Welcome to the TCR GameThread! The Fighting Illini will return home to Champaign on Saturday to face the Michigan State Spartans, and Steve Bourbon (@steve_bourbon) will be covering the action for us. Make sure to refresh this page throughout the game for updates and analysis on the Orange and Blue.
To participate in the discussion, you'll need to create a free account with SB Nation. From our homepage, just click 'Sign Up' in the upper right-hand corner and pick a username, password, and enter an email address. Then you'll be free to join the comments section at the bottom!
We'll have a recap up shortly after the game concludes; all post-game discussion should take place there. Go Illini!
I still can't really wrap my head around this season from Michigan State. Entering Saturday's contest with the Illini, the Spartans have the same 2-6 record on year, and are 0-5 in Big Ten play. Their offense has scored more than 23 points just once during this six-game losing skid, and its defense has been decidedly average, giving up 394 yards per game -- just slightly less than the 396.9 yards per game that Illinois surrenders. For Illinois, expect the youth movement to continue. With injuries to Dom Thieman and Malik Turner, I would expect freshman Zarrian Holcombe to get extended snaps at wide receiver this week. Wes Lunt was able to practice this week, but there's no reason to rush him back from injury, so it's a toss-up between Lunt and Jeff Geroge Jr. earning his third consecutive start. A win this week for Illinois might quiet all those rumors of how 'miserable' Lovie Smith is in Champaign. We'll see.
14:07 1st Quarter: Jeff George Jr. is making his third straight start under center, and this one isn't off to a better start for him and the Illinois offense. One completion for negative-one yards and a three and out for Illinois. Michigan State takes over at its own 41-yard line after a short Ryan Frain punt.
10:57 1st Quarter: Michigan State moves the ball into Illinois territory, but the drive grinds to a halt. Tre Watson got two hands on a pass on second down with the Spartans threatening, but drops the ball and couldn't come down with the interception. Spartans settle for a 45-yard field goal.
Michigan State 3, Illinois 0
9:26 1st Quarter: Another three-and-out for Illinois. George Jr. completes a short pass and a pair of Reggie Corbin runs can't move the sticks. Spartans defense looks stingy here early on.
2:07 1st Quarter: A pair of holding penalties and a Duwuane Smoot sack pushes Michigan State out of field goal range, as the Spartans punt on 4th and 31. Total yards are 88-8 in Michigan State's favor but the Illini trail by just three.
1:22 1st Quarter: Another Illinois drive -- another three and out. Illinois has just 17 yards on three drives, spanning just 3:16 of possession. That's a recipe for a tired defense as this game moves on.
End of 1st Quarter: Michigan State 3, Illinois 0
End of the 1st: Michigan State 3, Illinois 0 pic.twitter.com/NBuCLCirm3— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 5, 2016
11:04 2nd Quarter: Illinois has be the eptiome of a bend but don't break defense. All of Michigan State's drives have gone into Illinois territory, but the Spartans have been held to just three points. All will be for naught if Illinois can't move the ball though, as the Illini have yet to record a first down.
9:53 2nd Quarter: If you've been following along, you know the drill. Illinois three and out. This time, however, Michigan State returns a short punt inside the Illinois 20-yard line, but a block in the back will push the Spartans back to the Illini 36-yard line. Gotta feel bad for the Illinois defense, which has been extremely stout today in keeping MSU off the scoreboard.
7:52 2nd Quarter: Props to this Illinois defense for standing strong again and forcing a punt. Illinois backed up inside its own 10-yard line and this offense has yet to record a first down. We're reaching dangerous levels of incompetence from the Illini offense.
6:32 2nd Quarter: Another three and out. Not much else to say at this point. This offense is really bad with its third string quarterback and missing all of its top wide receivers.
— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) November 5, 2016
"Maybe the defense can get a score or two today"
"The best part of this game is easily the infomercial"
2:35 2nd Quarter: Sort of incredible that Michigan State leads by just six after another Spartan field goal. If somehow, someway Illinois can just score a touchdown.....
Michigan State 6, Illinois 0
2:24 2nd Quarter: HUGE cheer for the Illini's first first down of the day -- a Kendrick Foster scamper up the middle.
0:36 2nd Quarter: Illinois converts a fourth and 1 in Michigan State territory and is pushing the boundaries of field goal range at the MSU 34-yard line. Still have two timeouts to work with.
0:14 2nd Quarter: TOUCHDOWN! On third and 10, the Illini hand to Foster who runs through a pair of would-be tacklers and finds the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown run. After 28 minutes of offensive incompetence, the Illini are leading in this one!
Illinois 7, Michigan State 6
Kendrick Foster Touchdown pic.twitter.com/O6VU0OVoJX— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) November 5, 2016
HALFTIME: Illinois 7, Michigan State 6
This is a weird game. Illinois set offense back 60 years with five consecutive three and outs on offense before coming to life with a touchdown drive right before the halftime horn. The Illinois defense has been spectacular. They've given up a fair amount of yards, but the offense has done them no favors by giving MSU short fields for the entire first half. One thing to watch going forward is how the Illini defense holds up as the half progresses. The Spartans controlled the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the first half, so this defense needs to get them off the field quickly to stay fresh throughout the game. This is Illinois' best chance of beating Michigan State for the foreseeable future. Let's get this W!
11:25 3rd Quarter: A 45-yard catch and run on third down puts Michigan State deep in Illinois territory, but the Illini hold the Spartans to a field goal. Lots of substitutions on the Illinois defense right out of halftime -- Jeff George Jr. and Co. need a long drive here to give the defense some sustained rest.
Michigan State 9, Illinois 7
9:59 3rd Quarter: Kendrick Foster strikes again! He bursts through the middle for a 64-yard rushing touchdown and the Illini retake the lead right away! He's got 110 yards on just eight carries and a pair of touchdowns for Illinois.
Illinois 14, Michigan State 9
9:49 3rd Quarter: Michigan State hands off on the first play and the Illini force a fumble that falls right into Jaylen Dunlap's lap! The corner returns the ball to the 26-yard line of Michigan State and Illinois has all of the momentum.
Second forced fumble of the game for Stanley Green.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 5, 2016
First career fumble recovery for Jaylen Dunlap.
8:56 3rd Quarter: Illinois isn't able to put the ball in the end zone -- George Jr. missed a wide-open Zach Grant over the middle on third down -- but Chase McLaughlin knocks in a field goal to extend the Illinois lead to eight.
Illinois 17, Michigan State 9
6:20 3rd Quarter: Another big stop for the Illinois defense, punctuated by a sack from Chunky Clements. Illinois can seize control of this game with a score here.
5:06 3rd Quarter: Another would-be big play is for naught as DJ Taylor lets a deep ball go through his hands. George Jr. has missed his fair share of throws today, but his wideouts have done him no favors today by missing catchable passes. Michigan State takes over at its 16-yard line.
3:37 3rd Quarter: Spartans convert a 3rd and 12 with a long pass to the tight end, followed by a 15-yard run on a double reverse. Michigan State on the move to the Illinois 33-yard line.
0:58 3rd Quarter: Touchdown Michigan State, and the Spartans will go for two after marching down the field. Illinois pass rush has been close but can't bring down O'Connor multiple times this drive.
0:58 3rd Quarter: Spartans convert the two-point conversion and this game is tied. It's now up to the Illinois offense to answer the bell once more.
Illinois 17, Michigan State 17
0:29 3rd Quarter: George Jr. uncorks a deep ball on a flea flicker to no one in particular, but Foster rips off a 12-yard run for a first down. Boy, he's been great today.
END OF THIRD QUARTER: Illinois 17, Michigan State 17
Kendrick Foster pic.twitter.com/4MCnZ42jUT— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) November 5, 2016
End of the 3rd: Illinois 17, Michigan 17 pic.twitter.com/azTvjayHZV— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 5, 2016
12:54 4th Quarter: A completion to Corbin on third down moves the Illini inside the 10-yard line and now Illinois is knocking on the door at the 1-yard line.
12:37 4th Quarter: TOUCHDOWN! On third and goal from the 1, Illinois faked up the middle and George found a wide open tight end in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Great call, great execution from this offense, which has come alive in recent trips.
Illinois 24, Michigan State 17
11:18 4th Quarter: Spartans complete a pass on third and long which was fumbled out of bounds. The receiver was tackled short of the first down, so it's fourth down as it stands, although the play is under further review.
8:10 4th Quarter: Michigan State converted a fourth down and has been on the move ever since. The Spartans are in the red zone with first and 10 at the 14-yard line with a steady diet of runs up the middle.
6:45 4th Quarter: Another stand from the Illinois defense to keep Michigan State out of the end zone. On 3rd and 15, O'Connor is forced to scramble and falls well short of the first down. Spartans within four after their fourth field goal of the day.
Illinois 24, Michigan State 20
5:07 4th Quarter: Three and out for the Illini. George Jr. got hit hard as he released the ball and the ball falls incomplete. Michigan State is near midfield already and this beleaguered defense will be called upon to make a stop once again.
3:56 4th Quarter: Illinois missed a few tackles and Michigan State is already at the Illini 21-yard line. If Illinois can keep Michigan State out of the end zone, like they have all game, the Illini will be in good shape. Easier said than done.
2:52 4th Quarter: The Illini got lucky when a Spartan receiver dropped a wide open touchdown on third down, but Michigan State converted a fourth down with an acrobatic catch in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Michigan State 27, Illinois 24
2:11 4th Quarter: Signs of life from the Illinois offense. A nice sideline catch from Grant and a pass interference penalty put the Illini at the 35-yard line.
1:35 4th Quarter: TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!! George Jr. drops a dime to Sam Mays on a corner route and the Illini retake the lead! What a response -- aided by a pair of pass interference penalties -- from this Illinois offense.
Illinois 31, Michigan State 27
0:27 4th Quarter: Coming down to the wire here at Memorial Stadium. Spartans have first and 10 at the Illinois 13-yard line, although their last completion looks like it will be overturned with video review. If incomplete, Michigan State will be backed up back outside of the red zone.
0:19 4th Quarter: Timeout Michigan State. Spartans face a fourth and three from the Illinois 16-yard line.
FINAL: ILLINOIS 31, MICHIGAN STATE 27