Post-Illinois Reactions For Penn State Football

No. 20 Penn State football is not in a good place at the moment. Coming off of a bye week to recover from a heartbreaking loss to Iowa, the Nittany Lions laid an egg this past weekend against Illinois. After an ugly battle in the rain that took nine overtime periods, Penn State fell 20-18 to one of the worst teams in the Big Ten.

The hot takes are rolling in from Nittany Nation this week, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones before Penn State moves on to No. 5 Ohio State.

‘Penn State’s Big Ten Championship, CFP Hopes Are Absolutely Smashed’

Will Pegler: Sure. If Penn State beats Ohio State, this is all back on. Unless Sean Clifford makes a ridiculously fast recovery to 100%, however, that isn’t going to happen. Don’t make any reservations or buy any flight tickets for Indianapolis any time soon.

Sam Brungo: Well, technically not. It is likely that Penn State won’t find itself in Indy or headed to the playoff, but it is still possible. CFP is much less likely, especially trying to imagine the committee putting a two-loss team in, Big Ten Champion or not, if one of those losses is to a team like Illinois. But I still think this football team is very good.

Nearly every team has a fluke loss. Believe it or not, Illinois was the fluke loss of the season, not Iowa. At the end of the day, you have to put this game behind you and move forward. A loss in Columbus would essentially eliminate those dreams, but for now, we’ll just have to see what happens there.

Gabe Angieri: Penn State’s College Football Playoff chances are in fact done. The only way the Nittany Lions have a shot at the Big Ten Championship game is if they win out, which seems far-fetched at this point. Even if they do win out, it’s no guarantee. It’s fun to dream about the Playoff and Big Ten Title game, but I think it’s, unfortunately, time to temper expectations a little bit.

‘Ta’Quan Roberson Should’ve Started Against Illinois’

Will Pegler: I get it, folks. Penn State clearly doesn’t have any confidence in Ta’Quan Roberson. I only get to see 15 minutes of practice a week, but I just can’t wrap my brain around two weeks of preparation for the redshirt sophomore being any worse than what we saw from Sean Clifford Saturday. When healthy, Clifford has been electric this season, but he clearly wasn’t anywhere near that against the Fighting Illini. Let Roberson use his legs on a few drives, and maybe the offense would actually find some sort of rhythm.

Again, this is not a criticism of Clifford. The dude was not healthy enough to be taking in-game hits against a Big Ten defense — albeit one of the worst in the conference.

Sam Brungo: This is an interesting take, mostly because it could have ended in a very similar result. Clifford was visibly still injured and clearly limited because of that. I think Sean Clifford gives Penn State the best chance to win. I think he is the best quarterback on this team, far and away. But I think these only necessarily apply when he is healthy.

Roberson could have provided a spark to the run game, a bit more endurance, and consistency — all aspects that could’ve won Penn State the game. I don’t think this is an overreaction.

Gabe Angieri: Yes, this is 100% true. Sean Clifford has absolutely no business starting that game against Illinois. It was clear throughout the game that he wasn’t fully healthy, as he often looked uncomfortable. I know Roberson struggled mightily against Iowa, but throwing Clifford out there was borderline irresponsible given the state he appeared to be in.

‘Despite Saturday’s Disaster, The Defense Still Has Strong Performances Ahead Of It’

Will Pegler: Penn State’s defensive line couldn’t stop a nose bleed on Saturday. Brent Pry’s unit struggled mightily against the jumbo package the Fighting Illini rolled out against it, but there’s no excuse for the lack of adjustments throughout the afternoon. However, there are too many good players on this defense to say it will struggle like that for the rest of the year. The loss of PJ Mustipher really, really hurts, but this defense is still talented. I have to think the unit will figure things out in some way, shape, or form.

Sam Brungo: The defense is still adjusting to the hole left by PJ Mustipher. Yes, the group allowed over 300 rushing yards. But the Illini ran the ball around 60 times, so they were bound to get some yards. It also doesn’t help that the offense could not help them out, punting time and time again. That being said, Penn State held Illinois to 10 points in regulation. The defense was worn down, but I would say this performance was far from disastrous on their side.

Gabe Angieri: I can get on board with this. I find it hard to believe this will be the run defense we see the rest of the year. Giving up over 350 yards on the ground is inexcusable, and I think the Nittany Lions will clean some things up up front and limit the damage in that department moving forward. Will there be struggles without PJ Mustipher? Yes, but not to the extent we saw Saturday afternoon.

‘The Rushing Attack Just Isn’t An Option This Season’

Will Pegler: Yeah, I’ve thought this group would turn it around at some point. If you can’t get anything going against Illinois’ defensive line, however, I don’t know how you will against quite literally any other team in the Big Ten. Noah Cain just clearly isn’t himself, and the rest of the group hasn’t done anything behind a shaky offensive line. This position group is a problem.

Sam Brungo: I think that as long as Clifford is limited, this will stay true. The run game is one-dimensional without the option of No. 14 running the ball.

Gabe Angieri: I don’t even know what to say about Penn State’s rushing attack anymore. It’s bad, and it’s shown no signs of getting better. My confidence level with Penn State’s ground game is extremely low, and barring a miracle, I don’t see that changing.

‘James Franklin Is Officially In The Market For A New Job At Season’s End’

Will Pegler: The “James Franklin to USC” talk started before the Nittany Lions even left the field Saturday. In fact, it was probably starting to roll in at halftime. However, it’s a bit of an overreaction at this point. If Penn State can salvage the rest of this season and make it to a “respectable” bowl (by this fan base’s standards), I see that talk slowing down quite a bit.

Sam Brungo: I don’t think Franklin is leaving.

Gabe Angieri: Man, this is a tough one. I’m going to go with my gut here and say Franklin is still Penn State’s coach next year. However, I do think he’s weighing other options. If he wasn’t, why wouldn’t he just shoot down the questions about it a few weeks ago with one simple word: “No.” USC and LSU are intriguing options, but I ultimately believe he stays in Happy Valley.

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