Grimm: Fighting Illini over Western Michigan by 10 -

Grimm: Fighting Illini over Western Michigan by 10

Last week the Illini proved they could overcome a tough running back. Now they're going to have to prove they can beat a proficient passer.

The Illini (5-4, 3-3) get a break from the Big Ten schedule when they travel north to face Western Michigan at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday.

While the game is promoted as a neutral site game, Detroit is only a two-hour bus ride from Kalamazoo where the Broncos (7-2, 5-1) play.

An out of conference game this late in the season has the potential to be overlooked, but a win this week would make the Illini bowl eligible -- something that they'd certainly like to get out of the way earlier rather than later.

Bowl eligibility isn't something the Illini want to still be trying to achieve when No. 12 Ohio State comes to Champaign next weekend.

But Western Michigan doesn't equate to an easy win. Already bowl eligible, the Broncos are in contention for a title in the competitive Mid-American Conference's West division.

The Broncos are led by junior quarterback Tim Hiller. Hiller is ninth nationally in total offense per game, averaging just eight yards fewer than his counterpart, Juice Williams.

The Broncos will throw early and often against the Illini, as Hiller is fourth in the nation in passing attempts. Even with so many attempts, Hiller has only been intercepted five times compared to 28 touchdowns.

On defense is where Western Michigan struggles, specifically against the pass. In the team's two losses to Nebraska and Central Michigan, both opposing quarterbacks have gone for 340+ through the air.

Williams has looked like a much improved passer at times this year, but at other times he seems to still struggle with accuracy and touch. If Juice is sharp on Saturday it could spell a big day for the Illini offense.

X-factor: Daniel Dufrene

Dufrene is back with the Illini after missing the Iowa game for personal reasons.

In his media luncheon, Coach Ron Zook said Dufrene has looked good in practice and is ready to go this week.

Illinois managed a win last week without Dufrene's services, but the running game was relatively ineffective.

Dufrene's big-play capability (see turning a swing pass into a 60-yard touchdown at Michigan) should be a welcome re-addition to the Illini.


The reason so many quarterbacks are drafted No. 1 overall by NFL teams? Their importance to an offense.

That is certainly the case in this matchup of two of the more explosive quarterbacks in college football. The difference? The rest of the guys around them.

Illinois has been the model of inconsistency lately, but Western Michigan doesn't have an impressive win yet this season.

In a game they certainly won't take lightly, the Illini win 34-24.

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