Staff Predictions: No. 7 Penn State vs. Illinois

After a much-needed bye week, No. 7 Penn State football (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) is back in action this week against Illinois (2-5, 1-3).

Both teams are coming off their bye weeks, but both took tough losses prior to the off week. For the Nittany Lions, it was a 23-20 loss to Iowa. The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, were shut out by Wisconsin 24-0.

Despite the uncertainly at quarterback, our staff expects Penn State to easily breeze by Illinois with a win at Beaver Stadium.

Samuel Brungo (5-1): Penn State 38, Illinois 16

QB1, QB2, QB3 — it doesn’t matter. State by 22.

Mikey DeAngelis (4-0): Penn State 31, Illinois 17

It’s tough to make a prediction on this game without knowing the full quarterback situation for the Nittany Lions, but regardless, I think Penn State will come away with a win. The Nittany Lions are historically not great coming off a bye in the Franklin era, but Illinois is one of the less challenging opponents Penn State has played this season. Expect a slow start from the Nittany Lions before kicking into gear in the second half.

Nolan Wick (4-1): Penn State 20, Illinois 3

Regardless of who the starting quarterback is, there’s no excuse for the blue and white to be unprepared for a home game against one of the weaker teams in the Big Ten, especially with two weeks’ notice. If Clifford doesn’t start, this game will be an indication as to how good of a quarterback room Penn State actually has, as I expect both Roberson and Veilleux to see significant playing time if that is the case. 

Brent Pry’s defense will take advantage of a weak Illinois offense playing in the Beaver Stadium environment. The defense will make big plays, including interceptions and recovering fumbles. The Nittany Lions will be ready, and they will take care of business against the Illini.

Mara McKeon (2-0): Penn State 38, Illinois 10

After two weeks without football here in Happy Valley, it is great to get excited for a home game again, especially following the activities of Homecoming Week. The Nittany Lions have had their fair share of challenges over the past few weeks, including injuries, media drama, and their first loss of the season. But, I think they will come out with a victory regardless. Facing this adversity should strengthen them as a team and allow for an easy win on Saturday.

Frankie Marzano (5-1): Penn State 40, Illinois 9

The 10th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s 409th win is coming up on Friday, October 29. The win also came against Illinois. The ghost of the legendary coach will make his presence felt this weekend.

Alex Petersen (1-1): Penn State 20, Illinois 7

I think the current spread at 23 is being a little generous to Penn State. Penn State easily took down opponents Indiana and Villanova by 24 and 21, respectively, and that was with Sean Clifford at quarterback. Roberson had his struggles, but with more preparation and a much easier defense in front of him, he should be able to do some damage. I expect Penn State to take this one, but I don’t expect a lot of scoring on either side of the ball.

Charles Reinert (6-0): Penn State 21, Illinois 10

Look, I have no idea what to expect from the Nittany Lions’ offense this week. Will it be Ta’Quan? Veilleux? Will Clifford trot out to the gridiron? Who knows.

What I do know is that this defense is legit. I am all in on Joey Porter Jr. and Co., and I believe they’ll lead this team to victory over the Illini this weekend.

Gabriel Herman (0-1): Penn State 37, Illinois 14

This is an Illinois team that got absolutely flattened by Virginia. The Illini were shut out at home against Wisconsin, and they’re coming into Beaver Stadium during the first Homecoming celebration in a couple of seasons. Penn State is coming off a bye week hungry, tired of being left out of the picture, but mostly angry after a tough loss at Kinnick Stadium. I don’t think Illinois will be shut out, but you can expect a pretty big gap in the score. It’ll be 1-0 this week for Penn State.

Connor Krause (5-1): Penn State 28, Illinois 3

After a much-needed bye week, the Nittany Lions will get back to their winning ways against Illinois on Saturday. I expect Sean Clifford to sit out for an extra precautionary week of rest before heading to Columbus which should allot extra reps for Mike Yurcich’s rushing attack throughout the afternoon. The one-two punch of Noah Cain and Keyvone will lead the way with over 80 rushing yards each, including a breakaway scamper from one of the backs to seal the game late in the third quarter. Penn State will control the ball early and often in what should be an effortless day before next week’s prime time clash.

Devon Craley (3-1): Penn State 34, Illinois 6

Nobody truly knows right now who will be under center when Penn State takes the field this Saturday against Illinois. If Sean Clifford were to miss the game due to injury, I still believe this game is very winnable for the Nittany Lions. Backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson struggled heavily against Iowa, but this matchup at home against a very weak Illinois defense should prove too favorable for Penn State to lose, regardless of who will be the starting quarterback.

Illinois’ offense has failed to put up points against superior opponents, and I don’t expect that to change given the potency of Penn State’s defense and the crowd that awaits it in Beaver Stadium. Penn State wins big as it advances toward the most difficult stretch of its season thus far.

Ethan Bell (3-1): Penn State 42, Illinois 10

Expect a Penn State blowout after the bye week and after suffering a loss to Iowa. The Nittany Lions will come into the game hungry for a win and expect Jahan Dotson and Jaquan Brisker to have big days. I do not think Illinois is on the same level as the Nittany Lions, and it will show this weekend.

Sam Fremin (2-1): Penn State 31, Illinois 6

If his flirty messages with the blog are any indication, I’m putting my money on Sean Clifford making his return against Illinois. He will make his return with a vengeance. Penn State controls its destiny regarding the college football playoff. Winning out would all but guarantee a rematch with Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. The Nittany Lions may be bumped off that road, but it won’t happen this week.

Gabe Angieri (4-2): Penn State 27, Illinois 9

I’m making this prediction under the impression that Ta’Quan Roberson will be under center for the Nittany Lions. I expect the signal-caller to bounce back after a rough outing against the Hawkeyes and throw for two touchdowns, one each to Jahan Dotson and Theo Johnson.

Penn State’s defense will give up just three field goals and dominate the Illini for much of the game. Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown will each come away with interceptions, while Arnold Ebiketie will have two sacks and a forced fumble.

James Franklin’s squad will head into Columbus next week 6-1 when it takes on Ohio State, a game I think Sean Clifford will return for.

Ryan Parsons (5-1): Penn State 27, Illinois 10

With Penn State’s quarterback situation so up in the air, I’m honestly not really sure what to make of this game. Illinois is not a very good team and has already suffered key injuries, so it’s hard to see this being a competitor affair no matter who’s at quarterback. But, I think the Nittany Lions’ stout defense will be enough to make this a comfortable win, and the only touchdown will come against the backup guys.

Will Pegler (5-1): Penn State 28, Illinois 6

James Franklin said Sean Clifford has been practicing this week, and we saw him taking reps on Wednesday, but I still don’t see the quarterback playing Saturday. If the injury was bad enough to keep him out of the second half of one of the biggest games of the season, why rush him back against a 2-5 Illinois team?

With that in mind, Ta’Quan Roberson is the expected starter at quarterback. He obviously struggled against the Hawkeyes, but I see him having a bit of a bounce-back performance against a suspect Illini defense. Oh, by the way, a relaxed, noon kickoff, Homecoming atmosphere will likely help the young Roberson’s nerves.

The offense does enough and the defense balls out in a 28-6 win.

Matt DiSanto (5-1): Penn State 24, Illinois 13

I think Roberson’s going to start this game, and I’m not sure he’ll look that great. That said, great performances from the Nittany Lions’ top defenders will keep Penn State on track to roll past Illinois.

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