.
Rob (Morristown, NJ)
It seems everyone overlooks the Killer Z, Zack Zwinak at Penn State when talking about the best RBs in the B1G, what didn't he do this year that makes him not worthy of being mentioned amongst the Carlos Hydes and Ameer Abduallahs?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I'd put him right on that second tier, along with Mark Weisman and Stephen Houston. Zwinak was great down the stretch for the Lions, no doubt.
Does Derrick Green commitment change your outlook for Mich next year? Seems like he'll be able to contribute right away
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Only a little bit. Green was a great pickup for Michigan, but will he be great as a true freshman? There's no telling. Unquestionably, the Wolverines need help at running back, so that's good. But for me, Taylor Lewan's return was the bigger reason to upgrade Michigan's '13 outlook.
RIP Stan the Man. Re conference expansion, would UNC be able to leave the ACC thereby jeopardizing NC St's fortunes? I remember similar situations with Texas/Texas Tech/A&M and OU/OSU where local politicians became involved and put pressure on state-funded schools not to leave behind other state funded schools.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
There was no one like Stan the Man. As for UNC, it's purely hypothetical right now. No real way to know unless the Tar Heels start contemplating such a move. I think the bigger issue may be separating them from their rivalry with Duke. NC State is definitely the third fiddle on Tobacco Road.
Frank- Frozen Tundra Minot ND [via mobile]
Brian, I am a pretty optimistic guy and I believe that Nebraska will have a great offense next year. Question is, will our young defense full of go getters step up to the plate and bring us an undefeated regular season? I say yes
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I admire your optimism. While Nebraska has some athletic young players on defense, they are very young and weren't good enough to beat out the starters last year. But as I've said, the Huskers' defense need merely be competent for the team to win the Big Ten because of that offensive firepower. And the schedule sets up pretty well. We can't talk about an undefeated season yet for a team that gives away too many turnovers and has failed to show up defensively for huge games away from home.
Brian,Is it a make or break year for Tim Beckman? I realize that he inherited a difficult situation in year one but the Illini were a disaster from start to finish. Does an encore of last year's performance send him packing?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I would say two years is too soon to judge a coach, but the timetable has sped up in college sports. Mike Thomas hired Beckman and will want to give him every opportunity to succeed. But if we see another season as bad as 2012, I'm not sure Beckman can survive that. The stadium would be empty and donations would dry up. Schools can't afford those types of things.
Would Cincinnati have been admitted to the Big Ten if it had AAU status 10-20 years ago? Also, why isn't the Big Ten looking into adding Colorado or any other Pac-12 AAU members?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Cincinnati doesn't really add a new market or new demographics to the league. So no. And the Pac-12 teams are making a ton of dough. They have no reason to leave.
Confused in the (Great Lakes)
Whom am I? My team losses it's most dangerous threat on offense but returns the core of its defense. Has a stable coaching staff and good youth pushing to get on the field. Won a little more than half its games last year and had inconsistent play at the QB position. So if I told this was Michigan, I'm a favorite for divisoin champ...And if I told you I was MSU, I'm a dark horse....Explain?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Easy: Michigan wasn't brutally bad on offense like Michigan State was, and the Spartans lose their only consistent weapon (Le'Veon Bell) and their best passing target (Dion Sims). I still think MSU will be greatly improved in '13, but that offense was so bad last year that it makes you pause.
Herky44 (Iowa City)
DO you think the hawkeyes will get all of the WR's they are going after? Trying to get seven in this class. Greg Davis must be desperate.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I'm not sure seven is enough. WR was a huge problem for Iowa last year, which totally lacked speed and playmaking skills for Davis' horizontal passing game. If a WR recruit wants immediate playing time, he could do a lot worse than going to Iowa.
Rick (Adel, Ga.)
I think the B1G should just finish expansion before switching teams around (go ahead and change names to the divisions obviously). I would like to see Maryland put in the Leaders, and Rutgers put in Legends. At least until they know who else they are going to add. If they put Michigan in the Leaders division in 2014 then what happens when they add a few more ACC foes? They probably will put Michigan back in the Legends. I just got use to knowing what division everyone plays in! Sorry, had to vent.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I hear what you're saying. But the ADs we talked to said they won't consider any possible future expansion when trying to decide all this stuff. It's entirely possible that nothing happens for a few years. I also think that, if you're going to bring in two East Coast teams, then you should group them together with Penn State.
Jeff (Between here and there, aka Central MO)
Brian- I feel like I'm back in SoCal, wearing shorts and have the windows open, how's the weather in the 'Ville? What are your thoughts about the 2 commitments that Anderson has been able to get to come to Mad Town? Also, since I now live in Central MO, do I root for the Cards or the Royals?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
It's 55 today and will be mid-60s tmrw, but then the temps will crater. Some interesting commitments from Andersen -- one a Massachusetts corner and the other a California DB. Not exactly traditional Wisconsin recruiting grounds. His staff could open up some new areas, particularly out West. Oh, and root for the Cardinals. That's not even a question. Baseball heaven.
It's been commented by some that Hoke is recruiting for Michigan to win the B1G and Rose Bowl, while Meyer is recruiting for Ohio State to compete with the SEC and win a BCS Title. What say you?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I think that's overblown. The Derrick Green commitment should put a lot of that to rest.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Surprised no one has weighed in yet on the possibility of nine or 10 league games. Interested in your thoughts on that.
Maybe you'll answer my question, Brian! Who are your current picks for teams in the B1G Championship Game in 2013, and who makes it to the Rose Bowl from there?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Anytime, Zooey. Just don't tell my wife. Anyway, if I'm picking today, I'll take Ohio State and Nebraska. That's subject to change before the season kicks off.
With Maxwell, Cook, O'Connor and now Damien Terry coming in, what are the chances someone transfers out of East Lansing(obviously not Terrry)?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
I highly doubt it would be Maxwell, who's a fifth-year senior, unless he was told in no uncertain terms he won't start. A guy like O'Connor could be a transfer candidate if he falls down the depth chart.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
You and Adam are good with your line that Coach Kill has been successful in his third year with two prior teams. Have you researched what was the common theme of those third years teams? Did Kill's staff recruit well, did the consistency of the staff allow the team to learn the system, did the weight program do it's job, ...
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
It's all of those things. Kill started getting his types of players, got his system implemented, had the same staff, etc. I will say that it seems a little easier to get a mid-major program going in three years than in a power league like the Big Ten. But there should definitely be improvement in Year 3 for the Gophers.
I get why PSU wants to add Central Florida to their schedule, but why drop a home game with Virginia? VA is a key recruiting area for PSU, and this should be a win...
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but Penn State hasn't confirmed that or told us what other moves are coming. So I'll reserve judgment until everything is finalized. A return trip to UCF will be pretty good for PSU fans and players, while O'Brien has close ties to O'Leary.
Nick (Upland, CA)
Would a 10 game conf. schedule eliminate marquee non-conf. games because of the need to get the remainder as home games? How would that affect strength of schedule for playoff selections
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
That is the biggest issue, in my view. Lots of teams need seven home games to make their budget, so that eliminates the possibility of home-and-home series against good teams. The question is whether added inventory of conference games makes the TV contract so valuable that teams can overcome the loss of a home game. Still, 10 seems a little too radical right now.
Steven (Aurora, IL)
Im in favor of a 9 or 10 game league schedule. As an Ohio St. fan, I would prefer to see them play teams that are relevant. Even if B1G teams are down, at least we still have rivalries or meaningful pasts. Much rather see those games than UAB. Do you think that is enough to offset the loss of a home game though? I dont know...
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
More conference games is mostly a good thing, I think. The one thing I wouldn't want to lose are the fun intersectional games, like the ones Ohio State has scheduled coming up with Texas, Oregon, TCU. Those appear much more feasible with a 9-game sked than a 10-game one.
Darth Revan (A galaxy far, far away...)
While I wasn't too shocked with most of Gordon Gee's comments about (possible) B1G expansion, the bit alluding to universities in the "Midwest"definitely suprised me. Notre Dame is obvious, but who past that? Is the Big 12's GOR not as iron-clad as previously thought?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I agree that the Midwest comment was surprising. Everything we've heard and assumed was that the Big Ten would look east and south. The Big 12 grant-of-rights certainly seems pretty ironclad. And going by AAU status, Kansas is one of the few realistic Midwest options, assuming (as we must) that ND is not realistically in the mix.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
How much would a 10 game conference schedule hurt the conference in terms of getting teams bowl eligble? If I am Indiana or Minn I want to get my 4-0 or 3-1 non conference record and hope for 3 wins in conference. Also, beating up on eachother in conference and adding more losses to a team can not be good for rankings in the top 25. (This years big ten bball could be an example of that)
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
That's a great point. If you're a team like IU or Minnesota, you could schedule two nonconference cupcakes. But then you'd still have to go at least 4-6 in conference, which would not be easy at all. I would imagine those schools would not be in favor of a 10-game schedule.
Jeff (Between here and there, aka Central MO)
With you wanting to know our questions about 9/10 conference games, here's mine. Obviously, the Strength of Schedule goes up. (unless you play IU and Illinois), then it's a wash, but, besides additional revenue for the athletic departments, what additional benefits do you see?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Well, the best thing about Big Ten football, in my view, is the traditional rivalries between league members. Playing each other more is a great thing. Let's face it: most of the schools' nonconference opponents are not that interesting. And with 14 teams, playing more league games means avoiding gaps where schools don't play each other for years.
Adam revealed in the last chat that 4 teams go 0 for the top 25 list. Can you say which ones they are?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I'm pretty sure it's only three: Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The I's do not have it this year.
Brian, love the parks and rec. references, makes me laugh everytime :). It seems like any time someone brings up VT as a B1G expansion candidate it seems like its dismissed because the SEC is potetnially looking at them, but I say all the more reason to go after them if nothing else than to stand up to them good ol' southern boys plus the obvious reasons why VT would be a great candidate; can you really not see the B1G going after them at all?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Virginia Tech is not an AAU member. That's why.
Eric (chambersburg) [via mobile]
If Hackenburg does in fact sign with penn state, do you believe BOB will redshirt him? Also, do you believe Breneman would redshirt since there are many returning tight ends and he is coming off a significant injury?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
In talking to Josh Moyer last week on our podcast, it sure seems like Hackenberg will redshirt. The lone knock on him is that he didn't play in a complicated offense in high school, so O'Brien would love to give him a year to learn the system. Plans can easily change in a hurry, however.
Rob (Morristown, NJ)
I'm not sure which AD brought it up recently, but I like the idea that all the teams in the Legends would play 5 away games one year and 5 home games the next, if it were a 9 game conference schedule, this would make it more fair for divisional races dont you think?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
That was Northwestern's Jim Phillips, and I think that's a pretty good idea. I also like the idea of four home, four road and one neutral in theory but think it's probably too hard to implement. Either way, the league should try hard to keep things as balanced as possible if it goes to 9 games, which is where I think this is headed.
I'm kinda of big deal (AAU Member)
Can you explain to the group, why I'm so important? Since I have zero to do with athletics....
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Remember, ultimately it's the school presidents making the call on expansion, so academic prestige is very important to them. And more so than in any other major league, the Big Ten takes its academic collaboration very seriously.
With the recent 12-0 OSU season. How many coaches do you see getting head coaching jobs and other coaches getting OC or DC jobs. Iam asking cause urban only askes for a 2 years
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I could definitely see Fickell and Herman get offered head coaching jobs. Other assistants will have opportunities to move up. Happens everywhere when a team has success.
Max (Grosse Pointe Farms)
We constantly read about OSU's schedule on the blog. How come the upcoming MSU schedule never gets a mention. Home and home with Bama, Oregon, Miami, Boise and a continuation of the series with N.D. These games were all scheduled before OSU decided to upgrade.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
It's true, Michigan State has scheduled very ambitiously and deserves praise for that. We probably point to OSU because the Buckeyes are seen as a national title contender. The Spartans have a ways to go yet to get there.
If we want to discuss the value of markets then why was Nebraska accepted then? They have a small state pop (2 million) and their program isn't exactly in the Tom Osbourne days anymore either.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Because Nebraska brought in a huge brand in football, great tradition and an enormous fan base. There are no home run additions like that left out there to reasonably pursue.
Does Purdue have the best shot at beating the Buckeyes this year... they seem to have some magic fairy dust whenever they play OSU
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Purdue definitely has given the Buckeyes trouble in recent years, and now they have Jim Bollman, so ... On paper, OSU's hardest road games look to be at Northwestern and at Michigan
Matt (Ann Arbor)
Has anything been mentioned with the schedule changes about having conference games earlier in the season? Week 1 or 2?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I asked several ADs that. Many told me that with 9 or 10 conference games, you'll likely see that happen. League teams are able to do that now if they want to, but no one has taken the plunge yet. I'd like to see it, more for Week 2 than in Week 1 when teams are still finding their footing.
brian, shot out of a cannon. you're a university president with offers to join the b1g, sec, big 12 and pac 12...which do you pick?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Call me crazy, but I'd take geography into account. I'd want to be where I fit most naturally. Financially speaking, the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are in the best shape. The rest comes down to culture and fit.
chris (east lansing)
Okay, so every year I hear that my spartan's offensive line is supposed to be better than last years and every year, two injuries later, they are disappointing. Do you think the injury plague is coincidence or a symptom of a greater problem and do you think 2013 is the year the unit finally comes together or are we going to have another year of 2-4 yard run plays?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I hear you there, Chris. I really thought the line would be good in 2012, and even though there were injury problems, the depth was supposed to keep that from wrecking things. But it didn't. There may be some other issues at play, and it seems that MSU hasn't recruited as well on the O-line as it has on defense.
With McGloin gone, an inexperienced QB stepping in and a few good runners returning, have you sensed any urgency on PSU's part to get more interesting in the running game? While they ran well in 2012, it was a pretty straight forward approach.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Yeah, I think you could see an increased focus on the running game, and the Lions will hope Bill Belton lives up to his potential and Akeel Lynch provides some speed in addition to Zwinak. The O'Brien offense is heavily based on the passing game and using those tight ends, but with a new starting QB, we could see an early lean toward the running game.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for the great questions and input. Have an outstanding week.