- The Illini offense revolves entirely around JR QB Nathan Scheelhaase who Leads the team in passing and rushing .
- And Scheelhaase can really run(501 Yards 5 TDs) and throw(12 TDs 5 INTs)
- The only other playmaker on the offensive side of the ball with talent is SR WR A.J. Jenkins who has 1030 yards and 7 TDs.
- After Scheelhaase and Jenkins the drop off is big with no running threat( starting RB Jason Ford has only manged 492 yards through 9 games) and receiving threat (SO WR Spencer Harris has only racked up 189 receiving yards this season as the number 2)
- Because of the lack of playmakers the offense has been very inconsistent over the past 3 games averaging only 9 points per game in that stretch.
- The defense has been strong most of the year allowing only 17.2 points a game (13th in the country).
- The defense is led by JR DL Whitney Mercilus who leads the county in sacks with 11.5
The Michigan Defense Vs. Nathan Scheelhaase – As you can see by the stats above the whole offense of Illinois is Nathan Scheelhaase. Because of that Michigan’s number one concern will be containing him. And believe me The Michigan defense has had plenty of practice with containing running threat QBs(Drob Nuff said). In many ways the Illinois offense reminds me of Michigan from 2 years ago with Scheelhaase playing the role of rich man’s Tate Forcier. Although I don’t want to dwell to much on the past(painful) my point is that this offense is not very good…as long as Scheelhaase is contained. This may be easier said than done but it will start with the defense eliminating any semblance of a running game. The Michigan defenders should have a much easier game this week getting off the ball with a smaller Sack prone Illini offensive line(23 sacks in 9 games). If the Wolverines can eliminate the run and not let up any huge plays it should be a long day for the Illini offense.
The Michigan Offense Vs. Slow Starts – Michigan has started slow on offense all year only managing to outscore their opponents in the first quarter twice in 9 games. This is something I’m sure the coaches and players have worked on but as of yet we have not seen any consistency at the start of games. This is something that has been especially troublesome on the road where we were unable to comeback against M$U and Iowa after trailing in the first half. Both of those teams’ defenses were able to hang on, in the end as Michigan took control in the second half. The Illini defense also has the ability to help keep their team in the game which makes getting off to a fast start even more important for Michigan. I think that the key to Michigan’s offense getting a fast start will be the defense Shutting down the one dimensional Illinois offense. By doing this it will keep the offense loose not having to worry about keeping pace as well as putting the offense in much better field position. If the defense can get a few stops the Maize and Blue offense should be able to have a much stronger start.
BONUS Matchup: Drob(Worlds Most Elusive QB) Vs. DL Whitney Mercilus– What happens when the NCAA sack leader faces off against the NCAAs most elusive QB? No the Universe does not collapse, but rather college football fans will get to see an epic clash of the titans. And I believe that Denard and the Michigan offense will stymie Mercilus’s great pass rush for 2 reasons. One Whitney is a speed and finesse rusher using his athleticism to help him beat O lineman but because of his high motor he tends to over commit allowing QBs and running backs to take advantage of the missed reads(See Illinois vs ASU). The second reason Michigan will shutdown Mercilus is Drobs speed, Whitney Mercilus is able to sack many QBs because of his ability to chase down almost any QB. The “almost” is Denard Robinson who will be able to beat him to the corner as well as avoid him escaping the pocket.
This is a very interesting matchup of 2 teams who really need a win to finish the season strong. It’s also a matchup of two teams who have had very good defenses for most of the season. The big differentiator in this game will be the offenses and Michigan has the edge here by far. I expect Michigan’s defense to shut down Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini offense while the elusive Drob scores early and chips away at the defense. Look for Michigan to surprise a lot of people and have this game wrapped up with a bow by the end of the third quarter.