It won’t receive the same pay-per-view, red-carpet treatment that greeted the SEC, but Big Ten Media Days are poised to provide plenty of intrigue.
B1G coaches and players will meet with the media in Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday for the annual celebration, a sign that kickoff is within reach. As revealed by the SEC Media Days, there is much to discuss from a national standpoint.
And, no, this does not include asking new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen—or any other coach or player for that matter—why AJ McCarron didn’t wake up Johnny Manziel at the Manning Passing Camp or how scared they are of Jadeveon Clowney.
Laugh now, but this will probably happen. Perhaps multiple times.
There are plenty of non-TMZ issues to be discussed, although actual football may take a backseat, depending on who’s at the podium. As for what to expect at this year's Big Ten Media Days, the spotlight, of course, is clear.
Urban Meyer Mania
Manziel Mania will give way to Meyer Mania, and Urban Meyer will draw the biggest crowd—per usual—in Chicago. This would be the scenario even if there weren’t news circling, but there is.
This will have the look and feel of an interrogation at times. Answers, in turn, will almost certainly be limited. Given recent happenings and headlines, Meyer will be greeted by an eager group of salivating reporters, all hoping for meaty sound bites out of the usually reserved Ohio State head coach.
The team's starting running back, Carlos Hyde, has reportedly been suspended from the team, while Bradley Roby, the team's best cornerback, is also facing legal issues. Both news items could have a significant impact on the 2013 season, and Meyer will likely provide further insight.
Elsewhere, it won’t be the first Aaron Hernandez-related question that turns Meyer’s face that deep scarlet red that matches his tie, but rather the second, third, fourth or fifth time through. Already well-documented, Hernandez’s arrest has prompted a trip down memory lane (well, Lack of Discipline Lane) to Meyer’s Florida days, and it will surface again. And again.
Another topic that will undoubtedly be rehashed is that Ohio State reportedly tattled on Florida to the NCAA for a small violation. Will Muschamp fired a lovely shot at the Buckeyes recently when asked about the issue at SEC Media days, but don’t expect Meyer to heave the cannonball back to the other side. He has denied direct involvement, and he’ll probably stay airtight with his answers.
It won’t matter—the questions will still come.
Ah, there’s also football to be discussed, thankfully. Braxton Miller at quarterback, a young defense with playmakers at every level and the expectations of following up an undefeated season with a manageable schedule will undoubtedly surface.
In fact, can we just talk exclusively about all this X's and O's goodness instead?
Bill O’Brien: Time for an Encore
The MVP of last year’s media days was unquestionably Bill O’Brien.
Thrown into an impossible situation, O’Brien had the podium presence of a 15-year coaching vet, exuding overwhelming confidence despite navigating Penn State through troubling and uncertain times. His pitch was genuine and consistent, and he parlayed this strong verbal command into an incredible first season on the Nittany Lions' sideline.
One year later, after a dazzling debut, O’Brien is now one of the hottest commodities in football. You can expect even more confidence this time around. If you’re anticipating the winner of the “Which Coach Would I Commit to After Hearing Him at the Podium Award," O’Brien enters as an overwhelming favorite. His message will sounds a lot like a recruiting pitch, and that’s exactly what it will be.
While Penn State is working toward reducing NCAA sanctions, O’Brien has continued to recruit better than the majority of his conference peers. The sanctions are still some of the most damaging the game has ever seen, but it won’t feel like it when O’Brien speaks. If 2013 is anything like 2012, expect him to deliver.
More Targeting and Tempo Talk
Judging by SEC Media Days, the discussions over player safety, NCAA legislation and how increased offensive tempo is (or isn’t) influencing injuries on the field are topics that will continue in Chicago and beyond.
The new targeting rule will be implemented this season, and officials will have the power to immediately eject a player if they believe he targeted a defenseless player above the shoulders. It’s a massive change in legislation that isn’t getting the coverage it should, but it will when all the B1G leaders convene in the same building.
While they’re all there, expect coaches also to be asked for their take on tempo.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema (it’s still weird to write that) recently exchanged verbal jabs over their injury-to-tempo philosophy. Bielema stood by his claim that more tempo will lead to increased injuries, while Malzahn thought such a stance was actually a joke.
His words, not mine.
This debate doesn’t have the appropriate research to decide who’s right or wrong, and there’s varying stances from coaches around the country. One thing’s for certain: Up-tempo offenses are only going to become more prevalent.
Jim Delany’s Opening Remarks
SEC commissioner Mike Slive spent his podium time at his media days wisely, taking jab after jab at the NCAA and bringing up the major issues hampering the sport.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany—perhaps only behind Slive in the College Football Power Rankings—will have his chance to touch on player safety, expansion, the NCAA’s complete and utter incompetence and the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.
It's a fascinating time, and there isn't a lack of items to touch on.
Delany, of course, has been open about what he sees as the devastating impact of an O'Bannon victory, saying it could force the Big Ten to go to the Division III model. Posturing or not, suddenly this scenario is gaining steam.
This will also be the final B1G Media Days without Rutgers and Maryland, and conference realignment will undoubtedly surface even though things have settled down.
And, finally, expect Delany to dust off the ol’ shoulders with a helpful breakdown of the Big Ten’s financial security and growth. He’s earned such victory struts.
Last But Not Least, Some Over/Unders
What can you expect to hear from Chicago? Please take note of the following popular responses and see how your hypothetical answers stack up.
Over/Under, 8: “We’re going to be more aggressive on defense” mentions
It’s amazing, really. No coach has ever said, “We believe our defense is too aggressive, so we have to tone it down a bit.” Instead, you will be served the verbal equivalent of vanilla ice cream.
Over/Under, 245: Johnny Manziel mentions
I know, I know. It’s Big Ten Media Days, and there’s absolutely no reason to bring up Manziel. With that said, if you bet the under, you’re a sucker.
Over/Under, 11.5: Mentions of “Legends and Leaders”
Remember those Big Ten division names? The ones that will be pronounced dead after the 2013 season? Neither does Jim Delany, who will avoid saying them in public at all costs.