PAUL BEATY/Associated Press
The narratives for the Big Ten are obvious, and a lot of times they sway toward the negative.
It can’t recruit.
The schedules stink.
The coaches don’t stack up.
I could go on, but you’re well aware of such narratives. Maybe you even speak this language.
Some of these troubles are a reality. Recruiting, first and foremost, needs to improve beyond some of the top programs delivering. This is the origin of many of these perceived inadequacies, and there is harsh truth to this criticism.
But I also can't help leaving the Hilton feeling more optimistic about the Big Ten than I have in some time.
There is talent. Lots of it. And many of these players held court in Chicago.
Braxton Miller, Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Connor Cook, Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Scherff and Stefon Diggs; all made appearances and all should excel—if healthy—in 2014.
From a coaching standpoint, Urban Meyer’s football-centric approach was refreshing; it also painted a picture of how much Ohio State will return this season. Mark Dantonio’s relaxed (but confident) demeanor reminded us that this team should remain in the conversation, not just in the Big Ten but among up-and-coming national powers.
And new Penn State head coach James Franklin provided a glimpse into the future, some infused energy that the conference has clearly lacked. Although the sanctions will be difficult to overcome, there’s reason to believe that—under his leadership—they will be conquered.
What does this mean for the national perspective on the conference? For now, not much. In order to change this—and for the rebuild to begin—a College Football Playoff appearance will be necessary. Better yet, the Big Ten could desperately use a national championship.
Whether this is realized is a question to be answered in the coming months, although there are reasons to be optimistic about where the Big Ten is and, more importantly, where it’s going.
For now, however, we’re headed for actual football. And what better way to close things out in Chicago than have the conference's new coach carry us to the next step?
“Summer is over,” James Franklin said. “It’s time to get to work.”