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CHAMPAIGN – Ron Zook isn't bringing a flag with him to East Lansing. And his players won't have one either.
Four years ago, Zook earned his first Big Ten win as Illinois coach at Michigan State. Afterward, some of his excited players planted a flag at Spartan Stadium, setting off a brief scuffle.
"That was so blown out of proportion," Zook said. "It would probably have never happened had they not seen it the week before, them doing it at Notre Dame. Believe me, (the Illini) didn't plan, 'Hey, if we win this game, we're going to go do something silly like that.' We hadn't won enough games to be thinking like that."
Zook doesn't want any postgame celebrations.
"I advise against all of that stuff," Zook said. "Obviously, we want them to act the way they should act."
Michigan State will play against Illinois without cornerback Chris L. Rucker, who was arrested during the weekend on a DUI charge.
Rucker is the team's No. 2 tackler and has an interception. He is third on the team with four passes defended.
Contrary to what you might have read on Twitter, Zook said running back Jason Ford isn't leaving Illinois.
Ford's account included recent comments that he was tired of his role and wanted to return home.
"We talked to him (Monday) night," Zook said. "Jason's fine. I was a little shocked. I'm still not so sure it was him that posted it.
"The guy is practicing his tail off. He's doing everything that's asked of him."
Zook's players are excited about the chance to play the undefeated Spartans.
"We definitely have a winning attitude going into this week," linebacker Martez Wilson said.
"This win would be huge for us. Hopefully, we get this win and we continue to keep the streak going and win out for the rest of the season."
Two weeks ago, the Illini played then-No. 2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who beat the Illinois 24-13, have since moved to No. 1.
"We knew when we faced this part of our schedule, we were going to face some really good teams," Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. "Michigan State's really done a great job in their ballgames of just finding ways to win, with the crazy Notre Dame game. Going up to Ann Arbor and beating Michigan is no easy task.
"You could argue that they are one of the best teams in college football right now. They've been playing the hottest on offense and defense."
Scheelhaase is 1-1 away from home as a college starter, beating Penn State and losing to Missouri. The Illini led by 10 points in that game before the Tigers rallied in the second half.
The redshirt freshman quarterback had a no-turnover game against Penn State. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Illini controlling the game, many in the homecoming crowd headed home.
"In high school, I always liked playing away games and having the odds against you," Scheelhaase said. "I also like the early starts. It's almost gametime when you get up. We're kind of used to these early starts."
Scheelhaase has heard tales of Spartan Stadium. Like at Iowa, the stands are close to the field.
"I'm sure they're excited about the way their football team has started," Scheelhaase said.
Zook said he looks forward to seeing Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio on the sidelines Saturday. Dantonio, who is recovering from a heart attack, spent time during the Michigan game in the press box.
"I'm glad Coach Dantonio is going to be coaching there and is doing well," Zook said.
"It kind of puts things in perspective. This game is big and all, but when you're dealing with your health it's a much bigger thing."
Scheelhaase said it would be difficult to play without his coach.
"That's obviously a tough thing to go through," Scheelhaase said. "In high school, I my coach (Tony Severino) tore his quad and was up in the press box. Even that was a little different.
"That's why you do have good assistants and good coordinators, so they can hold the weight when something like that happens. They've been finding a way to get it done regardless of what's going on around them."