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What To Take From The Illinois Game

Michigan dominated a bad Big Ten opponent. What does it mean?

Gregory Shamus - Getty Images

Consider this a combination of what to take from the Purdue and Illinois games, as I was distracted last weekend and didn't get around to it. Anyway...

Michigan has taken on two opponents from the Big Ten Conference and came out victorious by a serious margin in both contests. Purdue was considered a sleeper B1G contender until Michigan ran straight through them, while Illinois was already established as a bottom feeder.

The Bad

The offense is mostly one-dimensional

I say mostly because it can still work the pass off of play action and tunnel screens, but this team will still be in for a grind-it-out type of game when it faces a defense that can contain the run. Al Borges has made a clear effort to let Denard do what Denard does best, and that won't ever be passing. He attempted 16 passes against a formidable Purdue defense, connecting on only half of those attempts. Against Illinois? Seven completions on eleven attempts. Luckily for the Michigan offense everyone in the Big Ten looks like crap, so maybe this whole one-dimensional issue won't ever really be a problem.

The Good

The one dimension in the offense is hard to stop

Robinson is and always has been an electrifying runner, but this year he's seeing lanes down field and making Reggie Bush vs Fresno State cuts. Seriously, Illinois had him surrounded in the middle of the field, only for him to cut left and outrun everyone to the end zone. On top of that the running backs seemed to have found their stride against Illinois, with Toussaint and Rawls finding the end zone. Add in sweeps and reverses from Gallon and Norfleet and you're looking at a scary rushing machine.

The defense is here to stay

Purdue scored 13 points. Illinois didn't score any. The rush defense looks much improved in recent weeks, mostly due to a surprising revival on the defensive line. The linebackers are also playing at an very high level, quickly diagnosing plays and running with reckless abandon. At the beginning of the season I thought the defense would need Kovacs in the box for the majority of games, and right now I'm glad to admit that I'm wrong. He's part of a secondary that's allowed less than 200 total yards of passing in two combined games, adding three interceptions to go with it. And I haven't even gotten to the best part yet...

Jake Ryan is a budding superstar

The only thing holding me back from calling him a superstar right now is the level of competition that Michigan has faced in the last two weeks. His stat line in the last two weeks: 17 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. The talk about his strength gains in the offseason are proving true and he's visibly more comfortable with the scheme. If he keeps this up he's going to be a household name on the national scale.

The overall identity is set

The Wolverines aren't your father's Michigan team, but they're close. Michigan is going to win games by running the ball out of the shotgun with Robinson while playing suffocating defense. Why is this a positive? Because the entire team is in a united state, from the coordinators down. Greg Mattison has his boys playing fast and Al Borges knows the limitations of his offense, and when all of the parts are in motion this team will be hard to beat.


The level of competition caveat applies to much of this. Still, this team looks solid and it's in a prime state of mind heading into the brunt of the Big Ten schedule. I'd expect to see more items in "The Bad" as the competition picks up. In the meantime pray that the running game remains intact and watch as Jake Ryan slices and dices opposing offenses.