The No.3 Michigan Wolverines (6-0, 3-0) continue to prove that they are one of the best teams in the nation. Fresh off a bye week, they’ll host the Illinois Fighting Illini on Homecoming Weekend.
Once again the Wolverines find themselves playing a team they haven’t faced in a while. Their last meeting with the Illini was back in 2012 when the maize and blue shut them out 45-0 in the Big House.
Illinois (2-4, 1-2) hasn’t quite met expectations in their first year under head coach Lovie Smith. Their only wins have come against FCS-level Murray State and Rutgers, the later of whom Michigan pummeled two weeks ago.
Senior quarterback Wes Lunt leads the team in passing yards with 840 and touchdowns with six. However, a back injury kept him out of last week’s game and he is uncertain to start this Saturday. If he can’t come back, expect sophomore Chayce Crouch to continue leading the Illini offense.
Regardless of who starts under center, there is no doubt that he will look for Malik Turner in the open field. The junior wide receiver has 31 receptions for three touchdowns and 427 yards, as many yards as the next five Illinois receivers combined.
Like Michigan, Illinois likes to split up carries evenly among their running backs. Kendrick Foster leads the team with 384 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries. Michigan will also need to keep an eye on freshman Reggie Corbin, who has 325 yards on half as many carries, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn who has 221 yards on 44 carries.
Michigan Players to Watch
Jourdan Lewis-The all-american cornerback has been nothing short of amazing for Michigan this year. He’ll need to keep playing the way he has in order to keep Malik Turner under control. Turner will be targeted early and often throughout this game and the better Lewis does in stopping him, the more vulnerable Illinois’s offense will be.
Jabrill Peppers-If in fact Chayce Crouch starts for the Illini, it will be Jabrill Peppers’s job to make sure he doesn’t scramble for extra yardage. Crouch has ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns in his time at quarterback. On offense, Peppers will need to continue the dominance he showed two weeks ago against Rutgers.
Michigan’s Running Game-There always seems to be someone new stepping up for the maize and blue. Last week it seemed like a Michigan running back convention with how well everybody did. It will be interesting to see who breaks out for the team that is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns.
Michigan Defense-It is nearly indescribable how well the Wolverines defense did against Rutgers. They only let up 22 total yards, two first downs and no third-down conversions the entire game. Now they won’t have to be as good as they were in Piscataway, but they will need to keep playing like one of the best defenses in the nation.
The game will be broadcast this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.