You can tell things are going well for the Illini right now because most of the submitted #AskTCR questions are actually sports-related. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the goofy ones that don't have anything to do with the fact that (in theory) we are a sports site and that is what SBN pays me for. Also received more email questions than I ever have before (with someone actually requesting to go by Tom Crean for the first time), which is always neat and appreciated.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. We'll 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.
Buying a present for someone you don't actually know seems impossible. All I know about John Groce comes from the two years he's been the Illini basketball coach and the ten minutes I spent quietly in a room with him, too terrified to speak. So my initial instinct would be to kidnap a recruit for him, but you've denied me that option because you're apparently a good person who doesn't believe in forcing a teenager to play somewhere because of someone else's birthday. I will instead buy him the entire series of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr on DVD because that show was fantastic and underrated and I'm pretty sure is cheap right now on Amazon.
I think Dudek will have more receptions but Turner will finish with more yards. Mikey is going to be used in the slot more than Malik, giving him the mismatch advantage and allowing for more catches, but Turner can be more of a downfield weapon. It's going to be a lot of fun watching these two develop at the same time.
It took me a decent chunk of time to figure out the answer for your second question, as the Big Ten's website doesn't have an easily accessible record book function. But I found a PDF of the 2012 conference media guide, so unless things have changed over the past two seasons, I'm quasi-comfortable with my answer. The conference record for receptions in general is 325 by Taylor Stubblefield out of Purdue from 2001-2004. His QB for 3.5 of those four seasons? Kyle Orton. So while I can't give you an exact number, I'm 99% sure that's the record-holding duo.
An email from David-
Other than a large group of freshmen, who else might redshirt on the football team this year? Is it possible Aaron Bailey or Caleb Day might redshirt?
With Bailey still suffering from residual Rantoul injury pain, it wouldn't be shocking to see him get medically redshirted. It would be less than ideal though, as it puts us theoretically one bad tackle away from an offense run completely through Reilly O'Toole. I think Day winds up playing again before the season is over since we're still not great depthwise in the secondary. If Mike Svetina's indefinite foot injury extends into October, it would make a great deal of sense to redshirt him.
While that would depend heavily on what happens in the other conferences, I feel like the answer has to be yes, right? I mean, look at the resume they would have if they somehow managed to go 13-0 this season. Home wins over Minnesota, Iowa, and Penn State. Nothing world-shaking there, but those are solid enough programs at the worst. It's the road wins that would earn the merit: Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. A team that takes down those four in their own houses? That's a damn good team. Throw in that 13th win over (likely) Michigan State or Ohio State and I would be shocked to not see that Illinois team in the playoff. It's probably going to be a down year for the Big Ten, but you'd be hard pressed to find four more deserving teams in this magical hypothetical world of yours.
Never change. Instead of budgeting it, you should just go bet on the Illini to win the Big Ten. Then you can take those winnings and put them towards your trip to the playoffs. It's so much better than being mature and squirreling money away.
A couple questions from WilliamsForThreeeeeee-
If you could go back to any Illini team and go get another Illini player who was not on that team that season and add him to that team, who would it be and onto what team? And maybe some great teams didn’t need another person just better reffing in the biggest game of the year (and another person would have messed up chemistry). For example, a player from another era, potentially.
You have two things you can guarantee happen, but picking one makes the other unable to happen: 1. Lunt goes off this year and the Gridiron Illini beat all odds and go 10-2 or 2. We get either Brunson or Evans.
I wouldn't want to mess with the Dee Brown-Deron Williams magic because there really isn't anyone to put on that roster that would magically have fixed the championship game loss. Same with the Flyin' Illini. No, I think this exercise in tinkering will have to take place with our football teams. I'm going to be greedy and choose the 2007 Rose Bowl squad because I was there for all those home games.
I'd give them Brandon Lloyd.
I know that seems odd and all. Why not give them one of our Hall of Famers, you may loudly be asking. Well, I don't think Red Grange would be as effective in a world full of 300+ lbs linemen. Dick Butkus would be a great addition, but the linebackers were pretty danged good that year as is. But look at the receivers. Arrelious Benn led the team with 676 yards. Second place? Jacob Willis with 330. When your top two receivers combined barely eclipse 1,000 yards receiving, that is horrid. Think how much better the offense would be with Lloyd and Benn lining up together. Who do you double team? And what lanes then open for Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Wiliams to run through?
My other choice would be Simeon Rice joining the 2001 Sugar Bowl squad.
As for your second question, I have to take one of the point guards. I would be ecstatic if the football team won 10 games this year. Absolutely thrilled. But that may not be sustainable success. So I'm okay with them putting up the six or so wins I think they'll get anyways. But Groce needs a point guard and badly. So give me Jalen Brunson or Jawun Evans and watch Illini basketball get back to where it should be.
It's like you all have Lunt and point guards on the brain! How strange! If Lunt had initially chosen the Illini out of high school, it would be different. I'm thrilled he's here and he's a perfect fit for Cubit's offense. But one player on a basketball team can just make such a drastic difference. If Brunson chooses Illinois this afternoon, the ramifications could be massive. Groce has already laid down pipelines to Chicago. If the number one point guard recruit in the nation chooses to stay home? Take it away, Pete.
That's the floodgates opening, in case you don't get my 30 Rock references. The old "Illinois can't keep instate talent instate" chestnut would be demolished. Even if Brunson says no today (which is what I think is coming), Evans would be a massive grab as well. Either one is an ace point guard that the team will need to make that jump.
#AskTCR what are the chances we sneak a win in Wash and start conf play at 4-0?
— Dustin Conrad (@dcon691) September 9, 2014
Something like 20%. Washington is a good team. People have enjoyed pointing out that they've struggled in their two wins this year, only beating Hawaii by one and Eastern Washington by seven. The Hawaii game was played in Hawaii, a tropical island multiple time zones over where the Rainbow Warriors play bizarre 4th quarter comeback football that always falls just short. They also were without their starting QB.
Eastern Washington is an FCS school, yes. But they're one of the best FCS programs in the nation. They won the FCS Championship in 2010. They've made it to the semis the past two seasons. They've gone 36-8 over the past three seasons. They aren't a cupcake by any means. So yeah, Washington's defense hasn't been great. But their offense is insanely powerful. Washington is the better team. They're also the home team and Big Ten squads rarely do well out west. The upset is possible, but not very probable.
Work or attend classes. Those are usually solid ways to get through the day. Exercise is always a great option too. Maybe read a book or take up woodworking? Knowledge and skills always come in handy. Oh, and one more thing-
DON'T MAKE REACTION VIDEOS.
I don't know why people do those. Why you feel the need to record your reaction to a high school kid picking what college he'll play hooptieball for is the ultimate act of navel-gazing. Those Cliff Alexander videos last fall were some of the saddest and most annoying things I've ever seen. If the player picks your school, congrats! You've filmed yourself celebrating before any games are played. You should become a Jayhawks fan. If the player doesn't pick your school, you've now posted your angry face to the world. Just don't do it.
An email from Tom Crean-
Illinois vs Villanova are competing for Jalen Brunson, and they'll be facing each other in the Jimmy V Classic on December 9th.Of those two battles, if Illinois were to win one and lose one, which one would you rather win, and why?
The theme of this mailbag seems to be you guys throwing as many Sophie's Choices at me as possible. And I love you for it. I'd rather win the Villanova game. That's not me saying I don't want Brunson. I would very much like Brunson to play for Illinois. But if we miss out on him, I think we get Evans. And that's a damn fine consolation prize. Meanwhile, a win over Villanova in New York City gives the Illini a huge prestige win for March and gets a ton of eyes nationwide on the program. It's a tough (and fun) question, but give me the strong OOC win.
I threw out the Rose Bowl as soon as you said "realistic". This isn't 2007 and that magic just isn't happening this fall. It also eliminates any of the major bowl games (Fiesta, Cotton, Peach, Orange) and any of the games played in 2015 (TaxSlayer, Outback, Capital One). So now we're down to deciding what is desirable. Let's get rid of the Detroit Bowl immediately. Will I be happy if that's the bowl game we play in? Yes, because it means we're back in a bowl game. But I don't want to go to Detroit any time of the year, much less in December. The Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl would be fine, but Dallas would be against a Conference USA squad and Pinstripe involves sitting in Yankee Stadium in December. Pass.
Three potential options left: the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the National University Holiday Bowl, and the San Francisco Bowl. San Francisco loses out because that was our last bowl game/city. Would you rather visit Nashville or San Diego? Nashville is much closer and probably a good deal cheaper, but San Diego in December sounds like a lovely change of pace from Illinois. I'm going with the Holiday Bowl.
Over two games, Wes Lunt has gone 59-88 (67% completion rate) for 741 yards, 7 TD, and 1 INT. This came against Youngstown State and Western Kentucky.
The 2013 Illini started against SIU and Cincinnati. Nathan Scheelhaase went 45-67 (67%) for 728 yards, 6 TD, and 1 INT.
The 2012 Illini started against Western Michigan and Arizona State. We'll sub in number for the game against Charleston Southern instead. Scheelhaase went 11-18 (61%) for 126 yards, one TD, and one INT against WMU. O'Toole started against Charleston Southern and went 26-31 (84%) for 333 yards, 5 TD, and 1 INT.
The 2011 Illini started against Arkansas State and South Dakota State. Scheelhaase went 22-31 (71%) for 369 yards and 2 TD.
The 2010 Illini started against Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Northern Illinois. For this exercise, we excise the Mizzou game. Scheelhaase went 22-34 (64%) for 279 yards and 2 TD.
It's hard to really compare it to the early Scheelhaase years since the offenses are completely different. But the fact that the numbers are almost identical to last season's after two games makes me very happy and puts Wes in a great place to crack 3,000 passing yards in his first season as an Illini.