Michigan State vs. Illinois prediction and game preview. A pair of 2-6 teams meet Saturday when the Spartans face the Fighting Illini in Champaign.
Michigan State vs. Illinois Game Preview
When: Saturday, Nov. 5 – Noon. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
TV Broadcast: ESPNEWS
Illinois is going through a rebuilding process under first-year coach Lovie Smith, and most everyone – including Smith himself – figured the Fighting Illini would be struggling. But no one expected Michigan State to be entering Saturday’s matchup with an identical 2-6 record.
The Spartans fell to 0-5 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1982 with last week’s 32-23 home loss to rival Michigan, adding more disappointment to an already trying season under coach Mark Dantonio after he took them to the College Football Playoff just months ago. Preparation for the future also took a hit, as redshirt freshman quarterback Brian Lewerke suffered a broken leg and is out for the year.
What To Know About Michigan State
With Lewerke out, the Spartans are down to Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry under center. There’s a strong possibility that both will get time since O’Connor is a fifth-year senior in a lost season and Terry will be back in 2017. Dantonio has been open about getting prepared for next year when possible.
Running back LJ Scott will be back next season as well, and he’s been one of the few bright spots over the last two weeks. Scott rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago against Maryland before finishing with 139 and a score against the Wolverines. With the quarterback situation a mess, Scott likely will get plenty of carries against an Illinois defense that has allowed 22 rushing touchdowns, tied for the most in the conference.
What To Know About Illinois
Illinois’ only win over an FBS team came against Rutgers on Oct. 15, but it has been outscored 81-25 in losses to Michigan and Minnesota the last two weeks. Its five turnovers in that those games match the amount from their first six contests, and it also was held to fewer than 300 total yards in each of those defeats.
Smith still doesn’t know who will be his quarterback against the Spartans. Jeff George Jr. has started the last two after Chayce Crouch was injured, and regular starter Wes Lunt has been out for the last three with an injury. Smith did say it either will be George or Lunt under center depending if Lunt is healthy enough to play.
Offense: Michigan State – Both teams have QB issues, but Scott gives the Spartans the edge.
Defense: Even – Illinois and Michigan State rank 11th and 12th in the Big Ten, respectively, in average yards allowed per play.
Special Teams: Even – The Spartans are last and the Illini are second-to-last in the conference in average yards allowed per kickoff return.
Coaching: Michigan State – Dantonio is still one of the best coaches in the country despite going through a down year.
Intangibles: Michigan State – The Spartans have won 12 of the last 13 meetings, including the last three.
Matchup To Watch
LJ Scott vs. Hardy Nickerson Jr.
Nickerson is the Fighting Illini’s best player and has been a force at linebacker while ranking third in the conference in tackles. He’ll likely have his eyes on Scott at all times as Illinois tries to prevent him from running wild for the third straight week.
Spread: Michigan State -9.5
Over/Under: No Line as of post
Michigan State vs. Illinois Prediction
The Spartans get decent quarterback play from O’Connor and a couple of rushing touchdowns from Scott to leave Illinois with a victory and hand Smith another tough loss.
Michigan State vs. Illinois final score prediction: Michigan State 24, Illinois 13