At this point we should all expect the unexpected.

The B1G West is a mess. A huge one. And things got messier Saturday after Illinois’ 23-15 loss at home to Michigan State.

The Spartans entered Champaign as 15-point underdogs. They left with an upset that no one saw coming. Especially after last week’s debacle in Ann Arbor that resulted in a bunch of suspended players.

Illinois boasted the league’s top-ranked defense. The nation’s leading rusher in Chase Brown. And a confident QB in Tommy DeVito. The Illini had no business losing. Yet, the unexpected happened. Kudos to Mel Tucker and his team.

The result is a jumbled B1G West, with Illinois still controlling its destiny but facing a much greater challenge.

Blustery day in Champaign

It was your typical November B1G day. Cold. Windy. Blustery. Michigan State handled the conditions better than Illinois.

Spartans QB Payton Thorne played well. His numbers were modest — 19-for-29 for 182 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. But against this Illini defense, it was a superb effort.

After falling behind 7-0 early, Thorne led the Spartans on a 23-0 run in periods 2 and 3. He led drives of 72 and 61 yards that led to points. Sparty led 9-7 at half. The pressure was turned up on the favored Illini.

Illinois went into a strong 4th quarter wind trailing 23-7. They scored on the first play of the quarter to cut the lead to 23-15, but were unable to get the equalizer.

Chase Brown carried 33 times for 136 yards,  just 4.1 yards per carry. The Spartans did just enough to corral him and keep him at bay. That put pressure on DeVito to make plays. And although DeVito put up stellar numbers, going 25-of-37 for 288 yards and 2 TDs, the Illini went 2+ quarters without points.

Illinois was 6-17 on 3rd downs and converted only 1-of-6 4th downs. Too many empty possessions. And on a day when the wind was howling, leaving points off the board proved costly.

Crowded B1G West standings

With the way games played out throughout the league early Saturday, an Illini win would almost have sewn up a West Division title. But head coach Bret Bielema’s team decided to take the winding path. Purdue lost to Iowa, giving Illinois more cushion. The teams will meet next week in Champaign. An Illini win will put them in the driver’s seat. But it didn’t have to be this difficult.

The current West standings are tight. Illinois leads at 4-2. Four teams follow at 3-3, the Boilermakers included.

The good news for Illini fans is the tiebreakers. Illinois owns wins over Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Should they beat Purdue next Saturday, they’d own tiebreakers over each team on its heels. They still sit in favorable position. But the urgency is ramped up next week.

A trip to Ann Arbor follows the tussle with Purdue. With how crazy the season has gone, who knows what to expect over the final 3 weeks. Well, let’s rephrase that — expect the unexpected.

Uncharacteristic mistakes

Illinois found itself 7-1 due to the fact it played clean, error-free football. That wasn’t that case against the Spartans.

The Illini failed to get points before halftime after driving into the Spartans’ red zone. They also lost a fumble and didn’t handle the windy elements the way Bielema had hoped.

“Give credit to Michigan State,” Bielema told reporters afterward. “But penalties and turnovers. When those things happen, it’s hard to win. At this point, we’re not a good enough football team to have those things happen and be able to overcome it.”

Hectic final 3 weeks

With 3 weeks of league play remaining, anything can still happen. And probably will. Illinois still holds the inside track to a division title, but it’s far from a given.

Two wins in its final 3 games should do it. After hosting Purdue and traveling to Ann Arbor, Illinois travels to Northwestern. The Illini are sitting 7-2 and still control their destiny. They’ll need to regroup quickly and put Saturday’s disappointment behind them.

Bielema called it a “learning experience.” He has a team that hasn’t had expectations before. How they respond will say a lot about the culture Bielema and his staff have installed in Year 2.

They’ve put themselves in position by starting 7-1. They know that in order to earn that coveted trip to Indy, they’ll have to finish November better than it started.