Before the press conferences even started, there was news coming out of Chicago at Big Ten Media Days. A panel of media voters named ten preseason honorees, five from each division:
Rashan Gary, Jr., DL, Michigan
Brian Lewerke, Jr., QB, Michigan State
Nick Bosa, Jr., DE, Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins, So., RB, Ohio State
Trace McSorley, Sr., QB, Penn State
Noah Fant, Jr., TE, Iowa
Stanley Morgan Jr., Sr., WR, Nebraska
Paddy Fisher, So., LB, Northwestern
T.J. Edwards, Sr., LB, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor, So., RB, Wisconsin
The first speaker of the day was commissioner Jim Delany.
- He said the conference's roster of coaches is as good, or better, than it's ever been.
- The Big Ten was the only league to increase its in-stadium last season.
- The Big Ten had the country's best record against out-of-conference FBS opponents.
- Asked about the balance between the East and West divisions, Delany said they had previously tried dividing teams up by "competitive equality" and it was not received well by fans, because it did not recognize traditional rivalries. On top of which, Delany believes that the East's dominance is not set in stone.
- Delany acknowledged that it's his belief a nine-game conference schedule makes it more difficult to go undefeated, and the College Football Playoff Committee has all but ruled out having a two-loss team make the sport's final four. With that being said, Big Ten teams are focused on proving themselves on the field.
- With legalized sports betting looming, Delany said, "We have to double down on the educational element. We would prefer a federal framework that omits college sports."
- Also in regards to sports betting, Delany advocated for team's to provide eligibility/injury updates on players, eliminating secrets that might be fodder for gamblers. He called it a "player availability" report. It's a plan stumped for by Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith.
- He said the issue of pay-for-play is close to being decided. He compared it to being in the seventh inning of a baseball game. He said until the matter is decided by the courts, it's premature to say what the landscape of college sports would or should look like if athletes end up being paid.
- Delany said the league has attempted to limit the disruption to high schools caused by the Big Ten playing Friday games. Announcing those games well in advance, he maintains, has helped. Still, he acknowledged that some league teams would prefer to avoid Friday games.
- He said that he believes that, because of the health and safety issues of having a 17-year-old play NFL football, football would be hard pressed to use the college baseball model of having players either turn professional or commit to at least staying through their junior year or 21st birthday, whichever comes first.
The first coach up was the first-year coach at Nebraska.
- Said Nebraska belongs in the "upper echelon" of college football teams, and he's happy to be charged with getting the program back where it belongs.
- He said he's proud of his track record with quarterbacks, and their offensive style helps to highlight and develop even lightly recruited signal callers. The number one trait he looks for in a quarterback is what he called being a "fast blinker," which he defined as making decisions quickly.
- He believes he's already changed a lot at Nebraska, but it is a process.
- Frost will measure success based on whether they are better tomorrow than they were today.
In his 13th season, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald was next at the podium.
- He started by thanking the media for telling his players' stories, and welcoming Scott Frost to the conference. He pointed out that it was nice to have an offseason where there was only one coaching change in the league.
- He described the Cats summer as having been "absolutely spectacular," especially with recent updates to the team's facilities.
- Fitzgerald echoed commissioner Delany on the need to educate players about sports gambling. He pointed out that Northwestern already sends out injury reports. "I've been accused of being honest, and I've been accused of being less than honest, and I'd agree with that," he joked.
- He hopes that running back Jeremy Larkin steps up now that Justin Jackson has departed. He sees signs for optimism. He noted that Larkin averaged 6.0 yards per carry last season while Penn State standout and second overall draft pick Saquon Barkley averaged 5.9 yards. (He did admit this came on 133 fewer carries.)
- Fitzgerald likes the new rule that allows football players to see action in four games before redshirting.
Penn State's head coach spoke about the Nittany Lions immediately after Fitzgerald wrapped up his talk.
- Franklin thinks this upcoming year is probably the first season he's coached at Penn State where the offensive line could be considered a strength of the team.
- The biggest question marks for his team are at defensive tackle and linebacker.
- He admits that they've lost a lot of personnel, but likes the foundation his program has set for the players that are there.
- Although he likes what Penn State is doing in a number of areas, what he is most proud of is how they have developed players.
- When asked about the College Football Playoff, Franklin said, "I like the current system." He does wish there was more consistency across conferences in terms of scheduling.
How can Purdue improve on a 7-6 season in year two under coach Jeff Brohm? He answered that in his time with reporters.
- "Last year was a success." Brohm liked that they built confidence and ended the year with a bang.
- Brohm said he thinks it's good to start the year against a strong opponent. They face Northwestern on Thursday August 30th, while last year they opened against nationally ranked Louisville.
- There are four or five elite Big Ten teams every year, Brohm believes. To join that number now, Brohm thinks his team needs to be faster.
- Commenting on the unusual situation of having brought two quarterbacks with him to Media Days, Brohm said they have both contributed to the Boilermakers success. Brohm described David Blough as more cerebral and Elijah Sindelar as more daring.
- Later on the quarterback competition, Brohm added, "I'm not opposed to playing two guys."
Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck began his time by sending condolences to the family of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
- Fleck described his team as "youthful and young," but then he added that "doesn't mean we can't win."
- Fleck thinks that, especially given his team's inexperience, the new redshirt rule will benefit the Gophers.
- He described their incoming recruiting class as one of the best in school history.
- Fleck said Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano continues to be an influence on his life and his coaching. Schiano taught Fleck not to sacfrice what you really want down the road for what you want right now.
The Rutgers head coach is hoping that having 16 returning starters helps them continue improving.
- He believes that the Scarlet Knights are on track to make the postseason in year three under his coaching, which is the timeline Ash had been hoping for.
- He appreciates the facilities updates they've made, including upgrades to the weight room, practice facility, and now the locker room.
- "2018 is going to be a very fun season."
- Ash has not settled on a quarterback for this upcoming season, but he likes the talent they have at the position. They will let the battle play out through training camp.
- The key to their improvement to this point has been teaching his players how to compete. Ash said they have to learn how to win.
Michigan's head man was the last coach to step to the podium this afternoon.
- Harbaugh noted the change in his offensive staff and said former Buckeye assistant Ed Warinner has been a "great addition." He believes all the offensive coaches are collaborating well.
- Later on Warinner, Harbaugh added, "Ed has done a tremendous job...He's just a good dude." He specifically pointed to the enthusiasm Warinner has brought.
- Asked how much pressure there is to beat Ohio State this year, Harbaugh answered, "We feel like we need to improve, and that will lead to success...That simple."
- Harbaugh said he had "no announcements" to make about the quarterback position. He did later add that grad transfer Shea Patterson went through all of spring practice and benefited from that experience.
- He would like to see the College Football Playoff field expand to eight and then 16 teams.
- Harbaugh's message about gambling was pretty simple, "Don't gamble. Avoid gamblers. Avoid it like the plague." Would he support a mandated injury report? "I'd be fine with that."
NOTE: The date of Purdue's opener has been corrected.