Before heading off to Midnight Madness, here’s the prediction for tomorrow’s Illinois-Michigan State game.
The Stars Will Shine in East Lansing
Several stars will take the field for Michigan State and Illinois this weekend.
Running backs Edwin Baker (MSU) and Mikel Leshoure (ILL) are 3rd and 4th in the conference, respectively, in rushing yards.
Baker has accumulated 683 yards on the ground and 6 touchdowns through his first 6 games.
Leshoure, who is only 86 yards behind Baker with 597 yards despite playing one less game, also has 3 touchdowns.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins (MSU) is 9th in the nation in passer rating and has thrown for almost 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Kicker Derek Dimke (ILL) still leads the nation in field goals from more than 50 yards, going 2-for-2 in 2010. Dimke is 10-for-11 overall this season and perfect on PATs.
The Illinois defense has improved from 96th in the nation in scoring defense last season to 20th this season.
Not bad for a team that has already faced the #1 and #19 teams in the nation.
Illinois is currently one of only three teams in the FBS that is still perfect in the red zone.
The other two perfect teams are East Carolina (18-for-18 in the red zone) and Memphis (8-for-8).
Illinois has driven inside the opponent’s 20 yard line 16 times this season, each time putting points on the board. Illinois has recorded 9 touchdowns and 7 field goals while inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
This red zone success speaks volumes about how much Illinois has improved from last year, when it often turned the ball over inside the 20-yard line.
Homecoming Déjà Vu
For the second time in as many weeks, Illinois will be the underdog as it faces a team on the road and on homecoming.
While Illinois did an amazing job of sucking the energy out of the crowd at Penn State from the start and keeping them silent for the majority of the game, it will not be as easy against Michigan State.
While Penn State had a young quarterback in Rob Bolden who struggled to make plays, Michigan State features an exhilarating quarterback who has led numerous comeback drives throughout his tenure.
Even if the Spartans are down, they should be able to get a drive going and the crowd back into the game.
Add the fact that Michigan State is off to its best start in more than 10 years, and you can bet that Spartan Stadium will be rocking when the ball is kicked off.
While Illinois has proved that it can overcome loud crowds before, it will have to do so again against Michigan State. The earlier the Illini can silence the MSU fans, the better.
Illinois’ homecoming stint continues next weekend when the Illini return home for their own homecoming against Indiana.
The Indiana game will mark Illinois’ 100th homecoming in school history.
Writing Illini Prediction
Despite all of the talk this week about how Michigan State needs to watch out for Illinois and avoid a surprising upset, the Spartans will get caught off guard early as the Illini throw the ball more than expected and use another one of offensive coordinator Paul Petrino’s “magic” trick plays to score early.
After a big stop that holds the Spartans to a field goal, Illinois will sustain another long drive that eats up more clock and finds the end zone.
Illini wide receivers AJ Jenkins and Jarred Fayson will both have big performances in the first half as Michigan State is caught defending the run, allowing redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to make some deep passes.
As the Michigan State defensive pressure dials up, the Illini will go back to running the ball, thus slowing down the tempo.
Illinois will be up a touchdown going into the half, with the looks of a big upset in the works.
Unfortunately, the Illini will not be able to hang on as Michigan State mounts its comeback.
Led by linebacker Greg Jones, the Spartans will focus on Leshoure and the run game, and force Scheelhaase to throw the ball more often than usual.
Michigan State’s strong running and passing games will eventually start to wear on the Illini, with Cousins connecting on several key throws to put the Spartans in front.
Illinois will take a four point lead late in the fourth quarter, but it will be unable to stop Michigan State as it drives down the field and scores the game winning touchdown to give the Spartans another nail-biting victory.
Michigan State 30, Illinois 27
Illini Game MVP Prediction
Junior wide receiver AJ Jenkins
Michigan State Game MVP Prediction
Junior quarterback Kirk Cousins
Some Predictions from the Credentialed
→ Bob Asmussen: (News Gazette): Michigan State 34, Illinois 24
→ Tom Young: (News Gazette): Michigan State 24, Illinois 21
→ Shannon Ryan (Chicago Tribune):
→ Scott Powers (ESPN-Chicago):
→ Adam Rittenberg (ESPN): Michigan State 26, Illinois 20
Tomorrow’s kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. central time.
The game is on Big Ten Network.
Writing Illini will have its live play-by-play blogging and drive updates on its Twitter page.
Topics: A.J. Jenkins, Adam Rittenberg, AJ Jenkins, Bob Asmussen, Derek Dimke, East Carolina, East Lansing, Edwin Baker, Football, Greg Jones, Homecoming, Illini, Illini Football, Illinois, Illinois Fighting Illini, Illinois Fighting Illini Football, Illinois Football, Indiana, Indiana Football, Indiana Hoosiers, Jarred Fayson, Kirk Cousins, Memphis, Michigan State, Michigan State Football, Michigan State Spartans, Mikel Leshoure, Nathan Scheelhaase, Penn State, Penn State Football, Penn State Nittany Lions, Penn State Nittany Lions Football, Ron Zook, Ron Zook Nathan Scheelhaase, Scott Powers, Shannon Ryan, Tom Young, University Of Illinois, Writing Illini, Zooker