ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Following another blowout victory, Michigan's football team could finally start thinking about exacting revenge against its in-state rival.
The No. 3 Wolverines dismissed depleted Illinois with ease, 41-8, on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Their thoughts quickly drifted to their annual showdown next weekend with Michigan State, which has owned the series over the past decade.
"This isn't a game you have to motivate yourself for or get up for," Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight said. "This is Michigan-Michigan State. I personally haven't experienced a win against those guys. We're hungry for that. This is a big game."
The Spartans have won the last three meetings and seven of the last eight, including last year's improbable 27-23 triumph at Ann Arbor when they returned a fumble on an aborted punt attempt for a touchdown on the game's last play.
"Big game, championship game for our team," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're going to celebrate all wins but we'll very quickly be focusing on our next opponent."
Harbaugh's club came out focused against the Fighting Illini and quickly put the game away, collecting its fifth victory by at least 30 points.
Speight threw two touchdown passes and the Michigan defense held depleted Illinois scoreless until the final quarter. Speight completed 16 of 23 passes for 253 yards.
"It was pretty windy out there, tough to throw the ball, and he was throwing the intermediate deep stuff just on the money," Harbaugh said. "It was impressive. I have the feeling that was the best he's played (in his career)."
Karan Higdon gained 106 yards on eight carries - including a 45-yard touchdown - while De'Veon Smith rushed for 76 yards and a score for Michigan (7-0 overall, 4-0 Big Ten).
Amara Darboh caught five passes for 99 yards and redshirt freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr., son of the former Wolverines running back, scored a touchdown on his first career reception.
The Wolverines were unscored upon for eight consecutive quarters before Jeff George Jr.'s 43-yard touchdown pass to Malik Turner with 10:22 remaining. Michigan, which scored 119 unanswered points during that stretch, blanked Rutgers 78-0 in its last game two weeks earlier prior to a bye.
The Fighting Illini (2-5, 1-3) were forced to use their third-string quarterback as Wes Lunt (back) and Chayce Crouch (undisclosed) did not dress. George Jr., son of the former NFL quarterback, completed four of 15 passes for 95 yards with a touchdown and interception in his first start.
"It is tough. Simple as that," Smith said of thrusting George into a starting role. "Everybody has to have a start and when you have a player that's new, things have to work around him. The running game could have helped him a lot today and just other people around him playing better. We weren't able to do that."
The Wolverines outgained Smith's team 561-172.
"We couldn't stop them early on. Their running game really hurt us," Smith said. "They dominated us most of the day. The positive part is we played better in the second half."
Illinois linebacker Tre Watson was ejected with 8:59 remaining on a targeting penalty.
Michigan led 31-0 at halftime.
The Wolverines scored three first-quarter touchdowns, including two Speight TD passes. Michigan finished off its opening drive with a 3-yard pass from Speight to tight end Jake Butt.
Wheatley scored the second touchdown with his 21-yard reception. Fullback Khalid Hill upped the lead to 21-0 with a 1-yard scoring plunge, capping off an 81-yard drive.
Smith's 4-yard scoring run with 11 minutes left in the half pushed the Wolverines' lead to 28.
Dymonte Thomas' interception set up Kenny Allen's 23-yard field goal on the last play of the half.
Allen's 27-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter made it 34-0.
George's touchdown pass, which immediately followed a failed fake punt attempt by Michigan, ended the Wolverines' shutout bid.
Higdon answered with his 45-yard score.
NOTES: Michigan's Jim Harbaugh and Illinois' Lovie Smith became the first college coaches to face each other after previously coaching NFL Super Bowl teams. They coached against each other once in the NFL, when Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers downed Smith's Chicago Bears, 32-7, on Nov. 19, 2012. ... The conference teams' last meeting was Oct. 13, 2012, when Michigan won 45-0 in Ann Arbor. The Illini's last win here was 2008, a 45-20 victory. ... Illinois has now lost 15 straight games and 24 of its last 25 against ranked opponents. ... The last time the Wolverines started 4-0 in the Big Ten was 2007.