Previewing MSU at Illinois

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
TV: ABC/ESPN2
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online Streaming: WatchESPN.com

Game Week Q&A: Here
Forecast: 58 degrees, partly cloudy
Line: MSU -10

MSU travels to Champaign for its third road game of the season, second in the Big Ten.

The Illini are 3-3. They escaped Southern Illinois 42-34 in Week 1 and blew out Cincinnati 45-17 the next week. They lost to Washington 34-24 at Soldier Field, but defeated Miami (OH) 50-14 the next week. They've lost two in a row heading into this one: 39-19 at Nebraska and 56-32 against Wisconsin, so they're 0-2 in the Big Ten.

With new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, formerly of Western Michigan, they appear to have something on offense, especially in the passing game, while the defense remains a work-in-progress. Illinois has no receiver in the top 10 in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game, but they have four from spots 10-24, so there are a number of targets. Running back Josh Ferguson leads them in receiving yards per game.

MSU is the only 3-0 team in the Legends division and looks to go to 4-0 and surpass last year's conference win total.

By the numbers

10-3 - MSU's record in Big Ten road games since 2010

35.3 - points per game for Illinois, No. 35 nationally

13.6 - points per game allowed by MSU, No. 4

4.2 - yards per carry for Illinois, No. 72

2.1 - yards per carry allowed by MSU, No. 1

8.7 - yards per attempt for Illinois, No. 14

4.7 - yards per attempt allowed by MSU, No. 1

32.3 - points per game allowed by Illinois, No. 98

5.1 - yards per rush allowed by Illinois, No. 113

8.4 - yards per attempt allowed by Illinois, No. 113

Three keys for MSU

Run, run, run - The numbers are above. Illinois has trouble stopping the run, and it's the one efficient part of MSU's offense (4.5 ypc). Between Jeremy Langford and Delton Williams, run to set up the pass and keep Illinois' offense off the field.

Get to the quarterback - Despite Nathan Scheelhaase being mobile, Illinois is allowing 2.5 sacks per game. Pressure is always key to the MSU defense, and Illinois hasn't done a good job protecting the QB.

Take care of the ball - Like always, key to an upset. Interestingly, Connor Cook's two interceptions have come in his two best games.

Three keys for Illinois

Big plays in the passing game - This Illinois offense goes by its passing game. Illinois could take its shots deep down the sideline against single coverage

Home field - It's homecoming, so the Illini should have a big and raucous crowd for a 2:30 local kick. If the Illini keep it close or lead, the crowd will be there to help.

Stop the run - It's a key for MSU. The Illini need to make Cook and the passing game beat them.

Prediction: MSU 28-14

Purdue's defense was worse than Illinois, statistically, and the MSU offense really had problems. I think MSU will stick with the run more in this one, and they'll move the ball that way. Illinois will have its drives, but I think too many will stall with MSU moving the ball and pinning the Illini deep. However, I could easily see the Illini cover in this one and make it close.

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