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October 12, 2012

Staff Predictions: Michigan vs. Illinois

Tim Beckman is the new ringmaster … er, head coach at Illinois, and he's off to a great start in Loompaland.

First, he alienated himself from just about everyone else in the Big Ten when he sent a VW of clowns … er, busload of assistants to Happy Valley to try to poach Penn State players granted the right tor transfer - without penalty - following sanctions levied upon the program. That went over especially well with new PSU head coach Bill O'Brien, who ran into the Illini coaches at the airport on his way to an ESPN interview.

Then they set up their circus tent ... er, camp just off campus and reached out to a number of PSU players, convincing one - offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, now an Illinois back-up - that Champaign really wasn't the worst college town in the continental United States.

Beckman remained unapologetic when asked about the shameless poaching prior to his team's 35-7 home loss to Penn State earlier this year.

"Again, I stated what we believed in, what the NCAA allowed us to do. We 
were contacted previously, prior to any of this stuff happening, by a 
young man," Beckman said. "We pursued it; we did not go and chase him."

Miraculously, he refrained from any tasteless jokes that would have further endeared him to the PSU faithful. He did, however, get busted for chewing tobacco on the sidelines at Wisconsin last week. For that, he was extremely remorseful.

"That's a bad habit of mine. I apologize for that," Beckman said. "I guess it's the stress. But there is no excuse for that. It will be stopped."

It's all about priorities, after all.

The Illini limp into Ann Arbor having been outscored 66-21 in their first two Big Ten games, mildly more successful than TheWolverine.com intern Kevin Minor in staff picks. They'll have their hands full Saturday to turn it around.

Congratulations to last week's winner. This week's receives former Illinois coach Ron Zook's book "The Secret of my [Lack of] Success" and the right to beat Minor again next week.

The picks:

Chris Balas: is too busy scrolling down for the laugh of the week (also known as Kevin Minor's staff pick) to think up anything remotely clever.

Michigan 31, Illinois 10

John Borton: In 1924, Illinois' redoubtable Red Grange ran wild on the Wolverines, triggering a 39-14 Illini win. The game so infuriated Fielding H. Yost, he came out of retirement to oversee a 3-0 Michigan victory against the Illini the following season. That marked the biggest year-to-year scoring drop in the history of the series … until the Illini dropped from 65 points in 2010 to 14 last year.

Defense is no longer optional in Ann Arbor. Neither is losing to Illinois. Oh, and Kevin Minor picked Purdue (SMH).

Michigan 38, Illinois 13

Mike Spath: Ron Simpkins said it best earlier this week when he remarked that for Michigan to get to the Michigan State game next Saturday, it has to take care of business in dominant fashion this weekend against an opponent bordering on collapse. He expected a singular focus from the Wolverines, and that locked-on mentality will lead to a big win that not even intern Kevin Minor can so horribly get wrong.

Michigan 41, Illinois 14

Andy Reid: When I learned that I had picked the same exact score as our intern, Kevin Minor, for this game, I panicked - I'll be honest with you. This is the same guy who picked Purdue to score 38 points and upset Michigan. And now we're picking the same score. Well, I would have changed it, but I feel so good about this game - and the score I picked - that those good vibes will overpower any bad mojo coming from the Minor camp.

Michigan 45, Illinois 10

Tim Sullivan: Michigan beat up on a pretty good Purdue team last time out, and this week the Wolverines welcome in an Illinois team that's as bad - if not worse - than Kevin Minor's prediction of a Purdue upset last weekend in Ross-Ade. The Illini aren't good at, well, anything, even though it seemed unlikely they'd fire Ron Zook and get worse. They did just that, and Michigan should continue escorting them to the cellar of the league on Saturday.

Michigan 41, Illinois 13

Kevin Minor: Michigan's offense - well, at least senior quarterback Denard Robinson (340 total yards) - was effective in a comfortable 44-13 victory over Purdue a week ago. More importantly, however, the defense displayed the ability to stifle a Boilermaker offense that was averaging over 50 points a game at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Illinois, on the other hand, ranks last in the conference in scoring offense (21.2 points per game), last in scoring defense (28.3 points per game), 11th in total offense (338.8 yards per game) and 7th in total defense (351.3 yards per game).

The Wolverines are clearly the better squad on both sides of the ball,and should win this game by four or five scores.

Michigan 45, Illinois 10

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