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.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm here for the next hour, and we can talk B1G championship game, bowls or whatever else is on your mind. Fire away.
What's your take on the bowl matchups? I think the B1G is setup for a lot of good, close games that could go either way. While I'm not wild about the Huskers pulling Georgia again, it is a chance for redemption and two good programs. Looks like Iowa probably has the toughest game (vs. LSU) , but they are playing good ball so they can pull that out with a good game plan...what's your take on the slate?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I don't think it's quite as tough as it was the past couple of years. The Big Ten matches up pretty well in its two BCS games. Wisconsin and Iowa have tough games against really good SEC teams, but both have a chance. Nebraska could have a hard time if Georgia is healthy at all. Minnesota should be favored and Michigan has a good shot. So the Big Ten has a chance to post a winning record, but like you said, probably a lot of close games.
Jon (Grand Rapids, MI)
Would Michigan State be playing for a national championship if the refs didn't steal the game in South Bend?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Absolutely. The Spartans are No. 4 now, and they were way off the radar for a long time. If they were undefeated, they'd be playing a few days later in Pasadena
Ed (Queens Village)
Who is to blame for Ohio State fiasco in Indy?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Fiasco? The Buckeyes lost to a very good team. But Ohio State's main problem is its defense. Specifically, its linebackers (outside of Shazier) and its secondary (outside of Roby) just isn't good enough for a national championship contending team. And the offense still needs to develop a more consistent passing attack. These are such big problems that the team only won 24 straight games.
Mark (Rochester, MI)
Hey Brian,Could you speak to the depth MSU seems to have? OSU looked worn out at the end of the game, specifically on the last TD run by Jeremy Langford. I saw on the player participation MSU played 55 guys and OSU 31.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
That's a great point, Mark. Michigan State might be deeper than any other Big Ten team. The defense has solid backups, and the offensive line rotates seven guys. And a lot of receivers play. It's no coincidence that Langford seems to break off a big run late in a lot of games. An underrated facet of the Spartans' success.
I am a Buckeye living in the south. I have seen quite a bit of Clemson football this year. My concern is with the secondary. Will Watkins and Humphries abuse OSU's secondary?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I went to a Clemson game last month, and that's a huge concern. Those receivers are big and fast, and no Big Ten team has a pair like them. Clemson doesn't run the ball very well, but Boyd and those receivers are scary. Ohio State will need to get some good work done on that secondary during bowl practices.
Nic (East Lansing)
How was that steak dinner in Indy?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I actually went with the pork chops. They were out of this world. Though Rittenberg got off easy with the bill.
Just how favorable is the Gophers' matchup against Syracuse? Their team went 6-6 in a top heavy ACC (not saying Big Ten isn't top heavy as well) and has loses to Penn State and Northwestern, both teams that the Gophers beat in the Big Ten season. With the Gophers on a roll defensively and with an O-Line and running back that fought for 100 yards against the nation's top defense, are you expecting the Gophers to dominate physically?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Syracuse has not impressed me at all. The Orange don't have much of an offense, so this could be a low-scoring game. I like Minnesota a lot in this game.
Looking ahead... What does Beckman have to do next year in Champaign to ensure he will be around after the 2014 season? Conference wins is an obvious answer, but if so, how many? Is a bowl game neccesary? (could they even get there?)
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
You know, Illinois wasn't that far from making a bowl this year, with close losses to Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern. The clear area to improve is the defense, and since Beckman has a defensive background, he really needs to come through there. Either making a bowl game or showing indisputable improvement is a must next year.
Tim (Columbus, Oh)
Face it, it's actually probably a GOOD thing Ohio State lost to Michigan State and save the embarassment of having Florida State run all over them (Disclosure: I'm a Buckeye fan). Having a good chance at winning the Orange Bowl against Clemson will do more for Ohio State and the B!G than losing to Florida, potentially by a blow out. Agreed?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Adam and I made this point on our wrapup video from Indy. The Ohio State team I saw would have been extremely challenged to beat Florida State, and it could have gotten ugly. The Buckeyes have a much better chance to beat Clemson, and Michigan State could win the Rose as well (though Stanford is very, very good). The only drawback is it's a setback for Ohio State's image as a national title contender in the future.
hearing reports Narduzzi to UCONN. He cant do better than that?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
It's a definite possibility. I agree that it's not the best landing spot, but how many better jobs are open right now where a school would seriously consider hiring a defensive coordinator with no HC experience? Most programs look to offense-first guys these days. It's a tricky situation for Narduzzi.
MG3 coming back next year?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I was thinking Melvin Gordon would bolt for the pros in the midseason, but his falloff in the second half might and probably should change things. If he has a big bowl game against South Carolina, who knows. But he still has a few things to work on.
Why did Hyde only get 18 carries? It was clear that the OSU o-line was winning that battle, in pretty dominant fashion. Also, why did OSU use their tight ends so little? I said this all year and I'll say it again, there were stretches in games where OSU got too cute for it's own good offensively.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Yeah, it was odd. But also realize that Hyde was ineffective early, so he didn't get a lot of first-half carries. The issue for me was more with his two fourth-quarter carries, but Ohio State didn't have a lot of possessions or downs in the fourth and had to try and come back after Michigan State took the lead.
Mike (San Jose)
Do you see Michigan's Defense getting better next after they finished the season with 2 bad performances against Ohio and Iowa?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I still have a lot of faith in Greg Mattison, especially with a lot of time to prepare for a bowl game. Michigan's defense doesn't have a lot of stars on the field, but it is usually fairly solid. Another month could mean Jake Ryan is raring to go against Kansas State, too.
Dave Rimington (NorCal)
At this point, where do you see the Huskers placing in the newly-configured division next year? And do you think there's much of a chance that the B1G will rise from its current mediocrity?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Adam and I talked a bit about this over the weekend. The West Division is going to be wide open next year. Wisconsin loses a ton. Iowa should still be pretty good but does lose those three linebackers. Minnesota returns most of its roster but needs to develop a passing game. Northwestern can't possibly be this bad again. Nebraska might go in as the favorite, but it's hard to trust the Huskers right now.
Mike (What Game Did You Watch?)
Hyde averaged 7 YPC with no long runs. Never had a run for less than 2 yards. He was never ineffective.
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Nice job of looking at the final stats and saying there were no times when he was ineffective. He had nine carries for 37 yards in the first half. Not terrible, but not exactly lighting things up. MSU was loading the box in the first half, and the running game -- outside of Miller's scrambles -- didn't get going until the third quarter
Zak (Deerfield, IL)
If Penn State was bowl eligible, how would the B1G bowl lineup be different?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Since bowls love how teams finish, there's a good chance Penn State would be in the Gator Bowl, I think.
Alien Spartan (Somewhere In Open Space)
Brian, I'm going to the Rose Bowl! But man, I never dreamed the prices would be so high. You're lucky to have the company pay your way. Is there anywhere to buy tickets for less than five-hundred dollars?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I feel for you. Getting to California is not easy. Heard from a lot Wisconsin fans who were tapped out after three straight trips (not that anyone would feel sorry for them). There's always -- gulp -- driving, or flying into a nearby airport. Good luck. You will not regret the experience for one moment.
Russell (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Brian, do you think Michigan State should be playing in the BCS NC game? Isn't their win over Ohio State more impressive that Auburn's win over Missouri?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Hmmm, so we just base it on the last game? Body of work edge goes to Auburn, for sure. And like it or not, the SEC was better than the Big Ten.
The Truth (Ohio)
Nine carries for 37 yards = 4 ypc. I only wish I was that ineffective at my job.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Well below his average. And don't forget they were down 17-0.
Is it possible that there's no upside for Minnesota in Texas? If they're favored, winning doesn't help without domination, and losing suggests that they aren't as far ahead as they seem. Other than the Galaxy 3 tablets that all they players are getting, what's the benefit?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
No, I think a bowl win is still big for the Gophers. Nobody really remembers minor and mid-tier bowls, anyway, but being able to sell a bowl victory is nice for recruiting. And a ninth win is big for the program. Hasn't happened very much in school history.
Is Iowa's defense underrated? Even as an Iowa fan I don't feel like they stack up to the defenses of 08-10 but statisticly they are right there if not better than those squards. Right around Top 10 or better against run, pass, total and points.
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
It sure is. Top 20 nationally against the run and the pass. The linebackers are terrific. I think the Hawkeyes are still a bit vulnerable in the back end, but the improvement of the D-line was a huge factor for them. Stiff challenge coming against LSU, but the Tigers will be without their QB.
Accurate to say Ohio State was out coached against MSU? Especially given OSU's continuous use of the QB draw when sparty clearly knew it was coming?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Well, everybody knows the Braxton Miller runs are coming, but that's not the same as stopping them. There were some calls I didn't like, such as a draw on 3rd and 10 at one point. Outside of the third quarter, I thought Narduzzi bested Herman.
Charles (Fort Collins, CO)
Brian! You are the man. How was your trip to Indianapolis different than last year? I was at the game last year as a Husker fan (still have nightmares) and I loved the stadium, but all the empty seats were unfortunate. How was it with the place almost full?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Thanks, Charles. The weather meant there weren't quite as many people milling about the streets downtown on Friday. But the atmosphere in the stadium was the best it had been in three years. Very loud and electric. The game felt like a big event, and it was. Indy, as always, was a great host.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
I was really hoping to see Oregon play Alabama in the Sugar bowl, very much disappointed that Oklahoma got the at-large, I know this isn't a B1G question but...i was NOT impressed overall by Oklahoma's win against OK State, there was a dropped interception at the end that made all the difference, don't you think it would have been a lot more exciting to see the Ducks high flying offense against Bama's defense?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Totally agree. Oregon-Alabama is the game everyone wants to see. Geography made the difference, as the Sugar Bowl wanted a team that was closer to fill seats. Always remember it's about the business of bowls, not deserving teams or the best matchups. I'm not at all excited about seeing Oklahoma in a BCS game.
Do you think Stave (and his brain freezes) will be under center next year or can Houston or McElvoy really supplant him with a good camp? Thanks for the good year Brian!!!
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Thank you, Sean. I think the staff will definitely take a closer look at the QB position, because the Badgers simply need better play there. I doubt McEvoy ever plays QB there. I think he'll stay at safety, or possibly get some time at WR. It's all dependent on whether Bart Houston has improved enough to mount an effective challenge.
As a Spartan fan, has MSU found the QB for years to come?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
It sure looks that way. Still have to wonder about Damion Terry, who has a very bright future. Will the Spartans work in a two-QB system next year? Or does Terry move positions? Will be fascinating to watch.
Kyle [via mobile]
Which out of these three Big Ten teams is most likely to pull off an upset: Nebraska (vs Georgia), Iowa (vs LSU), or Wisconsin (vs South Carolina)?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I'd go Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, in that order. But key QB injuries at LSU and Georgia make those teams a little unpredictable.
Vince (New York)
Why was Michigan selected ahead of Nebraska for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? Does Michigan even gain anything by winning against a non-traditional power on Dec 28th at 10:15 PM EST?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
The Wings Bowl felt like Michigan finished better because of its strong game against Ohio State, while Nebraska's game against Iowa was not the most pleasant experience. There are also a lot of Michigan fans out west, and the Wolverines get big TV ratings. That was the reasoning, though I still think Nebraska makes a lot more sense.
JL (Warrenton, Virginia)
Brian: You actually put Notre Dame in your top 25? That can be explained only by a lack of worthy teams after the top few.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
There isn't a whole lot to choose from when you get to the bottom of the Top 25. I'm a big proponent of "who'd you beat?" The Irish beat Michigan State and Arizona State. Losses include two BCS teams in Stanford and Oklahoma. So there you go.
Considering all the criticism he took leading up to the game what are your thought on Urban Meyer sitting Marcus Hall in the Big Ten Championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I wrote about this in the rewind this morning. It was a strong move by Meyer. I only wish he'd have said so earlier in the week so the criticism could have been avoided. But there was obviously some strategy at play there as well.
Is Auburn really the clear #2 team in the country? Considering they won using 3 last second touchdowns and were dominated by LSU, they were lucky to be 12-1, let alone 10-2 or 9-3.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
No doubt, Auburn is living a charmed life. But wins are wins. Nobody complained too much about Ohio State's great escapes in 2002.
Matthew (Zionsville, IN)
True or False: Purdue is going to be changing some assistant coaches this winter.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
I haven't heard that yet, and without really knowing Hazell's style all that well yet, it's hard to say. I think they should consider some changes on offense.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
I have to come right out and say it...back in September I really questioned why you and Adam were so high on a team that lacked a forward passing attack, I thought MSU was highly overrated getting Top 25 votes, so as a PSU fan I want to be the first to say that I was wrong about MSU and I'm now a believer...Connor Cook looks legit...
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Hey, let's not forget that both Adam and I picked the Spartans to win the Big Ten in 2012. Turns out we were a year early, but we always knew this program had tons of talent and potential.
Brandon Scherff just announced he is coming back for his senior year. How big is that for Iowa next year?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I don't put a ton of stock in these announcements until the players are still on the team in January. But assuming that's true, it's major. Scherff is their best player on offense, in my opinion. Should go into next season as league's top OT.
Nic (East Lansing)
If the playoffs started this year, which teams would be your top 4 choices? Personally I would choose FSU, Auburn, MSU and Stanford, placing a large emphasis on winning your conference.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I'm with you on that, and I hope the committee feels the same way. I have a feeling Alabama would be in there instead, but I agree with your four choices. Putting an emphasis on conference titles keeps the regular season meaningful.
Besides ball security, what else does Nebraksa need to work on within the next 24 days before their matchup against Georgia in the Gator? Also would a huge offensive stance in the game boost Nebraska's plummeting rep in the BIG?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Working on QB play is important, and the young defensive front seven needs to continue to come along during bowl practices. A strong performance and a win by the Huskers could make them the West Division favorite next year.
in the new bowl selection process coming, will teams like Minny get placed more fairly pecking order wise? or just spreading the marquee teams to different geographical locations in a rotating fashion?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Teams will be placed in tiers, and efforts will be made to avoid rematches and repeat destinations. I think the Gophers would have fared better had that system been in place this year. But Minnesota also has to prove its fans will travel to a game.
Based on where some teams finished up in the rankings (specifically MSU and Baylor) it looks like teams do not get punished for weak schedules at all as long as you are playing well at the end of the year. MSU was a very bad team early on-struggling against WMU. Baylor played a pathetic non-conference schedule. We complain often about teams playing "cupcakes" but is there really any incentive at all not too? Please tell me it will be different starting next season.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
A fair point. Auburn didn't exactly face a murderers' row nonconference schedule, either, but got benefit of the doubt as a 1-loss team. Conference strength still seems to matter more. Hopefully, nonconference schedule strength will weigh more heavily to the committee, but that probably will only be to break ties between similar-looking teams.
With no Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State on the schedule next season, the toughest game for the Badgers next year (on paper) is the opener against LSU in Houston. Do you think they can make a run at a BCS game, or even the four-team playoff ahead?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
The schedule sets up very nicely. I just worry about all the departing seniors. Replacing the front seven on defense won't be easy, and who the heck will catch the ball with Abbrederis and Pedersen gone?
Any chance Gardner switches back to WR next year?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I don't think so. I thought Gardner performed well and admirably late in the year. He's not the problem. He just needs some help
Now that the 2013 regular season is in the books. Which teams are your early front runners for '14 BIG championship?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Putting me on the spot, eh? Well, we'll have to see who leaves early for the NFL. But I think the two teams we just saw play for the title -- Ohio State and Michigan State -- should remain in good shape for next year. The West is a jumbled mess on paper, as I mentioned earlier. Can Michigan make a leap? I have my doubts.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great question and I hope you find something to do this Saturday without Big Ten football. Maybe see your families again.