After the Iowa loss, it was pretty obvious everyone's confidence in this team dropped a few notches. While Illinois has been the laughing stock of the conference in recent years, last week they gave the Ohio State Buckeyes everything they could handle. So suddenly people aren't feeling as confident about this game as they were a couple of weeks ago. Let's see how your BSD staff sees this one playing out.
Nothing like a visit from the Fighting Zookers to cure what ails ya. While I'll be interested to see what a healthy Martez Wilson can do, Illinois' defensive line can be nothing but a significant dropoff from the beasts we faced last week. And our makeshift Oline held them off enough for Robert Bolden to complete 20 passes and make about 4-6 more that should/could have been caught. Hail to the Orange taught us that their secondary is weak. So, I expect to see more Devon Smith coming on, Derek Moye shaking off some cobwebs and getting open for some big plays and lots more of Justin Brown and less of Graham Zug. I think we score a lot more touchdowns this week.
On defense, I expect we'll see some urgency not previously displayed--at the very start of the game. While Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu will still get their reps, we're likely to see more of the backup Dream Team (Michael Mauti, Nathan Stupar and true freshman stud Khairi Fortt). We may even have a Jack Crawford sighting. We'll likely struggle a little bit against their mobile quarterback and may give up some plays, but in general we'll see fewer missed assignments and more sure tackling. In the end, Penn State walks out with an emotional and confidence-building win to help move forward in this Big Ten season.
Prediction: Penn State 31, Illinois 17
If there's one thing I've learned about football, it's to expect the unexpected. You can crunch the numbers and analyze position by position all week, but sometimes, Saturday ends up bringing out the craziness and doesn't end at all how you expected. I think tomorrow might be one of those days. Don't ask me why. Gut feeling.
This Illinois team is probably less talented than Penn State overall, and on paper, it seems like a pretty safe bet that the Lions will win by a healthy margin. That said, I'm expecting chaos. I'm talking 21-0 Illinois lead in the first quarter. I'm talking 35-31 Penn State lead at halftime. I'm talking a 38-35 Illinois lead with a minute left, then a heroic drive lead by one Robert Bolden that sets up Russell Nye (in for injured Anthony Fera and Collin Wagner) for a game-tying 53-yard field goal as time expires. In the third overtime, the Zooker goes for two after an Illini touchdown makes the score 55-54 Penn State, but the run is stuffed by Bani Gbadyu and the Lions win.
Afterward, everyone should be talking about it took Penn State thee overtimes and 55 points to beat Illinois at home, but no one will care. It'll be the win that, though there might be bumps in the road ahead, takes the words out of the mouths of even the most hardened Cory Gi...critics, if only for a second, and gives us a glimpse of what this team could be capable of in the future.
Book it...actually don't do that, that's a terrible idea. Just don't be surprised.
Prediction: Penn State 55, Illinois 54 3OT
This is the game it comes together. Penn State is just to talented to let an average Illinois team beat them at home. Looking at all the stat rankings can be misleading, Illinois has played 2 directional teams that have done little before and since their meeting. Any sort of defensive stat is pretty heavliy padded and frankly their offensive
stats aren't that special either. In the two games Illnois has played against a team of any merit they've struggled to much of anything on offense. People will point to last weeks game against Ohio State as a sign of things to come, although Ohio State hasn't passed for 100 yards against Illinois since 2007, something Penn State has done more than once in that timeframe. If Penn State is going to lose it's going to be from Illinois' running game. In short, Illinois isn't going to show Penn State anything it hasn't seen, and they aren't going to do it better than anything Penn State has seen.
Prediction: Penn State 30, Illinois 10
This Saturday's game is arguably the most important game of the season for the Nittany Lions. My inner-football coach says that because the next game is always the most important game, but I actually believe it because I sense that this young team is at a crossroads before heading into next week's bye. We play Minnesota away the week after the bye, and then the schedule gets all kinds of difficult: Michigan, Northwestern, at Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan State. Four of those five teams are undefeated, and many Nittany Lion fans had been considering four of those five games victories before the season started. If we can't take care of business against Illinois, how are we going to do it against the cream of the Big Ten crop?
The gambling public continues not to believe in Penn State. We opened as 11.5 point favorites, but that line has plummeted all the way down to 7.5 points in some places as all the money has come in on the Illini to cover. This game will be a defensive struggle, and I think we'll get points on our first possession in both halves. Our defense will create turnovers, keep the Illini out of the endzone, and be responsible for the win.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Illinois 6
I’m actually excited for this week’s game against Illinois. It will be an opportunity for the team to rebound from a tough game out in Iowa City. I’m sure this week’s practice was a tough one for the kids. I’ll bet $300 BSD bucks that Big Red had the wide receivers working on their hands. Expect Evan Royster and Stephfon Green to have a monster games. I think this is the game Robert Bolden gets over the freshman hump. The kid is a cool customer and has already played in two of the toughest environments he will see all season. He will be able to throw on the Illinois secondary and as long as our receivers catch the ball, we will be in good shape. The red zone woes will also come to an end. The execution will be flawless and the team will continue to build on that momentum the rest of the season.
For some reason, the Illini faithful seems to think they will be able to run all over our defense because Alabama and Iowa did. Well I hate to break it to ya Illinois…you aren’t Alabama and Iowa. The Illini are going to trot out a small version of Terrelle Pryor, Nathan Sheelhaase. Sheelhaase is not what you would call a polished passer. In fact, his throwing leaves much to be desired. If he does throw it up, look for the newly energized Nick Sukay to pick it off. Remember at the start of the season when we were excited about the depth of our linebackers and how many of us thought it would be a good idea to have a d-line type rotation with all of them? Well that isn’t working and it’s time to pick the starting three and go with them. If it were up to me (and it’s not) my three would be Nathan Stupar, Michael Mauti, and Khairi Fortt. I think we are going to see a different defense on Saturday. Look for them to make plays in the 1st quarter to hush the critics.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Illinois 13
This is going to be a fascinating game to watch. Nathan Scheelhaase is kind of like a poor man's Denard Robinson. Illinois will use a lot of options, play fakes, and misdirection to get him freed up and in space. How well Penn State contains him will be a good indicator as to what to expect when the Lions play the Wolverines in a few weeks. I think the defense will do well against Scheelhaase, but he's going to get his yards and have his moments. So I think we'll come away with a mixed bag there, but it will be a good experience for the defense to learn from before human highlight reel comes to Happy Valley in a few weeks.
To me, the story of this game is going to be the Penn State offense. The Illinois defense is not very good, so Penn State should be able to move the ball on them. The big question is if they can score. If Penn State shoots themselves in the foot with poor playcalling and poor execution of the poorly called plays, this game is going to be much closer than any of us are comfortable with. But if Penn State can get the ball in the endzone, this should be a blowout win for the homecoming crowd.
Personally, I think it will be a combination of good drives and missed opportunities. Illinois will take a quick lead off of another slow start, but the defense will adjust and the offense will settle in. Illinois absolutely collapsed against Ohio State late in the game, so I'll predict the same here. Penn State will make it close in the third quarter and pull away in the end with two fourth quarter touchdowns.
Prediction: Penn State 23, Illinois 14