UM's Path of Destruction to the 'Shoe: Game Five
With four games down, the Wolverines come back to the Big House for a showdown with the Zooker, Juice, Arrelious, and plenty of other fun names. Let me also say again, that I'm not trying to prognosticate here, just putting together some reasons why Michigan can prevail in each game. So save your "you're delusional" comments for the ND board. Actually, I don't really care, so just go post some "you're delusional" comments on the ND board!
Illinois -- Oct. 4, 3:30 PM
Oh, what to think of the Illini? They have the firepower to be a top team in the Big Ten, but have shown they are prone to their middle of the pack ways as well. Mendenhall is gone, but Juice and Benn are back and will bring a dangerous offense into the Big House.
A big issue in terms of atmosphere in the Big House at this point in the season will be Michigan's record. Are the Wolverines riding high off a win at Madison to go 4-0? Are they 2-2? 3-1? Pretty much any scenario that puts their record at 3-1 makes this an intimidating crowd; anything worse and it's one of those crowds waiting for things to go horribly wrong. Illinois will be fresh off a game in Happy Valley, so their mindset could well turn on that result.
So just how good is the Illinois offense? And what chance does Michigan's defense have of stopping it? Well, I'm glad I asked.
- Talk of this offense typically begins with Juice Williams. He has a sweet name, has been hyped as the savior since the four-star showed up on campus, and has delivered with some huge wins since taking the field. He is obviously very fast and elusive, but also has a great arm, and now has two years of experience inside that helmet.
- Arrelious Benn is forrealious. The Zookster showed he knew how to get the ball to his most talented players last season, as Benn grabbed 54 passes and ran 32 more times. Look for more of that this year, as Benn will also make up for the loss of their star running back.
- Speaking of sweet names, the Illini also have a tight end by the name of Michael...wait for it...Hoomanawanui. Not sure how good he is, but that's awesome.
There is no doubt that this offense is the biggest concern against Illinois, but Michigan is more than capable of shutting it down, or at least containing it. There are a couple main reasons Michigan's defense will succeed.
- Juice is the new Morelli. It's true. Sure, Juice looks a lot less rodent-ish, but don't let all the running around fool you. He is a guy with a good arm that couldn't hit Charlie Weis from ten yards. His completion percentage is embarrassing for a spread quarterback and he has a tendency to throw the ball to guys wearing different color uniforms than himself. These things could obviously improve as he matures, but it's not a given. Michigan got into his head last season when the deck was stacked in his favor (at home, took the early lead), what's going to happen on the road?
- Benn is just one receiver. Yeah, he is going to make some plays. But if Michigan can keep him in front of them, and make Illinois march the ball down the field, the Illini won't score over 25 points. There is some talent at that running back spot, but it will be on Juice to win the game, and he just can't do it.
Great, so our defense can deal with Illinois' offense. But how are we going to score without the deadly Arrington to Manningham assault? Illinois has some serious talent returning on their defense as well. Blue chipper Martez Wilson moves into a much more prominent role at linebacker this year, and corner Vontae Davis could be one of the best in the Big Ten. The Illini return a handful of defensive lineman that will provide talent and depth to the position. The defense will be fast and capable of making big plays. No worries though, it's not like I'm going to say Michigan will fail...
- While many "studs" return, the man with his picture next to that word in the dictionary is gone: J Leman.
- The Illini also lose both starting safeties.
- Leman's partner (not like that obviously), Antonio Steele, is also gone, leaving it up to the youngsters to hold down the linebacker spot.
Michigan can take advantage of the mostly inexperienced back seven the same way the Wolverines did last season. Anytime Henne wanted (except for when his shoulder, you know, fell off) he could hit Manningham or Arrington up the seam. Sloppy linebacker and safety play will turn those 25 yard gains into much bigger plays this time around. I'm sure Wilson and whatever other Zook recruit steps into the linebacker spot will be good athletes, but it's going to take discipline and intelligence to stop Rodriguez's offense this season, and something tells me they will racka da disciprine.
And it's not like Michigan had much trouble on the ground either. Minor and Brown moved the ball well on Illinois last season and will do the same this year.
Again, the kicking advantage goes to Michigan as Illinois will be going with a freshman walk-on at kicker and the same punter that was booming 13-yarders against Michigan last season. Zoltan laughs at you. In his mind.
Michigan wins in a modest-scoring affair.