Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium for Saturday’s homecoming matchup against Illinois.
The Nittany Lions have won their last three competitions with the Fighting Illini, most recently in the form of a 56-21 victory in Champaign, Illinois.
This is how our employees see the matchup this weekend.
Alexis Yoder: Penn State 30, Illinois 7
After a narrow loss on the road to Iowa, in which it sustained several serious injuries, Penn State’s farewell week came at the right time.
Whether James Franklin picks Sean Clifford, Ta’Quan Roberson, or even Christian Veilleux, the Nittany Lions shouldn’t have a problem with one of the Big Ten’s worst defenses in Illinois.
Should Roberson get the go-ahead, expect the extra preparation time in the bye week to put him at a much higher level than against the Haweyes.
Defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s group won’t have much to worry about in terms of change despite losing the initial defensive fight and captain PJ Mustipher.
The blues and whites need to get off to a quick start and ditch the Illinois early in front of a returning crowd at Beaver Stadium, especially when Roberson plays most of the game.
Justin Morganstein: Penn State 34, Illinois 6
Much of that prediction depends on Clifford’s health, of course, but Penn State should still be in a good position to comfortably win on Saturday.
If the Nittany Lions do have to go with Roberson against Illinois, they have two weeks to plan for the dual-threat quarterback and should be able to comfortably win the game with him.
The Illinois Offensive has struggled to say the least, being the bottom of the Big Ten at passing yards per game, yards per completion, and completion percentage.
Given that Penn State’s defense has been dominant in all its facets this season, Brent Pry’s group shouldn’t have a problem with players like Brandon Peters or Artur Sitkowski.
If Penn State just manages to get points on the board against a shaky secondary school, it should be fine on homecoming weekend.
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Max Ralph: Penn State 27, Illinois 10
The outcome of that game probably doesn’t depend much on who lines up under the center for Penn State. The Nittany Lions could throw just about anyone in and beat this Illinois team, thanks in large part to the strength of their defenses.
However, the way Penn State wins is influenced by the quarterback game. When Clifford is 100% healthy and the game starts, he will lead the blues and whites into an offensive blast.
I don’t expect him to see much time, however, so the responsibility will fall on Roberson and perhaps Veilleux. Extra preparation during the bye week and a weak opponent should allow them to score enough points, but it won’t be absurd.
The Nittany Lions will have a good chance of emphasizing their frantic attack on Saturday, and they will do the job handy against the Fighting Illinois who haven’t done much this season.
Seth Engle: Penn State 30, Illinois 3
Illinois is likely the worst football team Penn State has faced so far in 2021.
A mystery remains with the Nittany Lions starting quarterback place.
Sean Clifford is back in training in training, so will he play on Saturday or will it be the questionable backup Roberson in his replacement?
The two options lead to very different possible results. If Clifford plays this game could be decided by 40 points. If Roberson does that, it could be a lot closer than many fans would like.
That said, Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten on the overall offensive, and Penn State’s defense ranks fourth in terms of allowable points.
Despite the quarterback start, it will be tough for the Illinois to win a football game in which they can’t score.
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