Michigan Football (3-2, 1-0) will play their first home game since September 15th when they host Illinois (2-4, 0-2) on Saturday afternoon at the Big House. Kick off is scheduled for 3:35 pm and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
The Fighting Illini’s two wins this season have come against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern, yes they played host to the Charleston Southern Buccaneers and pulled out a 44-0 victory . They opened Big Ten play at home against Penn State and were crushed 35-7. Last week they lost at Wisconsin 31-14.
Brady Hoke talked about Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase on Monday. “Scheelhaase is a guy that can be very dangerous,” he said. “He’s very effective running the football. He’s healthy. I don’t think he was healthy earlier in the year.” A healthy Scheelhaase played well at Wisconsin last week as he rushed for 84 yards and passed for 178 yards. He had a touchdown run and pass in the game.
On defense for Illinois, junior LB Jonathan Brown has been a force, racking up 38 tackles, a team-high 6.5 TFLs (fifth-most in the Big Ten), 1.5 sacks and one PBU. Defensive end Michael Buchanan has tallied 24 tackles, 6 PBUs, 5.0 TFLs, a team-high 2.5 sacks, four QB hurries and one forced fumble on the season.
Michigan was all but dismissed by many pundits after their 2-2 performance in the non-conference schedule. It didn’t seem to matter that those 2 losses were to #1 Alabama and #7 Notre Dame and that Michigan’s strength of schedule is among the 10 toughest in the country. It also went largely unnoticed that Michigan’s defense was able to overcome 6 turnovers by the offense at Notre Dame and keep the Wolverines in it until the final moments, before they ultimately lost 13-6. Many had written them off and heaped praises on teams with better records against weaker schedules (teams like Purdue). None of that mattered to the Wolverines. They went about their business over the bye week of fine tuning some things and preparing for a run at the Big Ten Championship.
They opened that championship quest with a resounding 44-13 win at Purdue, a team many were hailing as a favorite to win the Leaders division. Now the Wolverines return to the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium for a game against Illinois. Michigan’s ground game powered the offense at Purdue and thanks to an improving offensive line it has become a strength for this year’s team. The Wolverines currently rank 29th nationally and 4th in the conference in rushing offense. Denard Robinson is of course Michigan’s catalyst on offense and he ranks 4th in the country and leads the Big Ten in rushing.
Robinson earned a record tying 9th Big Ten Player of the Week award last week, but it’s the defense that has raised hopes in Ann Arbor. They’ve been able to force some turnovers in the last two games and have budding young stars all over the field. Players like Jake Ryan, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer, Joe Bolden, James Ross III, Raymon Taylor, Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins and Jarrod Wilson are all freshmen or sophomore eligible and have made significant contributions to a rising defense.
The unquestioned goal of this team from day 1 has been a Big Ten Championship and that is the mindset team 133 is operating with. “We know we’re in a championship game every Saturday,” Brady Hoke explained. “So our mentality and attitude needs to reflect that by our actions in practice.” Hoke has been pleased with what he has seen in practice and the results are starting to translate into success on the field. Michigan ranks 2nd in the Big Ten and 19th nationally in total defense. The Wolverines limited Purdue to 210 yards of offense and for the third week in a row, held their opponent to 13 points.
Injury Updates: Jordan Kovacs played with a brace on his knee at Purdue. Brennen Beyer returned from a knee injury and played against the Boilermakers. Hoke expects Beyer will be closer to 100% this week.
Notes: This will be Michigan Football’s annual Pink Game. Players will wear pink gloves and wristbands during the game, while all U-M coaches and staff members on the sideline will wear hats with pink trim and pink “Beat Breast Cancer” bracelets.
Michigan will honor Gerald Ford this week and break his number 48 out of retirement. “I don’t think there is any doubt there is a significance when you have a former president of the United States of America who’s a graduate and a player,” Hoke said on Monday. “Believe me, it’s very significant.”
Prediction: So far this season I am 5-1 predicting the outcome of Michigan Football games. I think Michigan has a clear advantage in this contest. I think the defense will continue their ascent and the offensive line will put together their best performance of the season. Look for Fitz Toussaint to have a break out game and Michigan to roll to an easy 45-14 victory.