Michigan may not be an elite team like some thought entering the season, but it’s still a good one that can beat up on weaker teams. That’s seen in this spread as the Wolverines were -21.5 point road favorites against Illinois with an over/under of 49 early in the week.
After getting gouged by Wisconsin a few weeks ago, Michigan has been stout in its last two games, at least defensively, allowing three combined points to Rutgers and Iowa.
Offense may be a question against better teams, but Illinois is not a better team. The Fighting Illini haven’t had an overly difficult schedule, but come into this one having lost three straight, one of those to Eastern Michigan and most recently a 23-point loss to Minnesota.
While that one was in Minnesota, if the Gophers can beat this team by 23 points, so can Michigan.
Then again, there may be some worries about the Wolverines on the road because their lone road trip was the Wisconsin loss. There are also questions about their offense after scoring 10 points last weekend. However, Illinois hasn’t slowed down any offense, allowing 183.2 rushing yards per contest and that’s where Michigan will attack.
It doesn’t matter who gets the ball in the backfield, similar to the big win against Rutgers, as Michigan doesn’t have one running back who stands out with Zach Charbonnet, Christian Turner and Hassan Haskins set to receive most of the carries.
As a team, they’re averaging 3.5 yards per carry, but that number will probably grow against this defense. Quarterback Shea Patterson should also have an easier time than last weekend and while his numbers aren’t great (6 TDs, 3 INTs), the Illinois defense will help.
This matchup isn’t much different than the one three years ago when Michigan won 41-8. Michigan has the talent to feast on weaker competition and Illinois hasn’t shown that it’s better than previous years.
Still, there’s a chance the Illini offense gets into the end zone a couple times and sneaks out a cover. While their overall numbers are aided by games against Akron and UConn, they scored 38 points against Nebraska and that has to go for something, especially at home.
The problem is that starting quarterback Brandon Peters is questionable to play and his backup, Matt Robinson, averaged 4.3 yards per attempt against Minnesota last week. Peters, a former Michigan recruit, will surely want to play against his former team.
If not, it’ll be hard to back the Illini because Peters could at least run the offense. And while running backs Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown both average more than 5.5 yards per carry, they’ll likely find more resistance in this game.
Michigan’s offense isn’t good, but it’s at least at the same level as Illinois and probably better than Illinois if Robinson starts. Throw in the massive defensive advantage for the Wolverines and they could run up the score.
The Wolverines have failed to cover in their last eight on the road against teams with losing records and the under is 7-1 in the Illini’s last eight at home against teams with a winning road record. The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these schools.
Our Pick – Michigan -21.5