After two tough Big Ten games, the Illinois Fighting Illini will likely get one of their biggest tests this season as the Michigan State Spartans come to Champaign looking to spoil the Homecoming of the Illini. Michigan State has, statistically speaking, the best defense in all of college football, so you could say that they are pretty decent.
Looking at the stat rankings this season simply leaves you in awe of their accomplishments. The Spartans are the number one defense nationally in total yards per game (228), rushing yards per game (59.1), and first downs allowed per game (13.4).
As if that wasn’t enough, they are also third nationally on third down conversion rate (30-110, or 27%), and fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.6 points per game) and passing defense (168.9 yards per game).
They are the only school nationally to rank in the top five in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. Michigan State currently leads the nation in defensive touchdowns with five, and they are the only school this year to not allow a team to rush for over 100 yards against them.
The key against Michigan State seems to be avoiding three and outs, which has been a challenge for most teams they have faced this season.
On their opponent’s possessions, the Spartans have forced the offense to go three and out just under 50% of the time, an amazing 43 out of 92.
I cannot recall a defense this good in a long time in the Big Ten. Michigan State has played so much better than everyone else nationally, but there’s not really a stand out guy on this squad. It is simply a group effort all around, with everyone working together to achieve a common goal.
Now that doesn’t mean there are not some guys who seem to make big plays. Take for example Max Bullough, this week’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Last week, he racked up ten tackles and a forced fumble that was scooped up and ran in for a touchdown.
Nathan Scheelhaase, the running game, and the receiving corps will have their work cut out for them this week. Michigan State is the type of them that can shut you down all day long.
Look for the Illini to try and force the run game, hoping to wear out the front defensive line of Michigan State. They will want to open up the running game in order to open up the passing game.
Prediction: Homecoming stays exciting for the first half, but the Spartans defense keeps the Illini in check – Michigan State 33, Illinois 18
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