Illinois Statistical Preview

My post of my Illinois preview yesterday was not exactly all-encompassing, so we're going to go a bit more in-depth today. I was rushed yesterday and got my preview post out before I had the chance to really spend time with it.

I didn't want to assume that Michigan was going to win this game if they stop turning the ball over. That is a huge part of the solution, but there are other ways in which Illinois is dangerous. They do have some great let's continue where we left off.

When Illinois has the ball, they are dangerous. They can score quickly and a lot. Juice Williams is not only a good runner, but he can throw very well. He has a rocket arm and also a great touch. He sees the field very well and can hit pretty much any receiver in stride. So far this year he is 68 of 116 with 9 TDs and 6 picks. His QB rating is a stellar 139.4. But it should be noted that if you take away the opener against Missouri where he went 26 of 42 for 451 yards and 5 TDs, hi stats become much less impressive.

His favorite target, of many, is #9 Arrelious Benn, who comes into this game with 19 catches for 260 yards and 2 TDs, the longest of which was a 54 yarder. Also lining up wide is #13 Will Judson who has 10 catches and 2 TDs, and #15 Chris Duvalt who has only 6 catches, but 3 of those are for touchdowns.

On the ground they do miss Rashard Mendenhall, but they have a RB named Daniel Dufrene, while doesn't have any rushing TDs this year, does has one receiving. He has 396 yards rushing on 59 carries (6.7 average). So they can move the ball on the ground.

But it is clear that their strength is with their QB. Williams has accounted for 283 yards on the ground with 2 TDs (although those 2 TDs came against Eastern Illinois). The task of slowing him down will be up to the DL and LBs. It is important to not over pursue him and make the pocket too wide around him. Our DL should try and focus more on creating traffic jams in the interior of the line and force Williams to the outside where our linebackers can focus on trying to keep him pinned in with nowhere to run.

Ultimately, the game will come down to how our defense can contain Williams. He may be one of the best QBs we face this year. And that says a lot, but his ability to run and throw (and he's good at both), makes him very dangerous.

Against almost the same Michigan defense last year he had only 70 yards passing with 1 TD and 1 pick, and 23 yards rushing. So maybe we can just watch the game tape from 07 to see how to contain him.

When Michigan has the ball they will be facing the #99 ranked scoring defense in the country. Illinois is giving up an alarming 32.0 only 4 games. They've given up 17 touchdowns and only 3 field goals. Michigan, by comparison has given up only 9 touchdowns and 10 field goals. Opponents average 22.8 ppg against Michigan.

Illinois is led defensively be senior linebacker Brit Miller. In 4 games he has totalled 44 tackles, 18 solo and 26 assisted. He also has 7.5 tackles for loss, which leads the team. Defensive linemen Will Davis and Derek Walker and linebacker Martez Wilson all lead the team with 2 sacks each.

However, given those good players, they still rank as the 95th best rush defense in the nation, giving up an average of 182.5 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.

Passing defense however, ranks in at #62. They give up on average 201.5 yards per game. They've been scored on through the air 7 times and have only 3 picks. Opponents average a completion percentage of 61.5 again the Illini.

Last week against Penn State, safety Donsay Hardeman posted 6 tackles in his first major college game (he is a JUCO transfer), after missing the first 3 games to a knee injury. But Zook and his staff still believe he will eventually by the leader of this defensive backfield.

All-in-all, Illinois is not the best defense we'll face this year. I'd go ahead and say that they're not quite on the same level as Wisconsin. The combination of our speed and hurry-up style of offense, we should have them gassed by the end of the 3rd quarter, like we did with Wiscy.

I won't make any bold predictions as to how well we'll fare on offense. If we learned anything last week, we found that there is simply no way of figuring out this Michigan offense right now. We're way to inconsistent. But the one thing I think we have is resiliency. And like last week, if our defense can keep us in this game going into halftime, we surely have a shot at coming away with a win.

I'm happy to say that I will be in attendance for the game. I got tickets from a friend who got tickets from someone else. They are in section 7, row 96. I think that is almost at the top of the stadium, and dangerously close to the visitors section. If anyone out there has any idea where the visitors section starts and stops, I'd be very interested to know. Years ago, when my family had seats, they were in section 7 about row 75. It's actually a great section to be in because you get a good perspective of the field. But if we're smack-dab in the middle of the Illinois section, that might just be a problem.

Either way, it should be a beautiful day for football and a great day for a Michigan homecoming win!

Go Blue!


  1. Nice preview. I still think Ill will pull it out.

  2. This is a fine review.

    My thoughts are that Illinois is less of a threat to Michigan than Michigan is to itself.

    This is virtually the same D that shut down Florida's Tebow earlier this year. Williams isn't half as good.

    If the Wolverine Offense can put 3 or 4 Touchdowns together...Michigan Victory.

    Go Blue!