We have excerpts from Thursday's Big Ten-themed Chat session led by senior writer Steve Helwagen.
Big Ten coaches: Michigan's Brady Hoke, MSU's Mark Dantonio and OSU's Urban Meyer
Helwagen: Well, in our Bucknuts 50 we have Lisle ranked 3rd and Thomas ranked 4th. I don't think there is any disgrace in that for Thomas (i.e. we don't have to apologize for that, we aren't slighting him like he's no. 10 or something).
247 has Thomas 59th nationally and 2nd in Ohio, they have Lisle 146 and No. 6 in Ohio.
I saw Lisle in person on Friday and I think he will start on the OL at OSU for 2-3 years. He's pretty good. The Bucknuts 50 ranking was actually done by Mark Porter and Bill Kurelic ... I just wrote it. I can't comment directly on Thomas because I've never seen him live (or even much on tape). But I know he is a great prospect and a great get for Michigan.
I don't think Mark and Bill were biased toward the OSU guy, if that's what you're asking. They rated Wormley and Kalis higher than anybody last year, I believe.
Why is there do much hype surrounding an Ohio State defense that accomplished largely nothing last year?
Helwagen: Oh, I don't know that they didn't do anything last year. It was not up to standards of the past 6 years when they were ranked in the top 15 in yardage and points allowed most years.
They gave up more than 24 points 4 times in 13 games. Their offense left them for dead. They gave up 10 points in the bowl game (Florida got 14 on special teams with kick return and blocked punt). Yeah, they gave up 40 to Denard and Michigan, but UM did that to a lot of people.
They have 9 starters back on defense. Simon, Hankins and Barnett are all All-Big Ten caliber guys. Roby and Shazier could be. If Nate Williams makes it back at end, they could be real special.
Let's see how they do, but it's a veteran group and my guess is they will be back where they used to be.
Chances that Wisconsin or Michigan State make it to the National Championship?
Helwagen: I don't see Wisconsin making it. Their schedule is not all that difficult. They do play at Nebraska and at home against OSU and MSU. I just don't know about their defense. The LBs are solid, not sold on DL or secondary, though. And O'Brien may be a good QB, but that offense will not be as dynamic as it was with Wilson.
MSU could be a darkhorse team to run the table. Their defense may be the Big Ten's best with Gholston, great LB corps and Adams and Lewis in the secondary. It will come down to how Andrew Maxwell makes his strides at quarterback. Bell is a standout at RB. They need WRs to emerge as well.
This is a veteran team with good players on both lines. They have a chance but the back-to-back road games at Michigan and Wisconsin will be tough.
I would say 5 percent chance for Wisconsin and maybe 10 or 15 percent chance for MSU.
For the Big Ten to get national recognition, do you think Michigan has to win the game against Alabama or just keep it close?
Helwagen: Well, if they get blown out then that would hurt the Big Ten perception. If they win, it would be huge. But the issue the Big Ten has is it doesn't really have a team that should be dominant and ranked in the top 3-4, like Alabama, LSU, USC all figure to be. This does not look like the year where the Big Ten will have a true NC contender due, in part, because of the parity in the league. From 1-8, it's as good as any league in the country if not the best. That makes it harder to get a team out to the NC game.
One game doesn't change the world, per se. I think it would reflect more on Michigan than the Big Ten. I mean, if UM wins, they will be top 5 next week.
I was really excited about the Pac12 agreement thing and was quite disappointed when it didn't work out. Do you think we'll see anything like that happen in the near future? Like a week similar to basketball's ACC-B1G challenge but with the Pac12, Big12, or SEC. It'd be an awesome week where you could see games like Oklahoma-OSU, Texas-UM, etc.
Do you think anything like that will happen as teams try to strengthen their OOC schedule, or will they want more guaranteed wins?
Helwagen: I had mixed feelings on the Pac-12 deal. Ohio State has done home-and-homes with USC, UCLA, Washington and Arizona over the last 20 years. They are doing one with Cal now. Those all seem fine.
You get much farther beyond that top 5 or 6, I just don't see much to be gained for Ohio State or the Big Ten's best to travel across the country and play Utah, Washington State, Oregon State, etc.
It's all revenue driven. The Big Ten will stay with 8 conference games (4 home and 4 away). They all want at least 7 home games each year. Such an arrangement ties their hands. Michigan,, MSU and Purdue always play Notre Dame and Iowa always plays Iowa State. For them to add a standing game against another team from a BCS opponent means some years they may only have 6 home games and their schedules may also be tougher than what they want to deal with.
I love your Big 12 idea. Maybe they do this on a rotating basis where schools do it for 2 years and then off to schedule other schools for 2 years. But it's always going on with 6 games each year, etc. Maybe that makes more sense. I dunno.
Ohio State's AD Gene Smith said OSU will play one marquee team, look for another top 50 team (Cincinnati or Vandy as examples) and play 2 more guaranteed games (MAC and CUSA teams, etc.). That's their reaction to beefing up strength of schedule for the new format.
What do you think of Michigan's class of 13 linebackers McCray and Gedeon? What sort of player, role do you project those guys growing into?
Helwagen: I know 247 has both McCray and Gedeon as top-10 prospects in the state of Ohio. I guess I'd like Gedeon a little bit better than McCray. Gedeon to me is an MLB prospect, while McCray is more of an edge player. The question on McCray is whether he will grow into a DE or stay as an OLB. I know the OSU staff wrestled with that question when it was figuring whether to offer him, and he's a legacy of a former captain at OSU (those offers are typically automatic and OSU did ultimately offer McCray after he had verbaled UM).
Both are good players. They can get into Michigan, learn from the vets there next year and be ready to participate in 2014-16.
Steve, How do you explain Brady Hoke's early success up at Michigan and how much of that is Greg Mattison? (i.e. It seems like Hoke has been an average coach throughout his career and the only thing he has going for him is Mattison and most people wouldn't expect him to have so much success recruiting and on the field) On a related note, how will Mattison's previous experience coaching with Meyer effect the outcome of OSU/UM and who do you think benefits more from their previous coaching relationship? (i.e. Does Meyer's or Mattison's knowledge of the other's coaching techniques and game plans give one of them the upper hand)
Helwagen: Oh, for starters, I would not call Hoke an average coach. He caught lightning in a bottle at Ball State with Davis at QB and they had their best year in decades. He then took SDSU to its first bowl game in 12 years. That's not average.
I think it's a familiarity. When he was hired, everybody at Michigan was excited because he was a direct tie back to Moeller and Carr. He was family (unlike RichRod).
I do believe having Mattison alongside helped. That defense went from giving up 35 points in 2010 to 17 last year -- best defennse they've had since they were No. 2 in 2006.
As far as Meyer and Mattison, they were together at ND and also he worked for Meyer at Florida for 3 years as the DC/D-line coach. It will be a classic chess match between the 2. It may work to Mattison's advantage somewhat, but Meyer's spread has evolved. My guess is it comes down to the players on the field more than the schemes, but those will be a factor.
What is one Key to each BIG team's season?
Predictions for BIG week one games?
Which BIG QB has the best year?
Helwagen: Thanks for the questions!!
No idea on the football emoticon.
Key for each Big Ten team's season, OK here goes nothing:
Wisconsin -- Improve defensively and get after opposing passers
Ohio State -- Have the best 82 men on scholarship on Feb. 6, 2013, to begin chasing the next national title (anything in the interim is immaterial, other than the seasoning of the returning players)
Purdue -- Improve defensively after giving up 27 a game last year, won't be easy with Beckford dismissal
Illinois -- Bring along Scheelhaase and make him more than just a runner
Penn State -- Hope everybody sticks together through what will be an extremely difficult set of circumstances
Indiana -- Just put 1 foot in front of the other, Rome was not built in a day.
Michigan -- Continue to surround Denard with playmakers and watch the fun begin
MSU -- Help Maxwell succeed in his first year as a starter (defense should be tough enough as is)
Iowa -- Energize the pass rush to take pressure off Vandenberg and the offense having to be perfect
Nebraska -- Get back to blackshirt defense ASAP
Northwestern -- Improve defensively
Minnesota -- I may be crazy, but move Gray to playmaker and prepare somebody else to be QB for 2013 (wouldn't that make more sense, I'm just sayin')
I will post my picks this afternoon with scores. I am thinking something like Alabama 27, Michigan 19 and Michigan State 34, Boise State 24 for the two biggies. I may pick Syracuse at home over NW but would go Big Ten 10-2 first weekend. Stay tuned for that.
In terms of QBs, Robinson should have the most total offense when you combine rushing and passing. Vandenberg has the receivers to go over 3,000 again. Miller will be pushing Robinson in that total off category, although he may not need to run it as much as he did last year. Those are probably the top 3.
Maxwell could be in the top 4 with Martinez, Purdue's 3-man platoon, O'Brien and Scheelhaase all in the mix as well. Jury out on Colter, Gray, Roberson and McGloin.
Even if OSU is not bowl eligible, what are the chances of the AP ranking them #1 at the end of the season if the BCS champion has one loss and OSU goes 12-0?
Helwagen: Slim and none. I don't think a 12-0 Ohio State team gets the nod over any unbeatens from any of the BCS conferences that go 13-0 or 14-0 and win the BCS title game.
There is only a small chance AP would vote a 12-0 OSU team over an Alabama, LSU or USC that end up 13-1 after winning that game.
The only scenario where OSU has a shot is the once-every-30 years deal where a 2-loss team like LSU wins the BCS game like they did over OSU in Jan. 2008. OSU at 12-0 would get about half the first-place votes over a 12-2 team that wins the title game, IMO.
Even then, half the columnists would complain that OSU did not have to play as tough an opponent as the BCS game winner did in either a conference title game or the BCS title game. And half the columnists would also debate what msg it sends to reward a team on double secret probation as well.
The other issue is Ohio State going undefeated. I think they go 2--2 in the games with at MSU, Neb at home, at Wis and home with Mich. 10-2 may be their high water mark.
Iowa may be a dark horse in the Big Ten this year. Will they have a starting RB with a healthy knee to assist their now veteran QB? Thoughts on their overall success this year as well?
Helwagen: They lost another guy, Barkley Hill, in preseason camp. They are hoping Garmon and Bullock can get it done. They have the receivers with Davis and Martin-Manley and the TE Fiedorowicz. Their biggest key is defense. I don't see much star power over there. They don't have the stud DEs and LBs they are used to having. Hyde may be their best player at CB. Maybe I'm wrong, but we'll see. The schedule may be the Big Ten's easiest by not having to play OSU, Wisconsin and Illinois. I have them tying Michigan and MSU for the Legends title, but Michigan goes to Indy because of head to head wins over the other two.
I think 10-2 is a possibility
Here is Hoke's record by year at Ball State and SDSU. If this is not average or below I don't know what is. Ball State 2003 - 4-8 2004 - 2-9 2005 - 4-7 2006 - 5-7 2007 - 7-6 2008 - 12-1 Overall record at Ball State 34-38
SDSU 2009 - 4-8 2010 - 9-4 Overall record at SDSU 13-12
So less than .500 at Ball State and slightly over .500 at SDSU. In total for eight years of coaching Hoke only had two good years in two lower tier conferences. I understand that you have to be impartial to all BIG fans for this chat, but anybody looking at those numbers would say Hoke is average at best.
Helwagen: Thanks for quoting his numbers. On the whole, yes, those are average numbers. But when placed into a 15 or 30-year context for both schools, that's about what they'd been running for most of those timeframes EXCEPT for the one big year he sparked at both schools.
When was last time Ball State won 12 games. My guess is it's never happened.
SDSU won 9 for the first time in at least 12 or 15 years (probably back to Marshall Faulk's days).
Those were extraordinary seasons for those schools, right? he gets the credit for that.
Eleven at Michigan after what RR did to that program? Are you kidding me.
SEC or The Field for the NC ... how you betting?
Helwagen: Uh, SEC. It's either LSU (even without Honey Badger) or Alabama. I picked LSU.
Gene Smith screwed OSU by not enforcing a bowl ban last year, but somehow was not fired. Do you think this is because he knows where the bodies are buried?
Helwagen: I thought they erred by not self-imposing. They did just that in basketball in 2004-05, but didn't do it here in football. Not going to speculate on Smith's job or what he does or doesn't know. Looks like he will be the AD for the foreseeable future.
Do you think having Withers helping out on D will make the Silver Bullets defense more aggressive with blitzing and man coverage? It seems like we haven't had a really aggressive smack you in the mouth defense since Dantonio was calling them.
Helwagen: Meyer said he is happy with the Fickell/Withers collaboration. I think they will be aggressive and get after people. They have nothing to lose. I think they experiment quite a bit and they have the LBs and safeties to bring that heat.
What BIG State has the best NFL team?
Helwagen: Best NFL team: Pa with Stillers, right? My fave is the Browns (It was later pointed out I forgot about the Green Bay Packers … duly noted)
Best MLB team: Reds have best record today, so Ohio; that's my fave as well; all-time in that 9-state footprint? That would be between Phillies, Pirates, reds, Indians, Tigers, Cubs, Sox, Brewers and Twins. The Cards are just across river in Mizzou, they have 9 titles. Reds and Pirates have 5 each and Tigers have 4. Let's say Reds.
Best NBA team: Well that's between Sixers, Pistons, Bulls, Pacers, Bucks and T-wolves. That would have to be the Bulls historically and probably currently as well if Rose is healthy. Sixers coming on though with ET.
NHL? Detroit Red Wings all the way, right?
Predict best O in BIG?
Helwagen: Best O could be Michigan.
Best D could be Michigan State
Special teams is hard to gauge. Maher at Nebraska is best kicker/punter guy with one man. Overall, Neb, Wis and OSU will all be good.
Helwagen: Have not hear anything new on Mitchell. I think Lewis is an OSU lean. For mItchell, looks like tough battle with Oklahoma, FSU and TAM. They need 2 good backers to close out this class.
Do you think Jalin Marshall could ignite OSU's offense next year as a RB like Clarett did for Tressel in his 2nd year to help Meyer take OSU to the NCG?
Helwagen: He could come in and be that kind of Harvin type guy. It's hard for a freshman usually, but sometimes at skill positions they can come in and contribute. He should play, from what I've seen.
Who is your darkhorse team in the Big Ten this season? Meaning, team that is expected to go 6-6 or worse -- one that you think will be better than everyone expects. Mine is Purdue. They won't win the Big Ten or anything, but they'll be better than everyone seems to think.
Helwagen: Sponge, I have Illinois as that team on my sheet. I think they will be better than most think. Iowa could also sneak into the title game as well.
Who will lead Ohio State in rushing yards this season?
Who will be Michigan's leading receiver?
Is UM screwed at QB next year with Gardner or a true frosh in Morris, or do you think they'll be fine?
Helwagen: OSU leading rusher should be Hyde, Hall and Miller will also have a chance to do a lot
Top receiver at UM? Roundtree perhaps if he's healthy.
Michigan QB? They have choices with Gardner and Morris coming in, my guess is it's Gardner but Morris will also have a chance to play if and as needed. I think they will be fine there. Nobody is Denard but they will be OK. They will have more reliance on RBs and WRs and TEs.
One of the major weaknesses of a running spread offense is the wear and tear on the QB. Even if the QB oz not knocked out for the entire season, it s common for him to be knocked out for a game or two or even for a few series in certain games. Who is Braxton Miller's backup this season and how big is the dropoff in talent and experience?
Helwagen: The backup is Kenny Guiton, kind of an unheralded recruit from Texas from 3-4 years ago. Meyer is confident in him, it sounds like. My guess is they don't ask Miller to run more than they need him to because of what you mentioned. They don't want him to get banged up.
Ok, because I've scoffed at this point and now I'll finally ask. Explain Urbans impact on OSU and why people are thinking a team that went 6-6 has a realistic possibility of going undefeated? I think it's a pipe dream and don't see the offensive playmakers or the OL to be able to do it.
Helwagen: He has instituted accountability, something last year's staff as a lame-duck did not have. I don't agree with talk of being 12-0. I think the improvement comes, though. Miller should be like night and day. They do have guys on offense who can play. I think people will be surprised with how much better they are.
Rank the big ten offenses and defenses, and if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it does it still make a sound?
Helwagen: Top offenses:
Who are some of the 2014 recruits in the Midwest that you are high on?
Helwagen: Ohio LB Dante Booker
Michigan DE Malik McDowell
Wisconsin DT Craig Evans
Minnesota RB Jeff Jones
Illinois OT Jamarco Jones
Michigan WR/bkb standout Drake Harris
Iowa athlete prospect Allen Lazard
The Midwest 9-state region is not that deep in blue chippers. There are some guys in Missouri, though. Add them in and it's better.
Thanks to everybody for participating today. We hope to do this each week, likely on Thursday or Friday. Stay tuned for my picks later today.