Nebraska vs. Ohio State, 11/5

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer meet after a game in 2016.

1. Greetings from Chicago ...

Big Ten Media Days begins a two-day run Monday at Hyatt Regency/McCormick Place.

Our Chris Basnett is locked in hard. I'll be in that mode soon enough. We'll pour ourselves into several stories -- on that you can count.

My interest level will escalate Tuesday when Nebraska's representatives -- Mike Riley, Tanner Lee, Chris Weber and Aaron Williams -- will be on hand.

Meanwhile, Monday's lineup features Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa and Ohio State.

My mind shifts to last year at this time, when Urban Meyer told a hotel ballroom of reporters that he expected no drop-off in his program even though the 2015 Buckeyes lost only one game, and the 2016 squad had only eight returning starters.

OSU ended up 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten) last season -- very impressive, but not what it wanted.

"There's a certain standard at Ohio State," quarterback J.T. Barrett told reporters last summer. "You either buy it, or you're not with us."

Said Meyer: "You have to embrace the grind. I hear the word 'chill.' You'll never hear that at our place."

Especially not this summer after Ohio State fell 31-0 to Clemson in last season's College Football Playoff semifinals.

But the Buckeyes, with 15 returning starters from that team, were the overwhelming pick to win the Big Ten East Division in the cleveland.com poll released Friday (click here). The Buckeyes also were the overwhelming choice to win the conference championship game.

The talent level remains exceptionally high and, yeah, so do the standards.

And, yeah, Meyer's right, this is no time to chill.

2. The cleveland.com poll was interesting to me in a few regards, including this:

Although Wisconsin isn't an overwhelmingly talented team, the Badgers were the overwhelming pick (31 of 38 voters) to capture the Big Ten West.

That's a clear show of respect for Paul Chryst, 21-6 in his two seasons in charge, as well as for the Badgers' culture and systems.

His close friend, Riley, is 15-11 at Nebraska.

The 51-year-old Chryst wasn't exactly a sexy hire coming from Pitt, where he was 19-19 from 2012-14. But he's shown to be an excellent fit at Wisconsin, in part because he emphasized offensive line improvement.

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"When I think of Wisconsin football since Barry Alvarez got there in 1990, I always think of the offensive line and being physical," Tom Dienhart of BTN.com told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (click here). "(Chryst) has got that unit, it looks like, poised to be one of the Big Ten's best once again."

3. There's at least one critical reason Iowa was picked to finish fourth in the West behind Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska.

Unlike the top three picks in their division, the Hawkeyes are unsettled at quarterback entering preseason drills.

Neither sophomore Nathan Stanley nor junior Tyler Wiegers grabbed hold of the starting job in the spring. In fact, they were ordinary enough that Kirk Ferentz doesn't rule out a true freshman -- Peyton Mansell of Belton, Texas (click here) -- taking over the job before Iowa opens the season Sept. 2 against Wyoming.

"He's climbing a little bit of a steeper hill than the others just because of the learning," said Ferentz, according to this Land of 10 article (click here). "But if he emerges as the guy, we've got an open mind at every position right now and if that happens, it happens. I don't know if it's realistic, but we'll let that play itself out on the field.

"Difficult, it would be. But not impossible. Difficult. Got to believe the impossible's possible, right? That's what sports and life are all about, right? For him, and then you’ve got to show us."

4. Riley's program has endured its share of bad news recently, but this tweet from Sunday was perhaps a pick-me-up of sorts ...

The talented wide receiver's comments, of course, run contrary to what he recently told SEC Country.

"It (committing to the Huskers) took a lot off my shoulders, a lot off my mind, and it's always good to focus on one thing," Moore, of Yoakum, Texas, said during a camp at Stafford (Texas) High School. "Now, I got the recruiting process out of the way and I can get ready for the season, but I wouldn't say it's been easy. A few schools are still recruiting me and I'm still open with my options, so I won't close anything off until I sign my papers. Whoever wants to recruit me, I'm still listening. I want to make sure I make the right decision."

Bottom line, I'm putting Nebraska's chances to land Moore at a solid 85 percent.

And, thus, we have our first upset from Chicago: I made a recruiting prediction.

5. At the risk of my bosses noticing this part of The Drive and thinking, 'Hey, why don't Sipple and Basnett report Big Ten Media Days off the TV?' here is the TV information for Monday and Tuesday ... 

From noon CT through 2 p.m. CT Monday, BTN will televise remarks from Chryst, Tom Allen (Indiana), Lovie Smith (Illinois), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), DJ Durkin (Maryland), Ferentz and Meyer. Immediately afterward, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., the coaches and their student representatives will visit the BTN set at Media Days for BTN Live alongside Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith.

Press conference coverage resumes at 8 a.m. CT on Tuesday, as P.J. Fleck (Minnesota), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), James Franklin (Penn State), Jeff Brohm (Purdue), Riley, Chris Ash (Rutgers) and Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) address the media. Commissioner Jim Delany will follow the coaches and speak at 10:15 a.m.

BTN Live will return on Tuesday, once again providing live coverage of the coaches and their students visiting the set from 2 p.m. to 6.

6. Since we're essentially celebrating Big Ten football this week, some history ...

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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