With spring practices a distant memory, the Big Ten Media days in Chicago provide the first official glimpse into the 2009 college football season. The first day allowed for all 11 coaches to greet the media and give their thoughts on their programs heading into the season, thoughts on conference and national issues as well as random observations and musings.
Minnesota coach Tim Brewster began his comments discussing senior wide receiver Eric Decker. "I don’t think there’s a better wide receiver in the country than Eric Decker, and I think he’s poised to have a tremendous senior season," Brewster said. He also went on to say quarterback Adam Weber throwing to Decker "is going to be a heck of a tandem."
Brewster also discussed the upcoming home-and-home series against Southern California, which will start next year when USC visits TCF Bank Stadium on September 18, 2010.
"One of the thoughts that I had from day one is to play a very challenging nonconference schedule that recruits are going to be excited about," Brewster said. "When I talk to recruits on the phone, they say, ‘Hey, coach, who are you playing in the non-conference schedule? When I say, we’re playing USC, you can sense an excitement in a young man’s voice. Kids want to play in marquee nationally televised games."
Brewster went on to talk about possible expansion of the conference, which is rumored to be considering one more team to put the number of teams at 12.
"I look forward to the day when we add a team and we split the divisions and we play for a championship on national TV on a Saturday night in December," Brewster said. "I mean, how good would that be for the exposure of this conference? I think we’re missing a little something there by not having that."
One coach who is scheduling games into December is Ron Zook. Zook’s Fighting Illini will play two non-conference games after their final Big Ten game against Northwestern. The final game, on December 5 against Fresno State, serves a dual-purpose. A late game extends the season and keeps the Illini in the minds of the BCS polls come bowl selection while also keeping his team in game shape by avoiding a potential five to six week layoff between the end of the regular season and the bowl game.
"We’re going to end up playing December 5th, so we’re extending out season," Zook said. "We’ve got two open dates, and I think that’s one of the things that can possibly help our program be able to prolong, if we’re fortunate enough to get into the post season."
Other News and Notes from Day One:
-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was asked his opinion on the toughest place to play in the Big Ten:
"I’m a little biased, but I think Wisconsin," Bielema said. "It’s been brought to my attention that over the last five years, we’ve only lost three games [at home]."
Bielema went on to lament the difficulty of scheduling top caliber non-conference opponents, citing Wisconsin’s home success as a deterrent of programs not willing to play Wisconsin at Camp Randall.
-An uncomfotable moment as Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez was asked about quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whom Rodriguez recruited heavily and lost out on when Pryor committed to Ohio State.
"I’d prefer to talk about my own guys," Rodriguez said.
-Quote of the day, and possibly the year, from Penn State coach Joe Paterno about a certain social networking website:
"The fans have got to put something on those-what you you guys call those things, Twittle-Do, Twittle-dee? I haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re looking at, either."
More updates to follow tomorrow, including quotes from player representatives.