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Buckeyes move on; Wolverines lick their chops

The Big 10 (where 10 means 10): Lots of luck to Urban Meyer’s successor, who will need it. Will Jim Harbaugh blow it? Who wins the QB battles at Wisconsin and Penn State?

Michigan v Ohio State
All eyes are on the Buckeyes and Wolverines again.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ohio State’s Ryan Day is on the clock, and his first season as a head coach — anywhere — hasn’t even started yet.

Wrestling rhinos would be easier than wearing the whistle in Columbus this season. Juggling snakes would be less dangerous, for sure.

All Day must do is replace Urban Meyer, a three-time national title winner whose teams lost a total of nine games — nine! — over his seven seasons leading the Buckeyes. Oh, and he gets to do it with a nearly all-new cast of characters on the offensive side of the ball. Speaking of which, his quarterback, Justin Fields, had a bad spring after transferring in from Georgia.

So Day has to take on all that — not to mention defending the Big Ten championship — and then there’s this:

He’d better not even think about losing to Michigan. Meyer was an incredible, unforgettable 7-for-7 against the Wolverines.

How’s that stress-free training camp going, Coach?

On to the rest of the “Big 10” (where 10 actually means 10):

2. Michigan, man: If the Wolverines don’t get over the Ohio State hump and win the league this year, they should turn the Big House into something more useful, like a youth soccer complex or maybe a theme park.

Aren’t all the pieces in place for the preseason favorites? Coach Jim Harbaugh recognized himself for the offensive caveman he is and hired Josh Gattis from Alabama to coordinate a more spread-out attack that’ll take advantage of quarterback Shea Patterson’s mobility. We have to give the overall coaching edge to the Khaki Man over newbie Day, don’t we? And the Ohio State game is in Ann Arbor this year.

Just. Don’t. Blow. It.

3. Yo, Adrian: Remember McKenzie Milton, Scott Frost’s star quarterback at UCF? Frost took a chance on a freshman Milton and let him start during a transition year for the Knights; a year later, Milton blew up and the team went unbeaten. Frost took a similar chance on freshman Adrian Martinez last year in Lincoln. Is the explosive sophomore ready to become nationally known?

4. Boilers up: Remember how shocked everyone was when coach Jeff Brohm turned down his alma mater, Louisville, to remain at Purdue? At the heart of the matter was an ocean of cash. Purdue poured $65 million into a football-only practice facility. It’s pouring up to $120 million into renovations to Ross-Ade Stadium. And it found another $30 million or so to throw at Brohm for a long-term extension.

Illinois and Northwestern fans might not want to hear it, but this is a rising conference power we’re talking about.

5. Nit picking: Penn State needs a quarterback. No more Trace McSorley, who seemed to hold the starting job for roughly an eon. Tommy Stevens, the talented, trusty backup everyone assumed would succeed McSorley, suddenly heaved himself into the transfer portal and split for Mississippi State. So who’s it going to be, Sean Clifford or Will Levis?

6. A matter of time: Returning quarterback Jack Coan has been getting the bulk of the first-team snaps early on in camp, and it’s probably a good bet that coach Paul Chryst, who isn’t exactly the world’s biggest boat rocker, will have Coan start the opener. Meanwhile, freshman Graham Mertz — who was the No. 1-ranked pocket passer in the Class of 2019 — waits for his time. It’s coming, too. Doesn’t it have to?

7. Terp trouble: This camp — and season — is about holding a program together for new Maryland coach Mike Locksley. He replaced interim coach Matt Canada, who’d been filling in for the fired D.J. Durkin. The Terrapins have talent, which they put on display late last season in a 52-51 overtime loss to Ohio State. But so much change can leave real damage.

8. Sparty’s identity crisis: Michigan State was terrible in 2016, terrific in 2017 and totally down the middle in 2018. Has Mark Dantonio’s program just plain lost its edge? New offensive coordinator Brad Salem has some seriously heavy lifting to do. MSU’s offense was a look-away bad in 2018.

9. Tackle football: Why does Iowa have a sneaky chance to be outstanding? There’s no bigger reason than its offensive tackle duo of Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. Come to think of it, offensive tackles are pretty much the least-sneaky creatures on the planet. But this could be one of the best lines in a long time at a place where hogs are bred for pro ball. Both Jackson and Wirfs could become NFL first-rounders.

10. But seriously, folks: Either Rutgers coach Chris Ash has the driest sense of humor east of the Mississippi, or he was being unintentionally funny when he said at the start of camp, “I get asked a lot about what we have to do to improve, and, first and foremost, I believe that more games are lost than they are won.”

These are the Scarlet Knights we’re talking about. You’d better believe more games are lost.