Michigan football has a golden opportunity to stack up another much-needed win heading into a critical stretch of games for the program when they make a trip to Illinois on Saturday afternoon. Outside of the potential showdown with former Wolverine quarterback Brandon Peters, there is not a lot of drama for this game other than issues that Michigan can inflict on themselves.
Peters may or may not play this weekend, but that does not change the fact that the Wolverines come into this game as a heavy favorite. This game ideally serves as a “get right” week for Michigan with the team looking to find a quantifiable stride offensively as opposed to the strides that are being made behind the scenes. There are not many easily-winnable football games left on the schedule, so they not only need to stack them where they can, but also be thorough and decisive in their approach and execution.
The good news for the slumping Michigan offense is that the defense they will go up against is ranked only two spots higher nationally (96th) than the Rutgers (98th) team they routed 52-0 was. This is an especially important game for quarterback Shea Patterson, who has been relegated essentially to a game manager for the Michigan offense despite preseason hype that listed him as a Heisman candidate in a new offense. If he struggles for a stretch at any point in this game and there’s a quarterback capable of being an effective call to the bullpen, it might be time. The Wolverines cannot risk stunting the growth of the offense this week with a trip to Penn State and game against Notre Dame to follow the next few weeks. Fans will say it does not matter what Patterson does anyways, and they are probably right, but his grip on the quarterback situation might depend on his performance Saturday. We are not sure yet if Dylan McCaffrey has been cleared to play, which would again leave Joe Milton as the backup to Patterson. This is something to keep an eye on going into Saturday.
It is not entirely on the quarterback, though. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, along with Jim Harbaugh, must have a consistent plan of attack and they have a chance to establish an identity and build off of a strength against a defense that should give them just about whatever they want. We thought that would happen after a strong showing from the passing game against Rutgers, but things went the other way again when they played a good defense. Again, it’s much better to look sharp in a rout than it is to struggle.
Defensively, Illini running back Reggie Corbin is a problem, but he probably provides the only shot for his team to make this interesting on Saturday going up against a Michigan defense that is truly starting to hit its stride.
Michigan wins if: Once again, probably by getting off the bus and showing up ready to play a football game. That said, sometimes they make it a bit harder on themselves away from Ann Arbor, but Illinois is not good enough to make this anything more than annoyingly close later than it should be.
Illinois wins if: Michigan’s turnover woes return and the defense, which has played lights out the last two weeks, completely falls apart against the worst team in the conference not named Rutgers.
This one will not be close. The only question becomes if it’s flukey or actually impressive.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Illinois 6
Date: Oct. 12, 2019
Location: Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Radio: 950 AM in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, see affiliate stations here
Spread: Michigan -23, over/under set at 49 points
- Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill will be on the television call for ABC.
- Michigan is 70-23-2 all-time against Illinois and are 34-12-1 in games that have been played in Champaign.
- The Wolverines have five players from the state of Illinois in LB Jordan Glasgow, RB Danny Hughes, OL Trevor Keegan, QB Michael Sessa and TE Will Sessa.
- Michigan has won eight of the last ten meetings in the series, but have not played since 2016 when the Wolverines won 41-8 in Ann Arbor.
- Illinois is quarterbacked by former Michigan player Brandon Peters, who was Jim Harbaugh’s first QB recruit on the job in Ann Arbor.