CHICAGO - When Ohio State's sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named yesterday as the Big Ten's preseason offensive player of the year, the speedy and athletic Pryor shot past several of the conference incumbents who were on the all-conference team in 2008.
In voting by the Big Ten media, Pryor was the choice to be the offensive most valuable player over returning All-Big Ten quarterbacks Daryll Clark of Penn State, Juice Williams of Illinois, and Adam Weber of Minnesota.
Pryor, who went 8-1 as a starter last season while earning Big Ten freshman-of-the-year honors, led the conference in passing efficiency in Big Ten games and was the first freshman to do so. He said the preseason award is a credit to his teammates and the OSU program.
"It's not so much that it's an honor for me, but I look at it as a compliment to the Buckeyes," said Pryor, who is not attending the Chicago event. "We take pride in playing in the Big Ten and the conference championships we've won. This just shows that others know we intend to be very competitive again this year."
Pryor also continued a streak of having a Buckeye win at least one of the two Big Ten preseason individual honors in each of the last eight years.
Last year, linebacker James Laurinaitis was the preseason defensive player of the year for the second straight time, while tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells was the offensive pick. This year's preseason defensive player of the year is Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones.
CHILL FACTOR: After playing its home games indoors inside the cavernous Metrodome, Minnesota takes the action outside this season in the new on-campus TCF Bank Stadium.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster hopes thoughts of ice fishing and frozen pipes cloud the minds of his upcoming opponents
"It's going to give us something that we haven't had in a long time, and that's a tremendous home-field advantage," Brewster said. "We're excited about going back outside and playing in the elements. We're going to embrace being outside, and hopefully we're going to have some cold, snowy days where our opponent is going to come in there and they're not going to like it as much as we're going to like it."
Brewster said Minnesota will also practice outdoors, but he added that the whole weather factor might just be overstated a bit.
"I really feel like the amount of discussion on the weather and how cold it is in Minnesota is overblown," he said. "I think it's just as cold in Chicago. It's just as cold in Columbus or Ann Arbor or some of those places, but we just spend more time talking about the weather in Minnesota."
BRAIN GAIN: Northwestern won nine games in 2008 - the most since 1996 - but coach Pat Fitzgerald had other numbers to brag about when he took the podium here yesterday. He cited the fact the program has graduated every senior on scholarship in his three years as coach. The Wildcats posted a team grade-point average above 3.0 in spring quarter.
"It just proves that you can recruit world-class student-athletes, win nine football games, win five games in the Big Ten, and still be about the right things academically," Fitzgerald said.