One year ago, Michigan and Illinois played one of the most ridiculous games in college football. The three-overtime affair produced a 67-65 win for Michigan and gave the Wolverines bowl eligibility for the first and only time in the Rich Rodriguez era.
This year, under Brady Hoke, Michigan is already bowl eligible. The Wolverines currently are 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. While their chances of a Big Ten title shrunk dramatically after a crushing loss to Iowa last week, Michigan still has a lot to play for. A win over Illinois would give Michigan its highest win total in one season since 2007, and it would also put Michigan in position for a good bowl game with games at home against Nebraska and Ohio State still to come.
Illinois is currently 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference. During the first six weeks of the season, the Fighting Illini were one of the biggest surprises in college football. They got off to a 6-0 start (which included a win over Arizona State) and looked like they could make some noise in the Leaders Division. That was then, though. The Illini have since lost three straight games: a 10-point defeat to Ohio State at home, a touchdown loss to Purdue on the road and a heartbreaking 10-7 loss in the snow at Penn State two weeks ago.
While Illinois is looking to salvage its season after a disappointing stretch of games, Michigan is hoping to split its back-to-back road games. The game at Illinois is actually Michigan's last road game this season, and returning home for the final two weeks with an 8-2 record would be pretty nice, especially considering the Wolverines' final two opponents are Nebraska and Ohio State. Simply splitting those two games may be tough, so Michigan really can't afford to not beat a team like Illinois, which is on the verge of completely collapsing.
Saturday's game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern) on ABC or ESPN (depending on where you live).