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This Week at The Wolverine Den
Illinois at Michigan (Homecoming)
October 22, 2016 - 3:30 p.m. ET
It is Homecoming at the University of Michigan and the opponent is the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The Illini have struggled this season. After having only one winning season in conference play over the last 14 seasons, Illinois hired long-time NFL coach Lovie Smith in 2016 and expectations were high for a turnaround. Smith coached the Chicago Bears from 2002 – 2012 and then the Tampa Bay Bucs from 2014-2015. He won three NFC North division titles and took the Bears to the 2006 Super Bowl. He is a good coach and should be able to build a winning program in Champaign. But not this year. The Illini are 2-4 on the season and have an uphill climb to earn a bowl game.
The Illinois offense is led by a pretty decent QB, Wes Lunt. Lunt has been the starter at Illinois for the past two seasons, throwing for over 4500 yards with 28 TDs and 9 INTs. His stats are a little off this season in the Lovie Smith run-oriented offense. He has still averaged 168 yard per game with 6 TDs and only 1 interception. He missed last week’s game at Rutgers with a back injury but is back on the practice field this week – and expected to start. If his back keeps him on the sideline, Chayce Crouse filled in nicely last week and led the Illini to a win over Rutgers. Crouse is the better runner, Lunt is the better passer. Illinois prefers to run the ball and uses a running back by committee approach. Kendrick Foster is the best of the bunch. WR Malik Turner is one of the top receivers in the B1G. The Illini do not have a great offense and are facing a better defense than they have seen all year.
The Wolverine Den Trivia
Michigan had two RB over 100 yards against Rutgers and a third with 99 yards. When was the last time that Michigan had three running backs each over 100 yards in a single game?
The Illinois defense has some good playmakers. LB Hardy Nickerson leads the BIG in tackles while Carroll Phillips leads the B1G in tackles for loss (5th nationally). The secondary has 8 interceptions this year. Special teams are average at best. One of the biggest areas of improvement for the Illini this year has been their turnover ratio. They are +8 this year and lead the B1G in that category.
After a week off, Michigan gets back to business of winning a championship. The Wolverines moved up to #3 in this week’s AP poll and are ranked #2 in the Massey Composite poll. The Wolverines lead the country in allowing only 10.3 points per game and are second in the nation in scoring an average of 50 points per game. This is the next game on the way and it should be a great homecoming. Ruths Chris in Ann Arbor is already sold out for next week – and they should get a great discount.
Michigan is 69-23-2 all-time against Illinois and 30-3-2 over the Bo-Mo-Lloyd era. Michigan is 88-27 in Homecoming games including 41 of the last 48 games.
The Wolverines are a 35½ point favorite.
Great Moments in Wolverines - Illini History
- 1975: Michigan throws only 1 pass attempt in a 21-15 win.
- 1980-82: Anthony Carter had 3 straight 100 yard receiving games against Illinois – all Michigan victories.
- 1981: Michigan falls behind 21-7 in the first quarter and roars back for a 70-21 victory. Steve Smith led the team with 224 yards passing and 116 rushing. Anthony Carter caught 6 passes for 156 years. The two teams combined for 1139 total yards – a then Michigan single game record.
- 1986: Jim Harbaugh is 11 of 13 for 246 yards (the highest yards per pass attempt in Michigan history) in the 69-13 victory.
- 2000: Michigan overcomes a 14-point deficit behind 228 yards from Anthony Thomas to win in Champaign at night 35-31.
- Mike Hart ran for 234 yards as a freshman – his highest yardage game in his career.
- 2010: Michigan wins in triple overtime 67-65 behind Roy Roundtree’s 246 receiving yards – the most ever by a Michigan receiver at the time. The teams combined for 1237 total yards of offense – a Michigan single game record.