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Please Not Illinois: An Open Letter To Penn State Athletics

The Penn State White Out, as this is published, should be 150 days away.

That’s when Ohio State comes to town to take on the Nittany Lions on Saturday, November 2, at Beaver Stadium.

Alternatively, the White Out could come in 123 days, when UCLA comes to Happy Valley on Saturday, October 5. It could happen in 157 days, when the final Pac-12 champion, Washington, comes to Penn State.

The White Out shouldn’t come in 116 days when Illinois makes a routine pilgrimage to one of college football’s greatest cathedrals.

However, Illinois is starting to seem like a possible outcome for Penn State’s White Out opponent. With the news that NBC wants to put the Illinois game at 7:30 p.m. and no guarantee that any other home game will get the same blessing from a network, the Fighting Illini may appear in their second-ever White Out game.

That’s not what the White Out should be. For the past few years, it’s seemed Penn State has forgotten that.

The 2023 matchup against Iowa was, well, OK. There wasn’t really any concern Penn State could drop that game, but Iowa was a good enough opponent to justify giving it Penn State’s biggest game of the year. West Virginia (maybe) or Michigan (definitely) would have been better options, but West Virginia came early in the season and Michigan was always going to be a noon kickoff. Blame FOX.

The 2022 White Out against Minnesota was a waste of time. It was Minnesota, for goodness’ sakes.

When Penn State designated Minnesota as its White Out opponent, James Franklin said a survey of Penn State fans showed they cared more about the White Out being a night game than being against a high-level opponent. That’s why Ohio State wasn’t the the White Out opponent in 2022 and why Michigan got the Stripe Out in 2023.

It was a mistake for Penn State to avoid a high-quality opponent in both those scenarios. It can only get worse in 2024 if the Nittany Lions settle for Illinois.

Penn State Athletics, it really doesn’t matter who the White Out opponent is this year. Just don’t make it Illinois.

Illinois is such a boring team that after last year’s game, everyone wrote about Penn State’s kicker because there wasn’t anything better to write about. Put those poor Illini, who couldn’t fit a capacity crowd into their 60,000-seat stadium, into a White Out, and it’s a snooze fest.

The 2024 season presents plenty of opportunity for Penn State to find creative White Out opponents. Washington and UCLA might not have the best teams next year, but they’re both new to the Big Ten and getting their first taste of that style of football. Ohio State is, well, Ohio State. Always a good White Out opponent.

Sure, all three of those games could fall victim to the noon kickoffs that plague college football. However, any of those games at noon is better than Illinois in prime time.

Sometimes, Penn State, you just have to bite the bullet. You can still make prime time against Illinois fun — give it the Helmet Stripe game or the Stripe Out. Just don’t fall victim to giving Penn Staters their third boring White Out in as many years.

Please, Penn State. Anyone but the Illini.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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