This weekend, the Illinois Fighting Illini will look to bounce back after two straight losses. These losses came after the Illini started the season 6-0. This Saturday’s contest will put the Illini against a ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. (Ranked #19 in BCS standings and #21 in the AP Poll)
Penn State is in the top stop, #1, currently in the Big Ten Leaders Division. The post a record of 7-1 overall and a flawless 4-0 in Big Ten play. Penn State head coach Joe Paterno tied Eddie Robinson’s Division 1 wins record and will look to move ahead of him with a victory over Illinois. JoePa and his boys are nationally ranked 5th in points scored against them. Opponents have only averaged about 13 points per game against the Nittany Lions. The reason for this stat, is the solid defense that Penn State has. With only one loss to their record, you would never guess that the quarterback position for Penn State hasn’t been very solid. Junior Matt McGloin has taken a majority of the snaps come game time and he looks like he’ll be the go-to-guy this Saturday versus Illinois. So far this season, McGloin has completed 81 of 138 passes for 1095 yards. He’s thrown 7 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. Sophomore running back Silas Redd has had a great season fueling the run game with 869 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. He was banged up a little last week in Penn State’s victory over Northwestern, but stayed in the game to achieve a career high 164 yards and a touchdown. Star wide receiver Derek Moye is out with a broken foot, but the Nittany Lions have the talent to back him up in the receiving corps.
Penn State’s only loss this season came from a 27-11 defeat by the hands of Alabama. Even though their offense hasn’t been up to Penn State’s normal standards, they can still put points up on the scoreboard. They’ve achieved victories over Indiana State, Temple, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, and they had a close call against the team the Illini loss to last week, the Purdue Boilermakers.
This game will be in Happy Valley in front of all that white. Illinois was embarrassed at Purdue last week and will need to focus this week in order to win. Can Illinois win this game? They can. Illinois has the #1 receiver statistically in the nation, A.J. Jenkins. They also have the nation’s sack leader in defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The Illini offense will be the key to this game. There’s no “if”s” for the Illini to win this game. At this point they should be called “needs” to win. The offensive line needs to keep pressure off quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The running games needs to get back to where it was all season thus far. The receiving corps. needs to step up to keep the attention off of A.J. Jenkins. Defensively, Illinois needs to keep the pressure on Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. The Illini have to make McGloin make bad choices. The defensive pressure also has to disrupt the Nittany Lion run game. That’s a lot of “needs .” I’m not counting the Illini out.
After the last two weeks of Illini football, this game is a hard one to call. We saw Illinois lose to an Ohio State team that only completed one pass and to a Purdue team that dominated. With Illinois trouble against the run game and Penn State’s defense, this game should end up another loss for the Illini.
Get ready for Illini head coach Ron Zook to be on the hot seat.
Week 9 Prediction: Illinois 14, Penn State 24