Steve Helwagen, the Big Ten senior writer for 247Sports.com, conducted a Chat session Thursday on the Big Ten message board.
OSU's John Simon closes in on Michigan's Denard Robinson
We will target next Wednesday for the next Chat.
Below are excerpts from Thursday’s Chat:
OldOaken: Zeller has looked pretty impressive so far this year. Do you think he will be able to hold his own against Sully and other conference bigs, or do you think he could struggle?
Helwagen: I think he will do just fine. He is extremely skilled and talented. That will help him make up for his lack of bulk. My guess is Crean and Co. will have him add 5-10 pounds of bulk each off-season he stays there (if he stays there). He's listed at 6-11, 220. If he can get up to 240 even, he'd be a beast (not that he isn't now, of course).
He may struggle against Sullinger, perhaps. It helps he probably won't face Mbakwe (at least this year). MSU has some guys with bulk. But overall the conference is down a bit on big men, in general. He's pretty much moved right into the upper echelon just by showing up.
Crean is doing it the right way. He's only playing him 28-30 minutes a game. He's been in double figures in all but one game, which speaks to his consistency. I just love the kid (if you can't tell). Saw him several times at camps and AAU circuit and knew immediately he was special.
He is a force that is lifting that program out of the bowels of lethargy. I am glad to see it.
Kind of like Colin Cowherd would say about the Yankees or Notre Dame, "Big Ten basketball is just better when Indiana is good."
He's leading an unbeaten team in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (7.4). I'd say he has already made one hell of an impact.
OlentangyBanks: Steve, I wanted to get your take on the bowl ban handed down by the NCAA on Ohio State. Does Genie Smith survive this?
Helwagen: Oh, man, it was so bad for Gene they had to pull him as the MC of the Bob Knight recognition Tuesday for fear he would get booed out of the building.
I don't know how you can pay somebody $1 million a year to botch something this big. I like Gene personally. He seems like a nice enough guy. But from day one this was not handled properly.
I said last December those guys should have never played in that Sugar Bowl. And from there on it was a downward spiral. They tried to suspend Tressel for 2 games, then 5, then they asked him to leave ... but they still needed him to fall on his sword.
Then to not self impose a bowl ban with this 6-6 team -- OSU's worst in many years -- is amazing. They misread the situation completely.
For the longest time, Smith said case precedents dictated no bowl ban. But the committee invoked Failure to Monitor and repeat violator status. They threw the book at them. The DiGeronimo issue pushed it over the top (thanks, Bobby D!). He and TP are the gifts that just keep on giving. I call Bobby D the General of Jocksniffery. Sneaking into a locker to hear the pregame speech? Who are you George Steinbrenner? He thought he owned the team.
Gee is standing behind Smith, for now. There were rumors he will get kicked upstairs in the spring. How do you kick him upstairs when he's already making a mill?
As for the penalty, I am going to assume it fits the crime. Hey, they got a possibly ill-gotten Sugar Bowl out of it in 2010. It's probably only right they will serve a one-year ban. It just should have been this year. The timing -- coming out 16 days after bids were given out -- really hurts.
OlentangyBanks: Do you think any of Ohio State's srs to be will leave because of the bowl ban? They could transfer or go pro maybe.
Helwagen: Great question. My guess is Meyer and Fickell will keep the band together and sell the seniors on being leaders and handling this one last piece of adversity. Meyer is telling former players they are welcome back anytime. My guess is he tells these guys, "Hey, let's get through this together and you will be 'my guys' until the end of time."
That means helping them in the future as he can and holding them up in interviews as the class that turned the program back the right direction so they could win it all in 2013 (or whatever, you get my drift).
You could say that Stoneburner and Simon could test the NFL waters. I know Howard would love to try and test those waters, but he's only had 1 year as a front line player and to me it was just an OK year. I thought the RS freshman Roby probably outplayed him.
Williams is coming off an injury and is a wild card. Sabino is a Florida guy. Maybe he looks for a fit closer to home where he can compete for a bowl/title as a senior. Until we talk to these guys, we just don't know where their heads are.
My guess is most if not all stay put. Meyer is a great salesman. It's my understanding they should be able to transfer outside the Big Ten without sitting out a year if they want since it's their last year. We shall see.
And, honestly, 2012 is now basically an exhibition season. Yeah, they'll still be charging $70 a game and they'll want to beat the pants off Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan and Purdue. But let's call it what it is -- a throwaway year to get Miller and the sophs and freshmen ready to contend on national stage in 2013.
OlentangyBanks: With Ohio State out of the picture, who wins the leaders div and who wins the B1G next year???
Helwagen: Great question. I was taken to task for dismissing Michigan State's chances next year. I think I said the Legends was between Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska who all have QBs back. Add MSU in there, even though Cousins and Cunningham (man are they great together or what?) are leaving. I'd still lean toward Michigan because if their defense can keep improving they are going to win a lot of games 40-10.
Nebraska's defense has a long way to go. Iowa's offense sputtered at times. What is it with them and suspended RBs, by the way? Wow, it never ends.
So Michigan on one side.
I thought the other would be between OSU and Wisconsin. OSU may still win it even if they can't go to the title game unless there isn't a mass exodus of seniors. The schedule sets up good with Michigan and Nebraska visiting. But for the title game bid, it looks like it will be between Wisconsin and Penn State (provided they can get back on solid ground). Illinois with new coach Tim Beckman and a veteran QB could be a wild card here.
I'm gonna say it's Wisconsin to win the division and maybe Michigan to win the title game. In Denard we trust, I guess.
Tell me what I am missing.
TruGreenSpartan: You're missing Michigan's schedule. Have you taken a look at it yet?
Helwagen: Michigan’s nonconf is:
9-1 Alabama @Arlington, TX
9-8 Air Force
9-22 @ Notre Dame
None of those matter when it comes to winning the Big Ten. So they go 2-2 against that sked.
Home: NW, MSU, Iowa, Illinois -- all winnable
Away: Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, OSU -- They can lose Nebraska and OSU and finish 6-2 and probably still win the division, to be quite honest. OSU doesn't hurt them because it's a crossover game. You don't want to lose in division, but you can survive one, perhaps.
OlentangyBanks: B1G bkb, who's been the 2-3 most impressive teams and 2-3 that have disappointed maybe?
Helwagen: The Big Ten has been great in the nonconf. Indiana's win over Kentucky was huge in so many ways. It got what is supposed to be the signature program of the conference back on the front page for the right reasons after so many years of pure crap.
Big Ten is No. 1 in RPI with 9 teams in the top 70: Wisconsin (15), Ohio State (17), Minnesota (18), MSU (21), NW (35), Indiana (36), Illinois (49), Michigan (53) and Purdue (69).
Most impressive is OSU, obviously. I think they beat Kansas if Sullinger plays. His injuries have been the only thing that's held them back. Nobody beats Duke by 22 like they did, bad travel for the Dookies or not.
Indiana has been right there. I didn't have them beating UK or ND before the season. Winning on the road at NC State was the one that got them going. 8 of their 11 wins are against teams with losing records, so let's just take a pause.
Looks like this is finally the year Northwestern makes it. They are 10-1. They desperately need a win at Creighton (9-1) tonight. That would push them top 30 in RPI and get them to 11-1. I think they could go 8-10 in the Big Ten and with a win or 2 in Indy, they'd be in. They beat Seton Hall, which is 7 in RPI.
MSU opened 0-2 and has won its last 9 (and those two were UNC and Duke, so they were to be expected). They are right on schedule. They win a lot of ugly 60-50 games. It's just the Izzo way, apparently.
Purdue can't blow that big lead against Butler. That just can't happen. I know it is a transition year without Moore and Johnson, but that just can't happen.
Illinois lost to UNLV, which knocked off UNC so there isn't any great disgrace in that other than it happened in their back yard in Chicago. Not good. They are 11-1 though.
I thought Iowa might be more competitive just because McCaffrey is a grinder. But they'vbe had some real bad losses.
buckeyecrazy118: Hey Steve, do you have any insight on our chances of getting Studrawa?
Helwagen: Maybe Meyer pulls a rabbit out of his hat. Stud is an Ohio guy. He was a GA at OSU years back (I think late Coop years, maybe).
He's built a great resume. My guess is LSU takes care of him and he stays put. I thought I heard they locked him up with mo money and mo years. But I could be wrong.
He's the OC at LSU and you want him to come here as the OL coach? I just don't see it. Herman has been hired as the OC.
Buckramegaette: Do you think we will ever see Ross play this season for Matta?
Helwagen: Yeah, but I doubt it will be meaningful minutes. It just sounds like they dropped him in the middle of an ongoing situation and he doesn't have any idea what's going on. It sounds like he is slowly picking up the concepts. Missing preseason camp hurt him. Maybe by middle of Big Ten season he will be a contributor.
Heck, guys who were there from the start like Sibert and Sam Thompson are struggling to get minutes.
People were off on him all along, in my mind. He's a nice piece but not the piece that puts them over the top. Let him grow and develop.
BuckDoug: Do we get Dodson and Diamond? Do we get any other Offensive linemen for 2012?
Helwagen: Great question ... I think Dodson is torn between OSU and Wisconsin. Maybe the bowl ban tips it back in Wisconsin's favor, I just don't know.
I think Diamond wants to come to OSU. He visits Arkansas, Michigan and Wisconsin in January and that is some tough competition. Vrabel is recruiting him. Get an OL coach in there and then maybe we will see.
But they will land at least one more OL in this class. We just don't know who it will be.
Timber: Steve, Urban seems to be delivering on his promise to assemble the best coaching staff. Assume we hire Studrawa, we will potentially have Co-Offensive and Defensive Coordinators. Aside from getting the best talent you can, is he also considering future turnover since any of these 4 could be head coaches within 2 years? Also, what are your opinions on how they divide responsibilities, yet make sure they are on the same page? Aside from Urban, it seems like there are only a handful of coaches that could pull this off successfully.
Helwagen: Perhaps they will get Stud. I just don't know. I think people like the Herman and Withers hirings. I know I like the retention of Fickell, Vrabel, Johnson and Drayton. They need 3 more, presumably at WR, OL and TE.
Lot of talk about Earle Bruce's grandson Zach Smith (former Florida GA and Temple WRs coach) maybe getting that WR job.
What can you do about losing great coaches? Just go find more great coaches to fit the family. I liked what he said about Herman. He will be coordinating our offense, not his offense. It will be a group effort.
I have to assume Withers is comfortable with Fickell and Meyer to take this job. It will work out. Heck, they've got an exhibition year to figure it out. Doesn't matter if they go 6-6 or 12-0 ... as long as they hit the ground running for 2013 on Nov. 25, 2012.
Posas14: How does the 9 scholarship loss work at OSU? Does that mean that OSU will be operating with 76 scholarships for the next 3 years? (85 - 9 = 76). How is Meyer continuing to sign people? Is he kicking current kids off scholarship?
Helwagen: They lose 3 scholarships per year for 3 years. So instead of 85, they will be at 82 for the next 3 school years.
that's not too onerous. Some walk-ons just missed out, I guess.
I'm curious about the numbers myself, particularly now that it's 82. I think they're about out, but they must expect some attrition after the bowl. Fickell said McVey and Fellows are medical waivers and we know Taylor Graham wants a transfer.
That gets them down to 82 in my book: 14 current juniors, 18 current sophs, 9 current RS freshmen, 22 freshmen and 19 verbals. Not sure what I am missing.
Posas14: Seems like a football arms race will be heating up in the B1G.
Meyer to OSU, High profile, un-named coach to PSU Rise of UMich, MSU.
Will Wisconsin keep up without Chryst? Iowa? How much of Wisc's success is attributable to Chryst?
Helwagen: Yes, Michigan started it with hiring Mattison in for big money as DC. OSU following along it seems.
MSU is now contending annually for titles.
Have to wait-and-see on Penn State. They need to get somebody energetic who will make everybody basically forget the past.
Wisconsin without Chryst should be fine. The blue print is simple. Get great OL and RBs and just run over people. But, yeah, a lot of their success is attributed to him.
If you want to win this league, you have to be good in all phases --- recruiting, scheme and get some luck along the way. They may get 2 BCS teams going forward, but I don't see many teams running a 13-0 table to play for it with all the tough games in this conference.
bourney22: Steve, what is the toughest stadium to play in the bigten, and why?!?
Do you have any "inside" stories to why this school/stadium is so tough?!?
Helwagen: Oh, man, that is a great question. I guess I'd want to do the math and look at the last 10-20 years for who has the best home record to answer that. I have now been to them all (some of them now 7-8 times, I've been to Michigan 10 times for OSU games).
A coach would tell you it starts with great teams. That's where historically Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska have had a 7-point edge on most of the teams they have welcomed in over the years. They were just better on paper and most weeks on the field.
The best big game crowds are at Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
The next echelon is Iowa, Michigan and MSU.
That leaves Purdue, Illinois, NW, Indiana and Minnesota at the bottom.
Night games at the first 4 are almost unwinnable by the road team unless something strange happens. It's happened but it is extremely rare.
Those first 4 just have a passion that is unmatched. I'd lump Iowa in there too. When Hawks were down in late 90s, their fans still brought it. I did not see that same commitment from Michigan and MSU when they've been down and, honestly, from any of the bottom 5 even when they've been really good.
Penn State is just so loud and the crowd usually stays hot the whole game.
Wiisconsin is raucous, wild and a party.
Ohio State fans are good football fans. A 5-yard gain on the ground gets a nice roar. They are into every play like their life depends on it.
Nebraska is just a special place. OSU went there week after Nebraska lost at Wisconsin by 30 and they gave the Huskers a hero's welcome. Then, after they fell behind 24-7 (I think) they willed the comeback win. Awesome environment.
Michigan was resurrected this year. They rushed the field after the win over OSU. Those moments are few and far between there.
I've been at MSU games where people left at halftime to find other things to do. Their passion comes and goes. It's at a high point now, obviously. Dantonio has it rolling.
I hope that answers it.
A tough place to play, in my mind, is defined by having a good to great team playing at home with passionate fans who are in it from 3 hrs before the game until past the final gun. Their noise and impact on the game can be felt. Those first 4 I mentioned consistently have that. The middle 3 sometimes have it. The bottom 5 rarely have it.
Ohioboy33: But dont the early enrollments at Ohio State count towards last year?
Helwagen: Don't worry about who's enrolling where or any of that ...none of that matters. It's the overall count of 82 that they have to work against. Counting guys forwards or backwards means nothing in their predicament. They aren't close to the limit of 25 in any one class to worry about that.
InTenSity: Do you even watch MSU basketball, or did you just see the MSU FSU game? MSU is not Wisconsin. The only time it is 60-50 is when the other team wants to slow down the tempo.
Also, your comments about Michigan. You really think their defense is that good? Everyone is crowing about how great they are, yet what offensive juggernauts did they play? It is a paper tiger.
Helwagen: OK, maybe 60-50 was exaggerating.
The "good" teams they've played:
UNC L 67-55
Duke L 74-69
Miklwaukee W 68-55
FSU W 65-49
Gonzaga W 74-67
They averaged 66 points against the 5 best teams they've played.
Change what I said to 66-56. I don't care what they did against Arkansa-Little Rock oor Texas Southern.
jimtaco: Just a real simple question:What's your take on the Michigan vs Alabama game next year?
Both teams will probably go into next season as a top 10/15 teams and probably contend for conference titles. Who wins? Do you think it will eventually have BCS implications? And do you think this matchup will live up to the hype?
Btw, this is a really cool feature. Hopefully some of my fellow Michigan fans will get more involved next time.
Helwagen: I LOVE that game.
We don't have enough games like that in September where the top 15 step out and play each other. Those kids' eyes will be wide to play on a field like the one Jerry Jones has built in Dallas.
I wish he'd pony up money to have a marquee game like that every week all season long (and then pony up more money for a playoff).
Alabama has so much talent on defense. They have to hope they don't get decimated by guys running off to the pros. If they beat LSU for the title, that game will be THE game in college football to open the season. It definitely will have BCS implications.
Michigan will have to play really well to go down there and win, but Denard gives them a shot vs. anybody. I want to see how he does against the Va. Tech defense as a gauge.
Glad you enjoyed today's Chat!
bourney22: Good insight on the college environments in the bigten.
I really enjoy these chats you have, where we can have Q & A with you. Is this something that we can expect once a week until national signing day?!?
Helwagen: Yes, let's figure we will do it on a weekly basis. We'll shoot for Wed. next week since I am traveling to JAX next Thursday! See you then.
Thanks again to everyone for participating. Hope everybody has a happy holiday!
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