Illinois vs. Michigan: Should the Wolverines Be Wary of an Upset?

Josh HousmanCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2012

Nathan Scheelhaase has been a thorn in Michigan's side during his career
Nathan Scheelhaase has been a thorn in Michigan's side during his careerAndy Lyons/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines have not lived up to expectations this year, to say the least. At 3-2, the Wolverines have already matched their loss total from last season less than halfway into this season. After a no-doubt win against Purdue last week, is this a potential trap game for Brady Hoke's Wolverines? 

In general, Michigan has struggled with high-power offenses and more specifically with mobile quarterbacks (i.e. Air Force and Notre Dame). Last time Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase played in the Big House, he threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns (with no interceptions) and ran for 101 more yards with one rushing touchdown while taking the Wolverines to three overtimes. 

A similar performance can lead to an upset over the heavily favored Wolverines, who have struggled to establish a balanced offensive attack thus far.

As usual, the Michigan offense is completely reliant on quarterback Denard Robinson, and he has not always come through. Issues with inaccuracy on forced passes have become a theme for Robinson, and he may not be able to run his way out of trouble against a Big Ten defense.  

For this reason, it is all the more important for Scheelhaase and the Fighting Illini to keep the pressure on Robinson by keeping the score close and making him beat them with his arm. However, the Illini defense has struggled mightily this season, and Robinson should have his way with them after a strong and efficient performance against Purdue. 

The only way it is really conceivable that Illinois holds Michigan's offense in check (other than another Notre Dame-like performance by Robinson) is if Michigan sees this game as a "tune-up" and forces other parts of their offense.

For example, running back Fitz Toussaint, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, has struggled to get going this season. Michigan might see this as a good opportunity to get Toussaint touches and get him in a rhythm, in which case Illinois could have a chance to contain Michigan on offense. 

Another factor that could be a wild card is Illinois' adjustment to new head coach Tim Beckman. There is always an adjustment period for a team under a new coach, and that could explain some of Illinois' early-season struggles.

If the Illinois defense finally buys into their head coach's scheme and the offense starts to click under Scheelhaase (who has also struggled this season), this could turn into an unexpected trap game for Michigan.