Smile Politely

Know the foe: Michigan St. defends its home versus the Illini

The Michigan State football team has an overall record of 6–0, 2–0 in the Big Ten Conference and moved up to #13 in the AP poll. The Spartans are 6–0 for the first time since 1999, when Nick Saban was its head coach. The home team is currently favored by seven points over the visiting Fighting Illini.

Of the road games that Fighting Illini will face this season, its trip to East Lansing is the one that worries me the most. So much so that I sent my brother Jeff to the Big House in Ann Arbor last weekend for a detailed scouting report. Michigan State Spartans dominated both sides of the ball and contained the most elusive rusher #16 Denard Robinson in the land. The Michigan State defense is solid in stopping the run by only allowing 111 yards per game. If the Spartan defense has a weakness it is through the air allowing 225 passing yards each game. The stingy Spartan defense is led by #53 LB Greg Jones and #43 LB Eric Gordon, who instinctively are always around the ball. Do not forget about #39 Junior safety Trent Robinson, who has been named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

According to my Brother Jeff no team wants to get behind early in a game against the Spartans, if so they will pound the ball time and time again.

Michigan State’s offense is led by Junior QB #8 Kirk Cousins who simply does not make mistakes, for the most part. The running game is the team’s bread and butter with RB #4 Edwin Baker and #24 Le’Veon Bell carrying the load. Michigan State’s offense is strong in all facets of the game through the air; accurate passing from Cousins to WR’s #2 Mark Dell and #82 Keshawn Martin accumulates an average of 248 yards per game. This makes their offense one of the most balanced and dangerous in the country.

The Illini football team will have to overcome a few obstacles on Saturday. Being on the road again with a hostile crowd of 75,000 fans at Spartan Stadium is just one factor. The Illini are picked as underdogs again, a position of which the team is somewhat used to by now. The only Illinois losses this year are #1 Ohio State and #19 Missouri. The Illini defense was solid in both of those games. This week, it must stop the rushing game of Michigan State. The front seven led by #93 Cory Liuget, #97 Clay Nurse, #2 Martez Wilson, and #18 Nate Bussey stifled the Penn State rushing attack, holding the its offense to 65 yards on the ground last Saturday. The defense must find a way to duplicate that effort.

Quarterback #2 Nathan Scheelhaase literally grew up in front of our eyes last Saturday afternoon. Scheelhaase must direct his team using play action passing and timely scrambling to keep the Michigan State defense on their heels. The Illini trio of running backs led by Leshoure with speedy Pollard and Ford, need to establish themselves early and often against the Spartan defense. Michigan State should be on upset alert as the Illini have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Prep Picks for week 8: Tuscola Warriors, Villa Grove Blue Devil, Westville Tigers, STM Sabers, SJO Spartans, Unity Rockets, Centennial Chargers, and Danville Vikings.

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