If change is hard to handle, the Big Ten Conference football race is right up your alley. After sharing the Big Ten title last fall, Ohio State earned the role of preseason favorite in a poll of media announced by the league office Monday.
If change is hard to handle, the Big Ten Conference football race is right up your alley.
After sharing the Big Ten title last fall, Ohio State earned the role of preseason favorite in a poll of media announced by the league office Monday. Penn State, which tied for the conference title a year ago, finished second in the voting. Michigan State was third.
"It's probably the youngest group that I can remember that we've had,'' said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. "Twenty-eight seniors graduated and three juniors graduated. So spring practice was a lot of fun. It was one of those types of springs that you could really notice improvement because of how young we were and guys getting opportunities. It's really an exciting time for us.''
Ohio State finished 10-3 overall and 7-1 in league play and played in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes return 12 starters, including preseason conference offensive player of the year Terrelle Pryor. As a freshman, Pryor led Big Ten quarterbacks with 151.3 passing efficiency rating last season. He was 8-1 as a starter.
The Buckeyes have won or shared four straight conference championships. Penn State went 11-2 and appeared in the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones was selected the preseason defensive player of the year after finishing third in the conference with 127 tackles last season.
Otherwise, the Big Ten football kickoff media days that run Monday and Tuesday are a chance for the league to heal the wounds from the latest poor showing in bowl season and an opportunity for commissioner Jim Delany to renew bowl agreements and stand firm on the Big Ten's stance.
"Clearly the idea of a playoff in any form or shape is not something that is very welcome in the Big Ten,'' Delany said.
But the league and the Pac-10 agreed to allow non-BCS conferences more access to the Rose Bowl, although limited in opportunity.
"They can play their way into the Rose Bowl, which hasn't been true in the past,'' Delany said. "It would take two variables to come together simultaneously. If there were a Big Ten or a Pac-10 team that advanced to the championship game, and if in that year a (non-BCS team) was also eligible.''
That could happen only once every four years, Delany said.
Despite the public relations disaster from winning only one bowl game last season, the Big Ten and its coaches put on a happy face – none more than Penn State legend Joe Paterno. His recent hip replacement surgery left Paterno, 82, feeling ready for the upcoming season after winning the Big Ten title for the second time in the last four seasons.
But Paterno wasn't afraid to joke about how long he will stay on the job. Paterno admitted he's not involved in scheduling, because opponents are contracted so far in advance.
"I can’t be looking at who we're playing in the year 2020,'' Paterno said. "I'm dumb, but I ain't that dumb. I'm optimistic but not that optimistic.''
NOTE: Delany and the league is still considering a ninth game in the conference season, but the odd number of teams creates issues. Some teams would have five home games and others just four, leaving concerns over scheduling and economic equity. . .
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.