Today the surprising 23rd ranked Michigan St. Spartans visit Memorial Stadium. This will be the 39th meeting between the two schools. The Illini are in need of their second win soon if they are going to salvage what's left of the season.
History is not on the Illini side today. The Spartans have won six in a row in this series and head Coach Ron Turner is 0-4 in his career against them. The Spartans, along with Iowa, are the surprise teams in the conference this year - both teams have a 5-1 record.
Coach John L. Smith is no stranger to success; his overall coaching record is 115-61 over a 15-year period. Smith has been to Memorial Stadium a couple times in recent years. Head to head with Turner, Smith is 1-2.
The key player today could be senior QB Jeff Smoker who had some personal issues to deal with last season. Turner is known for his "eye" for quarterbacks having coached Jeff Garcia, Kurt Kittner, Erik Krammer, Rodney Pete and Sean Salisbury. When asked during his weekly press conference about Smoker, this is what he had to say: "He's got good size, a very quick release, good accuracy, good arm strength, but I really like his poise. He steps up and makes plays when they are not there; he makes plays when they are there; when they are supposed to be there. He moves around in the pocket, and he has great presence - which not everyone can do. He's as good a quarterback as I've seen in a long time."
You can throw all the stats out the window with this team. Sure, freshman E.B. Halsey is fourth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards with 167.5 yards a game. And freshman Lonnie Hurst has 264 yards receiving in six games (the Illinois freshman record is 511 yards - made by Brandon Lloyd in 1999).
These kids need to just go out and play and concentrate on the game at hand. Losing can't be easy. They had high goals set for year, and now they've taken a step back. What is realistic for them may be to just get better. The "B" word is not out of the question, but the battery is getting low.
Score: MSU 45 – Illinois 24