Week 7 - Illinois at Michigan

Posted Oct 12, 2012

Week 7 Fearless Predictions - Illinois at Michigan

Illinois (2-4) at Michigan (3-2) Oct. 13, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal: Can Illinois pull up out of its nosedive? The Tim Beckman era has been a disaster so far with the opening day win over Western Michigan coming a long, long time ago after getting obliterated in four losses to Arizona State, Louisiana Tech, Penn State, and last week, against Wisconsin. The offense can't score, the special teams are struggling, and the defense full of terrific playmakers and talents can't seem to get into the backfield or making much happen behind the line. However, as bad as things have been, with winnable home games against Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue still on the slate, there's still plenty of time to turn in a decent season. But first, the Illini has to be merely decent.

Michigan overcame a rough performance against Notre Dame with a 44-13 blowout at Purdue – a supposed trap game that turned out to be a big moment. This was when the Wolverines started to look like they were supposed to, and this was when they started to show that they really and truly might be players in the Big Ten title chase. With Michigan State coming up next week and a road game at Nebraska to follow, there can't be any looking ahead; there are still plenty of kinks and issues to work out.

Why Illinois Might Win: Denard Robinson had a huge day against Purdue; the Michigan offense didn't. Robinson ran wild rolling for 235 yards while throwing for 105 more and a score, but Fitzgerald Toussaint and averaged a mere 1.1 yard per carry and the passing game didn't exactly set the world on fire. It's easier said than done – can you hit the fastball when you know it's coming? – but if Illinois can stop No. 16, it can stop the Michigan offense. The run defense has been a relative positive this year thanks to a few NFL caliber defensive prospects on the front seven including Michael Buchanan and linebacker Jonathan Brown. There's plenty of speed and lots of athleticism to keep Robinson from getting wide and into the clear.

Why Michigan Might Win: The Illinois offense is a trainwreck. Even with the 44 points and big numbers put up against Charleston Southern, the Illini is still averaging just 21 points and 339 yards per game with too many giveaways, too many problems through the air, and no running game to get excited about. Not having quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for a stretch has been a problem, especially on third downs with the Illini converting a pathetic 36% of its chances. Michigan allowed Purdue to convert just one of ten third down chances and one of three fourth down tries, and Illinois doesn't have the offensive line to keep the Wolverines from pressuring Scheelhaase into mistakes on the money downs.

What To Watch Out For: In last year's 31-14 win over the Illini, Fitzgerald Toussaint took the pressure off of Robinson and the rest of the offense tearing off 170 yards and two scores on just 20 carries. This year he's not able to find any room to move and he hasn't quite been able to get going after being suspended for the opener against Alabama and being eased back into a role. One of the hottest backs in college football late last year with four 100-yard games in the last five in the regular season, he has yet to hit the 100-yard mark. While he ran for two short scores against Purdue, he needs to pick up where Wisconsin's Montee Ball – who ran for 116 yards on two scores - left off against the Illini.

What Will Happen: Every once in a while over the last several seasons, Illinois rises up and pulls out a big performance out of nowhere to shock some unsuspecting team. That's not going to happen this week. Michigan's defense will make up for a lackluster day from the offense.

CFN Prediction: Michigan 34 … Illinois 14
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Michigan -24 O/U: 49
Must Watch Rating (5 – Argo, 1 – Pitch Perfect): 3