Big Ten Media Days 2021: Ohio State QB battle, coaches on the hot seat among storylines in Indianapolis

Just some months into his position as Massive Ten commissioner final July, Kevin Warren ought to have been gearing up for his first state of the convention tackle at Massive Ten Media Days. As an alternative, Warren discovered himself navigating a disaster because the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a lot of the sports activities world to a halt earlier than he’d even presided over his first soccer season as commissioner.

Now, a yr and a half into his tenure, Warren will lastly get the possibility to articulate his imaginative and prescient for the convention on Thursday as 2021 Massive Ten Media Days begins at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. There will probably be a lot for him to unpack amid the altering panorama of school sports activities, which incorporates new monetary alternatives for athletes, extra freedom in transferring and the looming enlargement of the College Football Playoff.

Whereas these matters will certainly be mentioned at size by Warren and the league’s 14 coaches, there are additionally loads of on-field storylines to dissect within the Massive Ten forward of the 2021 season. Ohio State is clearly the convention’s prime canine, however there are quarterback battles, sizzling seat conditions and a hungry pack chasing on the Buckeyes’ heels to unpack. Listed here are a few of the conversations to observe as we gear up for the unofficial starting of Massive Ten soccer season.

Ohio State’s quarterback battle

Although the Buckeyes are the runaway preseason favourite to win the Massive Ten, there’s a vital query hovering over Ohio State because it seeks a 3rd straight Faculty Soccer Playoff look. That query is on the quarterback place, the place expertise abounds however confirmed manufacturing is nonexistent. Redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud is the frontrunner, and there is a lot to love in regards to the former No. 2-ranked pro-style quarterback from the 2020 recruiting class. Nevertheless, he appeared solely briefly in two video games final season and didn’t try a go. The identical goes for competitor Jack Miller III, who registered appearances in opposition to Nebraska and Michigan State with out trying a go final yr. 

For a workforce that opens with video games at Minnesota (Sept. 2) and at dwelling in opposition to Oregon (Sept. 11), that could possibly be a priority. As Phil Steele famous in his season preview journal, that is the primary time since 1952 that the Buckeyes do not return a single quarterback with precise in-game passing expertise. During the last 4 years, Ohio State quarterbacks Justin Fields, Dwayne Haskins and J.T. Barrett mixed for 148 touchdowns and simply 26 interceptions. That interprets to 2.96 landing throws per recreation. On this period of high-flying offense, it is possible that Stroud or one in all OSU’s different signal-callers might step in and carry that banner ahead. However it’s kind of unsettling to enter a marketing campaign with no expertise on the place, particularly contemplating that whoever wins the battle will probably be examined instantly. 

Seeing if/how Day addresses that concern and the looming quarterback battle in preseason follow will probably be an intriguing storyline of day two at Massive Ten Media Days.

Sizzling seats for Scott Frost and Jim Harbaugh

Coaches typically do not love preseason media days occasions, however this yr’s rodeo could possibly be notably disagreeable for Scott Frost of Nebraska and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan. That is surreal when you think about each had been thought of home-run hires and considered new stars for the league throughout their debut appearances at this occasion within the not-too-distant previous.

However after simply three years, Frost is all the best way as much as “win or be fired” territory in Dennis Dodd’s hot seat rankings whereas Harbaugh lags solely shortly behind within the “begin bettering now” class as he enters Yr Seven and not using a division title or a single victory in opposition to Ohio State.

Each are legendary former quarterbacks at their faculties and the sorts of coaches who make you assume, “sheesh, if that man cannot win there, then who can?” Frost and Harbaugh can count on to be peppered with questions in regards to the path of their packages, and whereas that could be disagreeable for them, it’s going to be insightful for the remainder of us making an attempt to make sense out of the place their tenures are headed.

Penn State and Minnesota’s expectations

Penn State coach James Franklin and Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck every face a alternative getting into their Massive Ten Media Days appearances after disappointing 2020 seasons: how onerous do they push in pumping up their 2021 squads?

Each the Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers completed with dropping data final yr after every reached 11 wins in 2019, and the unexpected dips for each packages seem to have recalibrated expectations. Whereas each are anticipated to return to successful data and play in bowls, neither are essentially anticipated to compete for a division title.

Penn State should take care of clear-cut league favourite Ohio State within the East Division whereas taking part in at Iowa and at Wisconsin out of the West along with internet hosting Auburn in nonconference play. Minnesota should additionally take care of Iowa and Wisconsin within the West, and Fleck is simply 1-7 in opposition to these two to this point in an in any other case strong tenure. Plus, the Gophers open with Ohio State and play at Colorado in a nonconference recreation.

Given the disappointing outcomes of final season and the measured expectations round each packages this yr, it looks like Franklin and Fleck each have a chance to skate by with 7-8 common season wins with out catching an excessive amount of flack. However each are extremely proud coaches who could possibly be liable to push again on these middling expectations and venture a way of bravado. Are their groups prepared for a return to their 2019 ranges? How they resolve to play it in entrance of the cameras might go a good distance for setting the fan expectations round each groups.

Iowa as a sleeper?

The league’s Week 2 slate is jam-packed with Oregon taking part in at Ohio State and Washington taking part in at Michigan in a pair of non-annual Pac-12 vs. Massive Ten clashes that can assist form the season-long narratives for each leagues. However the day’s largest recreation may very well be an annual in-state rivalry contest that, in previous years, has slipped to afterthought standing exterior the Hawkeye State.

When Iowa performs at Iowa State on the identical day as these different non-league showdowns, it has an opportunity to play the unorthodox position of spoiler by knocking off the Cyclones, who’re considered the highest challenger to Oklahoma within the Massive 12 and a possible CFP-caliber squad. Contemplating what’s anticipated of Iowa State and the truth that the sport wasn’t performed final season for the primary time since 1976, each squads will probably be jacked up for the showdown.

It looks like there may be an assumption that Iowa State will snap its five-game dropping streak to the Hawkeyes and start a triumphant march to its greatest season in program in historical past. However Massive Ten Media Days needs to be a reminder that Iowa goes to be a troublesome out within the 2021 season. Though the Massive Ten doesn’t launch an official preseason media ballot, the Hawkeyes are a well-regarded workforce that gained six straight video games to shut the 2020.

The Hawkeyes keep away from Ohio State out of the Massive Ten East this season and get Penn State at dwelling. If the unofficial polls that emerge from Massive Ten Media Days put Iowa forward of Wisconsin, it should simply add one other jolt of life to the anticipation surrounding the Sept. 11 Iowa-Iowa State recreation. It might wind up as probably the greatest video games of 2021, and Iowa — not Iowa State — might find yourself because the dark-horse CFP contender from the cornfields. | Massive Ten Media Days 2021: Ohio State QB battle, coaches on the recent seat amongst storylines in Indianapolis


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