Everything Bret Bielema said about Michigan football

With just two games left in the season, Michigan football will host its last game of the year in the Big House on Saturday.

The Wolverines will take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (7-3). Michigan has dominated the series’ history. The maize and blue hold a 71-23-2 all-time record against the Illini, and Michigan has won five-straight games against the West division foe.

The last meeting between the two schools came in 2019 when Michigan defeated the Illini, 42-25.

This is almost a must-win situation for Illinois if it wants to win the West. The Fighting Illini are in a four-team tie for the lead in the West.  With Illinois losing to Purdue last weekend, the Boilermakers hold a tiebreaker over the Illini.

Bret Bielema had his weekly press conference on Monday and talked about the status of his star running back, Chase Brown, and what he thinks of Michigan.

Here is everything the Illinois coach had to say about Michigan football.

Opening statement -- update on running backs

Josh McCray, Chase Brown, both of those guys are trending in the right direction. Very positive and excited but don’t know where we’ll be by Friday for the trip and Saturday for the game. It will allow us to continue to rep some of the guys.

On playing with adversity against Michigan with a lot of guys hurt.

From the outside world, yes. From inside our building, it’s the next opportunity. I can’t stress enough that’s how we look at things, that’s how we talk about it. To get a chance to go play Michigan at Michigan, there’s literally nobody on our roster who have played there through normal means. The only two guys who have played so far at Michigan on our roster so far are Art Sitkowski, who played when he was at Rutgers and obviously Chase who played while he was at Western Michigan. Nobody on our current roster. I thought (Alex Palczewski) and (Michael) Marchese would father of time into that slot. I told them (Sunday) I’ve been able to experience a win as a player and a coach at Michigan Stadium and what that meant and how it felt. That’s something our guys are excited about the opportunity ahead of us.

On playing well on the road this season

I did bring them back to a year ago. There are a lot of guys on our team who have played at Penn State. It’s similar in nature, 110,000 or whatever the number ends up being on Saturday. It will be a cooler environment, so the fact that we played in that last week is a positive thing. We’ll play in it and practice in it this week. Our guys kind of embrace the moment to go into somebody else’s place and live in that moment. I pointed out to them we have a 74-man travel roster that will match their 74-man hotel roster. We play on the same field. We share the same tunnel, as I’m sure everybody has heard. We have a lot of the same things. It’s just about who lines up and plays well on Saturday.

On sharing the same tunnel with Michigan after having an incident with Purdue last week.

We were just warming up in our end zone. I’ve been here for two years. You guys have been here longer than I have. I’ve never seen that happen. It was just two teams warming up in the same area. It’s a great point and a great segue. I do know that today, Mark Taurisani. So, my chief of staff Mark Taurisani, came from Michigan. He had been with (Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh) three years prior to coming here. Mark is very well versed in the operations there at Michigan. I really don’t foresee any problems. I know they have put some things in play. I know (athletic director Josh Whitman) has had conversations. I just really haven’t concerned myself with those because I don’t think anybody wants a head coach worried about tunnel management. I think our guys will know the protocol. It sounds like Big Ten has put in place some really good things to try to ensure those things don’t happen. We’ll live in the moment and handle that day as it happens. I really don’t foresee it being a problem.

What it would mean to upset Michigan

I think a win would be critical just because of where we are in our division, where we are in jockeying and putting ourselves in postseason play. To play Michigan and beat them at Michigan, I think a lot of people will talk about it, but for me, I don’t see it as any different. Nothing disrespectful, but it’s a great atmosphere. I told them, literally, ‘If you love college football, which is why you’re in this room, you’re going to love Saturday.’ Getting ready to be in one of the greatest home game environments. They’re going to be all excited. One of the greatest things you can do is have the power to control your own destiny and play the way you need to play. There are a lot of great venues in this conference. In my office, one wall is Indy in the middle surrounded by every stadium we play in. In recruiting I talk about that. If we’re recruiting a kid (against Michigan) I say, ‘Come here and play for me and I’ll take you there two or three times. I’ll pay for the plane ticket, I’ll get you dinner and I’ll let you play football with my uniform.’ I use the other teams’ stadiums as a selling point. I know Iowa as good as anybody. I know Wisconsin as good as anybody. I’ve been able to have success, I think, in everybody’s stadium. We actually won when I was a coordinator against Ohio State. There’s a lot of great venues that if you play in this conference, that’s a byproduct of those results.

On Michigan

Offensively, I always think when you have three areas you have to defend, it’s a hard deal. They have an offensive line that is very talented, big, long, athletic, and moves extremely well. Behind them is a running back that I think can be as good as anybody in the country, strong, powerful, has the ability to run through you, has the ability to run around you, has some shiftiness to him. On top of that, you have a quarterback who is being coached by a great player in his own right. I know Jim obviously touches the program in many ways, but he’s a quarterback guy and that quarterback plays at a high level. He’s got an extreme live arm. They have two or three answers on the perimeter and a good tight end. That’s a very tall task to defend, but I think our guys are aware of it. They’ll have to win their moments. I told our guys early on, ‘I don’t need any NFL All-Pro players showing up for me on Saturday. I just need the best version of you.’ That’s the challenge this week for me as a head coach, Ryan as a d-coordinator, (Barry Lunney Jr.) as an o-coordinator, Sean (Snyder) as our special teams coordinator: just be the best you on Saturday and we’ve got a chance.

Defensively they’ve got some edge players who are very, very unique. They have great versatility. I think their coaches use them very, very well. They have some good back-end players. They have a couple dominant inside players. Their special teams are very accurate in what they do. Jim is a very good football coach. This is kind of cool for me to compete against him because I haven’t had this opportunity. I have the ultimate respect for him and Michigan and what they do. He’s got a lot of good, young coaches around him as well. That’s fun to watch them have the interactions they are. Just a really fun weekend to be involved with. I couldn’t ask for anything I’d rather be doing than going to Michigan at 11 o’clock on Saturday. I don’t know a lot of people who would say that, but I sure as (expletive) believe it.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire