Fresh off a bye week, Michigan hosts Illinois in front of a homecoming crowd for the teams’ first meeting since 2012. Last week, Illinois beat Rutgers despite being outgained by 65 yards and being held to just 10 first downs. We all know what Michigan did to Rutgers the week before that. With Michigan favored by nearly 40 points in this one, it’s likely to get ugly early.
Joe won our weekly predictions four the fourth time in six games two weeks ago with his prediction of Michigan 54 – Rutgers 3. Here are this week’s picks:
Given Illinois’ inability to defend the run — they allow 224.2 yards per game against FBS competition and Rutgers rushed for 203 yards last week — another big day on the ground should be expected for a Michigan offense that ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally in rushing. Will the Wolverines break 400 rushing yards like they did against Rutgers? Probably not, but they should top 300. I also think we’ll see a little more of Wilton Speight than we did against Rutgers when he threw just 13 passes. Having a strong ground game is great, but we can’t forget that Michigan only rushed for 130 against Wisconsin. The passing game needs to be strong as well, especially as the Big Ten title hunt enters the home stretch. Finally, I expect the offense to show a few new plays or formations that they worked on over the weekend specifically to set up plays for the Michigan State game next Saturday.
Defensively, Michigan will shut down the Illinois offense, but surrender one touchdown on a big run. If Lunt starts, he’s not a threat to run and Michigan’s defensive line will tee off on him. If Crouch starts, the Illini will have the dual-threat option and he’ll pull off a couple of first down runs on broken plays, but he won’t be able to do enough to cause concern. Jourdan Lewis will shut down Turner, rendering the Illinois passing game useless, and the rush defense will hold them under 100 yards.
Michigan is favored by 38.5 points and I expect them to cover. I think this game will be very similar to the Rutgers game two weeks ago, but to a lesser degree. Michigan won’t score 78 for the second straight game, they won’t top 600 total yards, and Illinois will get more than 39 total yards. But Michigan will still win big.
Michigan 56 – Illinois 7
The biggest blowout in this game’s history is 57-0, and that might be in jeopardy Saturday.
If Harbaugh wants to really get Jabrill Peppers into the Heisman conversation, he’ll make Peppers more of a factor on offense in the second half of the season. That doesn’t bode well for Illinois.
Michigan might not have the same motivation it did against a chirpy Rutgers team, but I still think this will be a blowout. Michigan wins big once again.
Michigan 63 – Illinois 6
Another Big Ten game, another snoozer. At least, that’s why I’m expecting when the Wolverines welcome a woeful Illinois team for Homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor. With each passing week, the Big Ten looks like a two-team conference (okay, we’ll give Wisconsin and Nebraska a combined 0.5 worth of a team as well), and the Fighting Illini are certainly not in that conversation. This should be another game where the running game is dominant and Wilton Speight merely has to manage the offense and watch as Wormley, Taco, Peppers, Gedeon, McCray, Glasgow, Gary, Hurst, Lewis, and company dominate. The Maize and Blue rolls to 7-0 behind 350 rushing yards and plus-3 in the turnover game.
Michigan 47 – Illinois 0
Illinois isn’t all that great, but they’re better than Rutgers. Michigan should win with relative ease but I do expect the Illinois pass rush to give Michigan some issues. Wilton Speight has been decent but not consistent this year. If Michigan wants to compete for a B1G Ten title and more he needs to clean up some stuff. Illinois should provide a good test for Speight’s pocket presence and quickness in decision making. The running back by committee will continue, perhaps with an appearance by Drake Johnson, and De’Veon Smith is likely to sit out most of the game as other guys get reps. A deep pass or two and this one will be over by halftime.
Illinois is a better running team than passing, so I don’t expect a ton of tackles for loss or sacks. What I do expect is a lot of three and outs and short fields for Michigan’s offense. Hopefully we can see Lavert Hill and David Long get some more solid game action as 2017 demands these guys are well seasoned.
As mentioned in this week’s The Numbers Game, Illinois is very similar (numbers wise) to Penn State and Michigan handled them quite easily, I expect a similar result.
Michigan 56 – Illinois 3
I like this matchup versus Illinois on several fronts. The run game will see plenty of holes should get rolling early. The offensive line will dominate a less experienced and smaller defensive front for Illinois. The defense will continue to get better after a week off and will be very hungry. We are starting to get to the MEAT of the schedule and should start seeing more consistency from everyone. Look for Speight to go for 250 and three touchdowns while Peppers returns one to the house in his growing Heisman push. Michigan wins pulling away.
Michigan 48 – Illinois 7