ANN ARBOR, Mi. (WCIA) –Illinois has a tough game on the road against undefeated #3 Michigan. The importance of Saturday’s game took a big step up for the Illini after back to back losses to begin November. It will certainly be an emotional day, as Bret Bielema will be on the sideline just 48 hours after learning his mother passed away.
Besides having to work through those emotions, the Illini need an upset win to keep their chances of winning the Big Ten West from dropping further. It’s been since 2016 that Illini has been here to the Big House and they haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 2008, but as Bielema told us on Monday, he’s not backing down from the challenge.
“Jim is a very good football coach,” Bielema said. “This is kinda cool for me to compete against him because I haven’t had this opportunity. Just a really fun weekend to be involved with. I couldn’t ask for anything I’d rather be doing than going to Michigan 11 o’clock on Saturday. I don’t know a lot of people that would say that but I sure as **** believe it.”
In his time at Wisconsin, Bielema’s Badgers were 1-2 here at the Big House, but since the start of last season, Illinois has two upset wins against ranked teams with it’s head man on the sideline, those being Penn State and Minnesota last season.
Bret Bielema and the Illini have not faced a challenge quite like this as No. 3 Michigan is 10-0 with an average margin of victory over 30.
The weather is expected to play a factor with a forecasted high of 29 degrees and gusts of 34 miles per hour.
That shouldn’t bother either defense in this one though, the Wolverines and Illini come in as No. 1 and No. 2 in team defense in the country.
With Big Ten title game hopes on the line, this game becomes all the much more important for the Illini’s postseason chances.
“Definitely not a Michigan guy, I’m close to Michigan being Canadian, but as a kid it was something I always looked at,” Illini defensive back Sydney Brown said. “Again, it’s just another weekend. We’re playing a talented team.”
“I think it’s going to be a good matchup and we’re excited for it,” Illinois linebacker Isaac Darkangelo said. “Excited to put in the work and get after it.”
We’ll have all the coverage right here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Highlights and WCIA3’s Andy Olson’s story from the game, including coverage leading up to the game on our digital channels.