June 19, 2024

From Michigan’s new coach to new quarterbacks, here’s what’s going on in Big Ten football

Sherrone Moore wiped tears from his eyes, but they kept flowing as he stood on the field of Beaver Stadium last fall. He’d just delivered, as Michigan’s acting head coach, a 24-15 win over Penn State with such control that the Wolverines had thrown eight passes all game — and none in the second half.

Pressed into action after the suspension of Jim Harbaugh, Moore pointed at the Fox television camera as he addressed Harbaugh.

Michigan naming offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore head coach after Jim  Harbaugh's departure: report | Fox News

“Love the (expletive) out of you, man,” Moore said. He pointed at the screen again. “This is for you! For this university, the president, our A.D. We’ve got the best players, the best university, the best alumni in the country!”

Yeah, that guy was getting the head coaching job if Harbaugh ever left.

And when Harbaugh left UM for the Los Angeles Chargers, the 38-year-old Moore — who played at Derby (Kan.) High School — indeed landed the role. He’d earned it, too, beating Penn State and, later, rival Ohio State while Harbaugh sat at home.

Moore’s a new coach in charge of the defending national champions that won 40 games over the last three years.

There hasn’t been a first-year head coach quite in this spot since, well, 1998.

Maybe you remember it.

Nebraska had won 49 games — and three national titles — in its previous four seasons. Tom Osborne handed the job to a trusted assistant, Frank Solich. Since that season, every coach who won a national title returned the following year. Moore gets the distinction of landing his dream job — right at the moment when it’s most unlikely Michigan will repeat.

When discussing Big Ten offseason storylines, that’s the logical place to start.

The Wolverines have 19 players headed to the NFL Combine. That’s 19 guys who won’t play for Moore this season. Unlike Osborne — who retired from coaching at 60— the 60-year-old Harbaugh raided Michigan’s staff for his Chargers adventure. Moore promoted from within for his offensive coordinator, and hired the Baltimore Ravens’ Wink Martindale to call defensive plays.

Moore won’t have quarterback J.J. McCarthy in the fold — he’s off to the NFL — and Michigan, in pursuit of a national title, had little time to land a transfer portal quarterback.

Ohio State got one — Kansas State’s Will Howard. Oregon did, too, with Oklahoma starter Dillon Gabriel and UCLA starter Dante Moore. Washington landed Mississippi State’s Will Rogers when Kalen DeBoer was still the coach, and kept Rogers after DeBoer left for Alabama.

Harbaugh delivered a national title, but left Moore with work to do.

“I can’t be Jim Harbaugh, so I’m going to be me,” Moore said at his introductory press conference. “In this business, in any world, if you’re not yourself, you’re going to lose the people around you, so I’m definitely going to be myself.”

Ohio State and Oregon won’t merely challenge Michigan’s Big Ten dominance, it’ll look to shift the league’s balance of power.

The Buckeyes — who lost to Michigan and Missouri to end 2023 — failed to land a transfer portal quarterback in 2023, and Kyle McCord, while solid, wasn’t good enough to beat the Wolverines. So he’s gone and Howard, a big-play guy at K-State, is in. So is Chip Kelly, who left the UCLA head coaching job to call plays for a former protégé in Ryan Day.

OSU averaged more than 40 points game for six straight seasons until 2023, when McCord and Co. averaged 30.5. Kelly is there to fix things.

Oregon’s offense — 44.2 points per game — needs no fixing. Neither, really, does its defense, which allowed 16.5 points per game. Head coach Dan Lanning, who turned down Alabama to remain in Eugene, may have the league’s fastest overall team.

The Ducks and Buckeyes head into the offseason as the 1A and 1B favorites to win the Big Ten and lead a league brigade into the 12-team College Football Playoff. Two conference teams in the CFP would appear to be an annual lock. In 2024, the Big Ten could potentially send three or four, as well.

Michigan, participants in the last three CFPs, has a confident new coach. When Fox basketball play-by-play man Gus Johnson dropped into Crisler Arena to call UM basketball’s loss to Michigan State, he got a few minutes with Moore on the broadcast. He asked Moore about Ohio State’s impressive offseason in the transfer portal.

“We’ll settle that in November,” Moore said.

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