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Know Your Foe, Week 9: Illinois Fighting Illini

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Penn State takes on Illinois looking for revenge on an ugly loss last season.

Former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was fired two months ago.
Former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was fired two months ago.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location: Champaign, IL and Urbana, IL
Enrollment: 44,087
Home Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Head Coach: Bill Cubit (Interim, 4-3)

Series History

First Game: September 25, 1954 (Penn State won 14-12)
Last Game: November 22, 2014 (Illinois won 16-14)
Overall: Penn State leads series 17-5 (.773)
Current Streak: Illinois has won 1 game in a row (Last Penn State win: 2013)

Offseason

Illinois had what some might call a rocky offseason. Head coach Tim Beckman was relieved of his duties one week before the start of the college football season amid allegations that he encouraged players to play through injury through intimidation, coercion, and lying about injuries. This is obviously troubling for the players, the remaining coaches, and the program itself, and a lot of questions need to be answered in the long term that have little to do with the 2015 season. That said, it's also not ideal for a football team to have a new head coach mere days before the start of the season. All things considered, any success Illinois has this year is a bonus.

Last Week

Illinois fell to Wisconsin 24-13 Saturday in Champaign. It was not a particularly fun game for Illinois fans, but safety Clayton Fejedelem did have an incredible day with 19 tackles against the Badgers.

Offense

The big name is wide receiver Geronimo Allison. It's a great name. Aside from his name, he's also a pretty good player who has been heating up in recent weeks. Running back Josh Ferguson is likely out for this game with a shoulder injury, however. Wide receiver Marchie Murdock may be out, too, further hampering the Illinois attack. And quarterback Wes Lunt has a much less fortunate name than Geronimo Allison. Lunt is a solid if unspectacular quarterback but has a tough test ahead of him against Penn State's defense.

Defense

Illinois has a solid defense that could present some problems for an inconsistent offensive line that may once again be down starting right tackle Andrew Nelson. Linebackers T.J. Neal and Mason Monheim are two of the team leaders in the front seven, and the top pass rusher is defensive end Dawuane Smoot, who has 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss so far in 2015.

It should be noted that this defense struggled at times last week when Wisconsin ran the jet sweep, which has been a frequently employed play by the Penn State offense this season. Is this something that Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan will look to take advantage of? Discuss in the comments!

Special Teams

It's not a particular strength of this Illinois team. Kicker Taylor Zalewski is only 67 percent on field goals this season, and punter Ryan Frain has only pinned opponents inside their 20 on three occasions. Punt returner V'Angelo Bentley has two fumbles.

Blog

Visit SB Nation's The Champaign Room (it's a pun about the town the university is located in, you see) for Illinois coverage.