Illinois Illini vs Michigan Wolverines (11/19/22 – 12:00 pm EDT)
Line: Michigan -18.5
The Big Ten Conference has been boiling for the last few weeks and it continues Saturday with the Illinois Illini heading into Ann Arbor to take on the third-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Saturday afternoon. The Illini are coming off a 31-24 divisional loss to Purdue while the Wolverines killed Nebraska 34-3.
Illinois had started the season off so well before finally coming down to earth the last few weeks as they were only a one-loss football team three weeks ago. Unfortunately, now the Illini are staring at a 7-3 record and while that earns them bowl eligibility it’s a bit disappointing considering they had looked like they could pose a threat to Ohio St. only a few weeks ago. The good thing is that Illinois plays in the Big 10 West where their 4-3 record is tied for first with Purdue. The Illini have gone 6-4 against the spread and 3-6-1 versus the over/under.
After losing their second game of the season to Indiana, the Illini went on a huge roll, winning six games in a row and looking like a dark horse team that could maybe get into the Top 10. After beating Nebraska 26-9, Illinois would go on to lose to Michigan St. followed by a second loss in a row when they fell to Purdue last Saturday. That hurts their chances at a good bowl game but Illinois still pulled off a few impressive victories this season with wins over Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
Part of the issue for the Illini is on the offensive end where they only put up 24.7 points a game, which is 89th in the country while their passing game won’t scare anyone with 218.3 yards a game, which is 88th overall. Fortunately for the Illini, they have a great defense to help them win games as they lead all of college football in takeaways with 17. They’re second in the country at yards allowed at 249.6 a game while they also do a great job at preventing points, only allowing 12.5 points a contest, good for third overall.
The Wolverines have had as good of a season as any other team in college football which is why they’re currently ranked third overall as their 10-0 record speaks volumes about their play. At 7-0 in the Big Ten East, Michigan is tied for first place with their biggest rival, Ohio St., who is also 10-0 and 7-0 in the conference. The Wolverines have gone 6-3-1 versus the spread while they’re 3-7 against the over/under.
For Michigan, it all starts with head coach Jim Harbaugh who may be having his best season in Ann Arbor with his team in the FBS Final Four at the moment and primed to make a run at the national championship. While they have not beaten very many ranked opponents on the season, the Wolverines hammered 11th-ranked Penn State 41-17 and have beaten their last four opponents by an average of 28 points a game.
Part of the reason the Wolverines are so good is a balanced offense mixed with an exceptional defense that is arguably the best in the nation. For starters, they’re only allowing opponents to rack up 232.8 yards of total offense, which is first in the nation. The Wolverines also lead college football in rushing yards allowed with 72.7 yards a game as well as points allowed by only giving up 11.2 points a contest. Their offense is fifth in the country in scoring by putting up 41.4 a game which is fueled by a powerful running attack that averages 251.4 yards a game, good for fourth overall.
Free Pick – Over 40
There is no doubt that these are two of the best defenses in college football but this isn’t going to be a game decided by field goals. Yes, the Illini only give up 12.5 points a contest but are they going to be able to stop a Michigan juggernaut that is scoring more than 40 points a game? Let’s not forget that Illinois has given up 55 points during their two-game losing streak and that’s not going to stop against a Michigan backfield averaging more than 250 yards a contest. The Illini will also get a score or two but the Wolverines shouldn’t have a problem running over an Illinois team that hasn’t looked the same since that victory over Nebraska. We’re taking over 40.