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'On Any Given Saturday...'

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By Wayne DeNeff

Michigan (5-2) is heavily favored to defeat Illinois (0-7) at Champaign on Saturday but this traditional Big Ten battle has refused to follow form often enough to make Wolverine fans edgy.

As recently as 1966, Illinois came into the Michigan contest a five-game loser but went home a winner when “Silky” Sullivan turned the momentum to the Illini with a pass interception which he ran back for a touchdown.

Michigan appeared to be moving for a victory-clinching TD when Sullivan stepped in and Illinois went on to a 28-21 triumph.

The Wolverines, struggling along with a 2-3-1 record in 1963, had a big surprise for Coach Pete Elliot’s Rose Bowl-bound crew.

Michigan handed Illinois its only loss of the season, 14-8, and for the first time displayed the characteristics which were to make the Wolverines the Rose Bowl representative in 1964.

How about 1957?

It was Ron Kramer’s senior year and Michigan still entertained hopes of a Pasadena trip. But all hopes vanished in a 20-19 loss to an Illini squad which finished 4-5.

Michigan won its first six games in 1955 and Illinois was 3-3. The Wolverines were supposed to win with little difficulty.

Final score: Illinois 25, Michigan 6.

Michigan athletic historians don’t have to jog their memories too hard to recall the 1939 embarrassment.

Tom Harmon was running wild and the Wolverines had buried four straight opponents by a combined score of 165-27.

Poor Illinois hadn’t won a game and had scored only one touchdown.

Illinois Coach Bob Zuppke produced some startling upsets in his long tenure at Champaign but it’s likely none ever topped that 1939 “mis-match” when his aroused forces turned back Michigan, 16-7.

Not too many years after that, 1946, Michigan again was defeated by the Illini, 13-9, in a game the Wolverines figured to win.

So it’s little wonder Michigan fans are uneasy with the odds so heavily in Michigan’s favor for this traditional game. The series has been the breeding ground for some of the great upsets of college football.

PHOTO CAPTION: Applying The Brakes: Michigan’s defense has been particularly strong in its last two games and credit is due ends Mike Keller and Cecil Pryor, tackles Fred Grambau and Pete Newell, linebacker Mike Taylor and defensive back Bruce Elliot, among others. Pryor is a three-year veteran but Keller, Grambau, Taylor and Elliott are sophomores with much football still ahead of them. Newell is a junior. Taylor, who already has seen a lot of action, will be starting Saturday in place of the injured Marty Huff. The game against Illinois will mark a return to the old home town for Elliott who played his prep ball as a quarterback for Champaign Central.