November is the month when champions are crowned, and while the Spartans are sadly not in the mix for a Big Ten Championship, nevertheless Illinois is.
Of course, Illinois hosts the Spartans tomorrow.
Illinois is 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten) and achieved their first winning season since 2011. Yet, Illinois isn’t just winning a few games, their Defense is dominating opponents.
Against Big Ten opponents, the Illini rank #1 Big Ten in 3 critical Defensive categories: #1 Total Defense (244 YPG) …#1 Rush Defense (58 YPG) …and #1 Scoring Defense (12 PPG).
Problematically, the Spartans overall record is just 3-5, and 1-4 Big Ten.
When matched against Illinois dominating Defense, the Spartans Offense ranks at the opposite end of the spectrum when measured against Big Ten opponents: #12 Total Offense (281 YPG) …#13 Rushing Offense (56 YPG) …and #13 Scoring Offense (16 PPG).
Statistically, the matchup with the Illini doesn’t bode well for the Spartans!
Illinois is an “old school” team (in the best way) dominating the Line of Scrimmage both Offensively and Defensively. Illini love to grind it out and rank #2 Time of Possession at nearly 36 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, high scoring is not Illinois calling card, rather they control the clock to the point that opposing Offenses have precious little time to score and that will include the Spartans.
In Big Ten competition, the Spartans rank #14 Time of Possession (just 22 min per game) and average just 16 PPG.
Of course, Illini are led by Bret Bielema who had an extraordinarily successful 7 year tenure at Wisconsin, winning 74% of his games including a Big Ten Championship, a Division Championship and 3 Top 10 finishes.
In fact, Bret Bielema has guided the Illini to a level that should be instructive to Mel Tucker and the Spartans.
At the bottom line:
We have to ask, what is Mel Tucker’s plan, because on the stat sheet and according to the “eye test”, MT and his coaching staff have guided Spartan Football to a level of despair not seen since Muddy Waters, Bobby Williams and John L. Smith.
Of course, the post game brawl vs Michigan has only compounded the prevailing problems.
So, expect the Spartans to struggle mightily tomorrow against Illini top ranked Defense, and we shouldn’t be surprised if Illini make it nearly impossible to run and score.
Thank you for reading and I always welcome your comments and opinions.