The Illinois Fighitng Illini are plus-12 in the turnover department on the season, and they’re a league-best plus-11 in their six Big Ten games. That’s a big reason they’ve managed a .500 record in conference play heading into Saturday’s game at Michigan State. A win this weekend would make Illinois bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.
Although Michigan State (4-4, 2-3) and Illinois (5-4, 3-3) have similar records, it feels like they’re moving in different directions. A bowl appearance would be a big step for the Illini. For the Spartans, that’s the bare minimum of what is generally expected under Dantonio. Illinois has won three games in a row, including a huge upset of Wisconsin. Michigan State has dropped three straight and was outscored 100-17 by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.
The Illini are on a three-game winning streak for the first time since winning their first six games of the 2011 season. They have not won four straight Big Ten games since a seven-game streak gave Illinois a conference title in 2001.
The Spartans also lost linebacker Joe Bachie, who was declared ineligible after testing positive for a banned supplement. Michigan State said it would appeal, but he’s out for now.
Still, the Spartans are favored by about two touchdowns in this game, which is perhaps a nod to the fact that as bad as Michigan State has looked lately, it was up against particularly tough competition. This week should be a better test of how many problems the Spartans really have.