Michigan football: Precise predictions for Wolverines vs. Illinois
Predicting Michigan football has become predictable.
It’s easy to say that the No. 3 Wolverines will run well and play great defense.
It’s easy to say that the Wolverines will win by a lot of points, due to their having the second-largest scoring margin in college football. They’re 10-0 for the first time since 2006 and 22-2 during the past 2 seasons, so it’s easy to predict victories.
It’s easy to say a lot of things when predicting outcomes/stats for Michigan football, especially during the past 2 seasons.
Vague forecasts are for the fainthearted.
Let’s get really, really specific this week.
Here are some ultra-specific predictions for the Wolverines’ final home game of the season, a noon ET affair with Illinois at the Big House in Ann Arbor.
Blake Corum will get his
The No. 1-ranked overall rusher in the country is on the hunt for the Heisman. However, before he can represent in New York, he’ll have to get through the No. 6 rushing defense in the country. He has 17 touchdowns, second-most in the nation, and 1,349 yards, third-most among FBS players.
So far, only 2 running backs have topped 100 vs. the Illini: Mohamed Ibrahim of Minnesota (127 yards) and Devin Mockobee of Purdue (106 yards). Prior to the Big Ten season, Ailym Ford of Chattanooga rushed for 98 yards vs. the Illini.
Three solid backs with 3 solid rushing stat lines against one of the best rush defenses in the nation — but Corum, who is arguably the best running back in the country, will become the third to go for more than 100 yards, and he’ll top the 127 put up by Ibrahim.
Call it 145 yards and 1 TD for Michigan’s Heisman-hopeful. Look for Corum to lead the way, as usual, for the offense and compile a decent stat line. He should get at least 22 carries, especially if Donovan Edwards remains on the banged-up list.
Defense gets at DeVito
According to Team Rankings, Illinois gives up 1.7 sacks per game when playing FBS schools in 2022. Per TR, Illinois has given up 2.3 sacks during its past 3 games. Michigan averages 3.1 sacks per game — good for No. 14 in the country.
Numbers, numbers, numbers …
What do they mean?
Well, they mean that Tommy DeVito of Illinois gets sacked a lot, and they also mean that Michigan gets at QBs on a weekly basis. With the likes of DE Mike Morris, DT Kris Jenkins, DT Mazi Smith and LB Junior Colson (among others), it’s easy to predict DeVito being harassed all day Saturday and seeing the turf at least 4 times.
Morris should have at least 2 sacks. Jenkins and Smith will combine for at least 2, with a bonus sack — or 2 — added by a lurking linebacker or a safety/nickel coming in on a blitz. Mike Sainristil, anyone? Rod Moore?! So many to choose from on this roster, which has 8 players with at least 2 sacks this season.
Book it: The Wolverines will put DeVito on his back at least 4 times, maybe even 5 or 6.
So far, no QB has lit up the Wolverines’ secondary this season. The same will stand true after Saturday, because it’s doubtful that the Illini QB will dissect the No. 2-ranked passing defense in the country. Michigan gives up 160 passing yards per game, allowing just 150.7 during the past 3 outings.
More defensive calls
Per MGoBlue, Michigan’s official site, the Wolverines have given up 127 first downs through 10 games — so that’s just a shade fewer than 13 per Saturday. If not for 12 penalties, that number would be 115 first downs on the season. Per FightingIllini.com, Illinois has made 217 first downs this year, so almost 22 per game.
So, based on the numbers and levels of competition, a prediction of Michigan giving up fewer than 15 first downs vs. Illinois seems completely logical.
On average, Illinois rushes for 183.5 yards per game, whereas Michigan — the No. 1-ranked rush defense — gives up a paltry 72.7. The status of Chase Brown, star Illini RB, is questionable for this weekend’s game in Ann Arbor. Even with Brown at full-tilt, it seems highly unlikely that the Wolverines will be handled on the ground.
Being slightly generous, a call of fewer than 110 rushing yards surrendered by Michigan seems like a valid prediction.
Throwing out some for offense
QB JJ MCarthy is coming off a career-low (as a starter) 129 passing-yard performance, so it’s safe to say that things won’t be any worse Saturday vs. Illinois. Granted, Nebraska had one of the worst pass defenses in the country, so McCarthy probably should have had himself a day vs. the Huskers’ No. 107-ranked pass D (entering game day).
It won’t be a career day for the budding sophomore, but he’ll certainly throw for more 129 yards. Conservative estimate: Let’s say 160 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Michigan QBs have been protected over the years, especially during the past 2 seasons — and that’s due to having one of the best o-lines in the country. In 2021, UM’s OL won the Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line. McCarthy won’t get flattened more than once, and that’s not just because of his line, but because of his ability to escape and make plays on the run.
Michigan will probably run the hell out of the ball, per the usual, so predicting modest numbers for receivers is in order. No Michigan ball-catcher will have more than 80 yards vs. Illinois — and if one happens to get more than 80, it’ll be WR Ronnie Bell, who leads UM with 597 receiving yards (59.7 per game).
This one is easy. Illinois averages 24.7 points per game and Michigan averages 41.4 each Saturday. The Illini have scored 30-plus twice this season, punctuated by a 38-6 season-opening win over Wyoming. They also beat Wisconsin 34-10 back in early October. But since then, their offense has sputtered and hasn’t been overly impressive.
Michigan 38, Illinois 13