Michigan vs. Illinois prediction and game preview. The Wolverines are heavy favorites to beat the Fighting Illini on Saturday.
Michigan vs. Illinois Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
TV Broadcast: Big Ten Network
Michigan likely will be heavily favored to win its next five games before its showdown with Ohio State in the regular-season finale Nov. 26 in Columbus. That’s the case this week against Illinois as the Wolverines come off a bye week. Prior to that, their 78-0 trouncing of Rutgers marked the biggest margin of victory in Big Ten history. The biggest suspense on Saturday afternoon just might be if Michigan can cover the big spread.
The Fighting Illini snapped a four-game skid by beating up on Rutgers, 24-7, giving them their first victory over an FBS team this season. They allowed an average of 36.8 points during their losing streak but took advantage of five Scarlet Knights turnovers to give first-year coach Lovie Smith his first Big Ten victory. Winning in the Big House is an entirely different challenge, though.
What To Know About Michigan
Michigan moved up one spot to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 this week and is making its case for an appearance in the College Football Playoff. That’ll likely come down to its matchup with No. 2 Ohio State, and the Wolverines are going to get in some good practice in the lead up against teams far less superior. Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten in total offense and is going up against Illinois’ 12th-ranked defense. Jabrill Peppers might get a chance to boost his Heisman Trophy credentials with more time on offense after rushing for two touchdowns against Rutgers.
Peppers is also part of the nation’s stingiest defense, the only unit in the country giving up an average of fewer than four yards per play (3.58). The Fighting Illini are tied for third in the conference with an average of 6.16, but that number is a bit skewed considering they’ve faced Purdue and Rutgers the last two weeks.
What To Know About Illinois
Starting quarterback Wes Lunt sat out against Rutgers due to an injury, and his status is unclear for this contest. Chayse Crouch filled in and threw for 92 yards and a touchdown while adding 25 more on the ground – numbers that won’t cut it against this Michigan defense. Kendrick Foster run for 108 yards and a score, but the Wolverines are allowing an average of just 2.9 yards per carry and have only given up two rushing touchdowns.
The Illini are going to need Michigan to make plenty of mistakes if they want to have a chance at an upset. Their 13 takeaways are the second-most in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, and senior lineman Carroll Phillips leads the conference with 11 tackles for loss – one ahead of Peppers.
Offense: Michigan – The Wolverines have four players with at least 250 yards rushing, and their 25 touchdowns on the ground are tied for the most in the nation.
Defense: Michigan – The nation’s top unit shouldn’t have much trouble this week.
Special Teams: Michigan – Peppers is a threat to bring it back to the house on every return.
Coaching: Michigan – Both Harbaugh and Smith have plenty of experience around the college game and NFL, but Harbaugh has a leg up in this matchup.
Intangibles: Even – This is the first meeting since 2012.
Matchup To Watch
Peppers vs. Illinois’ whole team
Peppers made Rutgers look silly in all three phases two weeks ago, including bringing a punt back for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty. Harbaugh could unleash Peppers again in this contest that’s likely going to be out of hand quickly.
Spread: Michigan -35
Over/Under: No line as of post
Michigan vs. Illinois Prediction
Michigan fans will be relaxing in their seats well before halftime. The Wolverines will live on the ground and run in four touchdowns while Speight gets into the act through the air in a lopsided win.
Michigan vs. Illinois final score prediction: Michigan 58, Illinois 10