Michigan - 2 1/2 vs. Illinois
Just when you count them out, Michigan (2-2) (1-0) makes you pay. Michigan Stadium's 500th Game was one of the most thrilling in the stadium's 80-plus year history. Things could not have gotten worse after the first half in Ann Arbor. Only one team in the Great Lakes State gets booed off their home field and that is the Detroit Lions, not the Michigan Wolverines, but that is exactly what happened last Saturday. Then everything changed. Trailing 19-0, Michigan scored to make it 19-7 and then incredibly scored two touchdowns in less than 10 seconds to take the lead they would not relinquish from the shell-shocked Wisconsin Badgers. Can Michigan, written off after their turnover, in addition to rain-drenched debacle in South Bend two weeks prior, be a player in the Big Ten this season? With the Wolverines knocking off the top team in the conference, and #9 team in the country, this is certainly possible. But the big test will be this week when the Fighting Illini come calling for the 501st game at Michigan Stadium.
Illinois (2-2) (0-1) had Michigan right were they wanted them last season: on ABC in Primetime and in Champaign. It didn't work out so well for the Illini however, despite all the hype of Juice Williams and the resurgent Illini, the Wolverines beat them much like they usually do, 27-17. Illinois may have more famous rivals like Northwestern or Missouri, but their hatred for the Maize and Blue is powerful and why not? Chicago has a large Michigan alumni base which roots for Michigan and not the school at the other end of the state and the Illini is 21-66-2 since the series began way back in 1898. Their last win came in 1999. Last week, despite trying to fight back numerous times, the Nittany Lions had the right answers. Illinois has got to get back on track and no better than in this game in Ann Arbor. They must take advantage of their bitter rival in a perceived down year for them. If they can steal a victory out of Ann Arbor, look for the team to really take flight with games against Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Western Michigan in a stretch of five games that includes Wisconsin.
For Michigan, a win against another quality Big Ten opponent will go a long way to giving the young team some confidence in a wide-open conference.