Staff Predictions: No. 7 Penn State vs. Illinois

After starting the season 2-0 against West Virginia and Delaware, Penn State begins its Big Ten schedule against Illinois on Saturday, September 16, in Champaign.

The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, are 1-1 and enter Saturday’s matchup after a 34-23 loss against Kansas. The Nittany Lions are favored to win by double-digits for the third-straight game, and that optimism has spread to Onward State.

After our staff remained undefeated in their picks for the first two games of the season, they held strong in the belief that the Nittany Lions would stay undefeated with them.

Aidan Conrad (2-0): Penn State 34, Illinois 20

Penn State’s week three matchup against the Fighting Illini will likely be tougher than people are expecting. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions will find a way to pull away and leave Champaign with a win to move to 3-0 on the season before heading back home for the White Out against Iowa.

Brady Miller (2-0): Penn State 38, Illinois 10

I am very aware of what happened the last time these teams met.

But this Penn State team is different. This one won’t be close.

Brendan Wagner (2-0): Penn State 31, Illinois 14

Drew Allar will play well in his first taste of road action this season but also expect the Nittany Lions to run all over Illinois. A slight comeback in the third quarter will be thwarted by an interception from the Penn State secondary, allowing Allar to coast toward another victory.

CJ Gill (2-0): Penn State 34, Illinois 16

Although this game had higher expectations before the season began, Drew Allar and Co. will still get a quality road test against a scrappy Big Ten West team. The Illini will hope to rebound following their loss to Kansas last week.

I don’t think this one goes nine overtimes as the Nittany Lions hold off coach Bret Bielema’s squad. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen both have big games as the run game is called on often on the road. Count it now: 10 straight games for the Nittany Lions scoring 30 or more points.

Rico Gore (2-0): Penn State 35, Illinois 13

Good teams win, great teams cover. Penn State will again cover the current spread of 14.5, but more than that, I expect Penn State to score more than 30 points again. This Illinois beat Toledo by two points and lost to Kansas. If Penn State were to lose to Illinois, it would be a massive letdown. Honestly, if this game is even close, it would be extremely upsetting.

Matt Brown (2-0): Penn State 55, Illinois 17

Do I expect anything different from Penn State now that they enter Big Ten play? No, not at all.

After starting the year 2-0, I don’t see the Nittany Lions slowing down. The offense is playing outstanding, and I expect another big-point performance against a not-so-good Illinois defense. This game shouldn’t be close at all. A blowout by halftime, perhaps.

Nolan Wick (2-0): Penn State 49, Illinois 17

Illinois’ defense looked vulnerable the first two games, and I don’t see how that’ll change against an offense of Penn State’s caliber. Quarterback Luke Altmyer already has three interceptions, so the Nittany Lions’ secondary could have a field day with him.

The Illini will score 17 points, as Altmyer is still a dual-threat quarterback who has a returning wide receiver corps. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions will put up points on both sides of the ball. Drew Allar has played well enough that I don’t imagine he’ll have any problems starting on the road for the first time, and his supporting cast has also been impressive.

Expect James Franklin’s team to return 3-0 from the Midwest.

CJ Doebler (2-0): Penn State 35, Illinois 10

I think this is the week Penn State’s run game finds its footing and starts breaking big plays. Illinois’ best days with the defense are behind them, but it’ll still pose a threat to Drew Allar. Penn State’s defense will have to learn to handle Illinois’ mobile quarterback Luke Altmyer quickly before he makes an impact, but I think the defensive front seven will step up and limit his impact on the game.

Joe Lister (2-0): Penn State 38, Illinois 13

Good teams win, great teams cover. And Penn State is going to cover for the third time this season.

The Nittany Lions are 14.5-point favorites against Illinois this week, but frankly, that’s a rough look for the sportsbooks. Penn State has taken care of its previous two opponents in quick fashion, while the Fighting Illini have struggled in their opening games.

Keeley Lamm (2-0): Penn State 31, Illinois 13

I’ll never bet against the Nittany Lions.

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