Big Ten media days are over. Here are our top takeaways

The two-day media frenzy in Chicago is over.

And while Big Ten media days unofficially starts the countdown to college football season, it also serves another purpose: Adding a hint of clarity to the conference pecking order. 

With that in mind, here are the top takeaways from the writers who cover the Big Ten in the USA TODAY Sports Network:

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Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press

Jim Harbaugh remains the Big Ten's biggest draw, for better or worse. And no team gets asked about an opponent more than Michigan gets asked about Ohio State. Ryan Day drew a big crowd Thursday, but the conversation he had with reporters was nothing like the back and forth Harbaugh had with reporters about Urban Meyer, Ohio State and whether he can finally beat the Buckeyes. He brings some of the scrutiny upon himself. Some of it will probably be there until he beats OSU. Some of it may never go away. This was his fifth media day, and in many ways the fascination was as strong as it was the first time he came to Chicago in 2015. 

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh speaks during the Big Ten media days on Friday, July 19, 2019, in Chicago.

Mike Carmin, Lafayette Journal & Courier

The Big Ten West is jumbled. Separation is difficult at this point. Who’s the favorite? Depends on your perspective. Iowa has history, coaching and the knack for replacing talent to emerge to the top. Nebraska believes its back and ready to take control of this division. The Huskers will be better but good enough to surpass the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota after going 4-8? Here’s what caught my attention — the lack of buzz around the Badgers. They have a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Jonathan Taylor, but no one seems to be discussing this group to win the West. The Badgers still own the world in offensive linemen. Granted, they're on equal ground with other teams in the division, but don’t count them out just yet. 

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Mark Emmert, Des Moines Register

It was refreshing to see Nebraska coach Scott Frost and Purdue coach Jeff Brohm bring their star players here, even though they’re only sophomores and even though other coaches kept their most buzzed-about athletes at home. Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez and Boilermakers wide receiver Rondale Moore are dynamic players and seemed to delight in the media attention. It would have been nice to be able to talk to Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins and Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa as well.

Chad Leistikow, Des Moines Register

I’m mostly guilty of it, too, but it’s amazing to me how little people care about Chicago’s Big Ten team every year in Chicago. While other big-brand coaches were mobbed by dozens of reporters, Pat Fitzgerald stood alone in the hallway and asked as I approached, “Do you need anything?” All Fitzgerald has done is lead Northwestern to 36 wins over the past four seasons, including a Big Ten West title last fall. And his team, with a slew of pieces back in 2019, is predicted to finish fourth in the West. Don’t sleep on Northwestern … even though most of us usually do.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald responds to a question during the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football media days Friday, July 19, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star

Nobody’s quite sure what to make of Ohio State *yet*. Jim Harbaugh is right — Michigan deserves to be the preseason frontrunner in the conference, but the Buckeyes probably have the greatest raw wealth of talent. That they seem to be fitted in behind the Wolverines speaks to the realities you face when evaluating a first-year head coach (full-time, of course) and a first-year starting quarterback. There could be growing pains. Or Ryan Day and Justin Fields could just keep the drumbeat going in Columbus, in which case, the Buckeyes will be a bear once again.

Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Will the Big Ten be left out of the College Football Playoff in 2019? Does the league, which has its marquee programs in the East Division, need to realign again? Outgoing commissioner James Delaney argues the league is built to win championships. However, Penn State coach James Franklin suggested officials must at least discuss potential realignment to aid that cause.

Jul 19, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Days event at Hilton Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

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Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press

For the first time since coming off a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff berth during the 2015 season, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio appears comfortable yet hungry. He knows the Spartans' reconfigured offense need to improve to win a championship, but he also continues to express belief in the coaches who remain on staff in different roles to get them back to Indianapolis.

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