In what many believe could be a classic trap game, the No. 25 Michigan Wolverines (3-2) welcome the Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4) into Michigan Stadium for a Saturday afternoon tilt between the two Big Ten foes.
After starting the season 2-1, Illinois has dropped its last three games, including a 31-14 loss to Wisconsin last week at Camp Randall Stadium, a game that Illinois trailed only 10-7 entering the fourth quarter.
Michigan got back on track last week after failing to score a touchdown against Notre Dame, beating the Purdue Boilermakers 44-13 in a game that saw QB Denard Robinson carry the ball 24 times for 235 yards.
Here's everything you need to know heading into another weekend of Big Ten football.
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: Saturday, October 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Big Ten Digital Network
Betting Line: Michigan (-21.5), per Yahoo! Sports
Who Might Not Play for Illinois
*Injury information according to USA Today
PK Nick Immekus (undisclosed), questionable
DL Jake Howe (Leg), out for season
LB Henry Dickinson (Leg), out for season
Who Might Not Play for Michigan
*Injury information according to USA Today
DT Richard Ash (Undisclosed), questionable
RB Stephen Hopkins (Hamstring), questionable
TE Brandon Moore (Knee), questionable
DT Nathan Brink (Undisclosed), out indefinitely
DB Blake Countess (Knee), out for season
LB Kaleb Ringer (Knee), out for season
DE Chris Wormley (Knee), out for season
OL Chris Bryant (Shin), out for season
LB Antonio Poole (Pectoral), out indefinitely
Key Storyline: Can Michigan Avoid Looking Ahead?
It's no secret that the Wolverines' season hasn't gone according to plan, and that the fact they are ranked No. 25 in the latest AP Poll, while a step in the right direction, is not where they expected to find themselves entering their sixth game of the season.
With Michigan State heading into the Big House next weekend, the Wolverines will need to remain focused on the task at hand, and that's dispatching an Illinois team that has lost their last three games by a combined score of 118-45.
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke told reporters that he doesn't expect this to be an issue for his squad: "I don't think we'll have any problems." (h/t MLive)
Senior center Elliott Mealer agreed with his coach: (h/t MLive)
I don't think that's going to be an issue. Coach Hoke does a great job of making sure every week's important. It doesn't matter who we're playing, especially now that we're into Big Ten play.
What They're Saying
Hoke tells Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press that his defense will need to pay attention to FightingIllini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase:
Hoke: Illinois' Scheelhaase can be very dangerous, he's healthy, Illinois played well deep into game at Wisconsin
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) October 8, 2012
Illinois coach Tim Beckman, under a bit of fire after being caught on the sidelines with chewing tobacco, tells ESPN Chicago's Adam Rittenberg that he isn't concerned about the raucous crowd at the Big House:
Whatever the atmosphere's going to be,we're still going to have to control the things that we can to control, if it's at home, if it's on the road. We're going to have to bond together as a football team.
Illinois Player to Watch: Nathan Scheelhaase, QB
After missing two games with an ankle injury he suffered against Western Michigan in the team's first game of the season, junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase has returned to action with mixed results.
He's completed nearly 63 percent of his passes (54-of-86) for 533 yards over his past two-and-a-half games, throwing two touchdowns but also four interceptions.
Against a Michigan defense that ranks seventh in passing defense but only has four interceptions on the season, Scheelhaase will need to make smart decisions with the football if he has any hope of pulling off the upset.
Michigan Player to Watch: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Hoke told reporters at his press conference that he doesn't believe he needs to get Thomas Rawls more carries over Fitzgerald Toussaint, noting that Purdue keyed in on junior tailback and that he's not running any differently this year than he did in 2011, when he rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. (h/t MLive)
The Fighting Illini have a stout run defense, ranking 38th in the nation and holding their opposition to 124.50 yards per game on the ground.
Establishing the run early—especially with Toussaint—will be key to Michigan being able to run their offense, and more specifically, unleash Denard Robinson to do what he does best—cause chaos with his legs.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Illinois 18
Michigan is out to prove its critics wrong, and while Illinois has talent on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines are simply too talented for the reeling Fighting Illini to handle, especially in the Big House.
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