Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 Monday chat. I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Tim (Huntington Woods, MI)
After another disappointing showing, (Forgive them Bo!) in a rivalry game by the Wolverines, I'm convinced that Brady Hoke and his coaches are not the guys to turn this once proud program around. Our O line was mauled by State, the D is a joke. Losing I can take, but these kids are lost out there. My question is: Is it time to pull the plug on Hoke, or am I just too impatient?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
It is definitely not time to "pull the plug" on Hoke. He's only in his third year, has been to a BCS game already and still doesn't have a roster made up of veterans he recruited. Does Hoke still have a lot to prove as a head coach? Yes. Michigan's record away from home is spotty, and the lack of toughness -- particularly on the O-line -- is troublesome.
Mark, AZ [via mobile]
Scenario, michigan state beats ohio state in the championship. The spartans head to the rose bowl. Does ohio state get the big tens second bcs bid?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Yes, I believe so. Championship game losers have had a hard time historically getting BCS bids, but this would be an 12-1 Ohio State team with plenty of star power and a hungry fan base. Think it would be a no-brainer for somebody to take the Buckeyes as an at-large pick
Spartan In NJ (New Jersey)
So apparently a two loss team (Wisconsin) is better than a one loss team (Michigan State), or at least according to your power rankings. How is this even possible? Who has Wisconsin beaten in the Big Ten to warrant this?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
We've had Wisconsin ranked higher, so it was hard to switch that after Wisconsin beat Iowa by more points on the road than Michigan State did. You can say Wisconsin has two losses, but Arizona State and Ohio State are obviously two very good teams that the Badgers played on the road, and of course we know what happened in the ASU game. I'll say this: it's very, very close between Wisconsin and Michigan State. Not sure who I'd pick to win the game if the two played. And I wish that they did.
So am I way off base to think that Lewan should get a suspension? Everyone made a huge deal when Gholston essentially did the same thing. Lewan was caught on tape twisting a helmet, shoved a guy in the face.....
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Gholston was suspended for a punch, not a helmet twist. But Lewan's play was blatant and dangerous, and he apologized for it today. The Big Ten is looking into it.
If Minnesota should manage to put together a couple more upset wins this season, you'd have to consider a coach of the year bid for them, right? But in that event, who gets put up for the award, acting head coach Claeys or title head coach Kill? Can it/would it be co-awarded?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I was just thinking about this earlier today as I put together this week's award race tracker post. I think it would be Claeys at this point. He's been the acting head coach for the past four games, during which the Gophers have gone 3-1. But it's a really interesting case.
Joseph (Ann Arbor)
Brian:Please stop defending hoke. He gets paid millions of dollars to win football games. Year 3 is more than enough time, and please stop with recruits that "he recruited". His best players are from the Rich Rod era.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I don't think I was really defending him by saying he doesn't deserve to get fired in Year 3. I mean, come on, that's way too reactionary. You just said his best players are from a previous coach. So why doesn't he deserve the chance to put together his own roster of players, especially with such a big system change?
So it's pretty clear that most people perceive a separation between the top 3 and Ohio State. Do you agree with this? Do you think Ohio State can beat Alabama, Oregon and FSU or is the perception largely justified?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I was firmly in that camp until a couple of weeks ago. I now think Ohio State is really turning things up a notch (not great competition, I know). I think the Buckeyes could play with those teams, though I do think they're slightly behind them. But not by as much as the perception seems to be.
What is was the bigger reason for Indiana's loss on Saturday, the defensive performance or Kevin Wilson's play calling?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Even though I didn't like some of those calls, especially the nonsensical second two-point conversion try, it's still the defense. You give up 42 points at home, it's hard to win like that.
I am obviously a husker fan so my opinion may be biased here but I have watch almost every wisconsin game and in my opinion Ameer abdullah is better than Melvin Gordon. Just curious what running back you would rather have between these 2?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I'm incredibly impressed with Abdullah's heart and toughness. He seems to be doing everything he possibly can to will Nebraska to victory. You'll see a different order between those two backs in this week's award race tracker. Gordon, I think, has the more pure talent, and I'd still like to see what he could do with more consistent touches.
Danny Hope (Fishin' somewhere warm)
Just throwing this out there, but if anyone asks, I'm available.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Upset of the year may be that Danny Hope has come out of this season looking pretty good.
Is Northwestern the best five-loss team in the country?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Hmm ... maybe, but that's a title nobody wants. Just not the Wildcats' year, and injuries have had a lot to do with it.
How bad is that Iowa offense? Is the talent that bad? or are they no being used the there strenghs? Seems like are 2 main backs are straight ahead guys and they keep running strech/cutback plays. Against the Gophers we ran straight ahead.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
The running game is solid and the offensive line is very good at run blocking. There just is a complete lack of explosiveness, especially in the passing game. Hard to get away with that for long against the better teams in the league. It's frustrating to watch, because the Iowa defense is very good, too.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
I've come to the realization that Ohio State will be on the outside looking in if any combination of the current top 3 ranked teams are still undefeated at the end of the season. However, could you help all us Buckeye fans out by helping put an end to the "still in the BCS championship game hunt" talk about teams like Stanford and (a 2 loss!) LSU? You lose, you're out. seems like a simple approach.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I agree. I don't believe Ohio State will get jumped by any one-loss (and especially not two-loss) teams if it goes unbeaten. I just don't see how anyone can keep out an undefeated Big Ten champ with a 25-game winning streak over a one-loss team, even from the SEC. But expect a lot of controversy over the Buckeyes' schedule if that happens
Mike (PSU Class of 13) (NYC)
How impressive is Allen Robinson? Is there any Offensive skill player better than him in the Big Ten? Could you see him sneaking into the end of the 1st round of the NFL draft to a team with a need a WR say the 49ers?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
He's fantastic. Great size and good speed, comes up with the tough catches. He's a much better pro prospect, in my eyes, than A.J. Jenkins, who went in the first round.
Joseph (Ann Arbor)
Brian:How come Urban Meyer can turn a 7 loss team around in 1 season and yet Hoke still has excuses (recruits, different system)?Didn't Meyer change systems also?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
A fair question, although talent was never really an issue for the Buckeyes. They went 6-6 one year through a lot of turmoil, but the pieces were in place. Michigan struggled throughout the RichRod era by comparison. Different situations
is there any hope for the illini this year? Or is it time to just turn towards basketball and await the Wes Lunt debut next year?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Hope of ending the Big Ten losing streak? Yes. Purdue and Indiana are still on the schedule, and the Illini will win at least one of those. That's about all the hope there is left for 2013.
dan (san francisco)
your pics for the big championship game.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Michigan State and Ohio State, for sure. The Spartans are in great shape, and a win at Nebraska will just about wrap it up. That could be a fascinating matchup in Indy.
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
GO BIG RED... Go Big Red... What a finish... now that we have that out of our way. How does Nebraska fare against Michigan in the Big house and against MSU in Lincoln
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
A finish that just might have saved Pelini's job. Crazy. I'm still not bullish on the Big Red the rest of the way. They have a chance this week at Michigan because Michigan doesn't look great and has to be a bit beat up. But the Wolverines haven't lost at home under Brady Hoke. And I'd make Michigan State a big favorite, even in Lincoln. Nebraska's offense has some serious issues facing that D.
Scott (Toledo, Ohio)
Based on recruiting rankings Michigan should absolutely dominate MSU every single year. We all know reality has been quite the opposite (Michigan has been within 14 pts once in the last 6 years).Are recruiting rankings extremely flawed or does MSU develop players that much better than Michigan?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Yes and yes. Few teams have done as good a job scouting and developing players than Michigan State under Dantonio. He and his staff find the right kinds of guys for their system and turn them into stars. It's quite fair to question why that same development doesn't seem to be happening -- yet -- at Michigan.
wil (salem, oregon)
If Michigan State plays Ohio State close but loses, any chance they could go to the Fiesta Bowl vs. Baylor? I would love to see that defense against a spread frenetic offense like they have
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I think it's doubtful. Michigan State would have two losses and possibly no wins against ranked teams, and the Spartans would be on the outer fringe of the BCS Top 14 if they even qualified. And Michigan State is not as attractive a name as Ohio State. (Sorry, just true). I'd love to see that happen, too, though I'm not sure Pat Narduzzi would
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is a bowl game now out of the question for the Wildcats after such a devastating loss in Lincoln?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Not out of the question. Northwestern should beat Illinois, assuming it has enough healthy players to field a team in the season finale. So it would only have to win one other game. The other two are at home, vs. Michigan and Michigan State. Neither will be easy, but the Wolverines are certainly very beatable away from the Big House, as we've seen.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Was Saturday an indication of how the Gophers are dealing with success?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Well, I would have answered that more confidently if the Gophers hadn't blown a 35-13 lead before winning. At least they certainly didn't overlook Indiana, as they came out strong. Big game this week at home against Penn State, one Minnesota can definitely win to get to 8-2.
I do not understand the Hoke bashing. He adapted to Denard to win a BCS in his first year. Struggled in year 2 against a brutal schedule and Denard getting injured. This year has been a struggle so far but Hoke's recruits are either sophomores/freshman or redshirt freshman. Give him some time to actually develop his guys and then pass judgement.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Agree, especially when it comes to linemen. Those guys usually need two or three years to develop, and they're a big part of what Hoke wants to do. Is it fair to question why players haven't developed as quickly as hoped, or for the struggles this year against teams Michigan should have handled? Absolutely. But not panic time, either
Tracy Claeys (Dinkytown)
Yo Brian, I saw Rittenberg said the Gophers were 'lucky' to beat Indiana and that the Hoosiers screwed up. Well, great Defense causes mistakes. On that last play I dialed up a CB blitz (also blitzed from short side of field). Considering the short field, I knew Indiana would try to go lateral and I planned my blitz accordingly. Sudfield was caught off guard and that's what forced the bad pass. That's not luck, it's great defense.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Indiana OC Seth Littrell said that Minnesota "bluffed" him into that swing pass call, so you've got a point there. I also really didn't like the call. Either throw it in the end zone, or kick the FG to get into overtime. Do not under any circumstances throw a backward pass. Nice call by the Minnesota staff, but at the same time it's hard to argue that Indiana didn't screw that up royally.
Winnie the Pooh (100 Acre Wood)
I love lamp.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Do you really love the lamp, or are you just saying it because you saw it?
Mike (Rochester, Minn)
I know it's only a weekly "Power Rankings" but why is Nebraska ahead of Minnesota? Minnesota beat Nebraska one week ago and beat NW in Evanston two weeks ago while Nebraska needed a hail mary pass to beat NW at home in Lincoln coming off their loss at Minnesota a week ago.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
It was a tough call, and one we wrestled with. We're probably not giving Minnesota enough credit. We will look at that again this week, and Nebraska should tell us whether it deserves to be in the top 5 or 6 after going to Michigan
Matthew (Zionsville, IN)
2012 Illinois vs. 2013 Purdue. Who loses - aside from the 5 people that would pay to watch that disaster.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Please tell me I don't have to cover it. I think this Purdue team right now is worse. The Boilers can't seem to do much of anything. Predicted final score: 3-2
Jim (Class of 14)
What are the odds PSU can finish 8-4. All their games remaining are tough besides Purdue but they've shown they can win tough grind em out games. Do you think PSU has the grit and talent to pull out 3 wins in the last 4 games?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
This week's a big one. I have no doubt Penn State will beat Purdue. I also don't think the Lions have a great chance at Wisconsin in the finale. Nebraska at home on senior day will be emotional and Penn State plays so much better at home. So it comes down to whether the Lions can win at Minnesota to have a chance at 8-4. I'm leaning toward 7-5.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Make some enemies Brian. Let's say Wisconsin and MSU were meeting at Indy this Saturday. Who do you like (score please) and why?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'd give a slight edge to Michigan State. That defense is playing so well right now. And Wisconsin is a little banged up. That might make the ever-so-slight difference. Would be a whale of a game, though.
Matt (New Albany)
We all know Indiana's defense is one of the worst in the country. Who should they get as a defensive coordinator if Doug Mallory isn't back after this year? Isn't that the quickest fix for a defense that's ranked 10th (2009), 10th (2010), 12th (2011), 12th (2012), and so far 10th in the conference this year?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head, that the defense has been bad for a long time. Not sure any D coordinator could come in and fix it overnight, as there's obviously some talent issues at play there as well. But I don't disagree that IU ought to consider trying something different, because what they've done isn't working
I think you may be underrating Nebraska at home a bit for the MSU game. Recall the last game in Lincoln between the teams - MSU's offense was significantly better then and they were completely shut down. MSU's defense is outstanding this year, but I expect a showdown, 4-quarter, tight game in Lincoln.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Yes, but Nebraska has some problems right now. And this Huskers offense is nowhere near as good as that one with all the injuries. Going to have a hard time scoring on the Spartans.
If Stanford wins on Thursday night, will they jump OSU in the BCS?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
We'll be watching that closely, and arguing that it shouldn't happen if it does. I think Ohio State is safe, but you never know. And I also expect Oregon to win.
When is O'brien and the rest of the coaching staff (specifically) John Butler going to stop receiving a 'free pass' for their poor coaching/decisions just because of the sanctions? Even though the sanctions are unheard of, Kiffen for example did not get this pass. The defense and play calling/selections of starters (specifically Lynch) has been poor this year.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
These sanctions are even worse than what USC got, and USC was starting out at a higher level. Also, Penn State did just win on Saturday, right? It's not going to be easy for a couple of years, unfortunately. And why the call for Lynch in a game when Belton ran for more than 200 yards? I don't get it.
I think Dan in Omaha is forgetting about Nebraska's ability to make an offense much, much better than it normally is...
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
And there is that. Nebraska did come up with a great second half defensively against Northwestern. But MSU is starting to build some confidence with its offense.
Scottie (U Dub Dub)
I understand MSU has a elite defense and all but i feel like what Wisconsin has been doing on defense this year has been way overshadowed by MSU. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
That's a good point. Wisconsin has been very good defensively most of the year. Of course, people remember the ASU and Ohio State point totals, which are more than anything MSU has given up this year. But Wisconsin did not allow a TD at Iowa without Borland, which was pretty impressive.
You and Adam always seem to bring up Wisconsin getting hurt by the refs in their ASU game, but why don't you bring up the bogus PI calls against MSU in their only loss?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
We have mentioned those calls, of course. But they're not the same thing. Those are judgment calls by officials and they can happen. And it didn't rob Michigan State of a chance for a game-winning play. Wisconsin got robbed by pure incompetence in the final seconds.
Remember when you thought Northwestern was going to be good? LOL. This is why no one should pay any attention to your weekly rankings.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Northwestern was good at one point. That Ohio State game was not a mirage. I saw it. Injuries have taken a toll, and the team has not responded well to adversity. Things change, my friend.
Matt (St. Paul)
Jerry Kill on several occasions has said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" when it comes to coming back to the sideline. If the Gophers keep winning, do you see a point where he actually comes back this season?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
A lot depends on his health, but coaches are pretty superstitious. I doubt they'd change anything if they kept winning.
Justin (Palm Beach, FL)
Brian: Is it possible that OSU has the two best QB's in the conference this year?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Yes. Yes it is. Especially in a year when not a lot of other league QBs have distinguished themselves.
JL (Warrenton, VA)
Do you expect Nebraska to go 0-for-Michigan in the next 2 weeks?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
That is my expectation. But I also do not know what to expect from Michigan, either.
Have you guys heard why Michigan's freshman RB Green, isn't getting more playing time. Number 1 recruit and Fitz isn't that great.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Offensive line can't block. Wouldn't matter if Michigan had Barry Sanders. (Well, OK, it might matter a little).
Eric (Los Angeles)
Is this Michigan State defense the single best unit you've seen in the Big Ten in 16 years? I can't remember a single unit being ranked nationally #1 from the big ten since Maybe the 97' UofM defense. Maybe the OSU national championship defense a while back?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Going to try and look into that. Dantonio has said this reminds him of that Ohio State defense (and he should know). Probably best comparison right now, but there is another month of the season left.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for the great questions as always, and enjoy another great week of football.