As another game week comes to an end, let's close it out with your BSD staff predictions.
We're already seeing a lot of double-reverse psychology on this game, mostly due to the fallout from last night's Oregon State win over #1 USC. "I hope Penn State isn't over-confident now! They better not overlook Illinois!" Won't be a problem. This isn't a noon kickoff against a team they beat by 20 points last season. It's a White House game in primetime against a team they lost to in a frustrating, heartbreaking manner. Illinois can't stop the run in any way, shape, or form, and that's going to be their undoing tomorrow night. The only way Penn State will lose is if they give it away. Not impossible, given the recent fumbling. I remain immensely skeptical of the middle of Penn State's defense, but it'll be good enough tomorrow night.
Prediction: Penn State 41, Illinois 20
So now what are we supposed to think? Our defense has been shorthanded for most of the season and we've been publicly questioning our linebackers, but then an Oregon State team that was shut down by the PSU defense runs all over uber-powerful USC. All of the sudden, my head's ready to explode. I find myself a little bit distracted by these third-party events, but I doubt it affects the players. Clark has nothing else on his mind other than avenging last year's mistakes, and he has the talent around him to punish the Zookers. Illinois gave up 549 yards to Missouri and no, I don't buy the "but they straightened the ship" spin because they held the powerful offense of Louisiana-Lafayette to 17 points. The team is ready for revenge, the atmosphere is going to be excellent, and I would have liked PSU's chances anyway. The spread jumped up two points after last night's upset, close to 17. That sounds about right to me.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Illinois 21
The jubilation from the events of last night has turned into concern on my part for the psyche of the team. If their thinking process is like the fan base, then they are not focused on Illinois and they're thinking about polls and BCS Championships. I wish this upset had happened on Saturday afternoon when the players were in game mode and already focused on what they were about to go out and do. Now they'll think about it all day and I'm afraid practice and meetings will lack focus tonight.
But one thing this team has shown all season is focus. They could have coasted through Syracuse but they put their foot on the gas and held it there until the game was in hand. They came out a bit flat against Temple but played three quarters of good football from there. I think this team has had Illinois circled on the schedule ever since the plane ride home from Champaign last year. They want this one back.
The Illinois defense is not good despite what the "experts" say about this being the first test for our offense. The defensive line is ok, but our offensive line will handle them quite well. The linebackers and meh without J Leman, and the safeties are pretty average. I don't see this team slowing down our offense unless we get careless with the ball. On defense we just have to stop Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn, which most teams haven't had much trouble doing so why should we? No Mendenhall means one less option for Zook, and the Penn State defense should be just fine.
Prediction: Penn State 45, Illinois 21