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Behind Enemy Lines: Michigan Wolverines

Do the Illini have any chance this week?

Iowa v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We chatted with Trevor Woods from SB Nation’s Michigan blog, Maize N Brew, to get his thoughts on the Wolverines and this Saturday’s matchup with the Illini.

1. I understand expectations at Michigan are a lot different than the expectations at Illinois. But, come on. You guys don’t REALLY want Harbaugh fired, right?

A portion of the fanbase and Twitter mob aren’t happy and some of the comments have been absolutely brutal with no optimism. With that said, Harbaugh is in no danger of being fired and is a silly national talking point. Harbaugh has been fairly successful at Michigan besides not beating Ohio State and not faring well against top ten teams. Most programs in the country would be happy with nine and ten win seasons, but that isn’t the bar Harbaugh has set, therefore the fans have the highest of expectations. Even so, everyone needs to chill a bit, the Michigan program was in real bad shape before Harbaugh came and it takes time to turn things around. However, it’s season five and obvious signs of progress are starting to become necessary.

2. Who are some key players to watch on offense? Defense?

On offense look out for running back Zach Charbonnet who is a highly talented true freshman that has an excellent blend of size, speed, and quick cutting ability. Also, receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones who can take the top off a defense. Both players were banged up at some point this season but are both as healthy as they’ve been in awhile.

Defensively, defensive end Kwity Paye if he plays, Paye had 2.5 sacks last week and has been looking somewhat unstoppable. True freshman five-star Dax Hill is now the starting nickel back but his presence could provide a tremendous thump to the position. Hill is a safety playing a coverage position, so it seems like he will be an unofficial VIPER. Also, Michigan’s corners Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill have been playing well. Despite a demoralizing showing at Wisconsin, the Michigan D appears to have a lot of talent, they just need to stay consistent.

3. Are you encouraged or discouraged with the Wolverines following last week’s performance against Iowa?

Highly encouraged by the defense who recorded 5 turnovers, 8 sacks, and allowed just three points.

Discouraged by the offense who recorded just 10 points and gave their D no margin for error. Yes, Iowa ranks in the top five in total defense, but the offense has to score more points going forward, this week included.

4. Any aspects of the team that concern you?

Crossing patterns have been a problem for Michigan’s D but they buckled down on those last week. Quarterback Shea Patterson needs to start playing better or Michigan will not beat Penn State next week. The offensive line’s pass protection has gotten better but still aren’t opening big holes in the run game.

5. Michigan has Penn State & Notre Dame the next two weeks. Convince me that the Illini have any chance on Saturday.

Illinois needs Michigan to turn the ball over multiple times and they also need a defensive or special teams touchdown. Furthermore, they’ll need at least a couple big play touchdowns or I think Michigan wins this one. Hard telling what Michigan team will show up but Jim Harbaugh usually beats the teams he should beat (i.e. lesser talented teams, with all due respect). It is my first time heading to Memorial Stadium so I’m hoping for a competitive game. Best luck to Illinois now and in the future.

Safe travels to Champaign, Trevor. There might be more people at Kam’s than inside the stadium.

You can check out our chat with Maize N Brew here.