MSU vs Illinois Scouting Report and Prediction

Hondo S. Carpenter


The Spartans need Kirk Cousins to play within himself and not press on Saturday.  Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.
The Spartans need Kirk Cousins to play within himself and not press on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

A look at this week’s opponent…

The Illini have had a good recruiter as a head coach for the entire time Ron Zook has been at the helm. Now, they have good coaching. Ron Zook has brought in some good coordinators, and this year the Illini have a much better team. 

In fact, when you watch the film of the Illini this year and last year they truly are a tale of two new teams. I have not seen a transformation on both sides of the ball without a change in head coach.

When MSU has the ball…

The Spartans want to run and the Illini will sell out to stop it. The Spartans this week need to use the pass to set up the run. Last week, the Wolverines would at times put as many as nine players in the box to stop the run. The Illini will do the same. The only difference is that they have more talent than the Wolverines.

They will blitz on any down, and the Spartans right side of the offensive line will have their biggest test of the campaign. If Chris MAGNUS McDonald and J’Michael Deane pass what is for sure their biggest test of the 2010 season on Saturday then they will no longer be looked at as the junior of the left side.

Kirk Cousins doesn’t need to press. He will be under pressure and need to make good quick decisions. Something he is more than capable of, he does. MSU is very balanced and will keep Illinois guessing.

You will see Cousins check down (audiblize) more this game than any other perhaps in his career. Pre-snap reads are critical for this game. Cousins experience, intelligence and ability make him the key on Saturday and he will be up for the task.

When MSU is on defense…

The Spartans need to simply perform as they have the last two weeks. Illinois wins with the run. They have to force the Illini to the air, and deal with the loss of starting CB Chris L. Rucker who is suspended for being selfish and acting stupid.

I look for the Spartans to put Darqueze Dennard (CLRs backup) in situations where they can roll a safety over to help and even put him in some over under coverage with some LB help.

If the Spartans stop the run they win…simple as that. I could write plenty of paragraphs, but it truly is that simple. Can the DL get the pressure up the middle that they did last week? I think the UM OL is better than the Illini and I am not worried.


Let down? Will the Spartans have a mental lapse after a big Michigan game? No! They never have under Coach D. This team is businesslike, and frankly, the ignorance and plain dumb foolishness of Chris L. Rucker could have even circled the wagons more. This team is on a mission. The chemistry is great and they are hungry.

Dan Conroy…Mr. Perfect will be called upon on Saturday and he has shown me no reason to doubt him at all. At some point this season he will miss one. No one is perfect, and when he does can he recover emotionally? My bet is on the youngster, but it is an intangible.

Turnovers…MSU has to control the ball and they will be fine. Some early mistakes can give the Illini momentum and they need to drop the hammer early and keep it down.

Penalties. ..Will the Spartans hurt themselves? Will you see some mental lapse that keeps the Illini around or give them some first downs?


The Spartans are on a roll. They are fired up and have had an amazing week of practice. There will be no letdown. The Illini are good, but not as good as MSU. If the Spartans make mistakes that allow Illinois to get momentum they could lose this game. They won’t.

The Spartans roll on Saturday and move into the top ten in the AP poll on Sunday. Make it 34-17.