Last year's meeting between the Michigan Wolverines and the Illinois Fighting Illini was one of the most exciting in college football last season. After three overtimes and 1,237 combined total yards, the Wolverines pulled out a 67-65 victory when the Illini failed to convert what would have been the tying 2-point conversion.
We won't know until gameday, but this year's game should have a tough time keeping up with those offensive numbers for a number of reasons. Illinois has lost three straight, putting up 7, 14 and 7 points against Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State, respectively. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has seemingly regressed from where he was one year ago, completing less than 50 percent of his passes last week against Iowa.
Both squads have improved significantly on defense as well. Illinois ranks sixth in the nation in total defense, giving up just 280 total yards of offense per game. Michigan ranks 28th, a considerable improvement from last year's unit that ranked 110th under defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
Neither team is particularly confident at the moment, however. Both teams have paid their dues on This Week In Schadenfreude this season. All the more reason why they will need to rely on their playmaking quarterbacks to provide a spark. Via Hail to the Orange:
Denard Robinson, of course, is the most important player on the field for either team. His play has largely dictated how the Wolverines have fared, no matter their opponent. He is a virtuoso at making spectacular plays, but seems just as likely to turn the ball over and sink his teams chances all together. For many weeks in a row now we have seen Robinson mistakes in the first half put UM behind the 8-ball, but his second half heroics put the team right back in contention, and more often than not claim a victory.
Nathan Scheelhaase on the other hand could use the sort of devil may care boldness that makes Denard such a threat and liability. Scheel has been taking a bit of a beating, figuratively for his play, and literally on the field, as he is one of the most sacked quarterbacks around. Faster decisions, are sometimes just as useful as better decisions. This offensive line doesn't seem to be able to block long enough to allow for the more complex checks to take place.
While you shouldn't expect a shootout this year, both teams are capable of making the spectacular plays and the boneheaded mistakes that could make this one of the more exciting games in the conference this week.
Game date, time: 3:30 pm ET, Saturday, November 12
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
TV channel: ESPN, ABC Regional, ESPN 3
Spread: Michigan favored by one
Series history: Michigan leads, 67-23-2
For further reading, news, discussion and more, visit Michigan blog Maize N Brew and Illinois blog Hail to the Orange. Here’s the complete Week 10 college football TV schedule, and stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news hub for more.