Poor tackling. Bad pursuit. Both of these descriptions are apt to both the Illinois defense and Michigan State defense as they head into the contest against each other on Saturday afternoon. The Illini offense has shown the ability to put points up on the board, but without some key wide receivers due to injury and the problems the offense encountered last week there is no guarantee for the Illini.
If you just look at what happened to the Spartans last week in Iowa City, you could see all of their defensive problems under a single microscope. On Iowa's first touchdown run (47 yards by Jermelle Lewis), there were three missed tackles, all by the purported best defensive players for the Spartans. Strong safety Eric Smith missed a tackle, while Lewis beat linebacker Ronald Stanley to the corner en route to the end zone.
For the Spartans, the tackling did not get better as the game continued. When the game was already in hand in the third quarter, it appeared that the Spartan defense just gave up on pursuing the ball at certain times. Iowa receivers would cross over the middle, and instead of chasing the receivers, some defensive players would just slow down and let a teammate get the receiver.
If the Illini look to pound the ball at the Michigan State front seven, they should have a chance to gain some big yards on the ground if they stick with the run. The Spartan defense is allowing an average of just over 160 yards per game on the ground, but they are only allowing 3.9 yards per carry and ten of the thirteen touchdowns. If a team runs a lot on the Spartans, they have been known to become susceptible to the play action pass, in fact that is one of the major ways Iowa moved the ball up and down the field last weekend.
In the secondary, the Spartans allow just under 210 yards per game and have only allowed three touchdown passes in their first five games. Teams are averaging just under eight yards a pass play against the Spartans, and have scored three touchdowns in the air.
When it comes to putting their offense in a position to score by getting turnovers, the Spartan defense is not getting the job done. They are not causing their opponents to turn the ball over and are -5 in turnover differential for the season.
Michigan State Preview: The Defense
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