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Rutgers Football: Big Ten Media Days Preview

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How to watch, Chris Ash’s presser time, a review of the media’s preseason poll & five things to watch for next week from a Rutgers perspective

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp for Rutgers football begins on August 2nd, but the first true event of the 2018 season takes place early next week with Big Ten Media Days. Here is a full preview that includes how to watch all the press conferences, when Rutgers head coach Chris Ash will take the podium, as well as the Media preseason poll and five things to watch for at the annual event from a Rutgers point of view.

When: Monday, July 23 & Tuesday, July 24, 2017

Where: Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

How To Watch: BTN - 12:30-7:00 p.m. on July 23rd; 9:00-11:30 a.m. & 3:00-7:00 p.m. on July 24th. Complete schedule here.

Media Address: Chris Ash will take to the podium on Monday, July 23rd at approximately 2:15 p.m. ET

Players Representing Rutgers: Blessuan Austin, Tariq Cole, Deonte Roberts

Cleveland.com unofficial media poll:

BIG TEN EAST

1. Ohio State, 191.5 points (23.5 first-place votes)

2. Michigan State, 142 points (2)

3. Penn State, 141.5 points (1)

4. Michigan, 140.5 points (1.5)

5. Maryland, 75.5 points

6. Indiana, 60 points

7. Rutgers, 33 points

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin, 196 points (28 first-place votes)

2. Iowa, 155 points

3. Northwestern, 138 points

4. Nebraska, 104 points

5. Purdue, 98.5 points

6. Minnesota, 64.5 points

7. Illinois, 28 points

Five Storylines

Media Poll Reaction

It’s not surprising that Rutgers was picked to finish in last place of the Big Ten East, despite finishing fifth last season and returning the majority of its starters from a year ago. At least it was not unanimous, as five of the twenty-eight writers who voted picked Rutgers to finish better than last place in the East. The program is still hunting for conference wide respect and another step forward this season will certainly help. The expected three best opportunities for conference victories are against Illinois, who was picked last in the West, and Indiana and Maryland, who were chosen directly ahead of Rutgers in the East. The Scarlet Knights will play all three teams consecutively from the last week of September through the first two weeks of October, hosting Indiana and Illinois back to back before making the short trip to Maryland.

In the West, Rutgers fans that have vocalized the Northwestern game being one that is winnable should take note that the Wildcats were picked to finish in third place, after a second place finish last season. Of course, Rutgers could win the game on Homecoming in mid-October, but they have a lot to prove before it’s fair to think they could.

Credit Card Investigation Involving Eight Players

It’s possible that Rutgers head coach Chris Ash or athletic director Pat Hobbs will announce a decision on the players involved in the Rutgers police investigation regarding credit card fraud before Monday, but as of now, they have not made any statements on the matter. It’s a topic sure to come up on Media Day, both when Ash takes the podium and when he later sits with reporters for a less formal, hour session.

While I’ve seen some doubt on social media that the rest of the conference media will take much interest in the scandal, I think it may come up more than people think. BTN will likely address in their interview with Ash. It’s certain he will be asked about it by the local beat reporters who are there, including the NJ Advance Media/Star-Ledger contingent. It’s unlikely Ash will even be able to comment in any detail due to legal concerns as the investigation is ongoing, but it does put him in a difficult position nonetheless. How he handles these questions with his delivery, tone and body language will likely be more notable than any answer he gives.

It’s unfortunate that ahead of his third season, one in which there are legitimate reasons to be encouraged that it will be his best on the banks so far, a cloud hangs over the start of the season. Hopefully, once the investigation is complete, Ash, Hobbs, and the rest of the administration will take swift and strong action against any players charged with a crime. Let’s also hope decisions are made before training camp begins on August 2nd, so the team can solely focus on the season ahead.

Coaching Storylines

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is the only new boss in the conference, but he is no stranger to the Big Ten after starring at quarterback for the Cornhuskers in the nineties. The goal of most coaches during media days are to avoid saying anything that generates negative headlines. North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora was not successful with that this past week at ACC Media Day, making a controversial comment regarding CTE research and claiming the game of football is “under attack”. I doubt any Big Ten coaches will make the same mistake and expect mostly positive, yet general comments from them. Of course, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh or Penn State’s James Franklin could make things interesting, but even they usually save anything noteworthy for during the season.

East Division Transition

Ohio State remains the usual, overwhelming favorite to win the East, while Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State look to overtake them once again. Throughout the division, almost every team is going through some type of transition.

The Buckeyes will finally say goodbye to J.T. Barrett at quarterback (it felt like he was there for six years) and Dwayne Haskins (remember him?) takes over. Michigan will have Mississippi transfer Shea Patterson as their signal caller. Penn State faces life without Saquon Barkley in the backfield and whether Miles Sanders can come close to filling his shoes remains to be seen. They also lost Joe Moorhead, their offensive coordinator the two previous seasons. Indiana has to replace a lot of senior contributors and returns the least amount of production from last season of any team in the Big Ten. Maryland has a lot of young talent and potential as a result of several highly ranked recruiting classes under head coach D.J. Durkin, but they are mostly unproven they’ll need to find consistency on both sides of the football.

While Ohio State clearly has the most talent, Michigan State actually returns the most production from last season than any other team in college football. Watch out for Sparty to give the Buckeyes a serious challenge for the East title. By the way, Rutgers has the 43rd most production returning, including 81% on defense, which was even before the news of Kiy Hester coming back. In fact, the only teams in the Big Ten to return more production from last season is just Michigan State and Michigan (13th) , per SB Nation’s advanced stats guru Bill Connelly. It’s another reason I’m optimistic Rutgers will prove the pundits wrong again and finish better than last for a second consecutive season.

Can Rutgers Make A Bowl Game?

It obviously not be a popular thought among the majority of the Big Ten media, based on Rutgers being picked last again, but it’s a topic that will surely come up, if at least by local media and during Ash’s and player interviews with BTN. I wrote earlier this summer the week 2 matchup at Ohio State is very important for Rutgers. They need to come out of that game with their health and confidence in tact, ensuring hope that they can capitalize on a manageable schedule the better part of the first two months of the season.

A LOT HAS TO GO RIGHT, but IT’S POSSIBLE that Rutgers can win seven of it’s first eight games. Possible is not even in the same ballpark as likely, which that outcome is not. At the same time, if Rutgers gets beat up or has a letdown after the Ohio State road game, it’s not crazy to think they could lose at Kansas or at home to Buffalo in their next two contests. This season is wide open and while Rutgers is more talented than they’ve been at anytime under Ash, there are a ton of questions to be answered, many of which we will ponder in the weeks ahead. The answer is right now no one knows how this season will go, but it’s fair to be more optimistic heading into this training camp that Rutgers fans have been in awhile.

PRESS CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Monday, July 23rd

Commissioner Jim Delany speaks from 12:30-1:00 p.m.

Scott Frost, Nebraska: 1:00-1:15 p.m.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: 1:15-1:30 p.m.

James Franklin, Penn State: 1:30-1:45 p.m.

Jeff Brohm, Purdue: 1:45-2:00 p.m.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota: 2:00–2:15 p.m.

Chris Ash, Rutgers: 2:15-2:30 p.m.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: 2:30-2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, July 24th

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: 9:00-9:15 a.m.

Tom Allen, Indiana: 9:15-9:30 a.m.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: 9:30-9:45 a.m.

Lovie Smith, Illinois: 9:45-10 a.m.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin: 10:00-10:15 a.m.

D.J. Durkin, Maryland: 10:15-10:30 a.m.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State: 10:30-10:45 a.m.

BTN Coverage

BTN will show every press conference listed above live. In addition, on both Monday and Tuesday between 3-7 p.m. ET, BTN Live: Football Media Day Special will have every coach and player in attendance on the air talking with BTN Live hosts Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith.