Well, it’s November and for the first time in a long time, Illinois has a meaningful football game on Saturday.
If the Illini can get a win against this week’s opponent next Saturday will be even more meaningful. Let’s look at what has to happen for the Illini to be successful against the Spartans.
- It would sure to be nice to have a sellout crowd cheering on these boys. I’m willing to bet that, of the sixteen teams that were revealed on Tuesday as part of the inaugural CFP rankings, Illinois is the only one without a sell out. I’m encouraging all Illini fans to come on Saturday and support the team. Bret Bielema and company has put a product on the field to be excited and proud about: let’s go support them.
- We all know Michigan State now has eight players suspended for the game. They’re all on the defensive side of the ball, and include arguably their best defensive player, linebacker Jacoby Windmon. Before losing these players you were talking about a team that ranked 11th in the conference in scoring defense at 27.4 points per game, 13th in total defense at 424.9 yards per game, 12th in rushing defense at 168.6 yards per game, 11th in pass defense at 256.3 yards per game, and 14th in defensive pass efficiency at 154.8 yards per game. With their top three defensive ends and top defensive backs out, the Illini should have no problems moving the ball up and down the field. So the bottom line: don’t make any silly turnovers, and have Tommy DeVito continue to make smart decisions with ball.
3. Michigan State on offense could cause some problems. Leading them are quarterback Payton Thorne and his two favorite targets, Keon Coleman and Jayden Reed. But as long as Devon Witherspoon and Quan Martin played like they did last week vs. Nebraska and shut down Trey Palmer, the Illini should be fine.
So the Illini just need to continue what they have been doing all season—play great aggressive defense, and feed Chase Brown the ball. But don’t overlook the Spartans. This is a classic trap game, and though this is a team on a down year with many players out, they’re still competent.
Hopefully the Illini get the win, avoid injuries, and next week, against Purdue, they should be playing for something more than cannon.