This is the eighth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 8: Illinois
Time and Date: 3:30 p.m. (EDT), Oct. 26
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
Fighting Illini at a glance
Coach: Tim Beckman (second season, 2-10)
Last season: 2-10 overall; 0-9 Big Ten (6th Leaders)
Returning starters: 11 (eight offense, three defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 4-8 overall; 6th, Big Ten Leaders Division; Ranked No. 86
Lindy’s: 6th, Legends Division (publication goof); Ranked No. 87
Sporting News: 6th, Leaders Division
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Illini will score points this season. Every offense ever coached by new coordinator Bill Cubit has, often against superior competition. That might be the case this season, because the bulk of this personnel was behind Illinois’ Big Ten-worst offensive in 2012. The Illini have a senior quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase — albeit coming off a horrible junior season — and talented backfield. And, if there’s a wideout capable of being a go-to player, this offense will find them and feature them.
This is also a road game a week before Michigan’s visit to Spartan Stadium. The trek to Illinois sets up well for an MSU letdown — though fans and media tend to overstate week-to-week motivation and the emphasis on rivalries more than players do.
Why they won’t
Illinois’ defense is young, especially up front and in the back. And while the Illini offense figures to put up more points, it won’t be prolific enough to counter what could be a mess of growing pains on the other side of the ball.
MSU will have to score a few touchdowns to win in Champaign. If it can’t, there’s a problem. Illinois’ early Big Ten schedule is unforgiving, with games at Nebraska and against Wisconsin before this one. There’s simply no way the Illini will be rolling unexpectedly with confidence.
New regime rows WMU into Spartan Stadium for Aug. 30 opener
Rebuilding South Florida visits on Sept. 7
Youngstown State, on Sept. 14, offers final tuneup before season gets real
Notre Dame, perhaps a mirror image, awaits on Sept. 21
Big Ten road begins Oct. 5 against iffy Iowa squad
Offensive-minded and improving Hoosier visit for homecoming, Oct. 12
Boilermakers’ unrelenting schedule stops in East Lansing Oct. 19