Michigan-Illinois grades: Wolverines roll over Fighting Illini

The highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Michigan's convincing win over Illinois.

| 8 months ago
(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Michigan-Illinois grades: Wolverines roll over Fighting Illini

Michigan Wolverines 41, Illinois Fighting Illini 8

Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from Michigan’s victory over Illinois.

Michigan Wolverines

Quarterback grade: Wilton Speight, 79.7

Speight not asked to do much, but he produces

With the run game clicking, Speight did not have to do much, but he was extremely efficient on Saturday. In the intermediate range (throws that traveled between 10 and 19 yards through the air) he was at his best, completing nine of 10 throws for 170 yards and a touchdown. While his 99.3 QB rating on eight dropbacks he faced pressure is impressive, his 148.2 rating on 18 non-pressured dropbacks is close to perfection.

Top offensive grades:

TE Jake Butt, 84.4
WR Amara Darboh, 84.3
TE Tyrone Wheatley, 80.4
QB Wilton Speight, 79.7
FB Khalid Hill, 79.5

Offenses imposes will in first half, puts game away early

TE Jake Butt and an excellent all-around game, as caught all three of his targets for 40 yards, and also posted a solid 78.5 run-blocking grade. RB Karan Higdon did not make the list largely due to a lack of volume, but he was the star of the Wolverine ground game. He racked up 105 yards on just eight carries, and forced three missed tackles. In terms of the offensive line, Harbaugh and Co. have to be pleased with the play of Ben Braden in his first start at LT. While he gave up a sack and a hurry, he was otherwise strong in pass pro and was the line’s highest-graded run blocker.

Top defensive grades:

CB Channing Stribling, 84.9
S Dymonte Thomas, 82.7
LB Mike McCray, 78.3
DI Maurice Hurst, 76.5
DI Ryan Glasgow, 76.2

Big day in coverage for Stribling won’t show up in the box score

CB Channing Stribling was on lockdown mode against Illinois, as he did not give up a reception on three targets. The first two were against the top-graded receiver in the Big Ten, Malik Turner, and on both he forced errant throws with his tight coverage. The third was a crossing pattern by Dominic Thieman, and he scored a pass break up. QBs now have a passer rating of 4.7 on the season when throwing in Stribling’s direction.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Quarterback grade: Jeff George, 41.3

George struggles in debut

This was clearly not an ideal situation for Jeff George’s college debut, and as expected he struggled mightily. He completed just four of 13 passes, and his touchdown probably should have been intercepted by Michigan S Delano Hill, but he miss-timed his jump and the ball floated over his hands and into the hands of Malik Turner. George faced pressure on 12 of 18 drop-backs, and completed just two of his 10 throws under duress.

Top offensive grades:

WR Malik Turner, 73.5
OG Nick Allegretti, 66.9
RB Kendrick Foster, 64.5
OT Connor Brennan, 58.6
WR Justin Hardee, 53.1

Defensive mishap prevents shutout

As expected, the Illini struggled in pass protection, in particular on the edge. Tackles Austin Schmidt and Christian DiLauro combined to give up three hits and four hurries on the day, and no starter on the offensive line had a positive grade on run or pass blocks. Turner had two 43-yard receptions, one being the aforementioned touchdown, the other a seam route where he took advantage of a man-to-man coverage mismatch against Michigan LB Ben Gedeon.

Top defensive grades:

CB Jaylen Dunlap, 81.7
LB James Crawford, 77.1
DI Kenyon Jackson, 74.6
DT Chunky Clements, 66.4
DE Dawuane Smoot, 49.7

Dawuane Smoot virtually disappears on run defense

Illinois’ best player, DE Dawuane Smoot, continues to frustrate with his uneven play. He notched three hurries, but all of them were as the Michigan QB was releasing the ball and had little ill-effect on the play. Against the run he had one cleanup tackle, but was otherwise a non-participant. For the season he’s tallied more than two stops just twice, and has just two sacks (both last week against Rutgers) and four hits. Elsewhere, while LB Hardy Nickerson posted eight defensive stops, his overall grade was just 41.9 due to a significant number of plays where he ran himself out of gap integrity and gave up big runs through his assignment.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Michigan CB Channing Stribling

| Analyst

Josh joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. During the season, his primary focus is college football (mainly the Big Ten). He is also heavily involved in PFF's NFL draft coverage. Prior to joining the team, he worked for six years with GM Jr. Scouting, an independent draft scouting service.

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