Michigan 42 Illinois 25 – Week 7 Recap

WEEK 7 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 42-25, Michigan by 17 over Illinois
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 15.4 (+1.6)
CD Projection: Michigan by 21 (-4)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 7 RECAP @ Illinois

I answered the question I heard most this week consistently. When I heard, “What do you want to see against Illinois?”  I said a clean, fast start on the road.  Be careful what you wish for.  We definitely saw a fast start. Michigan jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter.  The Wolverines had doubled Illinois’ total yardage at that point. Then the third quarter arrived, and fans remembered suddenly that Michigan still has issues.  I don’t think most of the fan base is going to feel any better after that 42-25 victory over the Illini.

Offensively, there was a clear commitment to running game from the start.   Michigan ran on 66% of their 68 plays. That represents the highest run ratio of 2019.  It seems the offensive line was challenged to steady the struggling offense, and they answered the call.  The 6.5 yards per rush today is nearly a full yard more than the previous high of 5.8 versus MTSU in Week 1.  When we pair that explosiveness with a 56% success rate on run plays, the Wolverines had a clear identity today.  Shea Patterson added 194 yards passing and 4 touchdowns (1 rush).

Reading that text implies that it was a great day for the offense.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. The fumbles continue to plague Michigan. They put it on the deck officially 3 more times today and lost 2.   A fourth fumble by Christian Turner didn’t make the box score because he was ruled down by contact. At a minimum, this offense was more explosive, but fumble-itis still appears to be a potential fatal flaw.

For the defense, Michigan was again dominant for 3 of the 4 quarters of this game.  Coming out of half time, while the offense could not move or hold onto the ball, the defense wore down.  Illinois was on the field for 24 plays in the third quarter, and Michigan only 11. During that stretch and into the fourth quarter, Illinois scored 25 unanswered points and cut the lead to just a field goal.  Finally, multiple senior leaders stepped up and made big plays to save the Wolverines. A strip sack by Jordan Glasgow, another strip sack by Mike Danna evened the turnover margin. That response allowed the offense to take advantage of the short field and create some breathing room.  

Michigan has now completed half the regular season.  I predicted the Wolverines would be 5-1 at this point, but something still feels off.  So far, this season feels like driving a car with the check engine light on, and the smell of burning oil in the air.  We are still moving forward toward the destination, but there is an ominous feeling that this thing could blow up at any moment.  The coming week is absolutely gigantic, and will be pivotal for the 2019 season. This staff and these players must get under the hood and tighten up all the loose connections and seal the leaks.  These Wolverines will need all systems functional to have any chance against Penn State. Once we get to the White Out on Saturday night, Michigan must press the gas pedal to the floor and pray for the best.   

By the Numbers: Week 7 @ Illinois

LAST WEEK RECAP

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)

MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (10/7/2019), 4-1

  • 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

Michigan Football Game 5 – Game Grades – Michigan 10 Iowa 3

Today was a dogfight.”

Michigan Center Cesar Ruiz

Phil’s Game Grades

OffenseD
DefenseA
Special TeamsC
CoachingC
OverallC


So after first few minutes of the second quarter the game both offenses just went to sleep – Iowa was in the sleeper hold of the Michigan defense and the Michigan offense was MIA.

Offense-  A week after shaking off the cobwebs and hanging 52 points on Rutgers, the offense goes back to sleep versus Iowa. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was worried about the size mismatch between his defensive backfield and Michigan’s wide receivers. He needn’t worry as Michigan didn’t exploit the advantage…

Defense –  The Michigan defense flat out won this game, it was a great performance after getting spanked by Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Iowa QB Nate Stanley was sacked 8 times and threw 3 interceptions. He was running for his life all game…

Special Teams –  Ugh, missed a make-able field goal and the punting game came up short. Michigan will need a spark from its when the offense or defense stumbles…

Coaching –  The defense showed up huge while the offense took a step back.

Comments – A win over a top 20 team is great but concerns remain…