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ILLINOIS AT PENN STATE

9/27/08

Penn St Ė15.5 vs Illinois

The #22 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini make the trip to Happy Valley to take on the #12 ranked Penn St Nittany Lions in what will be the Big 10 opener for both teams.


Penn St has come out blazing this year with a 4-0 start, both SU and ATS, and an offense and defense that appear to be clicking, as theyíve taken out all 4 opponents by at least a 31 pt margin. I guess you canít really count Coastal Carolina, but taking out an improved Syracuse team on the road by 42 pts is pretty impressive. And then you figure a visiting Temple team, that literally has every player back from last year, and has already taken UConn into OT, and then very nearly pulled the road upset on a very good Buffalo team, would certainly be able to cover a 4 TD spread. But the Lions covered easily, putting up 45 pts and holding the Owls to just a single FG in another 42 pt romp. And all of a sudden, that 45-14 whooping they put on visiting Oregon St has got to look enormously more impressive after seeing the Beavers totally dominate #1 ranked USC on Thursday night. That should do wonders for Penn Stís BCS strength of schedule rating!


Penn St., who returns 9 starters on each side of the ball, is led by QB Daryll Clark, a 6í2Ē, 230 lb senior who has been outstanding so far. He has passed for 720 yds, completing 61.5 % of his passes for 7 TDís and just 1 INT, for a stellar 166.1 QB rating. He can scoot a little too, as evidenced by his 12 rushes for 81 yds and 2 rushing TDís. RBís Evan Royster and Stephon Green, running behind an offensive line that has been said to be (arguably) the best Penn St. OL in the last 15 years, have made for a formidable backfield in combining for 671 yds and 11 TDís, and an average carry of nearly 8 yds per attempt. And on the receiving end, WRís Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler have contributed nearly 550 yds and 6 more TDís, and have averaged an impressive 17 yds per catch.


Penn St.ís defense has been equally impressive in allowing an average of just 52 yds rushing, 222 yds of total offense and just 10 pts per game. Theyíve also come up with 6 INTís and 2 fumble recoveries, and they donít even have 2 of their best players in there yet. Defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma have been on suspension for the past 3 games, but will be returning for this game.



Illinois didnít look bad offensively in their season opener vs Missouri, but they sure couldnít stop anybody as the Tigers scorched them for 52 pts and almost 550 yds of total offense. They followed that game up with an impressive home win over weakling Eastern Illinois. But then they looked extremely average in their last game against a very poor UL-Lafayette team, in squeaking out a close 20-17 win at home. QB Isiah Williamís numbers donít look too bad on paper. He has passed for 722 yds and 7 TDís and has close to a 60% completion rate. But he has also thrown 5 INTís in 3 games. And when you notice that 451 of his 722 passing yds, and 5 of his 7 TDís came in that first game vs Missouri, a game in which they were down 31-13 at HT and were playing catch-up, it shows that he really hasnít done much sinceÖ.basically 2 TDís and 3 INTís vs a couple of doormats. Itís true that they have had a lot of success running the football the past 2 games, but I doubt if they have that kind of success on the ground against Penn St this week. The Illini running game focuses primarily on QB Williams himself, and then thereís basically just RB Daniel Dufrene who has been Rashard Mendnhallís understudy for the past several years.


The Illinois offense, which ranked 5th in the nation last year in rushing, will certainly not resemble that unit this year. As stated earlier, the Penn St defense has only given up a total of 209 yds rushing in 4 games so far this year, and that was with missing two of their best linemen. Illinois is not going to beat them through the air either. With Penn St having revenge on their minds for a 27-20 loss last year at IllinoisÖ a game in which they turned the ball over 4 times and gave up a 90 yd kickoff returnÖ..this game shapes up as a statement game. And Joe Pa has basically said so by reinstating his suspended defensive stars. Illini QB Williams did not have a good game in that win last year and he does not figure to have a good one here either, which is what it would take for them to have any chance. There is no Rashard Mendenhall this year, and they are playing in a hostile environment in front of over 100,000 crazies, against a team that has been dominant on both sides of the ball, and that has revenge on their mind.


Penn St is 4-0 at home vs Illinois in their last 4 meetings in Happy Valley, winning by an average margin of 16.5 pts. Penn St is also 8-2 in the last 10 meetings with the Illini overall, winning those 8 games by an average margin of over 22 pts per game. I think Illinois is in store for a good old-fashioned beatdown here and Iím picking Penn St by around 3 TDís in this one.

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