The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines are looking to improve to 11-0 this weekend, as they’ll play their final game at the Big House this season against Illinois, with kickoff set for noon EST.
Here are some keys to victory for Michigan on Senior Day.
Stop the run, prove Blake Corum is the best RB in this game
The Wolverines are set to face one of the best running backs in the Big Ten not named Blake Corum in Chase Brown, who head coach Bret Bielema said is “trending in the right direction” earlier this week after inuring his right week in last week’s game.
As our Dan Plocher covered earlier this week, Brown is the best back Michigan has faced this season, but statistically the Wolverines have one of the best rushing defense in college football, only allowing opponents to gain an average of 72.7 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry.
It’s Senior Day for the Wolverines, and it would be great if two of their senior leaders on the defensive line— Mazi Smith and Mike Morris —have dominant performances in their final time playing in the Big House.
Chase Brown is one of the only backs in the country who has more yards than Blake Corum, who has made a solid case to be invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy Presentation.
If Corum can be the most dominant running back in this game, I don’t see how Michigan loses.
Play mistake-free football
While the Illini are coming off of back-to-back losses, they are still one of the best teams in the nation in terms of turnover margin: they are tied for 13th in the country with a margin of +0.8 per game (23 turnovers gained and 15 turnovers lost), a mark that’s second-best in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State.
The Illini are also tied for first in the nation with 17 interceptions, so J.J. McCarthy is going to have to make sure he makes sound decisions in this one and doesn’t try to do too much.
The recipe for Illinois pulling off the upset is by picking off McCarthy a few times and corralling a loose fumble or two, so Michigan can not let that happen.
Take Illinois seriously, don’t let this be a trap game
The entire country will be tuned into The Game next week, as Michigan will take on Ohio State in the greatest rivalry in college football (and maybe all of sports) in a matchup with massive College Football Playoff implications if both teams are undefeated going into the game.
While the Wolverines have obviously kept an eye on the Buckeyes all season long, they need to remember the strategy that’s helped them all season long: prepare on a week-to-week basis, dominate time of possession, and let Corum lead you to victory.
Before Michigan focuses its full attention on the game in Columbus next week, it needs to take care of Illinois first.