By the Numbers: Week 7 @ Illinois



Michigan powered through Iowa in a 10-3 defensive struggle.  Some questions were answered on defense, but many remain for the offensive staff.

NEXT UP: @ Illinois: 71st, -0.3

PREGAME SP+: Michigan by 15.4, Michigan Win Probability 81%
The Wolverines are back into a spot where only under-performance against the Illini will garner any attention.  If they manage to win by 3+ scores, the caveats will lead every conversation.

Michigan Offense (66th) vs. Illinois Defense (82nd) 
Josh Gattis gets a second opportunity for a “get right game”.  This Illinois defense currently ranks twelve spots behind the Rutgers unit that gave up 52 points in the Big House.  I expect this week’s offensive strategy to mirror what we saw against the Scarlet Knights. Shea Patterson will be moving out of the pocket and the Big 3 receivers will be mixing and matching on a handful of downfield route combos.  Michigan will attempt to run only a handful of play types out of multiple formations and personnel groupings. The challenge will be to execute plays consecutively. I’d like to see a very specific script in the first quarter that let’s each play maker touch the ball at least once.  The concepts that work should come back in the second quarter forward.

Michigan Defense (2nd) vs. Illinois Offense (54th)
Illinois’ offensive coordinator, Rod Smith, just watched Don Brown flood Iowa’s backfield with varying blitz packages to rattle Nate Stanley.  How will the Illini adjust to what they’ve seen on tape? I expect to see max protection packages on the majority of snaps. That means limited short route combinations that require a quick release.  And if Brandon Peters cannot play in this game, then Smith will try to use the legs of either freshman QB Isiah Williams or freshman QB Matt Robinson to flee from Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye (Salt & Pepper). I cannot envision a scenario where Illinois can march down the field on sustained drives.  To make any impact on the scoreboard, the Illini will need explosive plays or turnovers from their defense to play on a short field.

PREDICTION: Illinois’ offense was ranked 54th in SP+ in the preseason and are still right in that spot.  However, the previous five games were started by Brandon Peters. Don Brown’s group will be teeing off this week.  For Michigan, the real challenge of this game is getting off to a quick start on the road. In 2018 Michigan averaged minus-7 to the SP+ projection in road games.  I still have to see the Wolverines respond effectively to adversity on the road before I can predict success ahead of time. I’ll keep my expected offensive prediction from the preseason, but the Illini aren’t going to reach the end zone twice. 
Michigan 27 Illinois 6 (PRESEASON Michigan 27 Illinois 14)


  • SP+ Overall: 17th (↓4), 17.6
    • SP+ Offense: 66th (↓18), 28.5
    • SP+ Defense: 2nd (↑4), 11.1
    • SP+ Sp. Teams 37th (↓33) 0.1
  • AP Poll: 16th (↑3), 618
  • Coaches’ Poll: 16th (↑2), 648
  • CFP Rank: N/A

About Clint Derringer

@clint_derringer Born & raised in Warren, MI. Now in Grosse Pointe, MI with my wife Bethany and our three hilarious kids. U-M B.A. Sport Management & Communications ‘05 U-M M.S. Program & Project Management ‘18