Downtown Chicago bustled with activity this week as the Big Ten Conference hosted its 48th annual media days. With the college football season on the horizon, representatives from the conference’s 14 member schools converged on the Windy City for the summer rite of passage.
There were no shortage of storylines from the two-day event, so I honed in on a few I believed to be noteworthy.
• On Thursday morning, league commissioner Jim Delany made his last appearance, signaling the end of a 31-year tenure. In his parting address, Delany touched on perceived hits and misses of his career, and, in Delany fashion, shared his thoughts on the Big Ten's two-year exclusion from the College Football Playoff, and his conference’s nine-game league schedule.
In no surprise to anyone, Delany’s College Football Playoff gripes resonated with his audience. Collectively, coaches unified on the front, and Penn State coach James Franklin even offered a bit of his perspective on the matter when asked about it during his podium address on Friday.
"I think we've got to at least have a discussion," Franklin said. "Not necessarily saying we need to make any changes, but we need to have a discussion. Obviously I think the nine conference games is something that needs to be discussed. When you play nine conference games, you're going to have more losses within your conference, just obvious mathematics tell you that."
While college football fans in the South may interpret Delany’s gripes as sour grapes, there’s something to be said about playing a nine-game league tilt. Delany vehemently shot down any notion of the league scaling back its league schedule to eight games. Incoming commissioner Kevin Warren can look forward to carrying the mantle should the Big Ten again be shut out of the College Football Playoff for the third straight year.
• Penn State this offseason has played it coy concerning its highly anticipated quarterback battle between Sean Clifford and Will Levis. Those hoping to gain some insight as to who Franklin believes holds the slight at this point weren’t afforded any clarity following media days.
It appears redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford would make sense as the clear-cut favorite, mainly because he’s the lone quarterback on Penn State’s roster with actual in-game experience. And while Clifford’s arm strength was displayed at times last season, Franklin said Clfford's speed this offseason has impressed him.
Franklin also touted Levis’ attributes, saying, “Will looks like Troy Aikman — he’s strong (and) can throw the ball.”
While Penn State’s quarterback situation remains a mystery, we can all agree we’re not likely to know anything of substance on the front until fall camp opens next month.
• Big Ten Network president Francois McGillicuddy provided perhaps the most noteworthy news of the day for Pennsylvanians on Thursday when he announced former Penn State great Matt Millen was returning to his role as a BTN analyst this season.
Millen underwent heart transplant surgery last Christmas Eve and returned to Happy Valley and the TV booth in the spring for the Blue-White game. I spoke with Millen on Friday and he said he was feeling great and looking forward to getting back on the job. He also offered a few thoughts on this year’s football team, which I’ll share at a later date.
For now, no official bombshells have emerged from the 2019 Big Ten media days, unlike last year’s Urban Meyer-Zach Smith debacle that eventually resulted in Meyer's three-game suspension to begin the season.
The conclusion of media days unofficially flips the calendar to the beginning of what’s sure to be a competitive and dramatic Big Ten season.