No. 3 Michigan survives against unranked Illinois, keeps College Football Playoff hopes alive

 

The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines avoided a major upset against unranked Illinois at The Big House Saturday. Kicker Jake Moody made a go-ahead, 35-yard field goal to propel Michigan to a 19-17 win.

The three-loss Fighting Illini were attempting to take a major step forward in their push for the West Division title and an appearance in the Big Ten championship game.

Michigan played most of the second half without top running back Blake Corum after he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter.

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Jake Moody (13) of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates his game-winning field goal with J.J. McCarthy (9) to beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 19-17 at Michigan Stadium Nov. 19, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Michigan can now focus on its upcoming pivotal matchup against No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus. The Buckeyes have dominated the Wolverines at the horseshoe over the past two decades.

The winner of that game will likely have a shot at the College Football Playoff.

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Illinois led 17-10 late in the third quarter after Chase Brown ran for a 37-yard touchdown. Brown finished the day with 140 yards rushing and two scores on 29 carries.

The Fighting Illini got the ball back after Michigan cut the lead to 17-16 but could not run out the clock. Illinois punted the ball back to Michigan with just over two minutes left in the contest. During Michigan’s final drive of the game, J.J. McCarthy completed an 8-yard pass to Isaiah Gash to convert on a crucial fourth down.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) runs the ball as Illinois defensive back Xavier Scott (14) defends in the first half of a game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

McCarthy completed 18 of his 34 passes for 208 yards.

Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito, a Syracuse transfer, was 21-for-30 for 178 yards.

If Illinois had held on it would have been the first time the program defeated a top-three team since knocking off top-ranked Ohio State in 2007.

Roman Wilson (14) of the Michigan Wolverines rushes against Matthew Bailey (2) of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the first half at Michigan Stadium Nov. 19, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
(Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

All eyes will be on Corum throughout the week. If the running back is not able to suit up for the Wolverines or is limited, it could be an uphill battle for Michigan against the Buckeyes next week.

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Illinois stays in state next week for a matchup against Northwestern in Evanston.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.