Statistically, Michigan has a big advantage over Illinois. It is first in the Big 10 in rushing offense and scoring offense, while Illinois is last in both. Neither team is near the top of the league in defense, but Michigan is ahead of the Illini in both rushing defense and total defense. On paper, this could be an easy, high scoring victory for the Wolverines.
The biggest improvement in their offense comes from freshman quarterback sensation Tate Forcier (6'-1", 188). In 8 games, he has completed 94 of 170 passes for 1167 yards and 9 touchdowns. And his quickness allows him to run UM's potent option game.
He has rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns while placing tremendous pressure on defenses hoping to contain him on scrambles. He makes their offense go, but his backup Denard Robinson, also a freshman, is even faster.
Six players have gained at least 180 yards on the ground this season. Brandon Minor (6'-1", 218) is listed ahead of Carlos Brown (6'-0", 210), but Brown has an edge in rushing yardage, 371 to 322. Michael Shaw (6'-0", 178) and freshman Vincent Smith (5'-6", 168) may also see time at running back. Kevin Grady (5'-9", 230) is the first fullback employed.
The Wolverines have a plethora of receivers. None has a massive yardage total, in part due to the inexperience at quarterback, but there's plenty of talent available. Greg Mathews (6'-3", 209), Martavious Odoms (5'-9", 172), and Junior Hemingway (6'-1", 220) are considered starters.
Supporting them include Darryl Stonum (6'-2", 196), freshman Je'Ron Stokes (6'-0", 180), Kelvin Grady (5'-9", 168), Roy Roundtree (6'-0", 170), and LaTerryal Savoy (6'-3", 214). Tight ends Kevin Koger (6'-4", 249), Martell Webb (6'-4", 245), and Brandon Moore (6'-6", 243) all see action.
The offensive line suffered a blow when star center David Molk went out with a season ending injury. But four of the five line starters are in their third or fourth seasons. Fifth year senior David Moosman (6'-5", 293) has replaced Molk at center, and he is backed up by fifth year senior Tim McAvoy, son of former Illini Tim McAvoy from Bloomington.
Fifth year senior Mark Ortmann (6'-7", 284) and redshirt junior Perry Dorrestein ((6'-7", 306) are the tackles. Redshirt junior Stephen Schilling ((6'-5", 304) starts at left guard. Redshirt sophomore Mark Huyge (6'-6", 288) is the right guard. Moosman and Dorrestein are from the state of Illinois.
Michigan is strong on the defensive line. Defensive end Brandon Graham (6'-2", 263) is one of the best in the conference. He is second in the Big 10 in tackles for loss and has 5.5 sacks. Freshman Craig Roh (6'-4", 238) has been extremely impressive in his first season at the end opposite Graham. Ryan Van Bergen (6'-6", 271) and Mike Martin (6'-2", 292) are the starting tackles.
Middle linebacker Obi Ezeh (6'-2", 243) leads the team and is ninth in the conference in total tackles. He has 4.5 tackles for loss. Last year against the Illini, he totaled 15 stops. WILL linebacker Jonas Mouton (6'-2", 228) is tied for third on the team with 47 tackles. Senior Stevie Brown (6'-0", 211) starts on the strong side and also has 47 stops.
Junior cornerback Donovan Warren (6'-0", 185) is tied for fifth in the Big 10 with 10 pass breakups. And his three interceptions is also among league leaders. Troy Woolfolk (6'-0", 193) starts at the opposite corner. Sophomores Jordan Kovacs (5'-10", 194) and Mike WIlliams (5'-11", 188) are the safeties.
UM has a superior punter in senior Zoltan Mesko. He is second in career punting average at 42.5 yards a kick. He is their all-time career leader in both punts and punting yardage. He is fourth nationally in net punting.
Place kicker Jason Olesnavage has 6 field goals on the year, and he is 5 for 5 from 30 yards or more. Stonum is second in the conference in kick returns. Hemingway, Odoms and Mathews have all had turns as punt returners.