Ohio State's quarterback battle has been the story of the offseason in the Big Ten. Yesterday's revelation that Braxton Miller has been working out at wide receiver and likely will play that position this season relieves the congestion, though a battle between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett is still on tap.
But the Buckeyes' QB derby is hardly the only important story that needs inspection in the run-up to the season. In today's B1G roundtable, we offer up a few other threads worth monitoring closely in preseason camp, which begins in a couple of weeks.
Austin Ward: Minnesota’s shift into high gear
While the Gophers may not harbor realistic national-title considerations of their own, they could have a significant impact on the race -- starting in Week 1. There aren’t many questions about the strength of the defense, which will boast one of the top secondaries in the conference, but there remains some uncertainty about the new-look, uptempo offense Minnesota spent the spring installing. No matter how stout they might be defensively, if the Gophers are going to get over the hump against high-scoring contenders like TCU in the opener or at Ohio State in November, quarterback Mitch Leidner, wide receiver KJ Maye and a talented stable of running backs are going to have to put up some points. How much more progress the Gophers can make expanding the playbook in August will be crucial to what happens when September arrives. Minnesota is more than capable of winning the Big Ten West despite its tough schedule, but that is largely contingent on the offense helping shoulder the load.
Brian Bennett: Michigan's QB situation
Like their rivals in Columbus, the Wolverines have a crowded quarterback picture of their own (though, like the current state of this rivalry, Michigan is rightly overshadowed in this comparison). Most expect Iowa transfer Jake Rudock to step into the starter's role, and that's an understandable bet given his on-field experience and existing relationship with quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch. But junior Shane Morris was the No. 1 guy after going through spring practice -- which Rudock missed -- and won't give up the job easily. January enrollee Alex Malzone and incoming freshman Zach Gentry have a chance to make an impression in August. Michigan's quarterback play has been erratic in recent years, but Jim Harbaugh should be the man to fix that problem. He's not especially tied to either Rudock or Morris and won't hesitate to pick the best player for the job. It's a storyline that bears watching in fall camp and beyond.
Dan Murphy: Pressure for an encore
When they decide to take a break from talking about quarterbacks in Columbus for a few minutes, the attention will likely shift to what it's going to take for the Buckeyes to live up to lofty expectations. Last year was supposed to be a warm-up for an Ohio State team that would be mature and healthy enough to take the nation by storm in 2015. They won a national championship anyway, and now Urban Meyer finds himself in the familiar position of having to keep a team focused and working hard when the outside world is ready to crown them in July.
Meyer has dealt with success in the past after winning a national title at Florida and taking another two years later. What he learned from that experience, and how he plans to apply that to his new team, will be a popular topic during the early part of the year.