WHERE: MEMORIAL STADIUM, CHAMPAIGN, IL
WHEN: 12:00 NOON EST
TV: ESPN PLUS RADIO: SPARTANS RADIO NETWORK
LAST MEETING: MICHIGAN STATE 38 - ILLINOIS 25
Drew Stanton accounted for 254 combined yards (rushing, passing and receiving) and four touchdowns to lead Michigan State to a 38-25 victory over Illinois in Spartan Stadium.
EAST LANSING - Michigan State can't afford to get caught looking ahead to crosstown rival Michigan this week. The schedule plainly says "at Illinois" and that's what the Spartans must focus on doing.
Sure, the backyard brawl looms large as a program defining game, but it won't mean much if the Spartans don't come out and take care of business against a rejuvenated Illini squad led by new coach Ron Zook.
If nothing eles, Spartans head coach John L. Smith will have an axe to grind against former assistant and recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell, who bolted the MSU program in the middle of recruiting season for a cake job with the Illini.
"You'd like to never lose a coach," said Spartans coach John L. Smith, "but if they feel that's the best thing for them, then you have to pat them on the back."
Smith wants his coaching staff to prepare the the team to forget the emotional win over Notre Dame and go out and take care of business this weekend.
"This has to be a business-like week, and hopefully it will be," said Smith.
Illinois coach Ron Zook, for his part, is trying to help his team get over a tough road loss to top-15 team California. The Illini led 17-7 at halftime only to collapse.
"I told them on the airplane, 'We're in the Big Ten now. That was preseason. They all count, but now, it really counts," said Zook.
The sophomore Illini head coach was not overly impressed with Michigan State's win over Notre Dame and believes that his squad can move the football against the Spartans.
"Obviously, [Michigan State] has a really good team. But Notre Dame had almost 600 yards of offense against them. Hopefully, we can get some yards."
Spartans guard Gordon Nieylski says State is aware of what Illinois brings to table. "We know how good Illinois is," Niebylski said. "It's going to be a challenge. It is every week in this conference."
Illinois' running backs E.B. Halsey (43.7 yards rushing per game) and Pierre Thomas (66.3) lead the Illini ground attack, while junior quarterback Tim Brasic (220 yards passing per game average) has won the starting position over junior Chris Pazan. When Brasic passes the football he usually zeros in on Kendrick Jones, who caught 6 balls for 56 yards against Cal.
Still, despite Illini's ability to score, they'll have their hands full trying to slow down the MSU attack behind junior Drew Stanton, the Big Ten offensive player of the week, who is averaging 308 yards passing and rushing threats Jehuu Caulcrick (79.7 yards per game average) and wideouts Terry Love (77.7 yards receiving average) and Matt Trannon 75.3 (yards per game receiving average).
PICK: MICHIGAN STATE 43 - ILLINOIS 21