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3-2-1 Preview: 3 key stats, 2 things we want to see and 1 best bet for Michigan State vs. Illinois

Boy, howdy is this Illinois defense something special.

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Well, there is a game this weekend for Michigan State. And it’s against a pretty good Illinois team, unfortunately.

Let’s get right to the 3-2-1 preview.



Here, you guys get to pick what goes here. Choose wisely:

  • 6: Amount of touchdowns Illinois has given up (best in the nation)
  • 8.9: Points per game given up by Illinois (best in the nation)
  • 44.1: Opponent completion percentage (best in the nation)
  • 75.6: Rushing yards allowed per game (second-best in the nation)
  • 25.45%: Opponent third-down conversion percentage (fourth-best in the nation)

Look, I get it. Illinois plays in the glorified FCS conference known as the Big Ten West. But with how incredible those numbers are, I don’t care if Illinois is playing in the local high school league — those are damn impressive any way you slice it.


That’s how many rushing yards Illinois running back Chase Brown has, which leads the entire nation. If it wasn’t for somehow having just eight touchdowns (five rushing, three receiving), we are maybe talking about a legitimate Heisman candidate.

He’s the best running back in the conference and, in my opinion, is the closest thing to Kenneth Walker III we’ve seen this season. He’s got the vision, the wiggle, the speed and the “wait this was supposed to be a loss of a yard, how did he get 14 yards downfield?” X-factor that us Spartan fans enjoyed last season.


That’s Illinois’ touchdown percentage once the Illini get into the red zone — FINALLY A BAD STAT ABOUT THEM! That touchdown percentage is actually eighth-worst in the nation.

Illinois flat-out stalls in the red zone and ironically looks to be missing its red zone target in Daniel Barker, who of course now plays for Michigan State. And if MSU can replicate the effort it had last weekend in the “bend-don’t-break” defense, the Spartans could be in business.

Also, with the potential for 35 mile-per-hour winds (or more) in the forecast, even kicking a field goal from short range could be a comedic journey. So limit the Illini to three or less points every time they come within the 20-yard line. Easy enough, right?


Daniel Barker and Maliq Carr being recognized

Hey, with the wind potentially not allowing for many deep shots, this might be a great time to actually give tight ends Daniel Barker and Maliq Carr the ball more than three combined times?

Or hey, maybe mix it up and feed wide receivers Jayden Reed, Keon Coleman and Tre Mosley on some slant routes?

Some sort of run game creativity

Just give the offense something to work with. I know it’s not that easy, but my goodness let’s try something that’s not the “stretch run for one yard to set up second-and-9” play 15 times.

Perhaps some more traps. Maybe some jet sweeps to Reed (that’s right, I’m begging for the sweep days — he had a nice run against Michigan). Hell, maybe even a quarterback sneak on any fourth-and-one?

This weather is not going to allow for the bomb-and-gouge strategy. The only hope for a win is by establishing the running game, and we haven’t seen that since MAC teams were in town. It’s time for offensive coordinator Jay Johnson to start showing why he’s making north of one million United States dollars per season.


MSU +17, over/under 41.5

Good news: Michigan State’s defense held Michigan to plenty of field goals

Bad news: The Spartans still lost

Bad news, part two: That absolutely killed the over bet last weekend

If you haven’t caught on by now, I am paying very close attention to that wind. Fifteen mile per hour winds? Ehh, whatever. But gusts of winds up to 35 or 40 miles per hour? All right, that’s got my attention.

I think this game goes low on the points thanks to the elements combined with the stout Illinois defense. So give me the under.

Pick: Under 41.5

Record: 5-3