As week seven of the college football season dawns in the Mitten State, there are two match-ups that Michiganders are paying particularly close attention to:
Michigan vs. Illinois
The Wolverines head into week seven having clawed their way back into the Top 25 and nursing a 3-2 record. Coming off an impressive win over Purdue, U of M is looking to improve to 2-0 in the Big Ten for the second straight year. Meanwhile, the 2-4 Illini of Illinois will be looking to recapture some of the fight that has been absent in their past three straight losing efforts.
It is safe to say that the most difficult thing Michigan will have to do this week is not overlook Illinois. With the Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy looming on the horizon in Week 8, the Wolverines have to obey Coach Brady Hoke’s mantra and take it one game at a time. If Michigan can do that, then a victory, at home, against a team that has no divisional wins and ranks outside the top 80 in all major offensive statistics, is all but a done deal. Also, it doesn’t hurt that in the past ten seasons, the Wolverines are an impressive 7-3 in their week prior to playing Michigan State and are undefeated in that category under Coach Hoke. It does not appear that the limping Illini will be putting a dent in that record.
Michigan State vs. Iowa
Another Big 10 clash as Iowa travels to lovely East Lansing for State’s Homecoming Game. Both teams are unranked, yet, as both teams are in the Legends division of the Big 10, this game has substantial playoff implications. Iowa is looking to stay undefeated in conference play and MSU will be fighting to stay above .500.
This game has all the makings of a defensive (and, let’s be real, boring) battle. Each team ranks in the Top 25 for points allowed per game (MSU- 15, Iowa- 25) and just barely scratch the Top 100 for points scored per game (MSU- 100, Iowa- 98).
After surviving a scare last week against Indiana, look for the Spartans to come out refocused this week. In a low-scoring, smash mouth game, it is the better ground and defensive performances that usually dictate who wins. Michigan State’s defense is undoubtably better and with former Heisman-hopeful Le’Veon Bell in their backfield, all signs point to a happy homecoming in East Lansing