Big Ten Notebook: Media Days underway

BY DANNY PAYNE | JULY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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CHICAGO — The craziness surrounding the Penn State football program over the past few years has been well-documented. For instance, former head coach Bill O’Brien coached the Nittany Lions for two seasons before leaving to coach the Houston Texans.

Now, after having the same coach for close to five decades, Penn State finds itself with its second coach in three seasons. Even with the turnover, new head coach James Franklin feels like the old guy in State College.

“You think about this: I’ve been here seven months, and I’m the vet when it comes to Penn State,” he said. “… It’s unbelievable, though, the fact you think of all the change in Penn State and how much consistency we’ve had for so long and the fact I’ve been here seven months and considered the vet.”

The former Vanderbilt head coach will deal with the departure of two-time-Big-Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson — who was taken in the second round of the NFL draft by Jacksonville — but still has highly regarded quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The sophomore threw for 2,955 yards last season to go along with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for four scores.

Off the field, Franklin’s transition isn’t complete yet. He’s counting down the days until his family joins him in their new town.

“Really excited that we’re kind of on the countdown right now,” Franklin said. “Five days left, and my wife and kids finally move to State College.”

Big Ten East

Fans of the now 14-team conference are no longer tasked with remembering which teams make up the Legends and Leaders Divisions.

The league is now divided geographically with the divisions aptly named East and West — which, ultimately, makes the East Division look tougher than the West at first glance.

“Great games and a lot of games, a lot of teams that have built-in rivalries. Obviously, our rivalry with Michigan is intense for us, but we’ve also got a rivalry with Ohio State from the past and Penn State,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said.

Both of the Big Ten’s BCS-bowl representatives from 2013 reside in the East. East Division teams went a combined 67-34 last season — including 13-1 and 12-2 records from Michigan State and Ohio State, respectively.

Teams that are now in the West went 44-44, which included a miserable 1-11 campaign from Purdue.

“[The] East Division is very strong. As we get close to the season, start looking at the schedule, there’s a tough run,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “We have three very tough road games. But the East is strong. And I have learned a long time ago, you control what you can.”

College football playoffs

The 2014 season also marks the end of the Bowl Championship Series era and the beginning of the College Football Playoff era.

A 13-person selection committee will begin ranking teams at midseason. At season’s end, that same board will seed four teams to compete in playoffs.

The semifinal games will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, and the winners of those contests will play in the national championship game on Jan. 12. The other former-BCS bowls — the Fiesta and Orange Bowls will be played on Dec. 31.

Those four bowls, as well as the Peach and Cotton Bowls, will rotate year-to-year as semifinal games.

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