CFB - Michigan at Illinois

CFB - Michigan at Illinois
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CFB - Michigan at Illinois

As bad as it got for Michigan at 0-2 and as much as Illinois was revered for it's fast start


As bad as it got for Michigan at 0-2 and as much as Illinois was revered for it's fast start, the Big Ten standings have a familiar ring at the top…Wolverines and Buckeyes. Those two remain the only unbeaten clubs in conference play, but Michigan will be put to the test Saturday in Champaign.

Lloyd Carr's team has won four straight and is on a run of 12-3 ATS vs. conference foes. The Illini are 3-1 in league games after the disappointing 10-6 loss as Iowa. However, they are 2-0 as Big Ten home dogs so far and figure to play the role of pooch again here. The home team is 2-3 SU but 4-1 ATS in the L5 of the series.

Given all the troubles Michigan has had playing non-conference teams (save Notre Dame) the Wolverines are still on track to possibly make an appearance in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champs. If anyone viewed any of the three games Michigan played not involving Big Ten teams, it seem unlikely they would be in a position of strength, as they have underachieved based on preseason forecasts. With spotty offense play and a defense that is still grasping to play 60 minutes most games, Coach Lloyd Carr is pleased by his team having a solid turnover margin and converting nearly half the time on third downs. "I think the most important statistic in football is turnover margin," Carr said. "We're doing a better job at taking care of the football."

It has already been a remarkable year for Illinois as they work towards an improbable season. The national media has descended upon Champaign, singing the praises of Ron Zook, who has put the fight in Fighting Illini. What stands out about Illinois is the crushing ground attack led by junior RB Rashard Mendenhall. Illini fans are wearing "Mendenhall 4 Heisman" T-shirts and he is on pace to surpass several school records dating back to the Red Grange days. The Illini's four receiver spread option keeps defenses honest, because they can't overplay the run for fear QB Juice Williams will throw to an open receiver. When Williams throws he has one of the top freshmen in the country to throw to in Arrelious Benn.

Key Trend The home team is 4-10 ATS in this Big Ten battle.

The line on this conflict will be real tight; if Michigan is favored they are 8-5 ATS as Big Ten road favorite. If Illinois is favored, it will be just the fifth time in the last five years they will be a home favorite. Where the Zookers could come up short is if Michigan comes out throwing with Chad Henne and its talented receivers, the Illini allow over 250 yards passing game. StatFox Game Estimator indicates Illinois by 4

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