The Illinois Fighting Illini will host the #16 Michigan Wolverines in Big Ten action Saturday afternoon Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL.
The Michigan Wolverines head on the road for the second time this season. They were crushed by a 35-14 score against the Badgers in their lone road game. The Wolverines have since rebounded with two straight conference wins since which included a 10-3 home win against a ranked Iowa team last week to improve to 2-1 in Big Ten play. Michigan climbed three spots in the AP Top 25 rankings to #16 this week.
The Illinois Fighting Illini are searching for their first conference win of the season. The Fighting Illini have lost to Nebraska and Minnesota in their two Big Ten battles. They enter this one riding a three-game losing streak due primarily to poor defensive play. Illinois started the season with two wins against Akron and Connecticut. This marks the first meeting between these two schools since 2016 in a game Michigan took by a dominating 41-8 score.
#16 Wolverines Register Gritty Win Against Ranked Hawkeyes
The Michigan Wolverines silenced some of their critics with a much needed 10-3 home win against #14 Iowa last week. Michigan has notched a few uninspiring wins which included anarrow overtime win against Army compounded by a blowout road loss to Wisconsin which has resulted in some criticism under head coach Jim Harbaugh. QB Shea Patterson isn’t flashy although he has thrown for at least 200 yards in four of five games. The senior QB has racked up 1052 passing yards with a 6:3 TD to INT ratio.
“We’ve been through a lot through the first 5 games of the season,” said Patterson. “With OT, with on the road, played in some tight games. I think we’re battle-tested at this point, and we’re just gonna go out there and play and try and control what we can control.”
The Wolverines will need increased production on the ground if they want to compete for the top spot in the Big Ten East. Their leader rusher Zach Charbonnet has only amassed 260 rushing yards which included only 32 rushing yards on 13 attempts against Iowa last week.
Michigan features three receivers with at least 200 yards on the season. They are led by Nico Collins who has collected 269 receiving yards. The junior WR has tallied 188 receiving yards in his last three games alone. The Wolverines offense has looked very sloppy at times, and this particular matchup is a good opportunity to get back on track.
The Michigan defense is their greatest asset. They lean on their defense to win games which was evident in last week’s 10-3 win over Iowa. The Wolverines will give up yards on the ground, but their pass defense is seventh in the FBS. The Wolverines are not a high scoring team, and they are currently averaging 28 points, placing them 74th overall. The Michigan defense is holding opponents to 16 points, good for 17th in the FBS.
Illinois Pegged with Third Straight Defeat
The Illinois Fighting Illini are in need of a win. They opened the season with two wins and have since lost three consecutive games. Their defensive woes resumed in a rough 40-17 road loss to Minnesota last week to fall to 0-2 in conference action. Illinois’ #1 QB Brandon Peters was injured in the defeat and did not return. Peters played for Michigan in 2017 and 2018, and he is questionable for this one. The junior QB has recorded 797 passing yards with a 10:4 TD to INT ratio. If he is unable to play Matt Robinson will get the start. The freshman QB went 15 for 29 with for 125 passing yards against Minnesota last week.
“He knew that Michigan was on the schedule when he decided to come here,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said about Peters. “It’s Michigan week now, so I know he’s pumped up. I’m hoping he’ll be ready to go this week.”
Even if Peters can't play, at least he can help the Illini in film study, considering he has pretty good knowledge about their offense and defense.
“I think you use every advantage that you can possibly get,” Smith said. “But you’re not going to know what a team is going to do [on offense] until the ball is snapped.”
Illinois’ best chance to generate offense will likely be on the ground as the Wolverines are tremendous against the pass. Reggie Corbin should see plenty of carries. The senior RB has rushed for at least 130 yards in two out of his last three games, and he has accrued 382 rushing yards on an average of 6.6 yards per rush attempt on the year.The Fighting Illini have two receivers with over 200 receiving yards led by Josh Imatorbhebhe with 220 yards and four touchdowns. The Illinois offense hasn’t been their big issue this season.
The Fighting Illini defense continues to falter which has played a big role in their current three-game slide. They are especially struggling against the run, ranking down at 98th in the FBS in rush defense. Illinois is scoring an average of 31.8 points, placing them 57th in the country. They are allowing an average of 28.4 points, positioning them 80th overall.
The Michigan Wolverines are:
- The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between Michigan and Illinois.
The Illinois Fighting Illini are:
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight-up win.
- 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
- 0-8 ATS in their last 8 road games against a team with a losing home record.