The Fighting Illini are coming to the Big House. As with the Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday, they should win. But don’t bet the farm or House on it. Michigan is a 2 1/2 point favorite. Who’d thunk it?
Will Michigan stop giving the opposing team a 5 handicap? Will the O-Line continue to block? Will Michigan rise above being the 104th out of 119 college teams in passing? These are still the metaphysical questions which must be resolved.
Illinois went to the Rose Bowl, their first Rose Bowl since 1984, last January and followed in the grand Michigan tradition of being blown out by USC 49-17.
Ron Zook is an excellent recruiter. Urban Myer won the national title two years ago with the players Zook recruited at Florida. However, Zook probably would not have won with them. He was a good, solid 8-4 coach at Florida, but lacks the proper judgment at critical stages of the game.
Illinois had a magical year last season. They beat Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in Columbus. They should have beaten Michigan in Urbana-Champaign, but clutched at the end – bad decision making by the coaching staff. They almost blew it against Ohio State.
Rashard Mendenhall, their great running back last year, is now playing in the pros and has little good to say about Zook. That's not good for recruiting.
Illinois and Michigan both have 2-2 records. Illinois beat up on Eastern Illinois and Louisiana Lafayette, but lost to Missouri 52-42 and Penn State 38-24.
Michigan showed flashes of brilliance in the 4th quarter last week; maybe they are back to being Michigan. The defense held, as it has all season. The defense will have to since Illinois has shown a strong offense in all 4 games. Illinois has an exceptional, multi threat quarterback, Juice Williams, the type of quarterback that has bedeviled Michigan in the past (Cf. Donovan McNabb, Troy Smith, and Vince Young).
Illinois has an identity problem. They don’t even know who their mascot is. Chief Illiniwelk, Illinois’ venerated mascot, on February 21, 2007, a day of infamy in Illinois, was terminated for the heinous crime of political incorrectness.
On the other hand, Michigan’s fabled mascot, the Wolverine, is spotted as often in the Michigan woods as Bigfoot.
This game will decide the course of the season for both teams. One will rise, perhaps slowly to the challenge, and the other will face a .500 season.
If Chief Illiniwelk were still fighting, I would go with the Illini, but with the choice between an irreplaceable, defrocked mascot and a wolverine chimera fighting to protect its home, I’ll choose the Wolverines.