The University of Illinois football team travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan to cage a wounded Wolverine. Michigan, after starting the season 5–0 in non-conference play, has lost three games in a row since beginning conference play. Ouch! The Illini, on the other hand, seem to be gaining momentum as they approach what could be their third conference victory in a row. This will be the 92nd meeting between the two schools, and Michigan holds a 28–10–1 record against Illinois in the Big House. Illinois can expect the Big House to be rocking with 110,000 hostile Wolverine fans desperate for a conference victory.
The Michigan football team returns home after a disappointing ten point loss last weekend against Penn State. Its offense does still deserve some respect in the Big Ten, averaging 35 points per game. The Wolverine offense is fairly balanced with a admirable 520 YPG. Sophomore QB Denard Robinson and RB Vincent Smith spearhead the rushing attack 275+ per game average. The Michigan passing attack is equally dangerous with WR Roy Roundtree, WR Junior Hemingway, and TE Kevin Kogers accounting for an average of 244+ aerial yards per game. On a final Wolverine offensive note: QB Robinson is second nationally in rushing (161avg.) and total offense (350 avg.)
The Michigan defense is the Achilles heel of their football team. Its rush defense, led by DT Greg Banks and LB Jonas Mouton, is adequate: allowing a mere 150 yards per game. The Michigan pass defense is vulnerable allowing 290 yards through the air each game, with S Jordan Kovacs and CB J.T. Floyd among the team leaders in tackles leaving the secondary susceptible to play action passing by opponents.
The Illinois defense, especially the front seven, has been excellent at shutting down the running game of Big Ten opponents. Defensive tackles Cory Liuget and Akeem Spence along with Martez Wilson in the middle will have additional pressure stopping the elusive QB Denard Robinson. Containing Denard Robinson from attacking the edges running or passing will fall to Clay Nurse, Michael Buchannan, Ian Thomas, and Nate Bussey. The Michigan QB put a new wrinkle in his repertoire that may cause problems for the Illini LBs and secondary. Last week, against Penn State he would start to run then pull up and pass, creating havoc in the Nittany Lions secondary. Not since the Ohio State game has the Illini defense faced a dual threat QB of Denard Robinson’s caliber. The much improved Illinois secondary led by Trulon Henry, Terry Hawthorne, and Tavon Wilson have not seen wide receiver athleticism as Michigan WR’s Hemingway and Roundtree.
The Illini offense must repeat last week’s accomplishments of three simple things to secure a victory: (1) establish a solid running game, (2) sustain drives while protecting the ball, and (3) win the time of possession battle. Keeping the Michigan offense off the field is critical of Scheelhaase and company to silence the Wolverine faithful in the Big House. Both teams are vying for a sixth victory to become bowl eligible, this game will undoubtedly come down to a big play in the fourth quarter. Whoever wants it the most wins the game.
History of “Biff” The Wolverine Mascot:
The University of Michigan has a long and complicated relationship with its mascot. “Biff” the Wolverine served as team mascot in the mid-1920s. After seeing that the University of Wisconsin had live badgers at its football games, the Michigan coach, F.H. Yost, decided it was time to procure a wolverine. However, despite writing 68 letters to trappers, Yost was unable to find a wolverine in the entire state of Michigan. In 1924 he settled for a stuffed wolverine from the Hudson Bay Company. “Biff” was an instant star, featured on the cover of the 1925 game program alongside team captain Robert J. Brown. A couple years later, Michigan attempted to incorporate live wolverines into their football games. “Biff” and “Bennie”, borrowed from the Detroit Zoo, were paraded around for one season. As it turns out, the real wolverines were pretty darn ferocious and clearly resented their time in the limelight. Needless to say, Michigan has not attempted live wolverines since. The Athletic Department has steadfastly maintained that such a symbol is unnecessary and undignified.