Big 10 Second Half Suprise: Illinois Will Finish Above Michigan

Nick MoffittContributor IOctober 15, 2010

Freshman Nathan Scheelhaase has orchestrated a strong Illini offense.
Freshman Nathan Scheelhaase has orchestrated a strong Illini offense.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Although Michigan has Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson, Illinois can counter that with their dynamic duo Mikel Leshoure and Nathan Scheelhaase. 

Through 5 games the Illini are 3-2 with both losses coming to ranked teams in No. 25 Mizzou and No.1 Ohio State. If a few plays change and the Illini defense improves I think Illinois could have upset the currently top ranked team. 

After a disappointing 3-6 season in 2009 the Illini have been led by freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Take away his 3 interception career opener against Mizzou and his stats are stellar for a freshman. 

Mikel Leshoure has added a 5.7 avg over 104 carries that has been the consistent go to for the Illinois offense. After a good year last year he has exploded as a leader on this offense, along with great run blocking from the men upfront. 

Looking down the road at both teams schedules Illinois' most challenging remaining game is on Oct. 16  at No. 18 Michigan State and then the only challenging game should be Nov 6 at Ann Arbor to try and defeat the Wolverines. 

Michigan must play Wisconsin and Iowa at home and then travel to Ohio State for the last game of the season. Even if take one of the three games against the toughest in the Big 10 that puts their record at 7-5 (8-4 with a win against the Illini).

Even with a loss to Michigan State that puts Illinois at 9-3 and a strong finish to the start of a great career for Nathan Scheelhaase. This 9-3 prediction can only happen if the Illinois offense continues to function throughout games. If this happens look out for Illinois to become a Big 10 title contender in the next few years.