Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones (12) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
In the first season with the College Football Playoff in place, it certainly was intriguing in every sense of the word. Ohio State was led by a third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones and a stellar sophomore running back in Ezekiel Elliott and brought the Big Ten a national championship. There will be plenty of new faces in the conference along with some similar ones next season. Here’s some of the storylines regarding the Big Ten as we see it in January:
- Ohio State’s quarterback carousel – Jones just won three of the biggest possible games in any player’s collegiate career. However, even with achieving all that, Jones likely won’t be the starter when the season opens for the Buckeyes in the fall. Braxton Miller will likely transfer to another powerhouse school, and Jones may even follow suit. Or maybe Jones declares for the NFL Draft since his stock likely won’t be much higher than it is right now. J.T. Barrett had a monster 2014 season and is definitely the quarterback of the future for the Buckeyes. Will Barrett be the only signal caller of the three to remain in Columbus when September rolls around? It’ll likely be the biggest storyline in the Big Ten for a good amount of the offseason.
- Jim Harbaugh comes home – The tenure of Brady Hoke was one of the biggest disasters the Big Ten has seen in recent years. It rivals the failure of Rich Rodriguez after Rodriguez’s successful years at West Virginia. Harbaugh played for the Wolverines from 1983 to 1986, and went on to have a strong 14-year career in the NFL playing for the likes of the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers amongst other teams. Michigan hasn’t been getting some of the high-profile recruits over the last year or two due to Hoke’s struggles. Harbaugh only has six commitments for the 2015 recruiting class currently in the fold. Obviously, with National Signing Day being next month, that number is expected to increased due to Harbaugh’s arrival. The Wolverines did struggle in 2014, but Harbaugh certainly should bring more swagger to the program.
- Maryland/Penn State rivalry – With shots being fired by Nittany Lions coach James Franklin prior to the season, there was a lot of type surrounding November’s game between the two schools in Happy Valley. The Terrapins got the last laugh as they made a statement from the opening coin toss to the final whistle as they escaped with a narrow victory over their newly minted rivals. There may be more fuel added to the fire in 2015 after four-star Quince Orchard (Md.) defensive tackle Adam McLean decommitted from Penn State and ended up committing to Maryland just days later. If McLean is healthy enough to play in the game, that’ll be a storyline in itself. Not to mention the fact that Maryland and Penn State are high on several DMV recruits still up for grabs including Trevon Diggs and Dwayne Haskins Jr.
- Connor Cook returns for Michigan State – Star Spartans signal caller Connor Cook was expected to leave East Lansing after a strong 2014 campaign, but the Ohio native ended up declaring that he would be staying another season. Several impact on offense and defense will be departing for the NFL, so it’ll be interesting to see what type of talent emerges out of Michigan State in the fall. However, with Cook at the helm, the Spartans will always have a fighting chance.
- Paul James returns for Rutgers – As someone who was fortunate enough to cover a few of Paul James’ games at Glassboro High School in New Jersey, I’ve always been a huge fan of his ability. The key has always seemed to be whether or not he can stay healthy. The former Bulldog torn his ACL in mid-October, and is targeting a training camp return. If James is close to 100 percent, he’s among the best running backs in the Big Ten, especially with guys like Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman departing for the NFL ranks.