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#AskTCR: Xavier Simpson, Tim Banks, Recalibrating Big Ten West Expectations

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YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS. THOUGH NOT ALL ANSWERS MAY BE TO THE QUESTIONS YOU WERE ASKING.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a 52-3 victory over a hapless Kent State team, Illini fans are more optimistic than ever! In the last week, I've heard such utterances as, "Wow, maybe we don't suck!" and "Are we definitely better than Purdue?" Optimism is at an all-time high, at least, until Xavier Simpson commits to Wisconsin Michigan this afternoon and you all lose your damn minds yet again. Go Illini.

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 msilich2@gmail.com. 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.

*****

I'm in the crowd that still supports Groce. I know people are tired of the excuses for missing out on point guards and big men, but I think Illinois even getting into the conversation for high-four and five star recruits is pretty impressive given the level of program success when Groce came in. What sucks is that Groce has had so much bad luck in these high profile recruitments that now, the program might have sunk too far to be brought back under the same coach of the last few years.

Still, I wouldn't react too much to the Xavier Simpson news. That was an unpredictable rollercoaster of a recruitment, and Charlie Moore is coming to Illinois in a few weeks anyway. And if Moore somehow resists the charms of Champaign, then Illinois has a great shot with Te'Jon Lucas, who was reportedly a big fan of Michigan before John Beilein acquired his point guard for the 2016 class. Lucas immediately set up a visit to Illinois following Simpson's commitment.

*****

Since we are now averaging 52 points a game, it’s pretty obvious we’re going to the Rose Bowl. It’s also almost as obvious that I have to start planning my Rose Bowl party, which got me to thinking: What are some of the best food combinations ever put together? Chicken wings and hot sauce? Macaroni and Cheese? Chips and salsa? Cereal and Milk (not to be served at said party, just sayin’…).

-WilliamsForThreeeeeee

I wish I could have thought of a better combination than one you already mentioned, just for the sake of creativity, but there is no better mix of delectable foods than a good mac 'n' cheese.

You can put mac 'n' cheese in almost anything-- I ordered a calzone from DP Dough (sponsor our website and pay me money please) the other day which contained macaroni 'n' cheese, sausage, and green peppers. It was delightful and the quality of mac 'n' cheese wasn't even close to good (/loses DP Dough sponsorship).

I still need to try a grilled cheese filled with mac 'n' cheese, but I've had a burger topped with mac 'n' cheese that was delightful. And gourmet, baked mac 'n' cheese, made with bacon and all sorts of delightful varieties of cheese, is as good as it gets for comfort food. I am now hungry.

*****

This is a question I discussed a little bit on Twitter earlier today with Tom Fornelli and Jeremy Werner (look at my popular friends, follow me on twitter and elect me prom king). The way I see it, one of my pre-season assumptions looked accurate (for now) and a couple were disproven (for now).

CONFIRMED?

Nebraska will struggle in its first year (every year?) under Mike Riley. The Cornhuskers have as much talent, if not more, than any team in the Big Ten. But the key difference between the coaching changes in Lincoln and Madison is a likely overhaul of the offensive system. Riley prefers a pro style, aerial attack, but Nebraska has personnel best-suited for a spread offense that pounds the ball. Nebraska was able to put up points against BYU, but many were expecting a definitive victory in that game, and from what I saw BYU looked the better team until Taysom Hill's injury. Keep an eye on how Riley adjusts his game-plan in future weeks.

DISPROVEN?

Minnesota's offense will struggle quite a bit and the team will take a small step back. I'm not ready to say this was incorrect yet, but Minnesota's defense looked good enough against TCU that they may be able to keep the Gophers in nearly every game on the schedule.

The future of the program is fine, but Northwestern will take a rebuilding year and fight with Purdue for the 6-spot in the West. Still holding on to this one, but it's hard to deny an impressive victory for Northwestern over Stanford. Keep in mind-- it's week one. Texas A&M had a dynamite win last season but was a bad team. And Northwestern had two better wins than this last season, over Notre Dame and Wisconsin, but still finished 5-7 (admittedly, they had injury issues). The defense looked better than I expected, and maybe there's something more here that I'm not seeing, but Northwestern still seems to fit into that Iowa/Illinois tier of the B1G West in my mind.

Certainly, I think the West appears even more wide open than we previously thought. If Illinois is going to take a step up and create some recruiting momentum for the future, now is the time.

*****

Jordan Fagan received some time in Saturday's game against Kent State, so he won't be redshirting. Sean Adesanya (LEO) didn't play last weekend though, so it seems the staff is going to try and redshirt him. I like this plan-- I also think the coaching staff will entertain the idea of moving him over the strong-side defensive end, in which case a redshirt would be quite beneficial in allowing him time to gain weight and bulk up. We'll see what happens though-- with all the injuries Illinois has had, there's no guarantee anybody is going to be able to redshirt.

*****

Excellent random question, Bryce. For my money, LeBrons are pretty ugly shoes and I don't think I'd ever want to own them, even though I'm a big LeBron fan. KDs and Kobes are relatively equal to me-- but I think I'd rather own KDs. I will say, Nike does a fantastic job of coming up with colorways for Kobe's shoes that are very unique but not gimmicky-- they're just not shoes I'd wear very often.

*****

I think it's a little bit of both. It's difficult to watch that Kent State offense do absolutely nothing right, even after Illinois put in its back-ups, and conclude that the Illinois defense is going to shut down every opponent this season. But there was certainly notable progress made, particularly with the defense's athleticism and line play. I think the defense is improved, and it's starting to create more turnovers and tackles for loss like a Tim Banks defense should, but I'm not ready to say that it's going to be above average in the Big Ten. Just average would be a good, challenging goal.

*****

Not all that high. It's difficult to imagine a world in which Illinois wins 8+ games, around the territory where I believe they'd strongly consider keeping Cubit and this staff. And if a new coach comes in, Banks is probably not one of the few guys on staff who'd have a good shot of staying around.

There is a scenario in which Illinois cleans house in time for another school to pick up Banks as its defensive coordinator, but I highly doubt it would occur at a Power Five school given Banks' struggles in Champaign.

*****

The answer is certainly Chayce Crouch as the back-up quarterback for this season, because Jimmy Fitzgerald is a true freshman and eligible for a redshirt, but next season I expect Fitzgerald to strongly contend for the number two spot behind Wes Lunt.

It's possible Crouch receives a decent amount of playing time over his career as a big running option for an offensive mix-up, but I think he's fighting an uphill battle against Fitzgerald to start eventually. Two things on Crouch's side: there are plenty of rumors that Cubit loves Crouch, and he brings a dynamic to the offense that no other QB on the roster can bring consistently (Jimmy can run, but you wouldn't want him taking as much punishment as Crouch can). We're also projecting two years down the line here, and there's plenty of time for Crouch to figure out timing and reading defenses and whatnot. I just love Jimmy's arm, smarts, and mobility. #TeamFitzgerald.

*****

No, sir. 10-2 and a losing visit to the now-defunct Capital One Bowl against Ole Miss. Obviously.

*****

It seems somewhat intellectually dishonest to pick anybody other than Ohio State. Their back-ups would probably give Illinois all it could handle in a hypothetical match-up.

*****

Hard to say thus far-- I think the defensive line would've improved enough to do well against Kent State without Phair's help, because the team has a bunch of naturally talented athletes at the position this season. I think you'll see Phair's effect against the better running teams on the schedule, like a Wisconsin or a Minnesota or a Northwestern. That's where Phair will make his hay.

*****

I think the chance of this happening is infinitesimal. Dee would have to go through the coaching circuit, starting as an assistant or a head coach at a lower level, to get the Illinois job. I just don't see it happening. Recruiting under Dee would almost certainly be excellent, though.

*****

Don't you go see how an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend is doing when their pictures come up on your Facebook news feed? I certainly would've watched the game if I were Beckman.

As to whether or not he had lasagna, I couldn't say. Personally, I've never been a fan of everybody making fun of Beckman's love of lasagna. It's a delicious meal for any occasion. Forza.