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TCR Staff Predictions: Illinois vs. Michigan


NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Cohn: Michigan 49, Illinois 3

James McCourt will make a kick. Read everyone else’s previews for more thoughts.

Thumpasaurus: Michigan 56, Illinois 0

So last week, we saw a Minnesota team that had struggled to run the ball even against the likes of Georgia Southern, South Dakota State and Purdue rack up over 300 rushing yards against the Fighting (While Blindfolded) Illini. Michigan has struggled to run the ball against anyone, including Rutgers, but the Illini defense is the cure for what ails a struggling offense, so Michigan’s run game grinds our front 7 into a fine powder as Zack Charbonnet finally looks like the workhorse he was hyped up to be. As Harbaugh begins to see the enormous talent disparity, he feels comfortable allowing his five star quarterback to throw deep to his highly-rated receivers and the pitiful Illini secondary offers no resistance, though Stanley Green does lay a vicious hit on Nico Collins 50 yards down the field and also out of bounds.

Meanwhile, Michigan, like every opponent on our schedule, will have watched tape of Eastern Michigan’s game against us and realized that our offense has no answers to a six-man rush. Illinois gets behind early and abandons the run, and Michigan DC Don Brown smells blood. Brown is known to take pride in shutting out terrible offenses, and Illinois will complete less than half of the 40+ passing attempts they take in this game. Blake Hayes plays phenomenally in a losing effort.

This game is poorly attended, and what few fans show up head for the exits five minutes into the second quarter when the Wolverines take a 28-0 lead. It’s never close and no adjustments are made over the course of the game. Lovie Smith will badly botch the clock situation at the end of the first half, but at least this time it won’t matter. Michigan ends the streak of 6 games without a shutout, but Illinois is such a terrible football team that their fans don’t even care. Illinois prepares to abandon their school colors for Homecoming, which will see the worst defeat in school history as Wisconsin tries to get Jonathan Taylor more Heisman momentum by having him set the single-game rushing yardage record against us. Illinois’ goal needs to be protecting Howard Griffith’s FBS record for single-game rushing touchdowns.

Raul Rodriguez Michigan 24, Illinois 0

Michigan’s offense is really struggling. So, I expect the Illini to keep the Wolverines in check but this just feels like a crockpotting. The Michigan defense abuses the Illini all day and doesn’t let Peters and the running game get going. Neither Michigan nor Illinois feel good about themselves after this one.

Mark Schaer: Michigan 45, Illinois 10

The cure for a struggling Michigan offense? Why, Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense of course! In all seriousness, it’s pretty clear that Lovie’s defensive scheme has not been working. Without getting into the details of football that I can’t eloquently explain, our defense stinks. The offense hasn’t been looking great either, as shown by the 40-17 loss to Minnesota in which the defense scored two touchdowns. I was a big fan of Rod Smith last year, but so far this year it appears the fear of Brandon Peters not “fitting the mold” has come to fruition. I don’t see a world where the offense can put up much of a fight unless Rod commits to the run with Reggie and Dre and the line is getting a good push up front. That being said, Michigan’s defense is solid. I think Reggie will break one away and McCourt will have another 45-plus yard field goal, but that’s all she wrote. Shea Patterson and co. will get back on track, and Josh Whitman will be looking for answers.

Michael Berns: Michigan 35, Illinois 10

Take out the Rutgers game, and Michigan’s offense has looked bad. Really bad. They look off and at times confused, and they don’t complete passes at a high percentage. Still, Illinois can’t seem to put up a fight, and unlike last season — the 2019 Illinois offense disappointingly struggles to put up points. Michigan’s rush-offense stats are misleading — I think they control this game against Illinois by running the hell out of true freshman Zach Charbonnet who’s a big, thick back who always seems to fall forward. Take out the Rutgers game, and Michigan is incapable of pouring on points. Instead, they win this by out-Big Ten-ning a much weaker Big Ten side.

Matt Rejc: Michigan 66, Illinois 14

This one is going to be rough. Coach Harbaugh’s job isn’t exactly the most secure in the country, and 60-balling a conference opponent on the road is going to look reassuring to a Michigan fanbase that’s starting to get a bit restless. Similar to the Penn State game last year, I think the Illini use some tricks and keep it tied at 14 by the end of the first quarter. Then the floodgates open and the Wolverines put up 52 unanswered points against an Illini defense that’s just out-manned and out-coached. In all likelihood, this game ends in a nearly empty Memorial Stadium with most Illini fans bailing after watching the Marching Illini perform at halftime.

Drew Pastorek: Michigan 41, Illinois 13

If Michigan fans had any real self-awareness they’d realize how good they really have it. Oh, you might only go 8-4 this year? Here’s a Kleenex. Illinois’ offense accounted for a whopping three points against the mighty Minnesota Golden Gophers FOLLOWING A BYE WEEK. Those same Gophers gave up 21 to South Dakota State, 35 to Fresno State, 20 to Georgia Southern, and 31 to Purdue. You know, college football juggernauts. The Wolverines aren’t worldbeaters on offense, but they’ll take advantage of what’s sure to be plenty of Illini mistakes. Zach Charbonnet should have the best rushing game of his young career. Michigan pushed around a usually-physical Iowa team, sacking QB Nate Stanley eight times and forcing five takeaways. Brandon Peters -- or whoever is starting on Saturday -- probably won’t stand much of a chance. Other than (possibly) running back there isn’t a single positional battle I can think of where the Illini have an edge -- Punter, maybe? Do you want to be proud of that? Illinois appears to get worse every game. If they can’t be competitive against a “meh” Minnesota team, why should we expect a compelling game against Michigan? National TV, feast your eyes on The Lovie Smith Experience. Is it basketball season yet?