Ohio State Buckeyes: 5 things to learn on Day 1 of Big Ten Football Media Days

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Wolverines will run more of a run-pass option, shotgun-based offense this season.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Big Ten football unofficially gets underway for 2021 when the conference’s annual media days begin Thursday in Indianapolis.

Commissioner Kevin Warren is set to kick off the festivities at Lucas Oil Stadium on with a 10:30 a.m. address to to the media followed by a question-and-answer session.

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Coaches from Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan will follow him along with Big Ten officiating coordinator Bill Carollo, the coaches and players from each school set to do one-one-one and small-group interviews after that.

The Ohio State contingent is scheduled to speak Friday along with Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue.

Here are five things to find out from the first day:

1. What is Warren’s view on potential College Football Playoff expansion?

While his predecessor, Jim Delaney, was viewed as a major impediment to a playoff ever being established, Warren does not seem to have had much to do with the process that led to a CFP committee suggesting the event expand from four teams to 12.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick developed the plan as a working group within the CFP management committee.

As the leader of one of the major conferences, Warren is sure to have something to do with whether or not it gets implemented, though, and it would be interesting to find out if he is for or against the change and what questions or concerns he might have for it.

2. What’s up with Ohio State’s opening opponent?

Minnesota nearly won the Big Ten West in 2019 but slumped to 3-4 last season.

Of course, 2020 was an unusual campaign for every team, and the Golden Gophers were no exception. They provided some optimism for Michigan fans by getting blown out by the Wolverines during the opening week of the season then went 3-3 the rest of the way with overtime losses to Maryland and Wisconsin included.

Coach P.J. Fleck is known for his optimism, and he has no time to waste in restoring Minnesota’s swagger before the Buckeyes come to town Sept. 2.

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3. How is Bret Bielema these days?

The new coach at Illinois was always a big presence at Big Ten Media Days during his time as the head coach at Wisconsin.

While he inherited a Badgers program that was rolling under Barry Alvarez, his challenge with the Fighting Illini is to finish a rebuilding job Lovie Smith started but hard trouble keeping on track.

Bielema, who is back in the Big Ten after a 29-34 stint as head coach at Arkansas and four seasons in the NFL, sometimes drew the ire of opposing fan bases with his comments from the podium but also was good for football conversations in smaller settings during Big Ten Media Days past.

He was also a big recruiter of Ohio when he coached the Badgers, so it will be interesting to see if he prioritizes the state in his new job.

4. Can Penn State bounce back?

Like Fleck, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin prefers to look on the bright side when dealing with the media and is coming off a losing season.

Penn State lost its first five in 2020 and won its last four to build some momentum going into the offseason, but the challenge of chasing Ohio State remains for Franklin and his crew.

He has a returning starting quarterback in Sean Clifford and a handful of notable transfers to try to close the gap with the Buckeyes, and he is regarded as one of the better recruiters in the country.

Franklin is also among the coaches not afraid to share his opinion on off-field topics such as the playoff selection process (or expansion) and name, image and likeness legislation.

5. What about Michigan?

Jim Harbaugh is scheduled to be the last coach to take the stage Thursday, and there should be no shortage of questions for him.

How many answers he provides is another matter as Harbaugh is not one to suffer fools or go out of his way to answer questions he doesn’t understand or particularly care for.

The Wolverines slumped to 2-4 last season and have lost 10 of their last 21 games, a stretch that began with an upset blowout loss at Ohio State in 2018.

That game seemed to change the narrative for Harbaugh, who was received as a conquering hero when he returned to Ann Arbor in 2015 but has not delivered a conference championship or a win over Ohio State yet.

Harbaugh is no stranger to creating controversy with his comments, but he should have plenty of football questions to field this week.

The Wolverines have a new-look staff, including a new defensive coordinator, and questions at quarterback as preseason practice approaches.