Michigan State looks for its 12th victory in 13 tries against Illinois when the teams meet Saturday. Led by one of the toughest defenses in the country, the Spartans lead the nation in total defense (228 yards per game), rushing defense (59.1 ypg), pass efficiency defense (88.41 rating) and first downs defense (13.4 per game). Offensively, Jeremy Langford is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games and has 551 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
The Fighting Illini are coming off back-to-back losses, most recently a 56-32 defeat to No. 24 Wisconsin. Offensively, Illinois is averaging the 36th most points in the country at 35.3 behind quarterback Nath Scheelhaase, who has totaled 1,546 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. But to hang around against Michigan State, the Illini will need to improve on a defense that has allowed a combined 95 points in its last two losses.
Game time: 3:30 p.m.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten): Connor Cook struggled at times in the Spartans' 14-0 win against Purdue last week, but has been efficient this season with 1,030 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. His main targets, Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Bennie Fowler, have combined for 525 yards and six scores. The Michigan State defense also ranks third nationally in opponents' third-down conversions (27 percent) and fourth in scoring defense (13.7 points per game).
ABOUT ILLINOIS (3-3, 0-2): Scheelhaase completed 74.1 percent of his passes against Wisconsin, but hasn't thrown a touchdown in the last two games. His top target, running back Josh Ferguson, has 681 total yards this season. He's averaging six yards per carry and 15 yards per reception, and has found the end zone five times this year, but is coming off his worst game of 2013 - racking up just 27 total yards on 10 touches against the Badgers.
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