When it comes to excitement, nobody could ask for a better football game than the 2010 Michigan-Illinois clash in Ann Arbor. It took three overtimes before Michigan could secure a 67-65 victory.
The two teams battled for three hours, 51 minutes—and combined for 1,237 total yards—before the game came to an end on a dandy defensive play.
The Wolverines jumped on top 67-59 in the third extra frame when Michael Shaw scored on a one-yard run and Junior Hemingway caught the two-point conversion from backup quarterback Tate Forcier.
The Illini's Mikel Leshoure set up the final play with a three-yard run, cutting Michigan's lead to 67-65 with the critical two-point conversion on tap. The game ended when Nathan Scheelhaase's pressured attempt fell incomplete.
The two teams return to the Big House Saturday, but don't expect another offensive explosion.
Head coaches Rich Rodriguez and Ron Zook have departed, as have several of the key combatants.
Michigan will be without Forcier and Hemingway, who contributed many of the heroics. The Illini have especially missed Leshoure and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.
Both starting quarterbacks from the 2010 contest will be in action Saturday—Denard Robinson for Michigan, and Scheelhaase for Illinois.
No. 25 Michigan (3-2, 1-0) is in its second season with a new coaching staff, as Brady Hoke took over in January of 2011. Hoke had a tremendously successful opening season, finishing 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech.
Included was a convincing 31-14 win over Illinois in Champaign. Toussaint rushed for 192 yards, as Michigan held the Illinois offense to just 214 total yards. Scheelhaase was sacked four times by the new and improved Michigan defense.
Tim Beckman, who took the Illinois job prior to this season, has an overall mark of 2-4 (0-2 in the Big Ten). Beckman is still trying to shore up the pass protection for Scheelhaase. The junior quarterback's bad ankle early in the season didn't help. Scheelhaase was sacked four times in the 31-14 loss at Wisconsin last Saturday and three times in the 35-7 loss to Penn State.
While the Illinois defense has shown improvement, Michigan has taken an about-face from the 2010 game. The Wolverines gave up 35 points per game in 2010, but they cut it in half in 2011, thanks to the new coaching staff. And 2012 has been more of the same. After pitiful performances against Alabama and Air Force, Michigan has allowed just 13 points in each of its last three starts.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have listed Michigan as 23-point favorites. The Wolverines might not score 67, but they should have the game well in control long before sundown.