The Big Ten media day concluded on Friday after two days of exhaustive interviews with both coaches and players. There are only 33 days until college football season kicks off. Here are the top-5 takeaways from the meetings.
1. Penn State isn’t dead yet. At least that’s what coach Bill O’Brien asserted dozens of times over the past two days. Despite significant scholarship reduction and no hope of playing in a bowl game or for a conference title, the Penn State contingent presented itself with poise and professionalism in Chicago. Their fans and university should be proud of how they conducted themselves whether they can compete in the Leaders division or not.
2. Wisconsin has a decided advantage over the other three bowl eligible teams in their division and should represent the Leaders at the second Big Ten championship game. However, RB Montee Ball won’t be satisfied with a potential third consecutive Rose Bowl trip. “I really want to go undefeated and make it to the National Championship game, if possible,” Ball said. His championship aspirations won’t be realized without heady QB play from either Curt Phillips or Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien, both of whom will compete in training camp for the job.
3. Urban Meyer has his team’s complete attention entering his first season as head coach. After an incident leading to the arrests of starting tight end Jake Stoneburner and tackle Jack Mewhort, it was clear Meyer had higher expectations for his players. “The punishments had to happen,” defensive end John Simon said. Simon also said that Meyer expects his team to be more accountable for their actions. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, the team will still be ineligible for the postseason but that won’t diminish their effort on Nov. 24 when they welcome Michigan to Columbus.
4. Nebraska plans to limit workhorse Rex Burkhead’s touches this upcoming season as he rushed 283 times for 1,357 yards last year. “He’s still going to get a lot of touches and I don’t think he needs 35 carries to win the Heisman,” receiver Kyler Reed said. Expect the Huskers to implement a more balanced offense based off of junior QB Taylor Martinez, a Manning Award nominee. “His mental side of the game has improved,” Reed said. “He’s making better reads, involving more receivers instead of just staring down one receiver.”
5. Iowa isn’t concerned that they play in the Legends division, widely considered the stronger of the two Big Ten divisions this season. C James Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk, said that anytime senior QB James Vandenberg is on the field, “we have the potential to win the game.” Vandenberg threw for more than 3,000 yards last season and 25 touchdowns and will be even more crucial due to Iowa’s unstable backfield. His pro-style philosophy will benefit receivers C.J. Fiedorowicz and Keenan Davis, who’ll replace his favorite target from last year, Marvin McNutt.
For more Big Ten coverage and news from media days, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen