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#AskTCR: Coming Back From The Grave


I know! We're excited to be back too!
I know! We're excited to be back too!
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It's been over a month since the last edition of Ask TCR graced the front page. And for that, we are so very, very sorry. It was a wonderful hellstorm of Tom leaving, me getting sacked by finals, and the polar vortex and things just kind of got a bit overwhelming. But enough of the self pity nonsense, Ask TCR is officially back. Starting next week, it will return to its proper Wednesday slot. I didn't want to wait that long this time. Things won't be entirely the same, as I am not Tom, but seeing as I'm the first person he came to when launching the site, I think we'll manage just fine.

There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it just makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. Well change your name to Tom Crean when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.

I am terrible about picking at old wounds (metaphorically speaking, I mean, I do have medical knowledge), so yes. You big jerk.

A fine question! Despite the fact that Tom is more Italian than I am (don't let the last name fool you, I'm more Irish and equally Slovenian), I would say the fact that I live in Kansas makes me the better Italian.

Now try and follow my logic with this. Have you ever been to Kansas? And I don't mean Kansas City, that isn't Kansas. I'm talking about anything west of Topeka, a city that manages to make Springfield look nice (no, that's impossible). I have. Hell, I still am here. What does this have to do with being Italian? EVERYTHING.

It is a proud Italian tradition to go to new places that completely lack anything you're used to and/or your fellow countrymen. Tom is in Chicago, which is basically heaven for an Italian. I am in Manhattan, KS. Our only Italian restaurant is an Olive Garden. There are no Italian beef sandwiches. Other than the owner of one Mexican restaurant, natives cannot pronounce my last name. I'm like Marco Polo, but without the extended dungeon sequence. I'm like Christopher Columbus, but without the syphilis and casual genocide. That's why.

Before last night, I may have been tempted to go as high as 3-3 as those are three very good teams, but conference play gets weird and maybe the freshmen would all improve enough that things would continue to be magical. And that's even after the Wisconsin drubbing that I watched in my favorite basement bar.

But then last night happened. 3-3 is off the table. I don't think that's an overreaction so much as a correction on how stupid I once was. Much like the day you realize every Hollywood movie lied to you about the way to win the pretty girl from high school's heart, it's something that comes with time. Yes, teenage Mark was a giant idiot. Mark in his mid-20s is only slightly better (so much more handsome though).

It'd be easy to go with 0-6, but I just don't see that happening. I don't know which of the five games they'll win, but John Groce is a good coach, even with last night's blemish fresh in the mind. A healthy Rayvonte Rice really makes all the difference with this squad, so if his hip issue is minor, I think we'll steal one of the home games. Hell, I'll predict it's the one against the Buckeyes.

If James Franklin had left to go somewhere out west, like literally any Big 12 or Pac-12 school, I'd say sure. High schoolers are fickle and after a lot of thought, maybe one would reconsider living in Nashville to come play for the Illini.

But Franklin didn't go west. He went to Penn State. And even with the recruiting sanctions and the lack of bowl games, he's still going to be able to poach recruits that the Illini should be in on. In fact, I think this only makes it easier for him to do so. The Vanderbilt pitch would be something like "Hey, come play at the best academic institution in the SEC and get to live in a pretty nice major city and leave with a good degree!" which, all in all, is a really nice pitch. But that's not how 17-year-olds think. His new pitch? "Come play for a historic program that is attempting to battle back from the abyss and you can be that difference maker!" PSU doesn't have the rigorous academic standards of Vanderbilt (not an insult, crazy Nittany Lions folks, just a fact) so there is now a whole new world of recruits he can get after without eligibility concerns.

Yeah, Tony asks a lot of questions. It's a bit early to say anything since we don't know who the quarterback is going to be and the recruiting class isn't concrete yet, but if I had to pick a record right now, I'd go with 6-6. The young secondary should be improved enough to hang this year and the defensive line looks to be revamped as well. Combine that with the new army of giant receivers and the offense now being fully comfortable with Bill Cubit's gameplan and I think a .500 record isn't an unrealistic goal.

I think it's going to be Wes Lunt. I just have a hard time seeing him transfer here only to be the backup when he could have gone to Louisville and taken over right after Teddy Bridgewater. What does that mean for Aaron Bailey though? I have no idea. Maybe something akin to the Belldozer but with more time at running back and wide receiver. Bailey is too talented to not be a key part of the offense, I just don't know that he'll get the starting nod.

That's a damn fine question and one the internet seems to be just as clueless about as we are. The last time he actually seems to have played in an organized league was 2011 when he signed with Dexia Mons-Hainaut of the Belgian league, but another report I found lists him as having worked out for the Spurs back in September of 2012, but there is nothing after that. Warren, please tell us where you are. We are now worried.

If the team goes 6-6 or better, definitely. I think even with the vocal haters, Mike Thomas would be hard-pressed to can a coach who just qualified for a bowl game two years after having an awful season. 5-7? That shifts things into an uncomfortable gray area where I'd give things a 50-50 shot depending on the quality of the wins and losses and how much the team improved. 4-8 or worse? I think that would mark the official end of the Tim Beckman era and the beginning of Mack Brown's return to glory.

Thank you all for the questions. It's good to be back. Start submitting for next week's mailbag which will go up on Wednesday.