CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football leads the country in 10 defensive categories through eight games. A staggering number that shows just how dominant the unit has been this season.


1st scoring defense (8.9)

1st total defense (224.5)

1st TDs allowed (6)

1st passing efficiency defense (77.9)

1st interceptions (15)

1st passing TDs allowed (3)

1st yards per pass attempt (5.0)

1st fewest red zone attempts allowed (12)

1st red zone touchdown percentage (25.0%)

1st fourth down conversions against (2)

The Illini (7-1, 4-1 B1G) are second in five more defensive categories nationally as well but it’s the second half success that may have the biggest impact on the win/loss column. Illinois is outscoring opponents 83-17 after halftime this season, only allowing seven total points in the fourth quarter. Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters credits halftime adjustments for the success and dominance in the final 30 minutes of games this season.

“You know halftime adjustments are real and our guys go out and recognize and have recall and go execute in the second half,” Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said. “It’s been huge for us, very beneficial.”

“I mean we know every team is going to come out and give us their best the first two drives, trying to prove a point and get the momentum swing,” Illinois sophomore defensive lineman Johnny Newton said. “I feel like once we settle down, calm down and just play football, we’re a really good team.”

No. 16 Illinois hosts Michigan State on Saturday for a 2:30 kickoff on Big Ten Network. The Spartans (3-5, 1-4 B1G) have lost five out of their last six games, including at Michigan last Saturday. Eight MSU players were suspended after a fight in the tunnel after the rivalry game.