Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Michigan Wolverines: Complete Game Preview

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIOctober 9, 2012

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Michigan Wolverines: Complete Game Preview

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    The Michigan Wolverines and Illinois Fighting Illini will meet for the 94th time on the gridiron this Saturday with the maize and blue boasting a 68-23-2 overall record in the series.

    Both teams are coming in to this Week 7 match up at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Wolverines are simply trying to pad their conference record and keep pace with the other heavyweights in the Legends Division, while Illinois is hoping to snap a four-game losing streak.

    Click ahead to find out everything you need to know about this upcoming Big Ten tilt in Ann Arbor this weekend. 

Game-Day Information

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    Who: Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 25 Michigan Wolverines (3-2, 1-0)

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (EDT)

    Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.

    TV: ABC

    Radio:  XM Radio 196WWJ 950 (Detroit)

    Illini Sports Network

    Internet: ESPN3

Michigan's Depth Chart

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    Depth chart information obtained fromTheWolverine.com. 

    Offense:

    QB: Denard Robinson, Russell Bellomy, Devin Gardner; RB: Fitz Toussaint, Thomas Rawls, Vincent Smith, Justice Hayes; FB: Stephen Hopkins, Joe Kerridge, Paul Gyarmarti; WR: Roy Roundtree, Devin Gardner, Jerald Robinson, Amara Darboh; WR: Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson; TE: Brandon Moore, Mike Kwiatkowski, AJ Williams, Devin Funchess; LT: Taylor Lewan, Erik Magnuson; LG: Ricky Barnum, Joey Burzynski, Kyle Kalis; C: Elliot Mealer, Jack Miller; RG: Patrick Omameh, Burzynski; RT: Michael Schofield, Erik Gunderson, Ben Braden

     

    Defense:

    DE: Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia; DE: Craig Roh, Keith Heitzman; NT: Quinton Washington, Ondre Pipkins, Richard Ash; DT: Will Campbell, Jibreel Black; SAM: Jake Ryan, Cam Gordon; WILL: Desmond Morgan, James Ross III, Brandin Hawthorne; MIKE: Kenny Demens, Joe Bolden, Mike Jones; CB: J.T. Floyd, Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell; CB: Taylor, Courtney Avery, Terry Richardson; SS: Jordan Kovacs, Marvin Robinson, Floyd Simmons; FS: Thomas Gordon, Jarrod Wilson, Josh Furman

     

    Special Teams

    PK: Brendan Gibbons, Matt Wile; P: Will Hagerup, Wile; Kick Off: Wile, Seth Broekhuizen; LS: Jareth Glanda, Curt Graman; Holder: Drew Dileo, Jeremy Gallon; Kick Return: Dennis Norfleet, Vincent Smith, Josh Furman; Punt Return: Gallon, Norfleet

Illinois' Depth Chart

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    Depth chart information obtained from Orange&BlueNews.com (Current as of Aug. 28, with latest update).

    Offense (Spread):

    QB: Nathan Scheelhaase, Reilly O'Toole, Miles Osei; RB: Josh Ferguson, Donovonn Young, Dami Ayoola, Zach Becker; WR: Darius Millines, Justin Hardee, Tim Lukas, Fritz Rock; WR: Spencer Harris, Kenny Knight, Jeremy Whitlow; WR: Ryan Lankford, Peter Bonahoom; TE: Jon Davis, Eddie Viliunas, Evan Wilson, Matt LaCosse; OT: Hugh Thornton, Shawn Afryl; OT: Michael Heitz, Patrick Flavin, Ryan Nowicki; OG: Alex Hill, Robbie Bain, Chris O'Connor; OG: Ted Karras, Tyler Sands; C: Graham Pocic, Jake Feldmeyer, Tony Durkin

     

    Defense (4-2-5):

    DE: Tim Kynard, Kenny Nelson; DE: Michael Buchannan, Darrius Caldwell; DT: Glenn Foster, Austin Teitsma; DT: Akeem Spence, Jake Howe; DB: Ashante Williams, Ta'Jarvis Fuller; LB: Jonathan Brown, Mike Svetina, Ralph Cooper; LB: Houston Bates, Mason Monheim, T.J. Neal; CB: Terry Hawthorne, Jack Ramsey, V'Angelo Bentley; CB: Justin Green, Eaton Spence; S: Earnest Thomas, Tommy Davis; S: Patrick Nixon-Youman, Nick North

     

    Special Teams:

    K: Nick Immekus, Taylor Zalewski; P: Justin DuVernois, Ryan Lankford; LS: Zak Pedersen, Zach Hirth; Holder: Miles Osei, Tim Russell; Kick Return: Josh Ferguson, Jack Ramsey, Justin Green; Punt Return: Tommy Davis, Osei 

What Happened in Michigan's Last Game

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    Many college football fans, myself included, expected the Michigan Wolverines to struggle against the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend, but the maize and blue dominated from start to finish and left Ross-Ade Stadium with a 44-13 victory.

    Michigan found the end zone on their first two offensive possessions, which spanned 141 yards and ate up 12:43 of clock, and sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown to put the Wolverines up 21-0 less than three minutes into the second quarter. 

    The Boilermakers cut into Michigan's lead with a field goal only to allow the Wolverines to drive 74 yards in seven plays, which was capped off by Denard Robinson's 23-yard touchdown toss to Devin Gardner, to push the maize and blue even further ahead.

    Brendan Gibbons made three of four field goal attempts for the Wolverines and backup running back Thomas Rawls rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown on Michigan's final drive of the day.

    The Michigan defense turned in its best performance of the season by limiting the Boilermakers to 213 yards of total offense and a mere 56 yards on the ground. The Wolverines also forced four Purdue turnovers.

    Robinson finished the game with 235 of Michigan's 306 rushing yards, in addition to completing 8-of-16 pass attempts for 105 yards and one touchdown.

What Happened in Illinois' Last Game

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    Expectations were low for the Illinois Fighting Illini last weekend as it traveled to face the Wisconsin Badgers, and everything went according to plan for Tim Beckman's squad, who were dealt their fourth straight loss of the season. 

    The Fighting Illini took struck first on offense courtesy of a 28-yard touchdown drive after Steve Hull picked off Wisconsin's Joel Stave early in the second quarter. 

    It took over seven minutes, but the Badgers pieced together a touchdown drive for the only other score of the first half.

    Illinois only surrendered a field goal in the third quarter, but the Fighting Illini could not hold off the Badgers in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin put 14 points on the board within 1:48 to take a 24-7 lead and demolish any hopes of an Illinois upset.

    The Fighting Illini fell 31-14 and only managed to accrue 284 yards of total offense, while its defense gave up 427 total yards.

What This Week's Game Means for Both Teams

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    There is much more at stake for the Michigan Wolverines this week than there is for the Illinois Fighting Illini given the overall and Big Ten Conference records of the respective squads.

    The Fighting Illini are essentially playing for pride and to snap their four game losing streak. Illinois is also clinging to some long shot hopes of winning the Leaders Division, which features two teams under a postseason ban.

    Meanwhile, the Wolverines are 1-0 in Big Ten play and now appear to be the top dog in the Legends Division after the poor performances by the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Michigan State Spartans last weekend.

    Michigan must beat the bottom feeder teams of the conference in order to keep pace with the Spartans and Cornhuskers.

Key Player for Michigan: Denard Robinson

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    Everything related to the Michigan Wolverines offensive success starts and ends with its senior quarterback Denard Robinson.

    The Wolverines racked up 409 yards of total offense against the Purdue Boilermakers last Saturday and Robinson accounted for 340 yards by himself. Robinson single handedly gashed a Purdue defense that many expected would give Michigan some problems.

    This weekend against the Illinois Fighting Illini, Robinson should once again be able to carry the load offensively for the Wolverines.

    Illinois' defense has surrendered more than 31 points in their last four games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, which is a number Robinson and the Wolverines should easily be able to hang on the Fighting Illini this Saturday at the Big House.

    If the Michigan offensive line is able to push around Illinois' defensive front and open up holes for Robinson, the Wolverines will walk away with a blowout victory.

Key Player for Illinois: Nathan Scheelhaase

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    The Illinois Fighting Illini will be counting on a big performance from junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has struggled ever since the start of last season.

    The Kansas City, Mo. native has thrown four interceptions and just three touchdowns in Illinois' last three games. Scheelhaase has also been neutralized by opposing defenses when he has tried to help the Fighting Illini establish a rushing attack.

    If Illinois has any chance of pulling an upset at Michigan Stadium this weekend, Scheelhaase will have to make some game changing plays against a Michigan Wolverines that has held its last three opponents under 260 total yards of offense. 

Prediction

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    This game should be one of the biggest blowouts of Week 7. The Michigan Wolverines have way too much offensive firepower and the Illinois Fighting Illini will be hard pressed to find the end zone more than once.

    Michigan's defense should have no problem keeping Nathan Scheelhaase and the rest of the Illinois offense in check, which will allow the Wolverines to pull away early much like they did against the Purdue Boilermakers last Saturday.

    Denard Robinson will run all over the Illinois defense and could turn in his third 200-yard rushing effort of the 2012 campaign.

    Also, be sure to watch Illinois head coach Tim Beckman closely if the Wolverines are pulling away early. Beckman may have to throw in a horseshoe of Skoal chewing tobacco to take away all the stress from Michigan laying the lumber to his struggling team.  

    Prediction: Michigan 42, Illinois 10