The TSX Files: UM v Illini (incl. Prediction)

As soon as the competition picked up, the offense went south for Illinois. The Illini averaged 34.7 points in its first six games, but it's been all downhill since. Illinois has scored 28 points and committed eight turnovers in its last three games against Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/11
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
SURFACE: FieldTurf
SERIES: Michigan leads 67-23-2 (last meeting, 2010, Michigan 67-65 3OT)
RECORDS: Michigan 7-2, 3-2 Big 10; Illinois 6-3, 2-3 Big 10
POLLS: Michigan (No. 22 AP, No. 21 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 27-17


-- For Michigan: Run the football. The Wolverines have piled up more than 300 rushing yards in four of their last seven games. A performance in that neighborhood likely places the Wolverines in the driver's seat in this contest.

-- For Illinois: Slow down Denard Robinson. With the way the Illini offense has been playing, it will be up to the defense to win the game. Robinson has the ability to hurt a team with his arm and his legs, and Illinois can't afford to have many breakdowns.


Michigan has been churning out the yardage in conference play, totaling 500 yards or more in three of their Big Ten games. The veteran line should control Illinois up front, since the Illini's smaller, quicker approach on the defensive line has had mixed success. QB Denard Robinson needs to pick his spots and make Illinois pay for any breach in coverage, and a workhorse-type afternoon from RB Fitzgerald Toussaint will keep Robinson fresh and allow him to pick his spots to break loose out of the pocket.

Michigan's defense gave up more than 35 points per game in the 2010 season, but has improved dramatically this year, giving up just under 16 ppg. Facing Illinois, the primary assignment will be to quickly close ranks on QB Nathan Scheelhaase. The Wolverines have forced 20 turnovers so far this season, and a couple in this game would likely give them the edge.

As soon as the competition picked up, the offense went south for Illinois. The Illini averaged 34.7 points in its first six games, which featured Arkansas State, South Dakota State and Indiana. It's been all downhill since. Illinois has scored 28 points and committed eight turnovers in its last three games against Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State. The Illini have failed to score in the first quarter in all three games. The line has allowed eight sacks during the losing streak. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino spent the bye week looking for a solution.

Since relying on the offense hasn't helped, maybe it's time for the Illinois defense to start scoring some points. The Illini have allowed 48 points in the last three games, but that hasn't been good enough to get a win. Some of those points are the result of being put in poor field position due to mistakes by the offense and special teams. The defense had one breakdown against Penn State, but that came on the Nittany Lions' 80-yard drive that resulted in the winning touchdown with 1:08 to play.


Wolverines: Michigan plays it final road game with backs against the wall. If the Wolverines want to entertain those fading hopes of playing in the Big Ten's inaugural championship game, this is a must win, and a whole lot of other good things have to happen elsewhere. Mathematically, Michigan is still in the picture, but with two losses in conference play and both of those coming to teams above the Wolverines in the Legends Division standings -- Michigan State and Iowa -- the numbers are heavily tilted away from the Wolverines. ... The Wolverines completed the month of October with three victories, which is more than Michigan won in the month in the three previous years (two wins total). ... Michigan's defense has limited its Big Ten opponents to less than 30 percent success rate on third-downs. The opposition has converted just 18 of 61 third down plays against Michigan this season (29.5 percent). ... RB Fitzgerald Toussaint has been Michigan's rushing leader in four games this season, while QB Denard Robinson has led the team in rushing yardage in the other five games.

Illini: The teams played a memorable game in Ann Arbor last season in which the Illini fell, 67-65. They combined for 132 points and 1,237 yards in total offense, both Big Ten records. ... The Illini are 12-33-1 all-time against in Michigan in Champaign. Illinois defeated Michigan at Memorial Stadium in 2009, its first win at home against the Wolverines since 1983. ... Illinois has not beaten Michigan in consecutive games in Champaign since 1955 and '57. ... Illinois has had a punt blocked in its last two games. ... Illinois is 4-19 against ranked teams under Ron Zook, who is in his seventh season as the Illini's coach. ... OL Corey Lewis has yet to play this season. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February. ... FB Zach Becker is out for the season. He suffered a broken leg and a torn ankle ligament in the second game against South Dakota State. Becker has been granted a redshirt season and can return for his senior year in 2012.



QB Denard Robinson -- He is just 120 yards short of another 1,000 yard rushing season. His 97.8 rushing yards per game ranks fifth in the Big Ten.

LB Kenny Demens -- Demens leads the Wolverines with 66 tackles, 36 of them solo stops. Demens has made three stops behind the line, and has one sack and a forced fumble.

TE Kevin Koger -- Koger has three touchdown catches this season and is becoming an increasingly popular target for Robinson. Koger has the size to block like a tackle, and the athleticism to create very difficult matchups for opposing linebackers.


DE Whitney Mercilus -- Take a look at the national defensive statistics and Mercilus' name will be at the top of several lists. He leads the nation in sacks (11.5), sacks per game (1.28) and forced fumbles (six).

PK Derek Dimke -- It will be interesting to see how the senior responds after missing a potential game-tying field goal against Penn State. Dimke's 42-yarder bounced off the upright as time expired for his first miss of the season in eight attempts. He has hit 36-of-42 field goals in his career (.857), which ranks fifth nationally among active kickers. Dimke has also made all 27 of his extra point attempts this season.

QB Nathan Scheelhasse -- The sophomore hasn't played poorly during the losing streak, but his job title leads to him getting a lot of the blame. Scheelhasse has completed 51-of-85 passes. He's thrown two touchdown passes and two interceptions.


R Fitzgerald Toussaint (undisclosed (shoulder?), probable), LB Jake Ryan (stinger, probable), OL Ricky Barnum (ankle, doubtful).

OL Hugh Thornton (knee, questionable), RB Josh Ferguson (hamstring, questionable), FB Chris Willett (concussion, day-to-day).

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