Friday, October 30, 2009

Illinois Preview

Ed. Another light day because I'm leaving for Orlando for work. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will also be slow. Apologies.

After last year's Illinois game, I was convinced that Juice Williams was not only one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but he had far and away the best ball fakes--like if Chris Paul suddenly became a dual-threat quarterback... and threw a little worse. Come 2009, things are a little different. Illinois is reeling and Williams has been so bad that he's been replaced by not one, but two quarterbacks, one of whom has since been moved to wide receiver. Things are, in a word, unsettled.

78th nationally
230.57 YPG
101st nationally
181.43 YPG
101st nationally
185.29 YPG
40th nationally
171.86 YPG
84th nationally
27.71 PPG
113th nationally
 16.14 PPG
81st nationally
232.50 YPG
93rd nationally
185.13 YPG
61st nationally
134.88 YPG
9th nationally
219.38 YPG
58th nationally
23.50 PPG
17th nationally
33.88 PPG
So they're worse than us? At everything? Yeah, mostly, I guess. The only statistical category here that they're better than Michigan is in passing defense, and that's only marginally--and even then, aside from Clark and Cousins, who both teams have played, Illinois has played mostly cupcakes QBs, even letting a true sophomore at Missouri torch them in his first collegiate start. Adding to the Illinois woes is that star wide receiver Arrelious Benn has a flat tire and will be playing injured. This bodes well for the well-documented, terrible secondary.

But then again, it's been Michigan tradition for a while now to let Juice Williams explode and have his best game of the season against us. As I wrote about before the Iowa game, I always have a bad feeling about Iowa that never turns out to be true. Michigan played a lot better than they had any right to, which seemed about right. I have the same feeling about Illinois, only it seems like everytime we play Illinois and should win handily, Williams gets all scrambly and difficult to tackle and runs all over the defense. This is exceedingly likely.

But this is the exact kind of game Michigan is able to lose this year. Easily. Holding onto the ball will be a big deal against a team that likely isn't good enough to make things happen for themselves. Putting them in difficult field position will be crucial. If Michigan starts giving Illinois short fields (learn to cover on kick offs pleez) this game could get a lot closer than it realistically should be. Forcier will need to be sharp, the offensive line needs a better performance, and they need to avoid Minor/Brown fumbles on promising drives. Coming away from the first few possessions with points will go a long way as Michigan's defense should be able to grind down Illinois' struggling offense through the game.

Prediction: Michigan should be able to run and run and run and run during the game. Illinois' defense is truly awful and as long as Michigan isn't turning the ball over on every drive, they should be able to put up a lot of points. On the defensive side of the ball, I don't know what to expect. Robinson will probably continue the schemes he flashed during the Penn State game as Williams and Clark are similar quarterbacks. Though I have an awful feeling about the game--and don't know if I'll be able to watch much of it as I'll be touring random hospitals in Orlando all weekend--it's going to take a 5+ turnover performance from Michigan for Illinois to have a chance. Michigan literally runs away with this one for most of the game: Michigan 38-24


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