Penn State heads to Champaign, IL Saturday to start its Big Ten season at noon on Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff. They’ll face off against Illinois and will be playing in front of a crowd donned in orange. This marks the eighth straight year and the 13th time in the last 14 seasons Penn State’s started conference play on the road.
The last time these two teams faced off was the notoriously bad example of the new NCAA overtime rules. Penn State ultimately lost in 2021, a 20-18, 9OT contest. Expect Saturday to be different.
Penn State seems to be rolling. Regardless of who its first two opponents were, PSU’s shown it can be dominant on offense either through the air or on the ground.
The Illinois defense gave up 539 yards to Kansas last week, a near-even split of 277 yards passing and 262 yards rushing. Jalon Daniels is a good college quarterback who may even make a splash in the NFL, but he doesn’t have Drew Allar’s potential and the offense around him doesn’t have close to Penn State’s talent level.
Kansas did give the Penn State coaching staff good film. KU spread the Illinois defense and took advantage of the space with their speed. Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich should be able to do the same with even greater success.
Penn State’s tight end room will be critical Saturday. The combined size and athleticism of Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren will put Illinois’ defense in a bind. Both can be split out wide or in the slot and contribute greatly to the passing game. They also can be tight to the line and be dynamic blockers in the running game.
Illinois showed it couldn’t stop either last week against a Kansas squad which lacks the personnel to be prolific in both aspects at the same time as Penn State can.
Defensivley, look for Penn State to have a similar gameplan to West Virginia.
Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer is similar to WVU QB Garrett Greene. Altmyer leads the Illini in both passing and in rushing, thanks to a 72-yard touchdown run last week. When his offensive line breaks down, he’s shown the ability to escape the pocket and gain yards. We’ll watch to see Penn State’s defensive line can hold their rushing lanes better to contain Altmyer.
The Illini have a capable running back in Reggie Love III and a dynamic receiver in Isaiah Williams who will aid Altmyer But that’s about the extent of it Penn State’s defense should be able to handle the game on their side.
Weather forecast: Temperature (°F): H:78/L:56, mostly cloudy, 12% chance of rain, WSW winds @ 7 MPH. (weather.com)
Spead, over/under: PSU: -14.5, O/U: 48.5
Prediction: Penn State should start its conference schedule with a slam dunk win.
Penn State 45, Illinois 13
Jarrod Prugar and I go into greater depth about the upcoming match-up on The Lasching Out Podcast. You can listen to our pre-game edition below. The podcast is also available on your favorite podcasting platform, Amazon, Apple, Spotify, etc.