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 (3:01 PM)
The Big Ten football season is officially over, but there's still plenty to discuss. Also want to hear your thoughts on tonight's BCS title game. Who are you rooting for, and who do you think wins? Fire away.
Jeff (Ice Planet Hoth)
Brian-I think we can agree that if the OSU had beaten Clemson, the B1G would have been 2-0 in BCS games and 3-4 overall, which would be seen as a vast improvement for the conference and that the B1G isn't the punching bag it used to be. Unfortunately, we ended up 1-1 in the BCS and 2-5 overall. So what is the national impression this off season?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Hoth, eh? Watch out for snowtroopers. I'll try not to make you too jealous, but I stayed a few extra days in Florida and am enjoying 82-degree weather. Top 5 decision of my life. Anyway, you're right that two BCS wins would have made this a highly successful bowl season, because people remember big games more than anything. People will use the league's 2-5 record against it. But the Rose Bowl win was important, and MSU could finish as high as No. 2, while Ohio State should still be top 12 or so. That helps a little with momentum next year, I think.
Ken (Columbus, OH)
Hey Brian! All season long I was telling all of my non-Michigan fan friends that OSU was over rated and hadn't played anyone. With their losses to MSU and Clemson, was I finally justified?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Ken, I do think the lack of top-flight competition hurt the Buckeyes when it came time to finally play two top 10 teams. But injuries also played a role. It wasn't like Ohio State got blown out of either game, and the Buckeyes didn't win 24 in a row on accident. I think we saw the team just wasn't championship-caliber because of its defense. But that's still a top 12 kind of team to me.
I am CONFUSED about what is going on with the Nittany Lion coaching search.... I thought Golden to PSU was a virtual lock and now no one is admitting they even interviewed for the job (Munchek, Franklin)..... Why do I have a sinking feeling that they are going to hire someone that NO ONE is talking about and sell us on some obscure OC from the Sun Belt conference.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
TK, coaching searches often hit some road blocks. Look at Texas. Munchak can deny all he wants but he interviewed. He and Franklin are still in all likelihood the top two choices. If neither takes the job or if the committee is not impressed, then we could see it going a different way. But it has been less than a week since O'Brien left. No time to panic yet
Paul (Ann Arbor)
Which team do you think has the most to prove next season: Michigan, Ohio State, or Wisconsin?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Michigan, no doubt. Gary Andersen will have to prove he can keep the Badgers going after losing a lot of seniors. But the Wolverines were just plain bad in stretches of this season and finished with six losses. Hoke has to get that turned around, especially going into the same division with Michigan State and Ohio State
Jim D (Chicago)
Let's say Auburn wins tonight. Doesn't the AP look at MSU's lone referee-induced loss, along with Auburn's miracle wins, and give MSU a share of the national championship?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Jim, I might write about this in depth tomorrow should Auburn win. Short answer: No. Michigan State had a terrific season, but the schedule doesn't quite hold up against Auburn's. Beating Florida State, a team that has been ridiculously dominant, would be a statement in itself for the Tigers.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Call me crazy, but I'm not super worried about the Badgers losing Borland because I think their front 7 should still be strong. IMO, they have absolutely no one to replace Abby, who I see as the bigger loss. Do you think the fact that the Badgers probably won't have a deep threat next year would make it more likely they need a runner/innovator at QB.....McEvoy?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
It's not just Borland. That front seven was loaded with seniors. Wisconsin's defense didn't play well its final two games and could take a step back. I think Houston might be the more serious challenger than McEvoy. Reports out of camp weren't too high on McEvoy's throwing motion, though he did get hurt early on. Thought he played well at safety and that his future might be there or as a WR. Should be an interesting spring, regardless.
I find it troubling that Terry Joseph is leaving Nebraska for A&M. The secondary has been the strength of the defense for the last 2 years. He is also the 3rd DB coach to leave in the past 4 years. On top if that, he is one of, if not the best, recruiters that Nebraska has. Do these coaches leave purely because of money? Or is there another reason such as instability surrounding Bo's job or the difficulty of recruiting kids to Lincoln?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
It is a tough loss for Nebraska, because Joseph is a good coach and a good recruiter. I have not yet heard the specifics on money, but there's no reason why Nebraska couldn't match dollars. The SEC has an allure, and so does Texas because of all the talent there. It's troubling when Big Ten guys leave for similar posts in the SEC (i.e., Bielema).
When PSU becomes bowl eligible again, either in 2 years or sooner if the sanctions are lifted, will bowl selection committees be hesitant to select them like they seemed to be in 2011 or has enough time passed since the scandal?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I don't think they'll be hesitant. Quite the opposite. I think bowls will see a team with a huge fan base that hasn't been to a bowl in a long time and will be hungry to travel. And they'll snatch them up.
Matthew (Zionsville, IN)
Will there be any competition for Purdue's QB job next spring or does Etling pretty much have it nailed down for the next 2 - 3 years?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
You never want a young player to have no competition for his job, but I can't see anyone beating out Etling this spring. Now, when highly-touted recruit David Blough arrives, then things could get interesting. But he'll need some time to get his feet wet.
Brian, in watching Big Ten bowl games over the recent years, it seems the biggest mismatch is the QB position. Time and time again the Big Ten's opponent has a superior QB who often is a threat to beat you with his leg or his arm. I know Gary Anderson hopes to incorporate a mobile QB into his offense. Do you see other Big Ten teams doing the same thing?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
It's not just the QBs. I wasn't very impressed by the QBs at LSU or Georgia, Connor Cook played well and Braxton Miller nearly matched Tajh Boyd -- though he got roughed up in the process. But there is a lack of explosiveness in too many Big Ten passing games. Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota were prime examples of that, and Ohio State still has a ways to go there. Football has become a passing game, and Big Ten teams need to get better there.
So does FSU win by more than 10 or no?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
They've done it all year, but Auburn is better than anyone FSU has played. Having a long time to get ready for the Tigers offense is a plus. I like FSU to win, but Auburn keeps it closer than 10.
Brian- So did you talk trash about Clemson and the ACC and then pick them to win?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Robert, I picked Clemson to win all along. We were assigned a story giving 10 reasons why our league team would win. So I did. And I tried to have some fun with it. But my score prediction (38-35) was almost exactly right.
Gill (Mpls, MN)
Good seeing the BCS Champ Game being played outside the South. Basketball, Pro Baseball and except for the Super Bowl, Pro football play Home Games to determine Champs. If the new College formula still makes Northern Schools play "Away" games why have a Playoff at all?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The reality is that major sporting events are almost always going to be in the south and west. That's where people want to be this time of year. And considering the weather up north and in the Midwest today, can you blame them? Would you want to tailgate tonight for a BCS title game in the north? That said, places like Dallas and Pasadena are hardly home games for many SEC or ACC teams, and the same for Miami and New Orleans for the Big 12 and Pac-12. There were far more Ohio State fans at the Orange Bowl than Clemson fans, even though Clemson is closer. Just the way it is, though the midwest/northern cities should get an occasional title game.
Why isn't Urban Meyer's name mentioned for any of the NFL job openings?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Meyer would draw interest, but he has made it pretty clear that he is a college coach and is not very interested in the pros.
Where do you think Nebraska is headed after this season? They don't really lose many seniors that played in conference play this year. I personally believe next year their defense will be one of the better in the country, as Ciante Evans is the only real loss on defense, and he isn't irreplaceable. Nebraska's young offensive line appears to be decent run blockers from what I've seen, and they return Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah. They also appear to have a pretty decent amount of talent that redshirted this year from what was a pretty good 2013 signing group. So is Nebraska a top 25 team next year? Maybe better?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
All the pieces are there, Jimmy. The defense should be pretty good with all the returnees, as you mentioned. Tommy Armstrong got a lot of experience, though he needs to continue to improve as a passer. The schedule is manageable, with the toughest nonconference game a visit from Miami. Nebraska does go to MSU and Wisconsin, which will be challenges. But the Huskers are probably my pick right now as West Division favorites. Time to live up to that and do better than a 4-loss season, don't you think?
Narduzzi to Louisville? I am shocked he hasn't gotten a big job yet.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
I think it's possible. Louisville AD Tom Jurich is usually very upfront about his choices in a coaching search, but there seems to be a bit more secrecy about this one. He has never shied away from hiring talented coordinators (Petrino and Strong). I've got to think Narduzzi is on his short list.
What was the biggest surprise to you this year in regard to the BIG ten final records?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Northwestern, on the negative side. Thought that team was a legit contender and was shocked to see the 'Cats go 5-7. On positive side, would never have guessed that MSU would have gone 9-0 in B1G games.
Lou (Tampa, FL)
I REALLY think Larry Johnson should be at the top of the list for PSU. He knows the system, is like and respected by EVERYONE, seems to have Hackenberg's ear. And he's the golden goose when it comes to PSU recruiting. All he needs is an OC. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Love LJ, and I think he deserves serious consideration. You know he's not jumping at the next opportunity to leave PSU. The danger is he's never even been a coordinator. Could he handle all the duties of being a head coach? That's why the school might be hesitant to hire him.
Eric Smith (Ann Arbor)
In a previous post, Chantel Jennings wrote that an 8-4 2014 season could be a reality, then does that reality include a coaching change too? RR got axed for similar mediocrity with less talent. Nine wins is the minimum with wins at MSU & OSU. otherwise, Dantonio is spot on, "Where's the threat?".
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I think Hoke is relatively safe because he seems to have the full support of Dave Brandon. But 7- and 8-win seasons won't be enough eventually. Next year is a big one for Hoke. If the fan base starts to turn on him, it may be hard to rectify that. I'm pretty down on that team after watching that awful showing in the Wings bowl.
Anthony (New York)
Is Greg Schiano still a candidate for Penn State? Or has his rocky NFL tenure taken him out of the running?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
From what I understand, there wasn't a lot of interest from either side. I like a lot of things about Schiano, who I covered when he was at Rutgers. He built a program from nearly scratch and Rutgers had great success in the classroom under his watch. But he still has a lot to prove as a gameday coach, as Rutgers never even won a Big East title, and the Tampa Bay experience doesn't reflect too well.
Who do you think had the more disappointing end to their season, WI or OSU?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Ohio State from the standpoint of having the most to lose. The BCS title game was in its grasp, and so was an Orange Bowl championship. Wisconsin wasn't going to make a BCS game regardless because of how things played out. But from a pure performance perspective, the Badgers had their two worst games of the year in the last two, and it left a bitter taste about the entire season.
Was it just me or did attendance for the Orange Bowl look pretty low? Looked like a lot of empty seats out there.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Lot of empties up top. That's pretty much the norm for the Orange Bowl of late. Locals don't go. Ohio State didn't buy its full allotment, and Clemson brought fewer fans than I expected.
Jeff (Bar Unknown)
Who is taller? You or Adam? And who has better athletic ability?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I don't get to win either of those arguments often, but I take both in a rout in this case. Though Adam plays a mean ping pong, from what I hear.
Matt (Kansas City)
Can the hawkeyes potentially turn into an offensive power next season? G Davis has said they still are not running at the tempo that he wants. I'd love to see a faster, less conservative O, but my gut says Kirk has final say
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
You mean power run? I kid. I liked the tempo stuff Iowa showed against LSU (and how shocking was it to see the refs stop play and say Iowa's offense was going to fast?). But I still wonder about the talent at receiver. Just don't see many difference-makers there, still.
Sparty (Unfortunately Chicago)
How sustainable is MSU's success? Is the Rose Bowl possible 2-3 years from now?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I don't see why not, with the understanding that the Rose Bowl won't be the same starting next year. Lot of talent returns on offense. Defense loses some valuable guys but has shown an ability to reload. Excellent coaches and stability. Playing in same division as Ohio State and Michigan won't be easy, but Spartans have proven they can take down those guys.
Now that the season is over, will you guys start to include Rutgers and Marlyland in the blog? This year's recruiting class will be in the B1G after all.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Pete, in the past we've included teams after signing day when leagues have expanded, and I believe that will be the case with Maryland and Rutgers in the B1G blog. So we're about a month away.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Where does Ohio State have to improve the most if they want to play for a national title next season?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
No question its the defense, and specifically the back seven, as the D-line should be very good next year. Losing Shazier hurts. There is a lot of young talent there, but it needs to come through, especially in the secondary. And the offense, which replaces four starting OL plus the team's top WR and RB, has work to do as well.
Jacob (Denver, CO)
Going along with your assessment of Big Ten QBs, how do you rank them next year? Curious where you put Cook and your thoughts on his potential. He and the offense will be key for MSU with the defense taking a slight step back from ungodly to very good next year.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'd probably put Miller and Hackenberg on the top level. Cook just below that with a chance to be right there. MVP of the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl is pretty impressive. Receivers are mostly all back as well.
Brian, which B1G teams stand to begin the season ranked in your way-too-early preseason top 25?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Haven't thought a lot about that yet, but I like the question. Obviously, MSU and Ohio State. Nebraska is probably around the No. 20 range for me. Iowa and Wisconsin are possibilities as well.
Hey Brian. I figured if I changed my name and location, you might be able to squeak this question in before the chat ends. Who do you like in the highly anticipated non-conference match up between MSU and Oregon next year? Give us your way too early prediction and how you see the game unfolding.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Wow. Long way away, and I haven't studied the Ducks '14 roster that much, though I know Mariota is back and Thomas is leaving. What a great, great matchup on paper. Going to be tough to travel across the country and win in Autzen, but MSU will not be intimidated. I'd make Oregon the early favorite. I'd love to be there.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
If FSU wins tonight. Will it be because of what the Seminoles did on the field, or what the Tigers didn't do? After hearing the nonsense after the Sugar Bowl I'm not sure. The SEC has been great, no doubt, but you have to credit to other team some time?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Florida State will get all the credit if it wins. The 'Noles have been dominant and are loaded with future NFL talent.
Matt (Only guy at work)
Now that the season is over and the big talk will be about recruiting, can you please promise not to write or talk any more about this Big2-Little10 dream Michigan and OSU have? OSU and UM will sign the 2 best classes in the conference no doubt, but MSU and Wisconsin have proven year after year that that's not everything. Last year it was all the talk and look what happened. So please refrain from getting caught up in the BS excitement of National Signing Day! I know it's tough, but PLEASE DON'T DO IT!
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Matt, I can promise you won't hear that from me this offseason. Can't control what others write.
Howdy Brian...I'm curious, what will you guys be doing for the next couple months, before spring ball gets rolling? Thanks for all your work!
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I'm sure will be doing some things to wrap up bowl season and all of 2013 in the next couple of weeks, and then there still is coaching/player news to sort out. Then it's signing day, and after that we'll start looking toward spring practice. There really is no offseason anymore.
Matt (Kansas City)
it WAS shocking, which is probably one of the reasons Kirk exploded. the one time they increase the tempo, the refs decide Iowa can't have nice things
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Terrible job by the refs. Don't blame Ferentz one bit for that.
Gary (Manitoba -43)
Brian,Can you warm me up a little bit and give me a way too early predicton of the Nebraska Miami game. I think Nebraks wins, its inside the top 15.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Again, kind of hard to break down a game eight months in advance right now. But Miami is continually overrated and an underachiever. I like Nebraska to win at home.
Dark Mantonio (East Lansing)
What should expectations be here in town next season? What would be considered a disappointment?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
Expectations have to be raised now. Nothing less than a division title should be the goal. Finishing third or worse in the division is probably a disappointment.
TJ (St. Paul)
The starting QB for Minnesota in 2014 is Nelson, Leidner, or none of the above???
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Great question. Wish I knew the answer. I highly doubt Minnesota's coaches know the answer at this point. I was surprised to see Leidner get most of the run in the bowl game. He and Nelson have similar strengths and weaknesses. Streveler should get a shot. Heck, maybe even give Donovahn Jones another look. It should be wide open again, and the Gophers simply must get better at that position.
Will you be at Reliant Stadium on 8/30/14 for Bayou Bengals vs Badgers? If so , see ya there. gonna be a GAME!
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Have no idea yet where I'll be for opening week. But I'd absolutely love to get there.
Do you see Armstrong starting all year for the Huskers? Johnny Stanton has to be licking his chops already...
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Armstrong has the huge experience edge for now. Stanton will have to come in and impress. But I don't see why he wouldn't be given a shot. Best case scenario is probably Armstrong starting all year, because that means things are going well.
Which matchups do you expect ESPN to look at for their primetime slots from the Bigten? OSU-MSU would be my preference
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
They don't consult me on those decisions, but on paper MSU-OSU is the game of the year. And it's on Nov. 8. Could be a November night game at long last. Nebraska-Wisconsin on Nov. 15 another possibility.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Will the non-conference schedules be upgraded in 2014 over 2013?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
For sure. We've got Michigan State-Oregon, as previously mentioned. Ohio State plays Navy, Va Tech and Cincinnati, a step up from last two years. Wisconsin has the big one vs. LSU to start the year. Northwestern picks up ND. So definitely.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the show from Pasadena tonight.