On Monday and Tuesday local beat reporters and national media will flock to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days. As a journalist, it's the time of year we transition from summer to fall coverage.
Media days have the potential to be hit or miss. Every year major storylines come from the two-day event, but not always are the topics worthy of major headlines. http://www.scout.com/college/nebraska/story/1686317-access-nebraska-on-s...
Last year the talk surrounded Ohio State’s chances at repeating as national champion. In addition, the media was also curious about a guy named Jim from Michigan.
On a local Nebraska level, Mike Riley was making his first trip to Chicago as the Huskers’ head coach. Wisconsin running back Corey Clement also compared the Badgers to an iPhone and Nebraska to a flip phone.
So what could have Chicago buzzing this year? Check out some of things expected to be hot topic items this week.
Nebraska’s old stomping grounds aren’t actually stable these days. Expansion talk at Big 12 Media Days even drowned out the Baylor situation. As the Big 12 looks to possibly poach from smaller conferences or even an independent, does the Big Ten look at the situation and decide to expand to 16 down the road? Commissioner Jim Delaney is slated to talk on Tuesday. Expect a question or two regarding the subject to come up.
Who is the favorite to win the Big Ten West?
Depending on you who ask it could be Iowa. It could be Nebraska. Wisconsin and Northwestern aren’t expected to be far behind. Minnesota looks to get to eight wins. While no team on west side of the division appears to be a playoff contender (sorry Iowa), there should be plenty of competition to make football in November fun to watch.
Can Ohio State reload and be a title-contender?
After losing 12 NFL draft picks it is hard to imagine most teams finishing above .500, let along contending for a title. Most preseason projections have the Buckeyes inside the top five, but one would be kidding themselves if they think Ohio State won’t have its challenges replacing nearly their whole offensive line, Ezekiel Elliot and four defenders who were drafted in the first/second round.
New coaches hit Chicago
The biggest name will be Lovie Smith at Illinois, who isn’t a stranger to the media after his career in the NFL. In all four new names will go thru the ringer on Monday and Tuesday. None are expected to lead their teams to division contention this season, but each have an interesting job ahead.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong had 16 interceptions in 2015 and it could have easily been 20. He looked his best during the Huskers' bowl game because the coaches had a great game plan to protect him from making costly mistakes. They will need to continue to do that heading into 2016.
Defensive line depth?
Nebraska not only lost three starters on the defensive line, but backup defensive tackle Kevin Williams to transfer. Depth is an issue entering 2016, especially on the edge. The Huskers will have to rely on multiple players, possibly even starters, who have very little game experience. It will be a tough task for new defensive line coach John Parrella.
Who is the guy at running back?
The running back situation has question marks heading into the fall. It’s likely Nebraska takes a committee approach with senior Terrell Newby (147 carries, 765 yards in 2015), sophomore Devine Ozigbo (38 carries, 209 yards in 2015) and Mikale Wilbon. Ozigbo had a strong showing against UCLA in the bowl, carrying the ball 20 times for 80 yards. Newby will likely be able the guy to get first crack at winning the job outright.
While Nebraska will avoid Michigan and Michigan State, they will have a tough road schedule, featuring teams like: Ohio State, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin.