Illinois Preview

Who: Michigan v. Illinois
When: October 4, 2008, 3:30PM
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
: ABC Regional
: Michigan Sports Network
UM 66-21-2
Last Meeting: 2007, @ Illinois 27-17
Rankings: Michigan - NR / Illinois - NR

Program Background

Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Ron Zook
Off. Coordinator: Mike Locksley
Off. Scheme: Spread/Option
Def. Coordinator: Dan Disch/Curt Mallory
Def. Scheme: ???
2008 Record: 2-2
Last Game: Lost to Penn State 38-24

We're going to stray away from our typical preview of the offense/defense and breaking down each position. Why? Well, I'm starting to feel that it is not only an antiquated way of breaking down an opponent, but as we've seen so far this year, opponents rarely play us like we expect them to.

So, instead we'll break down situations. How will Illinois attack us, how will they defend us? What situations should we look to avoid and how can we capitalize on mismatches? Those are for more important questions and will tell the tale more likely to occur than just how much experience Illinois' OL has. So let's have at it.

One of the biggest ways we can walk away from this game with a win is to not beat ourselves. We lost the game to ND and almost lost to Wisconsin with turnovers. In the past two games combined, we've given up 37 points off of 11 turnovers.

We have a pretty good defense, maybe one of the best in the league, but what has really hurt us is not only turning the ball over, but doing so deep in our own side of the field. Special teams and offensive turnovers are killers. The better we protect the ball, like we did in the 2nd half last week, the better we'll do in the field position game, and the better our defense will be able to control the game.

A few key personnel issues to note, Mark Huyge is back and should play this week. Perry Dorrestein will slide over to LT, and Mark Ortmann will play LG. The line is in a constant state of flux right now, so hammering down a solid depth chart is a little iffy. Hopefully, if we get through this game injury free, we should have a much better idea of a starting 5 this time next week.

Carlos Brown is out this week with a sprained foot. And Junior Hemmingway is out with mononucleosis. Both of which can probably be missed.

Defensively, there are no major injuries to take note of. Most players seem to be at or near 100%.

But speaking of defense, that brings me to a point I'd like to make.

What is up with CB Morgan Trent? Is it just me or has he been less than great this season?

I get that he brings 3 years of experience to the defensive backfield, and he's covered some of the best WR in the country, but he's also been burned way too much. And when he's not getting burned, he's getting called for interference.

Look, I'm not saying he's not worth his starting pricetag. Nine times out of ten he makes a good play. He covers well and can bring down most RBs when they get to the second level. But it's that 10% that he just looks totally lost. In the first half against Wisconsin, I swear he looked terrible. And against ND, where he had two picks which were late in the game, he also had a couple bad interference calls, one of which was in the endzone.

But...don't get me wrong, he's a fine CB, and I know that is a tough position because the better you are, the less we see of you because the QB will not throw your way. It's like in 1997 when Charles Woodson's best plays were never seen because there was no way a QB was going to test him. And when they did, he made them pay. But with Morgan Trent, the two or three times he does get tested a game, one of those times he will be out of position.

But that brings me to another point. While out DL and LBs are looking rock solid, our defensive backfield sometimes looks like they have no idea where to line up and who is covering who. I noticed a few times against Wisconsin when Donovan Warren or Morgan Trent would be looking back at the safeties and pointing to WRs in a frantic way right before the snap. You could say they were just adjusting coverages based on formations...but that wasn't it. I've seen DBs do that, and this was definitely not that. This was our CBs not understanding what was going on and who was covering who.

Luckily, Wisconsin was a running offense. But if Juice Williams decides he wants to throw this week, we better shore up those issues. I think this explains why Jimmy Clausen had such a great day against us.

But getting back to Illinois. We should be able to hang with them no problem. They keys for this game are...
• No turnovers
• Downfield pass play calling to open up the running game
• Limit Juice Williams ability to throw, keep him one-dimensional. He's less effective just running the ball.
• Make some decent yardage on kickoff and punt returns?

Those aren't the only keys, but they are some weak areas we can improve on. Illinois is beatable, and if we could knock them off last year at their place at night, then I have no doubt we can do it in the Big House on Homecoming weekend! I'm taking Michigan in this one.

Go Blue!

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