Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Saturday, October 22nd, 3:30PM (EST)
Where: Michigan Stadium Ann Arbor, M.I.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ILL +35/MICH -35
Over/Under Total: TBA
The Michigan Wolverines return to action this Saturday when they host the Illinois Fighting Illini for a 3:30PM (EST) kick off in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines had the luxury of having this past weekend off courtesy of a bye week. As a few of the top teams posted rather poor performances, Michigan actually benefited as they jumped to no. 3 in the latest polls. This week the Wolverines return to action in a game that many will consider a tune up before they go on the road to Michigan State next week. The Wolverines are currently listed as 35 point favorites over the Illini marking the 6th straight game they have been double digit favorites to start the season.
Before the bye week, Michigan posted an incredible 78-0 blowout over Rutgers in Piscataway. While many may overlook the fact that it was Rutgers, the blowout victory was one of the most complete and impressive team performances of the year. The Wolverines racked up 600 total yards of offense while the defense held Rutgers to just 39 yards of total offense. It was complete domination on both sides of the ball and Michigan clearly played the part of one of the best teams in the nation. As a potential collision course with no. 2 Ohio State appears inevitable in a game that will carry both Big Ten and National Championship caliber implications, the Wolverines look to keep their impressive play going as they host the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Big House on Saturday.
The dominate play on both sides of the ball is one reason I would not discourage anyone from laying the 35 points. In fact, Michigan has covered the 4 games this season in which they have laid the most points against the spread despite being rather large favorites in every game. This Michigan team is just playing extremely well at the moment and it starts on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolverines lead the FBS, by a pretty big margin, allowing just 212 yards per game. As a result, the Wolverines offense has had the pleasure of having the short side of the field very often. If that happens against a rather weak Illinois team on Saturday, things could get ugly again quickly.
For the Fighting Illini, they have to find some ways to move the football to make this game interesting. Over the last 4 games, Illinois is barely averaging 20 points per game. Earlier this season, there was hope that Coach Lovie Smith could turn this program back around. After two stints in the NFL with Chicago and Tampa Bay, Smith appeared to have enough big football experience to making the Fighting Illini relevant again. Obviously, he needs some time to get better talent into Champaign but they have fallen far below the expectations to start the season.
The Fighting Illini compiled an embarrassing 2-4 SU record over the easiest part of their schedule and it is safe to say they will be big underdogs for the remainder of the year. There have been problems at quarterback and starter Wes Lunts status for this week is still up in the air. If Lunt is unable to go, Chayce Crouch will get the nod for the 2nd straight week. Crouch was just 6 of 14 for 92 yards with a score and a pick in the victory over Rutgers so he will not scare this Michigan defense by any means. Perhaps if Lunt is able to go, that is better possibility for the cover if they can get WR Malik Turner going. Turner is the only Illini receiver that is capable of causing any havoc this Saturday but he had his worst game of the season last week with Crouch under center.
On the other side of the ball, Illinois is going to have an entirely different but equally troublesome set of problems as they look to stop a Michigan offense that is firing on all cylinders. Quarterback Wilton Speight has done a great job as a game manager with 11 touchdowns and just 2 picks on the year. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have inflicted a ton of damage in the running game led by the likes of Chris Evans and DeVeon Smith. Even LB Jabrill Peppers got into the action in the win over Rutgers carrying the ball 3 times for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns to help his Heisman campaign. However, it really has not mattered who has the ball in their hand as all Michigan rushers have excelled. We will see if Illinois has any answers for that rushing attack this week.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Do not be afraid to lay the points. Michigan cruises and covers easily. Take Michigan -35