UI-Michigan: 5 keys
How can Illinois slow Denard Robinson?
Make him a passer. Everyone knows he can run — he leads the league averaging 135.2 yards rushing per game. But Robinson’s 53.9 completion percentage is the lowest among Big Ten starting quarterbacks and his eight interceptions are the most among conference signal-callers. The trick will be keeping the elusive senior in the pocket and forcing him to make plays with his arm. Illinois has had success. In three games against the Illini, Robinson has rushed for 86 yards on 33 carries (2.6 yards per carry).
Can Illinois get its run game going?
That’s been one of many big issues this season for the Illini, who rank last in the Big Ten in rushing (126.5 yards per game). Nathan Scheelhaase found room last week, running for 84 yards at Wisconsin, but running backs Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson haven’t found many running lanes. The good news for the Illini is the Wolverines are 10th in the conference, allowing 156.8 yards per game on the ground.
Any chance Michigan is looking past the Illini to next week’s game against rival Michigan State?
Despite having lost four straight to their in-state rival, the Wolverines have been pretty focused in the games leading up to the showdown with the Spartans. Since 2008, Michigan is 3-1 in its Michigan State tuneup. Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who coached against Brady Hoke when both coaches were in the MAC, said earlier this week he knows Hoke-coached teams don’t look past an opponent, even one with a poor record such as Illinois.
Is this the week the Big Ten losing streak comes to an end?
The Illini are in desperate need of a win, having lost eight straight games in conference play dating to last season. Problem is, they’ve lost 12 of their last 13 games against ranked opponents. The good news: The last time Illinois had a conference losing streak of eight or more games, it ended in the state of Michigan, beating Michigan State 23-20 in 2006 to end a 10-game skid in 2006.
Can we expect another shootout like the 67-65 three-overtime thriller of 2010 at the Big House?
Perhaps on the Michigan side, as the Wolverines are averaging 31.6 points per game and they put up 63 against UMass earlier this season and scored 44 on Purdue last week. It also helps that Illinois allows a league-high 28.3 points per game. Illinois, on the other hand, probably can’t come close to 60. The Illini haven’t scored more than 24 points against FBS opponents this season and they rank last in the Big Ten in scoring (21.2 ppg).