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)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
Lots to discuss with only three weeks left to go before the title game, so let's get to it. Fire away with your best questions!
IU is playing a football game that matters in November for the first time since 2007 (last bowl game). Should IU fans get excited about this team in the coming years or is this just a situation where we are slightly better than the worst of the B1G, and we will revert to our old form next year?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Ryan: I'd be pretty excited. Will Indiana be playing for a spot in the Big Ten title game in years to come? Probably not, because this is a unique situation and opportunity. But this team has a very good coaching staff that knows how to put together a terrific offense, and the defense is coming along. There's no reason why IU can't be competitive every year and be in the bowl mix every year.
Bud Kayser (Peoria, AZ)
Seems that in your blog after the Michigan St. game that Nebraska somehow was helped by the Refs in beating Sparty. Wouldn't you agree that overall the officiating was poor with several calls going both ways. An example of this is when Michgan St. was driving and on 3rd and 10 got a late hit call out bounds when replay clearly shows that Mumphrey pushed Stafford out of bounds and into the path of Maxwell. That call resulted in a Michigan St. touchdown otherwise a FG would have made it 20-14. I think Nebraska deserves a bit more credit for that win then the way you made it sound.
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Well, Bud, I don't know how you possibly read that from what I wrote, since I said pretty much the opposite. I discussed the PI call and said it was questionable but was pretty clear in saying the refs did not cost Michigan State the game and that the bad calls evened out.
Ryan (North of Lansing)
UM will easily win the B1G.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
In what sport now?
There seemed to be a lot of whining by MSU players after the game! Can the B1G take action on those players for publicly speaking out about officials? I know if it was a coach they get fined, since players don't get paid it should only be fair they receive at least a half game suspension for publicly bashing officials. Your opinion.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I agree with you that it was very inappropriate and that the players should get some sort of discipline. It should probably come from the team and not the league, but we will check on that.
Ramsey (Livonia, MI)
I know I know, MSU is supposed to overcome the bad penalty calls and get key defensive stops when needed. Well when one of those calls prevents a pick 6 and what would be the game clinching touchdown, maybe that is all that team had in them and in reality, MSU made enough plays to win that game. The officiating absolutely cost them the game and was more of a reason for the loss than not getting the key stop in the 4th quarter.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Two words: Play better. If you can't get a stop on fourth-and-10, can't get a first down to run out the clock, can't pick up a loose fumble just there for the taking, then you're going to put yourself in a situation to be hurt by a bad/questionable call, which is a part of the game. Play better.
I can honestly say that I have never seen a Ferentz team give up before last Saturday. This team has given up and I really don't care anymore.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I don't know if I'd agree they've given up, because I think the players are still trying hard. They're just not very good and not much fun to watch.
Is it going to be Curt Philips or Danny O'Brien? I hope it's Philips just because we've kind of seen what O'Brien can do (he doesn't seem to have a good grasp of the offense, which is wierd for a guy that graduated in three years).
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
My bet is Phillips, though we won't know for sure until Saturday at noon. The coaching staff just doesn't seem to trust O'Brien's decision making and ball security. Phillips brings a running element to the table as well.
Chas (Saint Louis)
Question about the BCS standings...what is the impact of both Ohio State and Penn State being ineligible in the BCS standings? Does that hurt teams like Nebraska and Northwestern (Go Cats!) in terms of computer rankings?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
It should not hurt, because those teams' computer rankings figure into the opponents' rankings. In a weird way, it actually helps, because Nebraska and Northwestern would be at least one spot lower in the standings if Ohio State were in there.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Well it looks like the Big Ten Blog's worst case scenario came true for the Illini, "we fired Ron Zook for this?"Could you guys write a better worst case scenario for next season, I will take just one Big Ten win. I have a feeling Penn State will be making a bowl appearance before Illinois does.
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Ouch. This is worse than I imagined it for Illinois, which definitely has some talent. No doubt Tim Beckman needs to get more depth and more of his kinds of players for his offense. But this is a major rebuilding project right now.
Are we sure there will be a winner in the Nov 17 Purdue-Illinois game?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I checked with the NCAA and, yes, barring some sort of weather catastrophe, there will be a winner in that game. I'm kind of morbidly interested in attending that one.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
The Daily Gopher as you probably know thought the Gophers future at quarterback is better than the Vikings quarterback situation. Neither team has a number one wide receiver (I don't consider Harvin a wide receiver and I guess the Daily Gopher doesn't either). You want to get in on this debate? Are you persuaded that Nelson will be a starter for the remainder of his career at Minnesota like many Gopher fans seem to be already or is it just too early to tell which is more my stance?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'll be honest and say that I don't follow the Vikings very closely. I will say that I think Nelson is going to be a star over the next 3-4 years. He's got a whole lot of talent and tremendous poise for a guy his age. Think his future is extremely bright.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
How has the fan reaction been when PSU has made road trips? Given what I know of Nebraska fans, I would expect the Nits to be welcomed somewhat warmly this weekend. They were a classy bunch - on and off the field - when visiting Happy Valley last year in the first game "post-scandal." (Made me move on from my displeasure from 1994...)
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
I haven't heard of too much negative reaction for PSU, other than I guess the few Iowa students distastefully dressing up as Sandusky. Of course, PSU's other road trips in the league -- Illinois and Purdue -- were hardly hostile environments, and the Lions took the Iowa crowd out of it right away. This should be their toughest road test of the year, but Nebraska fans are usually quite respectful.
Do you receive more comments complaining that the Buckeyes are over-rated or that Michigan is under-rated? Do you think either complaint is valid?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Probably the former. I have Ohio State No. 5 this week, more of a reward for them going 10-0 than for their actual resume. The Buckeyes haven't beaten any real elite teams and have barely gotten by at times. But 10-0 is 10-0.
Who starts at QB for Indiana next year?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I think it will be Tre Roberson, who's a terrific athlete with a high ceiling. But it should be a really good competition in the spring with him, Coffman and Sudfeld. Great depth there for IU.
If the B1G is weak again next year, does a 13-0 OSU team get into the BCS championship game over a 1 loss SEC champ?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
You know, I think an undefeated team from one of the five true power leagues will always get in over a 1-loss team, even from the SEC. There would be many howls from our friends down South over such a development, though, especially as the Buckeyes' nonconference schedule (top game: at Cal) looks very weak on paper yet again
Hey Brian, Big Fan and appreciate all your blogs and twitter updates. Anyway, what is the timeframe for Joel Staves return? Is he completely done for the season? Will he be back by December 1st (if we are even in that game) or Bowl season?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
Bielema said today that Stave can't do anything at all for eight weeks. So that likely puts him out for the season. Though he could conceivably be back for a Jan. 1 game, he wouldn't have had a lot of conditioning or practice under his belt. Looks like we'll see him again in spring 2013
Nick (Ann Arbor)
Can you please help silence the rumblings happening in some dark areas of the Michigan fan base? There is no QB controversy. Devin is the back-up and Denard is the starter. Devin will not usurp Denard as the starter....There is a reason why they moved Devin to receiver and one decent game against the goofers doesn't change that.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Agree. A healthy Denard Robinson isn't getting benched. Remember, he had been playing well before he got hurt, and he might have had a big game at Minnesota, too. It's just nice to know that Michigan now has a decent backup plan in case Robinson can't go.
Thanks for picking my question. Brian, if Nebraska does make it to the B1G CCG, who is a better matchup Wisconsin or Indiana. Assuming they win against one of those 2 teams, who is a better matchup in the Rose Bowl (assuming UO goes to the NC game); Stanford, USC, or Oregon St. Once again THANKS and GBR!
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
As fun as the Indiana story is, I still think Nebraska would take the matchup with the Hoosiers in a heartbeat. Sure, IU could score some points, but I think that the Nebraska offense would have a field day. As for the Rose Bowl, I think Oregon State is the best matchup. The Beavers have had a great season but do not have a potent offense. Their defense is strong but the Huskers can score on anybody
Which of the two remaining games is tougher for osu?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
That's an excellent question. It sort of depends on where Wisconsin is with its QB situation. If the Badgers get that settled in decent shape, I think the road game at Camp Randall is still the tougher game. Michigan is probably a better team, but I just don't see Ohio State losing its last game of the year at home if it can go 12-0.
Joey (Baltimore )
If Northwestern wins out can they get a BCS at large bid?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
There's a chance that Northwestern could finish in the Top 14 by winning out, especially since a win over Michigan would help. But remember that only makes you eligible for an at-large bid and doesn't guarantee one. Northwestern doesn't have the brand appear of schools like Michigan and Nebraska, so BCS bowls might not jump at the Wildcats if there are other teams to choose from.
Brian (Smyrna, DE)
Is this the most Indiana questions you've ever had in a chat?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I think it is. I love it!
Does the B1G weakness this year hurt NDs rankings if they go undefeated?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Nah. If you look at Notre Dame's computer rankings, they are already very high. The Irish have a tremendous schedule overall.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
Will you guys do an update on how the match ups between the divisions are going? I know there are only a few weeks left, but it would be interesting to see how the Leaders and Legends stack up as we move towards some marquee match ups to end the season.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
That's a good idea. I did that last year. We hadn't really brought that up much because we just assumed the Legends would be so much better (and Illinois and Purdue will kill the Leaders record). But I will shoot for that this week.
Pie in the sky odds time: What are the chances IU wins its first ever Rose Bowl this year?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Wins the Rose Bowl? 1.4 percent. ("So you're saying there's a chance?")
Hi Brian! What are your thoughts on the Penn St @ Nebraska game this week? Seems like a tough spot for Penn St. in this game having to go to Lincoln where Nebraska is much stronger than on the road. Nebraska could be a little flat after such an emotional win last weekend, but it seems like they may have finally gotten over the hump with the victory at MSU. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Yeah, I'd be leery of a slight letdown for Nebraska, which is actually coming off three straight emotional games -- the big comeback at Northwestern, the Michigan win and Michigan State. Penn State really has nothing to lose. But as you said, the Huskers play very well at home, especially on offense, and they can sniff the Legends title. Win this one, and I don't see them losing again before Indy
I work at Northwestern, and they can't even get their fans to stay beyond halftime of games they are losing. They have no chance at a BCS game.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Well, certainly there is a perception problem to fight, though Northwestern fans have traveled pretty well to bowls.
JL (Warreton, Virginia)
I'd just like for you to state a direct opinion. The Big 10 officials have a hair trigger on pass interfence calls. Michigan State didn't suffer any more than Nebraska. I don't think the Spartans fared any worse than the Huskers. Big 10 officiating has been bad all year, many games. True or false? Answer a question and go firmly on the record. Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I'm not going so far as to say it's been bad all year, but I have seen some head-scratchers in the past couple of weeks. There were some very questionable calls in the Michigan-Minnesota game as well. But ... I don't think that's specific to the Big Ten. There are bad calls going on all over the country. It's a hard sport to officiate.
T Bone (Columbus, Oh)
Urban Meyer's done a good job motivating his players this year when all they have to play for is pride. Imagine how well he'll be able to motivate them when they are able to play for more....scary thought for the other Big Ten teams.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
True, though I'd be more worried about the talent and the coaching. Ohio State could run roughshod over this league if everyone else doesn't get better.
The problem with PI is that no one knows what it is anymore. Too often teams take the Joe Flacco approach and heave it deep hoping to get a call. Minnesota had a drive on Saturday fueled by 2-3 PI calls. Of those 3 I'd say one was legit, the other two I wouldn't know how to call.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
It's true, and there's little consistency there. Watched the call vs Funchess in the end zone several times and could see it being called both ways. It's kind of like the block-charge call in basketball -- judgment call by the ref.
Reese (Downers Grove, IL)
What are the chances Illinois wins a game against Purdue or Minnesota? Also, with a tougher schedule next year, will Beckman win more games the 2 they could end up with in 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think Purdue might be the best shot, seeing as how the game is at home and the coaching rumors could be at a fever pitch that week. Yes, I see Illinois winning more than two games next year. The Illini can't be this bad again.
Chris (Charleston, SC)
Hey Brian, i am pretty sure Hoke and Co. are recruiting like nuts, and will go toe-to-toe with Urb. Also - how do we know Urb won't leave after 2-3 years due to "fatigue" or we won't see Tatgate 2.0?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I agree with that, although I wonder if it will take a year or two to fully get Hoke's type of players in the lineup and the quarterback they need, Gardner's performance notwithstanding.
Matt (Hope is Toast, Indiana)
Kentucky already has a head start on their coaching seach. Will Purdue fall behind if it doesn't make a move soon?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Trust me, if you're worried about competing with Kentucky in your coaching search, you've got major issues.
Andrew (hell) [via mobile]
Help save me from the class I am in. Do you think Minnesota could be a trap game for Nebraska?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Again, you could be dealing with the whole letdown thing after a string of big games. But I just can't see Nebraska losing at home to Minnesota. Simply too much talent.
David (New Orleans)
Given the quick-strike characteristics of Urban Meyer's spread offense, isn't unrealistic to expect the OSU defense to approximate the "numbers" of defenses paired with Jim Tressel's ball-control offenses? It seems the sheer number of possessions that OSU's opponents' get provide a statistical likelihood that they will score more points, not to mention the impact of the added strain on the defense in having to defend more possessions, as well as the opportunity to get into a rythm the added possessions provide OSU's opponents.
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
There's some truth to that, as high-scoring, fast-paced teams always put a strain on their defenses. But what we saw from Ohio State earlier this year wasn't so much that as poor fundamentals -- missed tackles, bad use of leverage. That's starting to come around and you've seen a big difference.
Gill (Minneapolis, MN)
Around here we're going to slog through a week of "what ifs"about the wasted trips into the Red Zone all and "what the hell" regarding the Fake Field Goal. Any idea when Gopher Coaches and Fans can start trusting the players?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I did not like the fake FG one bit, as Minnesota was leading and could have used the points. And it made no sense to me why the Gophers settled for the FG late instead of going for it on 4th down. Jerry Kill wanted to go for the, pardon the pun, kill early on. And if the call works, he looks genius. But it seemed too early in the game to do that and sent a poor message to the defense.
What's the best case scenario for the Badgers the rest of this season?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Best case is to win out and win the Rose Bowl.
Wally East Lansing [via mobile]
How good is Michigan State? Who might the play in a bowl game and how would they fare?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Good enough to be 1-2 plays away in every game but one this season. Not good enough to make those plays. It's an odd team with an elite defense that can't come up with the late-game stop, an offense that can't stay out of its own way and discipline/kicking problems. Michigan State first needs to get to a bowl before thinking about possible opponents.
C Dub (Washington DC)
With Martinez's increasing improvement this season, is it possible that Taylor could be a front runner for the Heisman next year? Some people say he is this year, but I think he has made too many mistakes to be in consideration this year. But next year?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I think he could put himself in the conversation. First, he has to cut down on his mistakes. If Michigan State jumps on that fumble that he laid out for the taking in the 4th quarter, we're talking about his four turnovers and how he failed on the road. He has been very clutch this year but has to tighten up on ball security.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Outside of the Illinois game, which game left is the Gophers best chance for that sixth win?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
The Gophers could trip up Michigan State at home on Senior Day. But they'd better focus on getting this one, because it's as close to a layup as they're going to get
Minnesota was not leading when that fake was called.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
You're right. My fault. But the Gophers would have cut the lead to 14-10 and would have had some momentum
Brian (Smyrna, DE)
Everyone (including myself) have been looking squarely at O'Brien and Meyer for COY. Is it time to start putting Kevin Wilson at least in the discussion? As unlikely as it is, it's November and Indiana has a shot to be in the championship game. No one saw that coming
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
It's possible. Look, right now he's 4-5. Not great, but excellent improvement over 1-11. Forget the B1G title game; if Wilson can just get the Hoosiers to a bowl game, he deserves serious consideration.
Jeff (Whitewater, WI)
Brian, I'm on your side when everyone talks about Bielema's hot seat being even warm. I do however want your opinion on Matt Canada. I feel that his conservative play calling has led to the loss not only to Michigan State, but also to Nebraska. Is there any chance that Matt Canada is fired by the start of next season?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I'd say the injury to Joel Stave hurt more than anything else in the Michigan State game and that having Stave start his first road game at Nebraska was a problem at Nebraska, where Wisconsin did, remember, score 27 points. I felt like Canada was doing some good things and called a great game at Purdue, but the loss of your starting QB is never easy to overcome.
Is it possible that Nebraska could seek a medical redshirt for Rex Burkhead. I know it's unlikely he would want to do it since he's a senior and I believe he has or will soon graduate. But has he missed enough time this year to request another year?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I believe he has played too much and too late into the season, but I'd have to check on that.
Justin Midit (Lincoln)
Don't pick Michigan State as your favorites to win next year we don't want the curse of the bloggers
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
AAWolv (Ann Arbor)
I want to pick your brain about your rankings in ESPNs poll. You have 3 MAC teams in your top 25 and two Big Ten teams, so this would indicate that you think the MAC is a better conference right now, at least to some degree. Is this correct?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Wouldn't go that far, but there are some very good MAC teams this year. And wins by Ohio and Central Michigan over Big Ten teams say a lot.
Uncle Milt (Lincoln, NE)
How does the Rose Bowl pick who replaces the Pac-12 side if Oregon makes it to the title game? Do they get carte blanche of the at-large BCS qualifiers, or are they required to take the #2 Pac-12 team? Because a Notre Dame/Nebraska or Oklahoma/Nebraska matchup sure looks a lot better than an Oregon State/Nebraska matchup...
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
I believe they can take any of the Pac 12 teams that are eligible (i.e., finish in the Top 14). The Rose Bowl would take an eligible Pac-12 teams over other, possibly more attractive, at-large candidates. Tradition.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That's all for me this week. Thanks for the great questions and have a great Week 11