This year’s Senior Day at the Big House pales in comparison to the magnitude of The Game next week. However, the Michigan Wolverines still have a chance to make some history.
After going winless at home in the frankly meaningless 2020 season, the maize and blue can finalize back-to-back undefeated seasons at the Big House with a win today.
The significance of being a senior may not be what it used to be (thanks, transfer portal and COVID eligibility extensions!) but the senior leadership will do its best to make sure the Wolverines don’t look past the Illini, even with what waits them after this week.
There’s no doubt Illinois fields one of the best running backs in America in Chase Brown (and a respectable quarterback to boot), but what makes this an intriguing matchup is the Illini pass defense. Bret Bielema’s team is fifth in overall passing defense, first in passing defense efficiency and first in passing percentage against (49.3 percent).
Last year’s penultimate game against Maryland was used as a tune-up for Cade McNamara and the passing attack, in which Donovan Edwards showcased his excellent receiving abilities. If Jim Harbaugh seeks to replicate the sequencing (which might seem to be a stretch given his penchant for the run) that led to his victory over Ohio State as a coach, J.J. McCarthy better be ready to make some big league throws.
Teams: No. 3 Michigan Wolverines vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Date: Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022
Location: Michigan Stadium Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Radio: Michigan/IMG Sports Network (to listen online, click here)
Spread: Michigan -17.5; O/U: 41.5
Today’s question: Will the passing game build some momentum?
In his last two starts, McCarthy has completed less than 50% of his passing attempts. By any standard, this is not acceptable. But when you factor in that, until that point, the promising sophomore led the nation in completion percentage, it’s downright alarming.
Still, a large portion of the blame shouldn’t lay on his shoulders; after all, the wide receiver corps has dramatically underperformed this year, so the completion percentage statistic is more of an effect than a cause of the aerial attack woes. However, Michigan will need to get some of its swagger back in the passing game to keep next week’s opponent on their toes.