August 3, 2010

Key developments from Big Ten meetings

CHICAGO - The 39th annual Big Ten Media Days at Chicago's Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place started with plenty of hype surrounding the recent acquisition of Nebraska. Needless to say, most of the attention during the two-day event resided around that notion.

So, now that all the interviews have been conducted and all the pictures have been taken, it's time to go back and revisit exactly what we no know in regards to Big Ten football now and Big Ten football of the future.

Ohio State is good….again

Ohio State was picked to win the league for the fourth consecutive year and fifth time of the past six seasons Monday morning when the annual media preseason poll was released. Considering we're talking about the same team that has won five straight Big Ten titles, it's fairly obvious why they are the prohibitive favorite year in and year out.

Iowa, who capped off an 11-2 season in 2009 with a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl was picked to finish second in 2010. And rounding out the group is Wisconsin, a team that returns the most starters (18) of any team in the league and one that finished with a 10-3 record in 2009 with a resounding Champs Sports Bowl win over Miami (Fl.)

Back-to-back

Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Greg Jones were tabbed preseason offensive and defensive player of the year by members of the attending media. That marks the second consecutive year both Pryor and Jones received the honor of the leagues best prior to the start of the season.

The most recent time that has happened was in 1998, when UW's Ron Dayne and OSU's Andy Katzenmoyer repeated as offensive and defensive players of the year.

Nine-game slate seems imminent

With Nebraska now in the fold, it seems as though Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney is set on creating two divisions of six teams. With an alignment timetable set for 30-45 days from now, the discussion focused to preserving rivalries and maintaining a competitive balance.

In an effort to accomplish both of those standards, it seems as though the Big Ten will go to a nine-game conference schedule in the coming years. According to Delaney, it seems that schedule could take effect as early as 2013.

"I think that would be really helpful to us," Delaney said during his press conference Monday afternoon. "I think there's a consensus among our athletic directors to do that. How quickly we can do that? We can't do that in the next year or two.

"I'm hopeful we can make progress in years three and four. Hopefully it's not more than that."

While their may be a consensus among athletic directors, some of the various head coaches had a few qualls with the idea simply because it means every other year any given team would have one more conference road game than home game.

"I understand from a scheduling standpoint and all that," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I know us, with 36 sports, we need to raise quite a bit of money to fund an athletic program like we have. It's really important to have home games. If you're assigned to five away games from the get-got and you're in the midst of a home and home with somebody, all of a sudden you've got six away games and that might be difficult for us to do our 36 sports.

"So I guess just Ohio State-wise, I'm not sure it's a great financial thing. For the league, I worry a little bit about it falling wrong at the wrong time."

It's one of many kinks the league will need to work out in the coming years.

Division alignment

As was previously mentioned, Delaney believes the Big Ten will come to a conclusion about divisional alignment within the next 30-45 days. At this junction, it seems as though retaining a competitive balance and maintaining rivalries are of the utmost importance.

"Right now we're just talking about the principles that we would look at," Delaney reiterated. "And I think that competitive equality is an important principle. I think preservation of traditional rivalry games is an important consideration.

"I think another important consideration is geographic."

Delaney made mention of the fact that Big Ten fans like to travel and get tickets to stadiums that may or may not be sold out, so maintaining geographic harmony is valid. So before making any final decision, all three of those criteria will be examined, as will data points such as national championships, BCS games, conference championships, conference won-loss records, non-conference won-loss records and BCS opponents played and results.

"All those data points will be absorbed by our athletic directors," Delaney said. "We think probably the appropriate time frame for measurement probably starts around 1993 when Penn State came into the conference.

"So we're looking at that 17-year stretch and trying to assess where institutions fall out, what they've accomplished and using that sort of as the basis to determine what would be a balanced and fair, competitive segmentation of divisions."

It's a football move

I don't think there is any question the addition of Nebraska was first and foremost driven for football purposes. By bringing in the Cornhuskers, the Big Ten will remain relevant well into December and have an opportunity to showcase it's conference championship game with a BCS bid on the line.

So, when divisional alignment comes to the forefront of any discussion, it should remain clear that football is the main proponent. Therefore, Delaney believes men's and women's basketball wouldn't need to be split into a divisional system.

"In basketball we have a tournament where everybody gets to go," Delaney said. "And I'm sure that will be maintained. We have an NCAA tournament where we put four, five, six, seven teams in a year, so they have those national opportunities.

"I don't know what a divisional configuration does in women's and men's basketball that would be an improvement on what we're doing."

Notre Dame seems set

When the college football world seemed to be on the brink of the conference apocalypse, it looked as though Notre Dame would be forced to join a league for football. Now, in large part to Texas staying in the Big 12, it seems as though the Irish will be able to stay independent for years to come.

At least that's the stance Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has taken, particularly when talking about joining the Big Ten.

"I don't see them as a player, really," Delaney said. "I think Jack Swarbrick has been consistent from the beginning about their commitment to the Big East and their commitment to independence. And so I see Notre Dame playing in the Big East for many years to come.

"And I see Notre Dame playing as an independent in football for many years to come. So I take at face value Jack's statements in that regard."

No-go for a name change

When asked about changes to the name of the conference, Delaney was quick to shoot them down.

"I think the Big Ten is the Big Ten regardless of the number."

Changes to replay:

Before Delaney took to the Dais Monday afternoon, Bill Carollo, Big Ten Coordinator of Football Officials, had an opportunity to discuss changes in the replay booth.

One of the main priorities for Big Ten officiating crews is the impact of replay technology in the booth. According to Carollo, some of the technology wasn't up to the high standards the Big Ten has set.

"We presented to the presidents that the technology in the booth wasn't as good as the technology in your home or in the local restaurants and the people in the bars and around the country are looking at these plays. They had a better vantage point than our guy in the booth.

"We've upgraded to HD technology across the board. They're all installed. It will improve the game and it will improve our accuracy as well as speed up the process in the replay booth."

Mumblings from Big Ten players

-Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber on what he would feel if the Gophers didn't beat the Badgers this season:

"It would be a tragic disappointment for us. There have been so many close games and heartbreakers that we've had. We've been missing that one little step. That's why you get so excited heading into a new season because it's a whole clean slate to go out there and finish games that we haven't finished in the past."

-Weber on playing a tough schedule this season:

"I don't understand why people are like, 'Oh, you're schedule…' No, that's what you want. Why would you want to play a bunch of Sallies? I don't get it. Of course you want to play the top dogs. It's our opportunity to go out there and play the best. Shoot, if you win, then you're the best. It's that simple."

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-Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward on the size of his helmet:

"I have an XL. I don't know how my dad's was bigger than that, but he knocked out some heads with that. His head is strong. I'm trying to be like that."

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-Scott Tolzien on whether John Clay is a Heisman candidate:

"I hope so. I'm not going to sit here and say Heisman this or Heisman that. John's got to prove it and we've got to prove it as an offense. We know that the Heisman winners come from team success. From an offensive production standpoint I know we have a great line in place and things like that, but John's got to go out and prove it again this year. 2009 really has no meaning in 2010."

-Tolzien on hyping Clay as a Heisman candidate:

"I don't know. I'm not an advertising major. I might transfer my majors and figure that one out. I'll get back to you in a year."

-Clay on being on the cover of Sports Illustrated for best pictures of the year:

"I didn't know if it was real or not. People were just putting it up on Facebook and I thought someone had just created it. Then my mom and people were calling me and telling me congratulations on the magazine. I didn't know anything about it until somebody told me it was the best photo of the year. I felt real honored by that."

-Jay Valai on Chris Borland:

"He's the little engine that could. Chris Borland is a freak. He's a great athlete and one of the best pass rushers I've seen since I've been here ever, from any team we've played against, too. Chris Borland is a freak. He's an aggressive kid and I like him a lot. When you have that mentality as a freshman, that you don't care who you're playing against and you aren't scared of them, you just go out there and do what you do."

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