THE WINDY CITY – As I enjoy some precious downtime in Chicago as we all *eagerly* await the start of Big Ten Media Days, a little “preview” of what I’m most watching out for at this made-for-publicity event (in no particular order):
–I’ll say this right off the top: The only thing I’d bet on happening at the Hilton Chicago over these next 48 hours is that James Franklin will (intentionally) say something that has everybody talking. A shrewd promoter of his own program if nothing else, Franklin is smart enough to know how to get the sports world talking not about College Football Playoff-contending Ohio State, not about defending conference champion Michigan State, not about the elite running backs at Nebraska (Ameer Abdullah) or Wisconsin (Melvin Gordon) and not about the new kids in town (Rutgers and Maryland). Nope, expect Franklin to go out of his way to say something to ensure that the news/debate/talking heads cycle from ESPN to Twitter and everywhere in between is talking about Franklin (and, by extension, Penn State). Take it to the bank.
–How will Maryland coach Randy Edsall and Rutgers coach Kyle Flood handle questions about competing with Penn State after Franklin brashly said he considered Maryland and New Jersey to be “in-state.”
–Urban Meyer is one of the biggest names in college coaching. Let’s see if he responds to any prodding about whether he sees a Franklin Penn State as an eventual threat to the Buckeyes’ hold on being The Big Ten’s Marque Program?
–Speaking of Ohio State, forget PSU and the longterm. What team – in 2014 (the Nittany Lions aren’t ready yet) – has the best chance of unseating the Buckeyes, who are preseason Big Ten favorites?
–Will Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany follow the lead of his Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby and make a splash with remarks about the changing landscape of college athletics? Probably not in those terms – but Delany likely will come out hard with some thought-provoking points on issues such as paying players, unionizing players, NCAA enforcement and the idea of a creation of a “Division 4” of big-time football schools separating from the rest of Division I.
–Along those lines, will Northwestern’s players talk about the unionization movement that’s Ground Zero is on their campus? Will any other of the conference player representatives speak out on it (be it positively or negatively)?
–Will any coaches come out in support of a further lessening of Penn State’s sanctions? (They’d have to be asked directly about it, which is so sure thing. I will try to at least ask a couple).
–What is the reaction of the conference media (and, to a point, the national media) on hand to PSU linebacker Mike Hull? The Lions’ biggest name could be poised for a breakout senior season. But is he just another face in the crowd among the 42 players (three from each school) in Chicago? Will Hull draw plenty of attention? Will be embrace it if so?
–Conversely, will anyone talk to Sam Ficken? The senior Nittany Lion is the only kicker represented at Big Ten Media Days.
–Just how much deep-dish pizza will I eat in my approximately 60 hours here?