The new coach says it is nice to be new and undefeated. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
CHICAGO – When Mike Riley returned to Oregon State for a second term in 2003, he figured his career as a football coach would end there.
That didn't happen, thanks to a call from Nebraska.
Riley accepted the offer to replace Bo Pelini in Lincoln, and now he's knee deep in learning about the Big Ten after being at Oregon State the past 12 seasons.
The Big Ten and Pac-12, he'll tell you, are not as different as you might think.
"I think if you would have asked that question 15 years ago, you would have noticed a distinct difference," Riley said Friday at Big Ten Media Day. "As we look at it today, there's more versatility and diversity in the conferences than ever before."
The stereotype of West Coast air-first football vs. three yards and a cloud of dust Midwest football are a thing of the past.
"I think statistically, the Big Ten is still running the football more," Riley said. "But there is way more diversity. It's hard to blanket with one statement what a conference is today because you see diverse offenses throughout the country."
• RIVALRY TALK: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh hopes to rekindle the rivalry with defending national champion Ohio State.
Harbaugh, a former Wolverine quarterback, was asked about that rivalry Friday and treaded lightly.
"It's big," Harbaugh said. "As they all are. But the biggest one right now is Utah."
Michigan got pummeled by Utah in Ann Arbor last season, 26-10. The Wolverines open the 2015 season Sept. 3 at Utah.
Harbaugh was a media magnet Friday.
"It's a head-turning hire," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.
When Harbaugh finished a 15-minute question-and-answer session, he was surrounded outside the ballroom. Nearly half of the media in attendance followed him. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood followed Harbaugh to the podium and stood in front of a lot of empty seats.
"When you play in the Big Ten you're going to get a lot of exposure," Flood said. "We'll get our share. Do a good job and you'll get all the attention you deserve."
• LOFTY CHALLENGE: This season, and the schedule, will show if Minnesota has made a positive step in coach Jerry Kill's fifth season.
According to the USA Today Coaches Poll released Thursday, the Gophers will play the nation's best two teams this season. Minnesota opens with No. 2 TCU at home Sept. 3 and plays at No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 7.
"We'll find out who we are very early, which is not all bad," Kill said.
TCU hammered Minnesota last season, 30-7.
"I look forward to the challenge," Kill said. "I know their program well. We didn't play very well a year ago. That's a great game for us to open up, and see where we're at. We're going to bring in some artificial snow and see how they handle it in September."
Minnesota returns 14 starters from an 8-5 team. Minnesota was 5-3 in Big Ten play, the first winning record of the Kill era.
"I firmly believe we'll be more athletic and a better football team this year," Kill said. "We feel good about our team and our talent."
• HAPPY VALLEY: The clouds have lifted for Penn State coach James Franklin and his team.
"We're coming into a season with nothing floating over our heads," Franklin said. "They have the ability to be able to chase their dreams at the very highest level."
In September of 2014, the NCAA reduced sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The NCAA gave the Nittany Lions all their scholarships back and allowed them to play in a bowl game. Penn State beat Boston College 31-30 in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Franklin said that the atmosphere around the program "couldn't be more dramatically different. So many positive things are falling into place for us right now. Penn State getting scholarships back, the opportunity to go to bowl games, the way recruiting is going...just so many positive things falling into place right now."
• PLAYMAKER: One player very familiar with Iowa's newly minted quarterback, C.J. Beathard, is Purdue cornerback Frankie Williams.
When Beathard made his first career start for the injured Jake Rudock at Purdue last season, Williams greeted him with a pick six. Williams' 39-yard return gave the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead in what ended up a 24-10 Iowa victory.
"He provides leadership to this football team," Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. "His skill set is so high he'll do many other things. He'll be a kick returner, a punt returner. He's one of those guys that you can ask to play man-to-man coverage on the outside, and allow us to play eight- and nine-man fronts. He's going to be a tremendous weapon for us this year."
THURSDAY: Five takeaways from Big Ten Media Day