Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The SEC media circus is well under way in Alabama, and next week marks the unofficial start to the Big Ten season as head coaches and players from all 11 teams arrive in Chicago for media days.
I'm probably a little too excited to make the trip down Lake Shore Drive to the Hyatt Regency, but after a full offseason of blogging, I can't wait for things to get started.
Big Ten media days lack the crowd or the craziness of the SEC event, but there's always some entertainment. If anything, the kickoff luncheon Tuesday provides some comic relief as mascots and cheerleaders mill about near the conference rooms.
The event schedule goes like this:
All 11 Big Ten head coaches will address reporters on the dais from 11 a.m to 2:15 p.m. ET. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany talks from 2:30 to 3 p.m. ET.
All 11 head coaches and three players from each team will be available for one-on-one interviews from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET. New Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo also will do interviews at this time.
Players and coaches have autograph and photo sessions from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the kickoff luncheon begins at 12:30.
Here are some storylines I'll be following next week in Chicago:
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is always a newsmaker, no matter what he's talking about. Paterno has a new contract and a new hip, and he appears to have no plans to retire soon. But I'm sure he'll be asked about retirement, Big Ten expansion and whether his team can repeat as league champs.
Can the Big Ten rebound in the postseason? Six consecutive losses in BCS games, two national title game defeats and no Rose Bowl wins since 2000 have soured the league's national reputation. The league really did nothing to improve its standing last season, and coaches and players will be asked how they can fix the problem this fall.
The Ohio State-USC game once again will be the Big Ten's premier nonconference matchup. This time, the Buckeyes get USC at home and hold an edge in experience. Sure, the game isn't until Sept. 12, but the hype machine cranks up Monday. Can the Buckeyes end the Big Ten's run of badness against the mighty Trojans?
It's Rich Rodriguez's second season at Michigan, and expectations will be higher for the Wolverines. Rodriguez has a track record of Year 2 turnarounds, but he'll be once again working with an inexperienced quarterback (Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson). Can he get Michigan back to the postseason?
Speaking of quarterback competitions, I'll be checking on how things are going at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue.
There's a movement among some Big Ten athletic directors to add a ninth conference game, even though it would leave the schedule unbalanced. How close is this to being a reality?
Delany will undoubtedly be asked about expansion, and he'll undoubtedly give the same answer he's given for months -- it's a back-burner issue. I'm more interested to see whether the Big Ten will shuffle its bowl lineup as most agreements expire after the 2009 season.
I'm interested to get injury and status updates on the following players: Illinois DT Josh Brent, Indiana S Austin Thomas, Iowa RB Jewel Hampton, Michigan RB Kevin Grady, Michigan DE Ryan Van Bergen, Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, Ohio State RB Jaamal Berry, Penn State RB Stephfon Green and Purdue RB Jaycen Taylor.
Needless to say, there will be a lot on my mind. The Big Ten blog should be your destination throughout media days for all the updates from downtown Chicago.