As always, beat writer Scott Richey (that's me) will be providing updates throughout today's Illinois-Michigan game. Follow along right here.
Good morning, Illini Nation. Oh wait, force of habit. Wrong sport.
Still, a good morning to everyone on this crisp fall day. Perfect football weather in Champaign. Will it be perfect football?
(Shakes Magic 8-Ball) ... Outlook not so good.
Illinois is riding a three-game losing streak into today's game against No. 16 Michigan. Those three losses have all been varying degrees of not ideal. Losing at home to Eastern Michigan, which has since barely beaten Central Connecticut State and got rocked by Central Michigan, is beginning to look worse and worse.
Blowing multiple two-touchdown leads against Nebraska wasn't much better. Getting run over — literally — by Minnesota wasn't good either. Especially when you consider the Illini did the same to the Gophers last season. The teams have since gone in completely different directions. Minnesota is 8-1 after taking a beating in Champaign. Illinois? Just 2-6.
Which brings us to today's showdown with Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines. The Illini have not fared well against ranked opponents — zero wins and 23 losses since 2011 — and are currently a 24 1/2-point underdog to Michigan. That line has trended more toward the Wolverines all week.
"When you are disappointed in your play, where would you like to play?" Illinois coach Lovie Smith asked, rhetorically of course. "At home. There's comfort in coming back home and getting a chance to play at home.
"Last time we played here we had another traditional program in Nebraska. Our fans were outstanding. I know we're going to get the same thing here this week. Yes the guys are excited about the two game homestand we have coming up, starting this weekend."