CHICAGO - As usual, the theme of the day was comparing the Big Ten to the SEC. For the sake of my own sanity, I am going to avoid the topic all together as I wrap-up the day. The SEC is better now, three years ago it wasn't and three years from now the Big Ten might be better.... who cares?
Northwestern - Just one minute into the day, we already had the answer to our most burning question: Who didn't vote for Tim Tebow?!?
"I want to make sure I make my vote crystal clear," NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I did vote for Tim Tebow, so I want to make sure there's no questions about that."
When asked what the next step was for the NU football program, Fitzgerald gave a very diplomatic answer, saying the Cats had to "continue the academic success" and "continue to have our strength staff and speed staff develop our young men the way that will help us continue to have the competitive depth." Of course, continuing to do two things you already do has nothing to do with the "next step" but he did say "that will result in victories on the field."
When asked about former UW and current NU defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, Fitz said: "Hank is just a consummate football coach and a tremendous man and a great teacher and a great leader." Hmm... sounds like the kind of man the Badger defense could use. Oh, wait...
Fitz went on to joke about not having to play Michigan and Ohio State this season. He claimed he was "heart-broken" and was going to "file a grievance." For some reason, I doubt he will.
Illinois - Do Ron Zook and Bruce Weber spend their summers constantly yelling at each other in fear of the day where their voice might actually sound normal? I swear these two guys enter every season with their voice already shot to hell.
Despite the sometimes entertaining raspy voice, Zook gets nominated for the most boring press conference of the day. Not a whole lot here, except he expects big seasons out of Arrelious Benn and Martez Wilson. Wilson has switched to Mike linebacker and Zook said, "I think [Wilson] wants to pattern himself after Brit and after J," of course referring to former Illinois middle linebackers Brit Miller and J Leman. I have a feeling he will be faster and better than both of them.
Michigan - You know your not a very good football team when... you get asked about your punter. Granted Zoltan Mesko might be the best punter in college football, but I'm guessing Rich Rodriguez would rather be fielding questions about star quarterbacks and wide receivers rather than a star punter.
As far as the true freshman quarterback Rich Rod hopes might become a star: "You get nervous as a coach when you talk about possibly playing true freshman anywhere, particularly at quarterback. But I have all the confidence in the world that our coaches and Tate [Forcier] will put the work in to get ready."
Purdue - So an hour or two after a press conference, a transcript of the press conference is made available to the media. It's interesting that a key phrase in one of Danny Hope's answers was left out of the printed transcript. When asked about the Purdue-Indiana rivalry, Hope said:
"We don't like them, they don't like us, and that's what makes it fun."
That phrase was suspiciously missing in the printed transcript.
Meanwhile, the winner of the "Student Reporter who got Embarrassed by a Head Coach Award" goes to Stephanie Kuzydym from the Indiana Daily Student who asked Hope what his favorite IU-Purdue rivalry joke was.
"I'm not foolish enough to say that today," Hope said. "That's why we play the game young lady."
Minnesota - Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany made an interesting comment today when he said, "The twelfth game, probably too often, has gone to an opponent that is a home game and one that you have a really good chance of winning against, to be honest about it."
Obviously that comment scores some points for Badger fans around the country who are tired of the games against Cal Poly and Wofford, but if there is one guy that can't be criticized for scheduling softly, it's Tim Brewster. The Minnesota head coach couldn't help but brag about a game that isn't even on his 2009 schedule, but you can't really blame him for looking ahead when he is bragging about playing USC in 2010.
Brewster also made some news today by admitting that he looks "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."
Kudos to Brewster, who continues to steal the show every year at Big Ten Media Days.
Ohio State - The Buckeyes were once again picked to win the Big Ten (including by yours truly), but with Navy, USC and Illinois on the schedule (all at home) in the first four weeks of the season Jim Tressel knows "we're going to need to grow up very, very quickly."
As far as replacing Beanie Wells, Tressel said: "Danny Herron and Brandon Saine, it's their time to step up."
Indiana - Obviously the Hoosiers aren't very good, so a lot of the talk was about some changes IU has made to improve the "game day" atmosphere. That apparently included Bill Lynch visiting the fraternites and sororities on campus, something Bret Bielema did a couple of years ago.
"The sororities were a lot better than the fraternities," Lynch said, laughing.
Michigan State - For me, the shocker of the day was seeing Michigan State picked to finish third in the pre-season media poll. But to be honest, it's a toss0up as to which team is the third best in the conference right now and someone had to win it (I picked Illinois third after Ohio State and Penn State, respectively).
Obviously the Spartans were a good football team last year, but they got hammered by Ohio State and Penn State. Mark Dantonio knows that winning those games this year will determine whether or not Sparty can compete for the conference crown.
"When you look at the score last year, not very close," Dantonio said. "Again, I think we could have played better in both of those games. But as I said earlier, one of the biggest goals is we need to play up, play to the best of our ability, and overachieve when we play those people. That's what it's going to take. We have to develop a certain amount of confidence to play at that level. They're both outstanding programs, and we got handled in both cases."
Iowa - All the sudden Kirk Ferentz is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten, but he doesn't think that gives him any kind of advantage because when other teams change staffs, he said you have to start from scratch when preparing to play those teams.
"In our case, we rotate our schedule every two years, so you're almost starting over there again when you don't play a team for a couple years," Ferentz said. "You know, so I don't know that it's real prominent. It really isn't."
And since Ferentz was the last head coach of the day and there had been so much talk about the Big Ten vs. the SEC, one reporter had to check to make sure Iowa beat an SEC team last season.
"Did you guys beat an SEC team in the bowl game last year," the reporter asked.
"Yeah, it was South Carolina."
Just checking, I guess.
(More on Wisconsin, Penn State and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney in later posts.)