10 biggest questions I have as B1G teams open fall camp
Now that the calendar has turned to August, it’s time to really start ramping up for the season. With that in mind, here are the 10 biggest questions I have as Big Ten teams open fall camp this week:
1. Will the Big Ten add anyone in realignment?
Realignment is all anyone wants to talk about right now, and hey, I get it. It’s so much fun to speculate and debate. I don’t think anyone knows the timeline of when the other dominos will start falling, but I do know this: The Big Ten should be picky about who it adds, so basketball-centric schools like Kansas should not be on the table. Standing pat and not adding anyone may be the best option, too. Surely this topic isn’t going away, so it’ll be interesting to see if there is any movement during camp.
2. What will the B1G’s COVID policies be? And will those policies incentivize those who aren’t getting vaccinated?
B1G commissioner Kevin Warren dodged this question at Big Ten Media Days — shocker, I know. Apparently at the time, the league members were still finalizing their proposed policies. Warren said he should have that information in early August and “will have that done prior to our first game.” For the league’s sake, let’s hope they can move a little quicker than that.
Other leagues have been emphatic that there will be no postponements due to COVID like last season, so it would be surprising if the B1G didn’t follow suit. Will masks be required for vaccinated players? If a player gets a vaccine but still has to treat this season like 2020, with the grind of the tight protocols, it’s hard to believe they will be incentivized to get the vaccine.
3. Will there be a COVID outbreak?
Every conference was impacted by COVID last season, and it’s likely that will continue to be the case. As long as the conferences are testing for it every day, there are likely to be players who get it. There’s probably not much avoiding it.
For example, the Minnesota Vikings had three quarterbacks sidelined over the weekend because of COVID protocols, even though the player who tested positive (Kellen Mond) was vaccinated and had no symptoms. Jake Browning did have the vaccine and was able to continue practicing.
4. Will coaches strongly encourage players to get vaccinated?
As some teams experience outbreaks, my guess is that more coaches come out with stronger language surrounding COVID and say that a spot on the depth chart could be dictated by vaccination status.
OK, enough COVID talk. Let’s get to topics that are more fun to speculate about …
5. Will we see a stunning transfer with the new undergraduate transfer portal rules?
Lose a position battle, peace out! That may be something that happens with the new rule this year that players (ahem, student-athletes) can transfer once without having to sit out a year. I’m wondering if quarterbacks who lose out on the starting job may look to explore other options rather than waiting for the end of the season. I still remember when Kelly Bryant decided he was going to sit out after the fourth game of the season and preserve a year of eligibility. Then others started following suit. Maybe this will be the next frontier.
I think that would be incredibly challenging to up and leave a school right before the semester starts, but I wouldn’t be surprised. As has been written and explained by many coaches, the paradigm of college athletics is changing.
With that in mind …
6. Who will win Ohio State’s QB job? And better yet, who will be the backup?
This impacts more than just the Big Ten. The winner of this battle will be an instant Heisman Trophy candidate. Most assume that player will be C.J. Stroud, but what if Jack Miller or 5-star freshman Kyle McCord win it? And perhaps of even more interest, who will get the backup job? The third-stringer could be looking to make other plans, and soon, because the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, quarterback Quinn Ewers, is committed to Ohio State.
7. Will a trio of transfer QBs earn starting roles?
There are a few QB battles to keep an eye on. Most assume that South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski will win Northwestern’s QB job and have the same type of impact that Peyton Ramsey had. Will Temple transfer Anthony Russo climb to the top of Michigan State’s depth chart? Can Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman pass up Cade McNamara and hold off 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy at Michigan?
8. Are the B1G’s other incumbent QB starters secure?
Iowa and Penn State are in interesting positions. Both have rosters that are capable of making a run in the Big Ten, or at the very least, being Top 25 mainstays. Yet both are coming into the season with questions at QB after their incumbent starters had down years in 2020. Spencer Petras was mostly underwhelming in his first season as a starter, so has he done enough to retain the job over Alex Padilla? Sean Clifford is kind of Penn State’s guy by default after Will Levis transferred to Kentucky and Micah Bowens transferred to Oklahoma.
9. Who will suffer a devastating injury?
This is impossible to predict, but it’s a reality. There will be an impactful player injured during camp. If it’s a team like Ohio State, its depth will enable it to survive. If it’s a contender like Indiana or Northwestern that hasn’t recruited as well, that may be tough to overcome.
10. Will the Big Ten finally be on the same page?
It has been a chaotic year for the Big Ten. There’s no need to rehash everything in this space, because you already know. So for once, can the Big Ten get its ducks in a row and at least publicly look like it is on the same page? Is that too much to ask?