Hello, friends. Welcome back to the BSD Prediction Roundtable, the post where you yell at us if we don't pick Penn State to win. This week, the Nittany Lions are concerned with the UFO sighting near Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The Illini come in with a 4-3 record, playing good games in losses against Iowa and Wisconsin and beating Nebraska. They bring a defense that has been stout against everyone they've played save UNC. Their offense leaves quite a bit to be desired, though. Hopefully Bill Cubit has a few ideas concerning the predicament of his workers in the Rockford River Valley region.
Penn State, meanwhile, enters bowl-eligible at 6-2. However, the desire to make this season a bit more special with a warm-weather bowl (maybe somewhere like Jacksonville?) rather than a cold weather one like in, say, Chicago, is strong with this fanbase. Plus, Illinois is a team Penn State should beat handily. They've been playing well, sure. However, last year's away loss to the Illini is maybe the worst in the James Franklin era. Avenging that particularly miserable defeat, and beating up on a school that has become a nominal enemy thanks to their now-deposed head coach's penchant for skulking around State College trying to get Penn State players to transfer in the basement of Irving's, will be strong. That, and Penn State is a significantly better team, though replacing John Donovan with someone, anyone, John Wayne Gacy Jr. or Mary Todd Lincoln for all I care, up in the box would be lovely. Let's just hope the Nittany Lions don't play like night zombies, or else we'll be stuck hearing that string part again (that of the world's smallest violin) as we exit Beaver Stadium.
Personally, I expect Christian Hackenberg to finally step up and be the man of metropolis who stole our hearts two years ago, throwing for four TDs. Saquon Barkley gets it together again in this temple, as in the hearts of man for whom he saved the earth. The defense, after having its worst outings of the year, will be fired up. Whether they play like predatory wasps or a conjunction of drones is to be determined, but against an Illinois offense that often finds itself looking like a prairie fire wandering about, expect a big day. This Penn State team may find itself battling opponents for close wins like they're fighting in the Blackhawk War, but this is the game they turn the corner and the offense goes from the floor to the top of the Seer's Tower. It won't be because of Donovan's playcalling, which can best be described as riffs and variations on a single note, as the man shouldn't get a job coaching football anywhere besides Decatur or maybe out of Egypt, but by talent and possibly a Franklin intervention winning out.
There are only two home games left and no more easy games, so let's get one last woo-hoo for our pullmen.
Penn State 38 - Illinois 13
bscaff: A stationary Wes Lunt, and an Illini offense missing two of its three best playmakers seems like a the perfect recipe for our defense to earn some redemption. If Saquon Barkley gets going - and he has a nice shot against a 6-man box - then this could be a comfortable win. On the other hand, there haven't been a ton of those this year, or against Illinois in recent years, and anything is possible with such a young team. Penn State gets win number seven, by two scores, but it's not a blowout.
Penn State 23 - Illinois 13
Chad: bscaff said John Donovan's gameplan matches up well against a 4-2-5 and I believe in bscaff (and John Donovan, I guess).
Penn State 69 - Illinois 21 (ed. note: nice)
Matt: I learned my lesson last week that I should never expect a big victory from this team. Better to be pleasantly surprised a la the Rugers or Indiana games, I suppose. Anyway, on paper, PSU matches up very well with Illinois, at least as far as the Lions D vs. the Illini O. Josh Ferguson is out, Mikey Dudek is redshirting, and Wes Lunt is hardly mobile. The PSU defense should have a big day, and if the offense can do anything, PSU will win this game.
Penn State 24 - Illinois 17
Tim: While I have little doubt that PSU's defense will hold a Josh Ferguson and Mikey Dudek-less Illlini offense in check, I can't predict with the same amount of confidence that the PSU offense will have such success with Illinois' D. That being said, Saquon Barkley ought to have more breathing room this week to run (assuming Illinois doesn't pull a Maryland and constantly put nine guys in the box every play) and Hack should be good for several deep completions.
Penn State 20 - Illinois 14
Nick: Illinois has the pieces to be a very fun and dangerous team, on the offensive side of the ball at least. However, with their arguable best two playmakers (Mike Dudek and Josh Ferguson) sidelined, it's hard to be too afraid of the Fighting Illini offense. Wes Lunt and Geronimo Allison have been a strong duo thus far in 2015, but those two alone shouldn't be enough to beat Penn State's defense. Especially considering the fact that Bob Shoop's defense is likely going to come out with their hair on fire on Saturday to prove that the Maryland game was an anomaly.
I'm still waiting to see Penn State put on a performance in which they can pass and run the ball effectively on the same Saturday before I will start assuming this team can win comfortably, but there's some reason to believe that such an instance could occur against the Illini. Saquon Barkley will once again be with Hackenberg in the backfield (and allegedly 100% healthy now), which should be enough for this Penn State team to win. However, a complete game from both Barkley and Hackenberg could lead to Penn State's first big time blowout win of the season. Sign me up for 150 all-purpose yards for Barkley, 247 passing yards for Hack, and touchdown catches for De'Andre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki. On the defensive side, Carl Nassib racks up two more sacks, Troy Reeder grabs an interception and Jordan Lucas leads the team in tackles with 13.
Penn State 41 - Illinois 13
Eli: Ah, Illinois. Illinois is a weird teamm. Like Iowa, Illinois has given us fits more often than not ever since we joined the Big Ten. Unlike Iowa, Illinois hasn't been able to come away with wins as often. Illinois is 4-14 against Penn State since 1993, when the Nittany Lions first season in Big Ten football. However, three of those four wins have come since 2007. I'd be lying to you if I didn't expect this game to resemble some of the more recent games we've had with Illinois in the past few years, where it seems like the last team holding the ball wins the game (except 2011. Doink!).
With Tim Beckman no longer holding Illinois back, they are starting to look like a competent team that has enough to compete with anyone in the conference, but still doesn't have enough to come away with wins more often than they lose. That will be the case today.
Penn STate 56 - Illinois 17
Adam: Penn State 27 - Illinois 20
Bill: Penn State 24 - Illinois 14
Cari: Penn State 23 - Illinois 10
Dan: Penn State 28 - Illinois 10
Jared: Penn State 24 - Illinois 17