CHICAGO -- The Big Ten has assembled for its annual kickoff event, finally signaling the end of the offseason wasteland and the imminent return of football.
Training camps are still a few days from opening around the league, but every coach and a handful of players from each team will help set the scene with the help of the assembled media. Here’s what to anticipate on the second of two days of festivities.
Who’s here?: Half the teams in the conference appeared Monday, and the rest of the Big Ten members will close out the two-day event by taking their turns at the podium at the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa and Ohio State round out the lineup, with each coach scheduled for 15 minutes on the main stage, beginning this morning at 8 CT. The event will feature College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, conference director of officiating Bill Carollo and BTN president Mark Silverman as speakers before commissioner Jim Delany provides his state of the league address.
Who’s the main attraction?: There is no need for the league’s biggest rock stars to jockey for the spotlight. The Big Ten wisely split up rivals Michigan and Ohio State, which leaves the stage clear for Urban Meyer on Tuesday after Jim Harbaugh’s appearance Monday. Wherever Meyer goes, he draws a crowd, and he’ll be in demand for a variety of reasons. For starters, he has recently shown a greater willingness to use his status as a three-time national champion to speak about issues ranging from recruiting rules to families traveling to the College Football Playoff in an effort to improve the game and the student-athlete experience. On top of that, there are plenty of on-the-field storylines to dive into with the Buckeyes heading into Meyer's fifth season with the program, most notably how he’ll replace all the talent that left for the NFL and the Heisman Trophy candidacy of his returning quarterback, J.T. Barrett.
What to watch: Kirk Ferentz arrived in Chicago at this time a year ago and answered questions about mediocrity, sagging attendance and how hot his seat was getting. Twelve months later, the Iowa coach is at the complete other end of the spectrum and should enjoy his visit to the Windy City way more this time. But with a West Division title and an undefeated regular season come greater expectations, and it will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes handle the pressure as they gear up for training camp next month. Ferentz hardly ever seems fazed by the good or the bad. With a Thorpe Award in tow, Desmond King is a superstar and a big draw for the cameras and microphones. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is a known commodity who will be expected to lead another campaign as successful as the previous one. The Hawkeyes aren’t traditionally major newsmakers at Big Ten media days, but there should be plenty of eyes watching them today.
Questions for each team on Day 2
How will the Buckeyes replace all that talent? The NFL draft might have been a weekend of celebration for the program, with so many decorated seniors and early entrants hearing their names called. But it was also a sobering reminder of just how much work the Buckeyes have to do to fill the void left by the players who helped Meyer win 50 games and a national championship in his first four seasons with the program. Ohio State returns just six starters from a year ago. Although Meyer has recruited ridiculously well and was certainly aware that he would have to replace all those superstars at some point, this will be the true test of whether he is positioned to reload or staring at a rebuild.
To see more questions the Buckeyes might face, click here.
Can they do it again?: This time a year ago, people were debating whether Kirk Ferentz was on the hot seat. Absolutely nobody saw a 12-0 regular season, a West Division championship and a Rose Bowl berth coming. The obvious question this summer is: Was that just a fluke, or have the Hawkeyes established themselves as serious Big Ten and College Football Playoff threats? It helps that Iowa is bringing some well-known names to Chicago, where the Hawkeyes likely will be anointed as preseason West favorites. For sure, there will be a lot more attention on the team this year than there was 12 months ago.
To see more questions the Hawkeyes might face, click here.
Life after Aranda: Wisconsin's biggest offseason loss was arguably that of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who left for the same post at LSU. Under Aranda, the Badgers fielded some of the best defenses in the country the past few seasons. Justin Wilcox, who was a rising star before he hit a bump in the road at USC, takes over and will try to continue that success. Replacing All-American linebacker Joe Schobert won't be easy, but Vince Biegel looks ready to dominate as a senior. Still, Aranda's creativity on that side of the ball could be missed.
To see more questions the Badgers might face, click here.
Who will take over at quarterback? There might already be a leader in the race to take over the offense from Connor Cook, but replacing the most prolific passer in school history and a proven winner is no small task. If the Spartans are going to defend their title, finding a definitive answer at quarterback obviously isn’t short on importance, either. Tyler O'Connor has filled in admirably for Cook in the past, including tossing a touchdown in the upset win over Ohio State last season, and he seemed to have an edge over Damion Terry coming out of spring practice. But Cook’s absence will be mentioned plenty next week, and the quarterback position will continue to be analyzed all the way up to the start of the season.
To see more questions the Spartans might face, click here.
What can the Big Ten expect from a D.J. Durkin-led team?: As is the case for any new coach taking the podium for the first time, the former Michigan defensive coordinator will be asked about the style of play he prefers, how he plans to change the culture and his timetable for building a winning program. Durkin might also be drawn into some comparisons between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, given his experience working with both, which might be annoying to a coach trying to market his own program but could provide a bit more exposure than the Terrapins might have otherwise received coming off such a disastrous season.
To see more questions the Terps might face, click here.
How is the transition back to the college game going for Lovie Smith?: Plenty of attention has already been devoted to how Smith will handle the move from the NFL since Illinois pulled off its unexpected hiring in March. Smith should be prepared for an onslaught of questions about his transition, which should go hand-in-hand with opportunities for him to detail what he wants his teams to look like over the course of the six-year contract he signed to rebuild the program. Smith's presence alone should produce a much brighter spotlight than usual on the Illini.
To see more questions the Illini might face, click here.
Has the program turned a corner?: The Hoosiers made their first bowl game since 2007 -- and just their second since 1993 -- last season and lost to Duke in overtime of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Indiana has a high-powered offense and has seemingly been on the verge of a breakthrough for the past few years under Wilson. Was 2015 that breakthrough? Or was it largely the result of a weak nonconference schedule? Indiana players will no doubt speak optimistically about the experience gained from a postseason bid and its effects on the program moving forward, though the arrival of a nine-game Big Ten conference schedule does the team few favors.
To see more questions the Hoosiers might face, click here.