Friday, October 3, 2008

Week 5: Illinois at Michigan

Stop. Hammertime. That seems to be exactly what Brandon Minor is saying to Illinois defenders during Michigan's road win at Champagne last year. Not that MC Hammer's song has any relevance whatsoever to the game this week, it popped up in my mind when I saw the picture. Anyway, back to business. Minor and Carlos Brown gave Michigan a lift in their victory last year and I hope they can provide another boost in this weekend's game. Although coming off of a disappointing loss to Penn State last week, the Fighting Illini are a potent team with many of their starters returning from their run to the Rose Bowl last season. They won't be underestimated by RichRod and the Wolverines but after an emotional comeback win last week, Michigan will have to calm down and keep their minds focused on another important Big Ten home game.

I don't know what to think about this game after the win against Wisconsin. I'd love to stay completely on the upside and think about how brilliant the comeback was and how they knocked off a ranked team in only their fourth game of the season but with the shockingly awful performance in the first half of that game, I'm just left wondering which Michigan team will show up this weekend. Will QB Steven Threet be the guy overthrowing receivers and tossing interceptions left and right or will he be the guy scampering for 60 yard runs and hurling touchdown passes? Who knows. Will special teams continue to fumble the ball away on a regular basis or can they manage a respectable return? The only confidence I have is in the defense, who I think should be able to contain Illinois QB Juice Williams and keep the Illinois offense from producing too many points. But will Michigan's offense return to its dormant state? I can certainly hope that they build off of a great second half against Wisconsin but at this point, only time will tell.

I do think Michigan will win this game, despite my questions about the offense. I just think to do so, they need to keep their momentum from the Wisconsin game in control and get the home crowd into the game early on. Illinois will be hungry to come into the Big House and win their first conference game but Michigan can't let that happen. The Wolverines have a chance to string together a few wins in a row (last week, this week, and next week at home against Toledo) before the schedule gets tough with games at Penn State, vs. Michigan State, and three more road games against Purdue, Minnesota, and Ohio State. If they can manage to get past Illinois this week, I think their bowl chances are secured. So...get it done Rodriguez! Prediction: Michigan 23, Illinois 21.

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