This week's Big Ten roundtable features Mark Brennan of Fight on State, Josh Harvey of Big Red Report, Sam Hellman of Scarlet Report, Dave Berk of Spartan Digest and Derek Young of Hawkeye Insider.
One of the big storylines during Big Ten Media Days this week emerged when Penn State head coach James Franklin seemed to accuse other schools of negative recruiting, saying "Other schools are contacting (recruits) and telling them the NCAA is going to get involved again and impose more sanctions.” What did you make of his comments and the reaction from other coaches?
MARK BRENNAN, FIGHT ON STATE: Well, considering Franklin’s original comments on the topic were made a month earlier, it was kind of funny that it took this long for them to generate national headlines. The issue here is not whether other schools — including one or more B1G programs — are using the false narrative of possible further NCAA sanctions stemming from the Sandusky scandal to negatively recruit against Penn State. Does anyone actually doubt that is happening? I didn’t think so.
However, anyone who actually read Franklin’s original comments could see he was careful to not call out any other program by name. And AD Sandy Barbour declined to name names when I asked her about it in Chicago.
Penn State got what it wanted out of the hubbub. Namely, sending a clear message to recruits that there is no possibility of further NCAA sanctions stemming from the Sandusky scandal.
My criticism of PSU is that in failing to name names, Franklin and Barbour are allowing B1G schools that are NOT using this tactic to be negatively lumped in with the one or more than may be. And for Franklin to suggest he was surprised that happened is disingenuous.
DEREK YOUNG, HAWKEYE INSIDER: I think it was a recruiting strategy of his own to get out in front of it the way he did in the public eye and try to squash any of those concerns recruits may have. I would say that's a good move on his part but he probably did not expect it to go viral as it did.
As a whole, I think it was a lot of hot air. Other conferences probably laughed at this being a story. Negative recruiting happens everywhere and I could argue that if you're not negative recruiting, you probably aren't doing a very good job because it's kind of in the job description.
JOSH HARVEY, BIG RED REPORT: I was a bit surprised the story got as much play as it did. First, I doubt he thought it would blow up the way it did. Second, it is my experience most recruits can see past extreme negative recruiting - even if it is going on. The guys who are successful in the business are the ones who are selling their own brand and aren’t worried about what others are doing. That is not to say you don’t highlights your strengths to other schools, but there is a way to go about it where you don’t come off as petty.
DAVE BERK, SPARTAN DIGEST: Not surprised this made news as anytime you put Ohio State out there it will gain some traction. Over the years I've had recruits talk about how a school will recruit in a negative manner, but a lot of that has now gone away with the way social media is used by recruits.
Which coaches “won” B1G Media Days in your opinion? And who were less-than-impressive?
SAM HELLMAN, SCARLET REPORT: Chris Ash would be an easy answer for me given how low my expectations were after the last two media days for Rutgers, so I'll go with Mark Dantonio. Everything from his handling the loss of a former player to giving real insight on a lot of the big picture questions, he just comes off as a pro. I'll also say that the Big Ten coaching community as a whole handled the Nebraska tragedy with tremendous respect and class. Nobody really loses in these events although the Jim Harbaugh shtick got uncomfortable at times. As long as he wins, I doubt his fans will care.
HARVEY: I don’t know if this will be a trendy pick, but new Rutgers head coach Chris Ash I thought had a solid media day. Ash inherited a mess, but showed a confidence about the job ahead, without sugar coating anything. He was asked about the rivalry with Michigan and admitted that Michigan is on a different level yet, but said Rutgers is striving to have a rivalry with everyone in the conference.
As far as a not-so-impressive day, no one comes to mind. But, how did Pat Fitzgerald forget Lovie Smith? Or did he?
BRENNAN: Not sure who won the event, but Urban Meyer had the best line of the two-day get-together. Surrounded by reporters at his breakout podium, Meyer was talking about a discussion he had with Penn State’s James Franklin regarding the negative recruiting ruckus.
“James actually came up to me and said, ‘I did not accuse Ohio State of negative recruiting,” Meyer recalled. “I looked and I said, ‘You mean a media guy actually created a story? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of it.’”
The deadpan delivery was so perfect that all of the media types surrounding Meyer could not help but laugh.
Again, I did not see enough of all the coaches to say who was less impressive. But I will say as terrific as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh can be when he takes center stage, I’ll bet he regrets not take the occasion of his primary press conference Monday to express condolences for the recent tragedy that impacted Nebraska and Michigan State.
This week, the media picked Ohio State out of the East (followed by Michigan) and Iowa in the West (ahead of Nebraska), with the Buckeyes picked as the conference champ. Big Ten media haven't picked the Big Ten winner correctly in the poll's six-year existence. Will this year be any different?
BERK: Fully what I would expect from both the East and West. Ohio State lost a lot but also have the luxury of top recruiting classes to replace the losses. Michigan has a lot of love from the media but now must show it on the field against Ohio State and Michigan State. Iowa returns a lot and should be the clear favorite to win and make a return trip to Indy.
YOUNG: Iowa seems like they should be a lopsided favorite in the West, but I doubt it turns that way. They'll likely have much more of a fight on their hands than what it suggests on paper. Northwestern could take a step back, Wisconsin's schedule is brutal, and Nebraska hasn't gotten over the hump yet. Meanwhile, Iowa actually likely has a better roster this year than they did a year ago.
In the East, it is much tighter on paper. Ohio State has to reload fast. They can but that won't be an easy job. Michigan is on the rise but still has a couple questions, particularly on the offensive end. I think you'll see a logjam at the tight where the top 3 or 4 beat each other up.
HARVEY: At this point I don’t know how anyone could have picked differently. Ohio State is 50-4 under Urban Meyer. Yes they have to replace 12 NFL draft picks, but they are also a school that has shown in the past to be able to reload quickly. In the west, Wisconsin has a horrible schedule and will be breaking in a new quarterback. Nebraska looks promising, but still finished just 6-7 last season. Iowa returns one of the top quarterbacks in college football this season and the best defensive back in the country.
BRENNAN: I know, Michigan is at Michigan State and Ohio State this year. But, man, the Wolverines are loaded with veteran, future NFL talent. (Harbaugh ought to be sending a thank-you note to Brady Hoke.) The Buckeyes just lost too many outstanding players, so I expect a bit of a drop-off there. As for the West, does it really matter? Do you see any of those programs beating a Michigan or Ohio State in the championship game?
HELLMAN: The polls came out as they should. Am I convinced that it will be Ohio State and Iowa that take it? Of course not. Sure, Ohio State is young but it's a lot easier to replace 12 NFL draft picks when you sign a dozen five-star kids every year. There are some real potential sleepers out there, especially in the West, but this feels like the way the polls should have gone. I can't pick Michigan to top Ohio State until it actually happens and MSU has some elite players to replace as well. Nebraska and Northwestern both have some exciting options on offense but Iowa is the most complete team.