Penn State – Illinois Predictions

Matchup: Illinois Fighting Illini @ Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

Where: Beaver Stadium

When: Saturday, October 23rd @ 12:00pm EST

TV: ABC

Penn State is coming off a heartbreaking loss in Iowa where they lost their quarterback for an unknown amount of time and their bid for a unbeaten season. With the quarterback situation up in the air, Penn State rolls out of their BYE and are back home for a matchup with Illinois. Find out what the For the Glory team has to say about this one.

Brandon Musso (4-2)

After a timely BYE week to hopefully get Sean Clifford as healthy as possible, Penn State returns to the field this week. They’ll take on the Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Illinois comes in with a 2-5 record, having struggled most of the season thus far.

On paper, this is a lopsided matchup. Penn State has superior talent but the quarterback situation will play a big part in how this game goes. As seen at Iowa two Saturdays ago, the Penn State offense is entirely different without Sean Clifford. When I first wrote this, the injury situation was quiet as per usual with James Franklin and Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux were splitting first team reps at practice. That all changed on Wednesday night when Clifford was spotted practicing, taking a third of the first team reps. This does suggest that while he may not be out an extended period of time, the fact that he’s taking a third of the reps might mean he may not be ready to play this Saturday.

Looking at the numbers, the Illinois offense and defense are one of the worst in the B1G. They rank last in total yards allowed allowed per game in the B1G. Now like I said, the Penn State quarterback situation will determine how this game goes. With a backup QB, this game will be closer but Penn State will win. With the Clifford starting, this game will be a blowout in Penn State’s favor.

Penn State 34
Illinois 10

Kraigen Rasalla (4-2)

Coming off the much-needed bye week, Penn State will see Illinois come to town for a homecoming matchup. The big question this week is: will Sean Clifford play, and if he does, in what kind of role? We saw him take snaps on Wednesday at practice. He has also been in full pads at practice with a knee brace on, as well. Per usual, Penn State and James Franklin do not discuss injuries too often so I think this is a wait and see until kickoff at noon on Saturday. 
But, even with this huge question mark, I think two weeks of prep will help backup options Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux in a major way. In addition, it helps that Illinois is perhaps the weakest team in the Big Ten. The Illini average the least amount of points per game (17.7 PPG) in the Big Ten and placing them 120th nationally. They are second to last in yards per game (313.6 YPG) in the Big Ten, just barely ahead of the vaunted, no-huddle Iowa offense (ok, that was a jab I felt I had to make). 
Illinois has struggled so much that first year coach Bret Bielema essentially called out the roster construction of this team because of the previous staff. He noted that there isn’t an offensive lineman in the 2-deep depth chart that was recruited to Illinois in the last three years doing anything of note for the Illini. Also, he mentioned the QB room is full of transfers, showing the lack of development at the position by the previous staff.


Major questions at those key positions for Illinois make for an easy Penn State victory, even with questions surrounding who will be the starter under center for Penn State on Saturday.

Penn State 31
Illinois 7

Cory Lestochi (4-2)

QB1 Sean Clifford was throwing the ball during Wednesday’s practice and according to head coach James Franklin this wasn’t the first day he had been participating in throwing drills. Even more encouraging is the fact the reps between the three quarterbacks were split into thirds this week, giving me a hunch that we might see Clifford after all. My prediction? Clifford plays until PSU has a 2 touchdown lead, which might happen sooner than later against a mediocre Illinois football team.
Illinois’ defense is allowing 164 rushing yards per game, which is good for 13th in the Big Ten. It shoots up to 180 rushing yards per game allowed against conference opponents. Their passing defense is also 13th in the Big Ten allowing over 250 passing yards per game. It’s safe to say their defense is porous. I am not too worried about the offense getting started whether it is Clifford under center or one of the backups, yes even if it is QB Ta’Quan Roberson.
The reason I am not worried is because Penn State’s defense is going to suffocate Illinois’ offense. Their run game is middle of the road in the Big Ten, but what really has been the problem for them is quarterback play. They are dead last in passing yards per game in the Big Ten. It doesn’t matter if it’s former Rutgers QB, Artur Sitkowski (51.2% completion percentage) or former Michigan QB, Brandon Peters (48.8% completion percentage), the Illinois offense has struggled.
The only weapon the Nittany Lion defense needs to focus on is Isaiah Williams. The former quarterback is the best athlete for Illinois and he can run, catch, and even pass. Don’t be surprised if he has one or two special plays that make you go “who the hell is this guy?”
Still, Penn State rolls

Penn State 31
Illinois 7

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