Tatelines: Spartans have depth, confidence

Here's the need-to-know nutshell on Nick Saban's Michigan State Spartans:

Forget the image of a physically overpowering, grind-it-out Spartan offense, featuring the stabbing runs of Lorenzo White or Sedrick Irvin. That's only partly accurate. MSU is hugely physical – ask Notre Dame – with a quality rusher in Lloyd Clemons and the nation's top ball-carrying recruit in T.J. Duckett, but the offense is built around the best receiving duo in the nation: Plaxico Burress and Gari Scott.

On Gard

CHAMPAIGN – What's gotten into Lydia Gard this season?

Apparently nothing her teammates haven't seen before.

News and notes from Tuesday's practice:


Illinois' Oct. 2 game at Indiana is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN2. The Big Ten waited an extra day to announce the television choices.

Tatelines: Turner shows his scheme gets job done

Now that your interest has been piqued – now that Illini football is on everyone's tongue again – it must be reported the grumblers and skeptics who didn't think Ron Turner knew his business are dwindling.

Three offensive outbursts – 120 points and 1,266 yards, not to mention two long punt returns – have lifted Illinois above the offensive have-nots and reminded that, with comparable talent, Turner can make it work.

Illini soccer moving on up

Illinois moved up six places to No. 15 in the NSCAA/Adidas women's soccer poll released Monday. The Illini (7-1) defeated Minnesota and then-No. 12 Wisconsin last weekend to open the Big Ten schedule.

Illinois, which never had been ranked before last week, is one of three Big Ten teams in the latest Top 25. Penn State (3-2-1) is No. 5, and Michigan (4-2-1) is No. 22. Fellow league member Ohio State also received votes.

Big Ten teams have work to do

It sent six teams to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. Advanced three of them into the Sweet 16, two into the Elite Eight, one into the title match.

It had three first-team All-Americans, two on the second team.

Tatelines: Illini must be taken seriously

Outlook-altering information has been overflowing the last two weeks.

Experienced San Diego State and Louisville squads, both strengthened by December bowl ventures, were legitimate "barometer games" for Illinois. The outcomes established that Ron Turner has boosted the UI up the football ladder to a point where:

UI campus fetes the undefeated

CHAMPAIGN – If you see somebody on the Illinois campus wearing a football helmet and pads, stop and say hello to Tony Francis.

These days, the senior cornerback is enjoying his Illini affiliation. Teachers and classmates are being friendly. Really friendly.

UI's Wilson finds her niche abroad

Holly Wilson had a terrific time this summer in Europe, wandering through Belgium and Germany while playing for the Big Ten women's basketball all-star team.

The only problem was food. For Wilson, a growing 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, the dainty portions in Europe were not nearly fulfilling enough to feed a tourist-on-foot who had basketball practice on the side.

Illini among rank and file

CHAMPAIGN – Ron Turner had a present waiting for him early Sunday morning when he arrived at Memorial Stadium: a victory cigar from his buddy Tim Bridges.

A little later in the day, the national football polls gave Turner some victory votes.

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