SOC – Michigan November 5, 2010
Let me get this straight. We play Michigan tomorrow – The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor – and I’m supposed to be supremely confident. Michigan against Illinois. Confidence.
I mean, that just doesn’t compute. I know Michigan is down – like, in my head, I understand the concept – but I can’t hear someone say “if Leshoure gets going, we might just blow them out” and keep a straight face. Illinois. At Michigan. “We might just blow them out.” For real?
It’s hard for me to sit down and do this. Underneath, I’m confident. Their already shaky defense just got worse with a few injuries. Their secondary is playing the equivalent of Fritz Rock and Ean Days – true freshmen expected to redshirt that are suddenly starting. They gave up 37 points to their FCS opponent, and the Penn State offense that we made look silly just put up 41 points on the Michigan D. There is reason to be confident.
There is also reason to be wary. If there’s one thing our defense hasn’t done well, it’s containing a running QB. Chandler Harnish and Terrelle Pryor both found seams and broke crazy long runs. What’s to say we’ll be able to stop possibly the top running QB in the last decade? Put us behind early, and will we be able to play catch-up?
I think this one will be close. Mostly because the match-ups are close. They have the top offense in the Big Ten – we have the third best defense. They have the worst defense in the Big Ten, and we have the #10 offense. Stoppable Force meets Moveable Object – who wins?
The tipping point in this one, I think, is Mikel Leshoure. To win, we need to do what we did at Penn State – hold the ball for long periods of time with 12 play drives. This wears down the defense AND keeps Denard off the field. Control the ball with Mikel, and you control the game.
But if we struggle in the run game like the last two weeks, watch out. There’s a reason Michigan is favored in this game – their QB can put up 350 yards and 30 points in a flash – can we keep up when he does? What about turnovers – what if it’s another game like the Michigan State game, where it all unraveled after a few second half turnovers? We’ve started strong in every game this season – what if we don’t tomorrow? How will we respond?
And what about a close game? We responded well against Northern Illinois (and not-so-well against Missouri) under pressure. What happens to our young team if it’s a 3 point game with 2:00 to go? Will we be composed?
This is where I’m at tonight. When I look at the statistics and the health of each team, I think 17 or 24 point Illinois win. Their defense can give up 35 points without blinking, and our defense hasn’t given up more than 26 all year. We win easy, right? But then I see that the line is Michigan -3 and I realize there’s something I’m missing. Is D-Rob really just that good? Are we due for a letdown game? Am I really supposed to believe we’re about to beat Michigan 3 years in a row?
Yes. But it will be close.
Illinois 34, Michigan 31