1. Important season for Frost, Cornhuskers
In July 2018, Scott Frost was fresh off an undefeated season at Central Florida, which led to him taking the coaching job atNebraska, the team he led to the national championship in 1997 as the Cornhuskers quarterback. Optimism ran high in Lincoln, with the Huskers getting the hottest commodity among available coaches.
Three seasons and a 12-20 record later, the Frost Era hasn't produced the success the Nebraska fan base desires, but Frost believes he has the program pointed in the right direction.
"Without a doubt this is the most excited I've been about our team and the most confident,'' Frost said Thursday at Big Ten football media days.
Nebraska went 3-5 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and the 2021 season becomes more important for Frost. The man who hired him, Bill Moos, no longer is Nebraska's athletic director after retiring in June. He was replaced by Trev Alberts, a former Huskers All-America linebacker who was AD at Nebraska Omaha.
Though Frost might face increasing pressure to win, he likes the fact that his new boss knows Nebraska football.
"I'm so glad we landed where we landed,'' Frost said. "… I'm glad we've got a Nebraska guy in the building, somebody who understands all the great things about Nebraska and some of the challenges.''
2. Bielema back in the Big Ten
It's been nine years since Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, and now the veteran coach is back in the Big Ten with Illinois. He still has strong memories from his last visit to Indianapolis as the Badgers coach.
"It kind of comes full circle for me to come back in here to Lucas Oil,'' he said. "Last time I was in this building was my last game as a head coach in this conference and we played Nebraska.''
Bielema and the Badgers walloped the Huskers 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game.
With the Razorbacks, Bielema went 29-34 in five years, but he believes he has matured as a coach.
"It's a combination of I stand here now as a 51-year-old head coach versus a 36-year-old head coach I was 15 years ago,'' he said. "I learned things through success, but I've also learned things through failure.''
3. Fitzgerald favors playoff expansion
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has guided the Wildcats to two of the past three Big Ten Championship Games, losing to Ohio State in each. He's fully in favor of expanding the College Football Playoff to 12 teams or more.
"I'm a huge fan,'' Fitzgerald said. "It doesn't take an economics major to figure out the math.'' Fitzgerald added that he's concerned about details, such as length of season.
4. Michigan relishes underdog role
Michigan finished 2-4 last season, next to last in the Big Ten East, and was picked by media members to finish fourth this year. That's just fine with Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.
"You look on social media, and you can't find a good thing about Michigan football,'' Hutchinson said. "That's great. I love it. … I hope people continue to see us as underdogs. Once we get rolling, they'll see the speed and the athleticism of this team.''
5. Penn State looks to rebound
Beginning with a 36-35 overtime loss to Indiana, Penn State dropped its first five games of 2020 before ending the season on a four-game win streak. Coach James Franklin believes his team has learned through the tough times.
"We'll be better for it,'' Franklin said. "It was painful on all of us, but I'm excited about where we're headed.''
The Nittany Lions will get to gauge their progress early with a trip to Wisconsin for the season opener on Sept. 4.