The Spartans have the most potent offense in the Big Ten averaging 566 yards a game, the Illini are among the lowest scoring teams in the conference.
Matching up these two teams for Saturday, the Illinois defense will have to step up big as they are facing a team that scored 44 points on a Notre Dame team that had given up an average of 15.5 points in its previous two games.
Abdullah might be quick but when there is a drastic height difference, the Spartans should thrive on the mismatch.
Trannon is coming off a career-day against Notre Dame last week with five catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Illinois' pass defense has been pretty average, giving up 226 yards passing per game and 3 total passing touchdowns, which exactly matches Trannon's receiving stats for the year so far ( 11 receptions, 226 yards, 3 TD's).
"[Trannon] presents problems because of his blocking and his receiving abilities;" said Illinois head coach Ron Zook, who stressed Abdullah not getting tied up with Trannon because, "that's like playing with ten guys on the field."
The Spartans have had success rushing the ball but were slowed up against the Irish. While they will try to establish the run game next week, they might also want to pass more. The Illini rush defense resembles that of the Fighting Irish, giving up 161 rush yards a game.
"I think we've got to try to slow down their running game; if that keeps going it's going to be a long afternoon," said Zook on his teams' keys to the game.
The struggle for field position was a key problem for the Spartans last week in South Bend. They were backed up inside their own 20 yard-line twice with one nearly being a game-winning safety for the Irish with a minute left in the game.
The key stat favoring the Illini is Weatherford's four punts inside the 20 yard-line. Brandon Fields might have no punts inside the 20, but he does have a stronger leg with his longest kick this year being 67 yards; Weatherford's longest is 58 yards.
If the Spartans are to avoid being backed up in their own end, they need to have kick returner Kyle Brown put together some good runs and most importantly hold on to the football. Brown fumbled three times last week, losing two of them. Illinois allowed a 79 yard punt return touchdown last week to California's Tim Mixon.
While the Illini are a pretty balanced offense, they do lean on running the ball in the red zone, scoring seven touchdowns. The Spartans rush defense was very shaky against Irish running back Darius Walker (26 rush, 116 yards).
Illinois features a trio of running back with Pierre Thomas, Tim Brasic, and E.B. Halsey sharing the workload. It will be up to players on defense like ends Clifton Ryan and Michael Bazemore, bandit SirDarean Adams, and linebacker David Herron Jr. to contain the Illini backs.
Overall, the Spartans have won the last eight games against the Fighting Illini but there is a great sense of a letdown. Last time the Spartans were ranked was 2003 when they started out the year 7-1, but they always tend to go downhill after they hit their peak. They went on to lose their next three games that year to Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Michigan State needs to focus on their offensive strengths for the game at hand and take care of business, because next week is a return home to East Lansing to meet their hated rival, #14 Michigan.