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)
Good afternoon, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with all your best Big Ten questions.
Sid Schwrtz (Chicago)
Hi Brian. How much rope does Brady Hoke get? Does he survive a 6-6 season AND a real bad 30+ point loss to OSU?
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
I don't see any scenario, barring some unforeseen scandal, where Brady Hoke is not the coach at Michigan next year. If nothing else, recruiting success provides hope for the future.
Nick (Farmington Hills, MI)
Do you think that the progression of the MSU Offense and the dominance of their defense makes it less likely that they run into a trap game rather than a team that is more polished and have faced less diversity?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
I wouldn't really worry about trap games now. There are only three games to go, and the Spartans know they control their destiny. I guess you could call next week's game at Northwestern a semi-trap game, but to me, those usually come earlier in the season.
James W (WI)
Brain, Love the blog.What's the deal? What does Wisconsin have to do to get some respect in the polls? The computers still hate them, despite both their losses coming against excellent teams. But now the computers think more of them then the human polls. I don't get it.And do you have any idea what your ACC counterparts are seeing that cause them to be the only 2 people to have Wisconsin outside of the top 20 in ESPN's power rankings?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Can't speak for our ACC friends, but it's clear that Wisconsin just isn't gaining much traction nationally. A lack of good wins is a big culprit; last week's win over BYU is better than people realize, but by beating the Cougars they also lowered BYU's profile. The Arizona State loss remains a huge albatross, and it's highly unfair.
Brian, what are your thoughts on the atrocious UM offense over the last 2 weeks and is it as clear to the outside world as it is to those of us that support UM that a change needs to be made at the OC and OL caching positions?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Things are really bad. And if you want to blame the youth on the offensive line, then explain why Michigan was so bad running the ball last year with a veteran group. I don't know if staff changes are in order, but if nothing else a philosophical change is. This team should be lining up in the shotgun and throwing quick passes. The running game simply will not work.
So Brian if Ohio State goes into the Michigan game 11-0 and Urban has the opportunity to run up the score does he? or does he pull a Wisconsin in the 2nd half and run the ball every down in the 2nd half and let Michgan get back in the game? I hope he's pulls a Woody and goes for 2 because they wont let him go for 3.....
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I think Meyer and the Buckeyes understand they need some style points. Not because it will matter if Alabama and Florida State don't lose but because Baylor and Stanford are breathing down the Buckeyes' necks. But I would also expect Michigan to give it everything it has in that game. Not just the rivalry, but it will be the biggest thing the Wolverines have left to play for.
Jordan (Chicago, IL)
Enjoy the blog, I swear I refresh it 10 times a day. As with everyone else in the country, I'm completely surprised at Minnesota's 8-2 start and the great position the Gopher coaching staff has put it's players in. Any other coach in the country that would take Minnesota to this level would be the hottest name for any elite level job (think Lou Holtz to Notre Dame). However, I have to think most major programs would avoid him because of his ongoing health concerns. My question is - do you think Jerry Kill ends his career at Minnesota? Taking a look at your crystal ball, how many years is he with the Gophers?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I'd never predict any coach ending his career with one team because that's not how college football usually goes anymore. But I also don't think switching jobs is even a thought in Kill's mind. The health issue is of course a major factor. And this is the first time he's been at a major program. He hasn't even built everything he wants there at Minnesota. Kill is not going anywhere for a while unless his health forces him to move into a permanent non-coaching role
Brian, would it surprise you at all if Nebraska won the next three games....or lost the next three games?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
No, not really. Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa are all probably toss-ups. Nebraska should be the underdog this week and a heavy favorite next week, but you never know. And with a banged-up offense, it's harder to predict what you're going to get from the Huskers right now, though I admire the heart and toughness they've shown the past two games.
Mike (Salem, OH)
I would have to say Wisconsin's 3 straight losses in the Rose Bowl are probably the reason they aren't getting much respect. The nation has seen this movie before.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
If so, that's pretty unfair. For one, this is a different team. And it's not like any of those Rose Bowls were one-sided. Wisconsin was in all three games right to the end against teams that finished ranked in the top five. Why should the '13 Badgers be punished for that?
Now that Jordan Canzeri (finally) got his chance to shine, do you see the Hawkeyes still spreading carries among 3-4 backs?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
It's clear to me that Weisman is not entirely healthy, so Canzeri will likely see a bigger role. I'd also caution that his big performance, while great to see, came against Purdue.
Drew (New York)
I understand the love for Minnesota. But lets be real, can they really compete with Wisconsin? Don't think the game is close...
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
It's a great question. I do think Minnesota has gotten much better in the trenches, and its defense is very underrated. And the Gophers get an extra week to prepare. I think they'll have trouble with Wisconsin's offensive line, as most teams do. But I don't rule out an upset. Can't wait to find out.
Any announcement yet for start times for week 13 action?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Only game that has been set is Illinois-Purdue, which is at noon ET (and probably should be played at 6 am). All other start times for Week 13 will be decided after Saturday's action is done.
Heath (Sioux Falls, SD)
Hey, Brian! I'm pretty excited about Nebraska's last two wins. Do you think Bo sticks with what's working at QB, or does he start Taylor again when he's 100%? It was obvious he wasn't ready during the Minnesota game, but do agree with a lot of Husker talk that this team is playing with more passion with Tommy and Ron at the wheel?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I'd frankly be surprised if Martinez starts again. Maybe in the bowl game, I suppose. But he's dealing with a lot of injuries, and the Armstrong/Kellogg thing is working right now.
Mike (Salem, OH)
Doesn't Alabama get rewarded for winning national titles 3 of the last 4 years even though it is different players? Doesn't Ohio State & Oklahoma still get looked down on by much of the nation based on their BCS title game losses? The same principle applies to Wisconsin.It's college football.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Yes, but losing very close games to Top 5 teams is no reason to be degraded, in my opinion.
What will it take for you to put MSU ahead of Wisconsin? They have player really great since ND and there one loss was questionable also because of the PI calls.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I mean it's close. I have Wisconsin 13 and MSU 17th right now. Neither has a truly great win. MSU's loss was worse, and Wisconsin beat Iowa by more than MSU. So, again, it's very close. A win at Nebraska might cause me to flip-flop the two, because the Spartans' resume would then be a little bit better.
fact or fiction questions. Is miller the starting QB next year? And is tom herman the OC next season at ohio state?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Fact on Miller. Don't think he's quite ready for the NFL. Fiction on Herman. I predict he'll be a head coach somewhere next season.
Brian, Minnesota's story this year is pretty uplifting. First time they won four consecutive B1G games in 40 years. That being said, as a Buckeye fan, we can't root for them to win out, can we?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
You can if you want. If Michigan State wins the next two or Nebraska wins out, it won't matter as far as the Big Ten title game.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Brian. Should I be concerned at all that Hackenberg seems to have stalled in his progression or do I just need to relax and figure that he really needs an offseason before we see any significant improvement?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Nah, I'm not worried. He's a true freshman. He'll be fine. I am a little concerned about how that offense as a whole has nose dived of late. Too much talent to be playing this poorly, especially on third downs.
Calan (Ames, IA)
If Iowa was able to finish the regular season 8-4, would you label this as a "meets expectations" or "exceeds expectations"?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Exceeds. Especially given that the four losses would be to Top 20 teams (NIU, MSU, Wisconsin and OSU). That would be a very, very good bounce-back season for the Hawkeyes.
Ashley (Jefferson City, MO)
With so many QB injuries this year, is the Offensive POY pretty much down to Abdullah and Gordon?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
No. Braxton Miller remains a major contender. His stats in Big Ten play have been outstanding. And Allen Robinson deserves consideration. Gordon has had three subpar (for him anyway) games in Big Ten play. That could hurt him.
Dan (Novi, Mi.)
Who do you like for B1G coach of the year?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I think Urban Meyer deserves it if the Buckeyes finish 12-0. That would be 24 straight, and it deserves recognition. Mark Dantonio has also done a great job. Then how do you handle Minnesota? Tremendous coaching job there, but do you honor Kill or Claeys?
Jeremy (SC Cornfields)
The upcoming tilt between NU and MSU seems to me which offense will score the last point. No doubt NU will have a hard time with MSU's D, but the Sparty offense isn't exactly inspiring and the Blackshirts are building some traction. Looks like a tight, low-scoring game to me.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
For sure. I really don't see how Nebraska scores much here. Offensive line has some issues that Michigan State will exploit. And what Nebraska does best -- run the ball -- is also what the Spartans do better than anybody at taking away. At the same time, Nebraska's defense matches up well with Michigan State's offense. Could be a 13-10 type game.
College Gameday at Wis vs. Minn week 13?!
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I'm sure it's under consideration, but remember that Baylor plays at Oklahoma State that week as well.
do you think any head coach in the big ten loses their job after this year?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
No, but Tim Beckman is not entirely safe. And Bo Pelini can't afford a collapse in these final two games, though the past two weeks have really helped his cause.
Stephen Snyder (Denver)
Is there any scenario where both Ohio State and Michigan State could both recieve BCS Bids? If so what would need to happen?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
The most obvious scenario is Michigan State beating Ohio State in the title game. Then the Spartans go to the Rose Bowl and I am convinced the Buckeyes would be an at-large pick. If it goes the other way, I doubt Michigan State would get the at-large bid.
As a Gopher fan that has endured years of finding ways to lose games and get screwed over by the bowl system, if we win one of our last two, do you see us getting screwed out of another bowl for a lesser team (Michigan). I hear we don't travel well but under Mason, we went to El Paso and Nashville almost exclusively. As fun as Nashville is, 3 straight years there is a little much to ask a non-southern fan base to travel well.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Steve, it is a concern, no doubt. But if Minnesota finishes with nine wins and has momentum, I think the Gophers would have a chance to land in a pretty good spot. Especially if a team like Michigan finishes with a thud and has no momentum. But always remember, deserve is not a word that applies to bowl selections, outside of the title game or automatic bids.
Shawn (Southern MN)
Hey Brian,I was surprised this week to learn of the B1G 'unofficial rule' banning night games during November. Given that the conference has struggled to remain in the national conversation the last few years (with the exception of OSU), to what extent are they shooting themselves in the collective foot by preventing possible media and fan exposure?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Shawn, that rule is basically extinct. The league gave its blessing for teams to play at night in November this year, but TV did not select any games for prime time. There's a great chance we'll see some next year.
Is Borland going to get a forced fumble this year? I was hoping he'd have set a new record by now.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
It's odd, isn't it? Borland is having a tremendous year, yet he hasn't gotten a forced fumble yet. He makes so many plays and is around the ball so often that I find it hard to believe he won't get one more.
do you think that ohio state losing 4 starters on the off line for next translate into the struggles like michigan this year or is ed warinner to good of a coach?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
That's no small issue for the Buckeyes next year. They've got good talent, but it will be young and inexperienced. And there's a good chance Warriner will land another job this offseason, because he's an outstanding coach who will get some head coaching offers.
Why do you think Nebraska's defense matches up well with MSU's offense? Besides Michigan, every team in the Big Ten has shredded Nebraska on the ground and the Spartans have a solid running attack.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Because I still think the teams that give Nebraska the most trouble are those that spread it out and have mobile QBs. Minnesota was the exception, but even the Gophers had a running QB. Nebraska matched up well with Sparty the past two years.
Brian, as a Buckeye, I am really curious...should we expect Braxton Miller to leave after this year? Do you see any other early bolts from the Buckeyes to the NFL?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I mentioned earlier that I thought Miller would come back. I think Allen Robinson bolts. Melvin Gordon could go, too. Ryan Shazier another possibility, and Shilique Calhoun will have to think hard about it.
Derek (New York City)
Say your prediction comes true and (despite Buckeye Nation's most earnest of wishes) Tom Herman leaves for a head coaching job after this season. Where do you think Urban looks first, for his replacement?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't elevate Warriner to offensive coordinator. That would be one way to keep him on staff. If not, I bet he'll find another young hotshot coordinator out there. Ohio State pays well and is a great opportunity for an up-and-comer.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
PSU's depth is showing, as it the rhythm generated by a freshman QB and a "freshman" defensive QB. I'm fine with that. But I do find the playcalling, especially on 3rd down, curious. Do you think that has to do with Hack just being young, or a sign that a significant portion of the playbook is being held back for now?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
It is extremely curious. I am frankly not quite sure what the problem is. Especially when you have Allen Robinson and a pretty good running game. Is Bill O'Brien just having a bad year as a playcaller? Are the lack of other options besides Robinson in the passing game hurting? I'm open to your thoughts.
Mike (Paris, OH)
How is it that Ohio State is being penalized for a weak Big Ten while nobody holds Florida State accountable for being in the ACC?The last I checked the Big Ten was 12-14 in BCS games while the ACC was 3-13 and Clemson (FSU's signature win) was gave up 70 points in their last BCS game.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Couple things. For one, FSU has absolutely dominated everybody from the get-go, while Ohio State didn't do that. Secondly, the ACC is viewed as better and deeper than the Big Ten. That Clemson win over Georgia carried a lot of weight, and the Tigers were a Top 5 team at the time FSU beat them. Miami was also undefeated and Top 10 when the 'Noles won. You can argue those teams were overrated, but Ohio State has nothing like that on its resume right now.
Pete (Eau Claire)
Tanner McEvoy had his best game of the year at safety against BYU. What are the plans for him next year? Will he get a legitimate shot to unseat Stave as the starting QB? Do the coaches prefer him to be on the defensive side of the ball?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
McEvoy told me last month that he still wants to compete at QB next season. He hurt his wrist in camp and couldn't make a serious run. I think there are also doubts about his throwing motion, and Stave will have a huge experience edge. So I'd wager that he'll stay at safety, where he's been surprisingly good. Even if that's not his preference.
I agree with Lou, I often scratch my head on some of these play calls. 3rd and 15, let's let run it. 1st and goal, let's give it to Belton, who has been on the bench most of the game, instead of to our bowling ball of a RB that has 150 yards so far. Does BOB need to take a step back and hand-off the play-calling duties?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I don't know about that. He was so good at it last year. Do teams have more of a book on him now? Again, I find it all extremely perplexing.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Did the Oregon loss hurt Wisconsin's BCS chances. Now that FSU is in the title game (for the time being) and the Orange doesn't have an automatic ACC qualifier, they're more likely to choose a nearby school (such as Clemson), which is Wisconsin's primary rival for the final at large spot.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's possible, though Clemson already had an edge on Wisconsin for a BCS at-large spot just based on rankings and that Georgia win. But the Tigers still have to play South Carolina, and a loss there could damage their BCS hopes. Still, Wisconsin is just No. 22 this week. They need to make a serious move up just to have a chance.
Sparty held Michigans offense to only 168 total yards. Huskers held Michigan to 175. Last week Mich. States defense was being touted as elite after that performance. Now that the Huskers did the same exact thing, does this mean that both defenses are or can be really great? Or does it simply suggest that Michigan is in trouble on offense?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
We all know that Michigan has major problems. But Nebraska has been really impressive defensively its past six quarters. Maybe those guys have grown up. There is some major talent there, starting with Gregory. I'm frankly not worried about Nebraska's D this week but rather its ability to score on MSU.
Tim (Twin Cities)
One of the major talking points about Northwestern all year has been how hard they have been hit by injuries. Nebraska's injury list has been growing rapidly over the last few weeks. Which injury situation do you think is worse? Northwestern down to their 6th string running back or Nebraska with seven offensive starters out?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I still think it's Northwestern. The Wildcats weren't as deep as Nebraska to begin with, and losing Colter and Mark in key stretches really damaged the offensive production. And I'm not sure the team handled it mentally as well as Nebraska has so far.
What is more likely, Northwestern gaining bowl eligibility or going 0-8 in the conference this season?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Bowl eligibility. I still think Northwestern beats Illinois. So it only has to win one more. And it gets a mightily struggling Michigan team this week at home. Not saying the 'Cats will get to a bowl, but it's more likely than going 0-8
Any early prediction on the MSU-Kentucky basketball game tomorrow night?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Can't wait. Saw Kentucky in person Friday night. Ridiculously talented. But also frightfully young and prone to mistakes. Michigan State wins.
Mark (Knoxville, TN)
You guys mentioned in your bowl predictions that a 7-5 michigan team would be potentially attractive to the Gator bowl (similar to when Ohio State was picked at 6-6). Couldn't Iowa potentially be placed in that same category if they finish at 7-5? Hungry fan base after a year off that travels well...and Iowa looks improved (certainly better than Michigan right now). Thanks Brian!
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Yes, for sure. Though Michigan has a bigger brand name than Iowa. But Michigan fans might not be very excited to travel to watch that team. At least I can't imagine they would be.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
You and Adam should send out a mission statement (Jerry Maguire style) to all the coaches who get a vote in the poll, letting them know it's time they got their act together and rank Wisconsin properly
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Adam basically did that a week or so ago. And while we're at it, can coaches and Harris poll voters wake up and realize how stupid it is to vote Louisville ahead of UCF? That's embarrassingly bad.
Rian (Brighton, MI)
Lets pretend OSU, MSU and Wisconsin win out. Then Ohio State beats MSU in the title game. What bowls and against which teams would you put these 3?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Check our Sunday bowl predictions. They were based on exactly what you envisioned there.
Ashley (Jefferson City, MO)
I get that MSU's defense is great, especially their rush defense. But if you look a little deeper, they've played really only played against one decent running back all year in Indiana's Coleman and he had 5.3 yards/carry against them. If Abdullah has the same success, Sparty could be in trouble.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
That's a very misleading stat. Coleman had a 64-yard TD early on a busted defense. Then he had 15 yards on 14 carries the rest of the way. We've got the nation's No. 5 rusher (Abdullah) against the nation's No. 1 rush D. Should be fun.
I asked this question a couple weeks ago to either you or Adam and figured it would be a good one to bring up again. A lot has been said about Gordon being the best back in the league. If you had your choice of backs in Wisconsin's office would you still without a doubt pick Gordon or would you take another back? If you choose Gordon, is it without a doubt?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Right now, I'm taking Abdullah. Still think Gordon has the most pure talent. But Abdullah plays with a ridiculous amount of heart.
Marc (San Francisco)
Have you heard the latest comments from Ohio State WR Evan Spencer: "I think we'd wipe the field with both of them." on Alabama and FSU. HAHAHAH
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I saw that and retweeted it. I'd say Spencer should probably shut up. Especially since he's not even one of Ohio State's top offensive options. But I admire the enthusiasm
Steve (St. Paul)
What bowl does a 3-loss Wisconsin team go to after losing Paul Bunyan's Axe?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Confident Gophers fan, eh? Love to see that. Minnesota got so excited to win the Governor's Victory Bell last week -- a trophy that, to be honest, I had forgotten even existed -- that they broke it on the field. I shudder to think what they do with that axe if they were to finally get it back.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and have a great week.