Five Takeaways: Illinois edition

MSU did some things very well against Illinois, but there are a couple of causes for concern moving forward. Where does MSU need to focus as the bulk of the schedule approaches?

1. Third-down conversions key again

Connor Cook was outstanding on third down when MSU beat Indiana 42-28 and against was good as the Spartans went 14 of 16 against Illinois.

Those plays are essential for the Spartans as the offense needs to build drives and sustain them as big plays have been hard to come by. That is a tell-tale sign of an efficient and effective offense, which MSU was against Illinois.

2. Penalties are a huge issue for this team

MSU had five penalties in the first half for 34 yards – the same total it finished the game with. Two of those came on the first drive of the game as MSU was moving the ball and getting things going into Illinois territory.

That has been a concern from Mark Dantonio and will continue to be. If MSU wants to keep the ball rolling, those little things have to be ironed out heading into the meat of the schedule. MSU leads the Big Ten in penalties through this point, but needs to cut that down.

3. Consistency is a work in progress

Bipolar is a fair word to describe the MSU offense. For a couple of weeks against Iowa and Indiana, it was an effective offense and moved the ball well and did a lot of good things. Purdue … not so much. Now, at Illinois, the offense again put up a lot of yards and did some confidently and easily.

To be consistent will continue to require work, but it needs to happen soon – as mentioned above, the schedule is kicking up now.

4. The defense is that good

For the second week in a row, Michigan State' defense did not allow a touchdown. Three points in eight quarters. That's incredible, but the total yardage allowed to Illinois also is pretty special.

The Illini entered averaging 446 yards per game and MSU held them to 128 – 318 below the average. For perspective, Illinois posted 522 yards on the No. 8 defense in the nation (Cincinnati).

The Spartans again forced a pair of turnovers, had multiple sacks and even a goal-line stand on fourth down.

5. Time to gear up for the meat of the schedule

As mentioned above, things are about to kick up for MSU. The Spartans had the easier portion of their schedule by most standards already. Now, Michigan comes to town and two weeks later, MSU goes to Nebraska before heading to Northwestern. All three division opponents and all three tough games, but games MSU needs to win to go back to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game.

Sitting at 7-1 is good, and 4-0 in the Big Ten is very good, but it's time to up the ante.


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