With a month’s worth of Big Ten games in the books, Michigan and Indiana are the only remaining unbeaten teams. Saturday, the Wolverines improved to 3-0 with a 41-20 defeat of Illinois and the Hoosiers moved to 3-0 with a 24-6 defeat of Wisconsin.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Ohio State beat Minnesota 35-19 and Michigan State beat Iowa 36-30. The Buckeyes trailed 19-17 with about 25 minutes to play and reeled off 18-straight points to put the game away. The Spartans and Hawkeyes were in lockstep throughout their seesaw affair, with the Vanderlaan brothers, Ben and Mike, accounting for three tries.
In Ann Arbor, the Wolverines did well to starve Illinois' dangerous backs of possession. Michigan played 10-man rugby, for the most part, and it worked. The Wolverines built their lead to 31-3 before conceding a try.
“The guys kind of played good, conservative rugby. Hung onto n the ball, made our tackles. I think our biggest problem was just too many penalties, but we cleaned that up,” said Michigan coach Matt Trenary.
“We were worried about their kicking game, and so we kind of wanted to just keep the ball out of their hands, so we pressured them at the scrum and tried to maintain possession. I assume it was frustrating for some of their better players.
“They like to get the ball to those guys, and they’re very good at kicking, and we didn’t want to give them that and I think we did a good job avoiding it.”
Michigan and Indiana, should they remain unbeaten, wouldn’t meet until the Big Ten championship game, a prospect that has the Wolverines happy about life right now.
“I think we’re feeling pretty good. We were generally happy with the performance today outside of the last 10 minutes,” said Trenary. “Any team that’s undefeated should feel pretty good about themselves, and if you have the opportunity halfway through your season to get into the championship game, you should be happy.”