Rush Offense vs Illinois
Michigan O +4 (7th) vs Illinois D -4 (112th)
After two rough games against Indiana and Michigan State, Michigan's running game has bounced back nicely, albeit in losses, the last two games.
Game - Rush+
Meanwhile, in Big 10 play Illinois has been gashed three times and had decent games relative to competition against both Ohio St and Indiana
Game - Rush+
If Michigan is going to have any chance of getting to 8-4 on the season and making more than the basic step forward this year, they are going to need to dominate this matchup. There won't be a bigger advantage on the schedule this year and things should and have to come together here.
Pass Offense vs Illinois
Michigan O +0 (54) vs Illinois D -2 (88)
This matchup won't be a huge advantage for Michigan but it will be very interesting to see how Michigan manages the play calling and the run pass splits. The one thing that shouldn't happen is interceptions. Only two teams in all of 1A have gotten less value out interceptions than Illinois. Illinois has only produced 3 points of value from picks, which is a full 2 TDs less than the average 1A team. Any picks on Saturday will be a major disappointment.
Rush Defense vs Illinois
Michigan D -1 (90) vs Illinois O +0 (51)
If Illinois has one advantage this week, this is where it's at. The good news for M is that they are coming off their best performance of the season, posting a +4 against a very good Penn St rushing attack.
Game - Rush+
Illinois is also coming off a very solid +4 rushing game and has posted positive values in three of its five Big 10 games this season.
Game - Rush+
If this game gets too close for comfort, it will probably be because Illinois has found an opportunity to exploit the Michigan rush defense.
Pass Defense vs Illinois
Michigan D +3 (29) vs Illinois O -5 (110)
For all the painful big plays given up by Michigan's past defense this year, the totally of their efforts have stayed surprisingly strong. Through four Big 10 games, Michigan's pass defense has played better than average against the passing games of all four teams.
Game - Pass+
With 4 games that graded out well but didn't feel like they went well, this week presents an opportunity. Illinois has posted 2 solid games, 1 bad game and 2 total disasters against Michigan state and Ohio State.
Game - Pass+
With Illinois bringing out their third QB of the season on Saturday, you would think that would favor Michigan but with as bad as the Illini passing game has been this season, it's hard to imagine it getting worse.
For the second straight week, the Big 10's fastest paced offense will face one of the slowest. After taking on Penn State's grind it out pace last week, Michigan will face an Illinois offense that averages nearly 20% fewer possessions per game. Despite the bad loss, Michigan was able to get the number of drives they wanted last week, I would look for them to do the same again this week.
Michigan +1.1 (25) vs Illinois -0.9 (70)
Michigan should have a solid advantage over Illinois on special teams on Saturday. The kicking game and kick returns both slant heavily towards Michigan. The punt teams are virtually identical while Illinois has a slight advantage on kickoff coverage. The way to tell that Illinois is not good on special teams, however, is that they are significantly worse than Michigan on punt return, even when accounting for fumbled returns.
Going through this preview, Vegas must know something about Michigan or Illinois than I do because I have a hard time seeing this as a touchdown game.
Michigan 35 Illinois 14
Elsewhere in the Big 10:
Indiana 3 Iowa 26
Michigan St 25 Minnesota 24
NM St 0 Ohio St 31
Penn St 33 Northwestern 3
Purdue 20 Wisconsin 28
Every time I do one of these (MSU, PSU), we lose. But we're talking Illinois here. Seriously. And wait, didn't I also do plucky DSU? I don't remember. But it matters not because Coach (still) Redacted has done a press conference thingy and I'm here to distill all the tasty bits into, um, tasty bits...
- Starting TE Michael Hoomanawanui didn't practice yesterday and is day to day. Stats not terribly impressive, though, with only 8 receptions for 84 yards and no TD (largely a function of their QB situation, though).
- RS Soph OL Tyler Sands had a hip flexor, but practiced and seemed good to go. Improved in the last couple of games, but tough matchup facing Graham.
- S Donsay Hardeman had the stomach flu, but should be back for Sunday. Had apparently suffered a minor neck injury against Indiana, but that must not be bothering him. True frosh DB Terry Hawthorne may see some time. He took his first defensive snaps against Indiana and was on special teams in all games.
- Would prefer to have just one QB, but understands that sometimes it must be done, and some have success with it. Didn't say who will start, but said Charest and Williams will both definitely play.
- Williams and Charest bring something different to the table, so more for the defense to gameplan against. McGee and Williams were fairly similar, so not much variation in terms of defensive gameplanning.
- Impressed with Charest's poise and leadership, particularly in keeping his eyes downfield and not scrambling too soon.
- Biggest drawback to 2 QB system is timing issues with the offense.
- Williams has handled the QB situation well. Mainly, he just wants to win. It's mostly a confidence issue before, but he's done it before and is capable of doing it again.
On the RB rotation:
- True soph RB Mikel LeShoure looks to be the primary guy, with the most carries (44) and most rushing yards (285) of the RB's (Juice Williams leads the team in rushing yards with 395). He was suspended for one game earlier (against PSU), but has done what he needs to do to stay on the field.
On the Michigan game:
- Big game for Illinois, an opportunity to get back on track.
- Michigan's offense is good, leading the league in scoring and yards, and with an experienced OL. A big mindset and attitude shift from last year.
- Similar to Illinois defensively with similar fronts/formations.
- "Brandon Graham is the real deal." (that's verbatim, kids)
My take: they seem a lot like a less-talented version of Michigan, honestly. Our QB's are probably a slight upgrade over theirs, or at least equal. Our RB situation has been equally unstable, but we just have better talent there. His comment that our defenses being similar is also true from the perspective of having little experience and depth in the secondary, and being like a sieve, in general (how bitterly ironic you are, Coach Redacted). Hopefully, the talent advantage shows up on the field of play Saturday.
Let's do some golf channel analysis and give a Solid or Shank response for the upsets described below.
Wisky over OSU - Solid or Shank?
I call this the upset game of the week in the Big Ten. Wisky keeps getting better over the weeks and i think they have OSU's number.
Illinois over MSU - Solid or Shank?
Ok, by now you're asking, is this really an upset call? Umm, maybe considering the Illini record at the time being. I threw it in just because i think Sparty will continue to self destruct after their superbowl victory last week. The Illini are looking to make something happen with a new QB at the helm and likely see MSU as the sucker they have been waiting for.
Of course, we can discuss an upset victory over Iowa but we have done that enough on here already.
The general consensus here in Iowa is that Hawkeye fans are nervous about the Michigan game, but they are feeling much more secure and confident after the Hawkeye performance at State College. The Iowa offense is really not that good, but they have a good O-line and some very good young running backs. Stanzi is the type of QB who you want to just not lose the game for you. Receivers are average. Kicker is decent, and the Hawkeye punter is on par with He Who Cannot Be Named. Iowa defense is just plain good -- possibly the best front seven in the Big Ten. One of their safeties, Tyler Sash, has had a bunch of picks already, but he's been Johnny-on-the-Spot against some weak players (Arnaud from Iowa State comes to mind).
I also have four tickets to the Illinois game in Champaign on Halloween, and so my fiancee and I are meeting two friends from Indianapolis there. I have not been to Memorial Stadium, but I understand that I'm in for a pretty brutal time. Hell, just last summer, driving through Illinois, I saw "Muck Fichigan" t-shirts in a convenience store. I just hope that the Illini continue to struggle, and that Juice Williams is not going to replicate his performance from last year against us.
Anyone else going to these games?
So, after today's slate of games, what's your take on our conference opponents this year?
I wasn't optimistic about Iowa's season after they lost Jewel Hampton, but after today I definitely don't think they'll have as good a season as last year.
And then there's Illinois ... they really tanked today.
I think next week will give us a better handle on the kind of team we have this season, but I have to say I'm not as worried about these games as I was before today.
- Michigan players find better communication in Robinson defense (link)
- Bielema remains firm on suspensions, cause still unknown (link)
- Wisconsin may start redshirt freshman at Quarterback over Sherer, Clay No. 2 back (link)
- MSU quarterbacks feature mixed results, freshman Caper leads pack (link)
- Preseason Butkus Award list features Seven Big Ten players, including UM's Ezeh (link)
- Five Big Ten Players on Rimington watch list, including Michigan's Molk (link)
- Seven Big Ten Players on Nagurski watch list, including Michigan's Graham (link)
- Minnesota to utilize the Wildcat offense. (link)
- MSU offensive line continues to shift as injuries in replacement slots persist (link)
- RS Freshman Brinson may be Greene's replacement in Iowa (link)
- Graham on ESPN top 25 draft board (link)
- Illinois cornerback and expected starter/contributor out for season with torn ACL (link)
- MSU's "Celebrate the State" Michigan directional scheduling bonanza (link)
- ESPN Big Ten Position Rankings: Special teams: UM #2 (link)
- Indiana starting true freshman at DT ($$$ link), Seven projected starters missed a practice or more this past week (link)
- OSU linebacker Spitler with strained calf, return unsure only in timing (link)