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Discussion: How can Michigan go undefeated at home for second year in a row?

Both Michigan and Illinois have highly touted running backs and defenses, but which one will reign supreme?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 UConn at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines have two games left in their 2022 season. On Saturday, they host Illinois for the first time since 2016; their most recent contest came in 2019, with the Wolverines beating the Illini 42-25.

The last time the Fighting Illini were 7-3 was 2007, the year they went to the Rose Bowl. That season they pulled off the upset over then No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus. Coincidentally, it was their second-to-last game of the regular season. Can history repeat itself this year?

The Illini are 11-35-1 overall at the Big House since their first visit. Their most recent win in Ann Arbor was in 2008, with Illinois beating Michigan 45-20. Since then, Michigan has been on a five-game winning streak spanning the last 12 years.

Both teams need the win on Saturday. Illinois has dropped its last two games after starting 7-1 and needs to win its next two to get a shot at the Big Ten West bid. Michigan hopes to stay perfect on the season and return to Indy and the CFP for a second year in a row.

A year prior, the Wolverines were 10-1 heading into their final home game of the season. Their lone loss came on the road, so they hadn’t lost at home. Now in 2022, Michigan is 10-0 in a similar situation. Can Michigan go undefeated at the Big House again? What has to happen to remain perfect this season and at home?

There are two things we know about Illinois. One: the Illini have one of the best defenses in the nation and the Big Ten. Two: they have one of the top running backs in the country. The same things are known about Michigan. With that in mind, which program do you think will win on Saturday?

Illinois’ running back Chase Brown leads the country with 1,442 rushing yards. Initially questionable after exiting last week’s game due to injury, he faces a tough Michigan defense should he be able to go. The Wolverines are only giving up 72.7 rushing yards a game, which leads the Big Ten.

Illinois faces a similar challenge in Michigan running back Blake Corum. His 1,349 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns are third in the nation for running backs. Michigan’s offensive line is also elite. The unit was just named as a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award for a second season in a row. However, this week Corum and the Wolverines face a defense that only gives up 85.9 rushing yards a game.

In this battle between two top running backs and two top defenses, which one do you favor? Michigan has 546 total rushing yards in its last two games, with Corum rushing for 271 yards. Illinois has 255 rush yards, with Brown rushing 234 yards. Michigan has greater and more diverse production on the ground in comparison to Illinois, which I think is an indicator of Michigan’s greater success.

Michigan’s defense has only allowed its opponents 89 rushing yards their last two games compared to Illinois’ 254. The Wolverines have also shut out their last two opponents in the second half. They have done exceptionally well in closing out games these past few weeks and I think Illinois will struggle against Michigan in the second half.

If Michigan’s defense eliminates Illinois’ ground game, they control this game. Conversely, if Corum continues his Heisman-caliber season, there isn’t reason to doubt Michigan goes undefeated at home this year.

But what do you think? Is Illinois in a position to upset Michigan at home like they did Ohio State in 2007? Will the Wolverines have answers to Illinois’ defense and Brown? How can the Wolverines ensure the win on Saturday?

Share with us your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!