No. 7 Penn State Football is flying high into their Week 3 matchup with Illinois at Memorial Stadium.
The Nittany Lions have gotten off to a fast start and are squarely in the top-10 rankings and early-season CFP conversations. PSU blew out Delaware 63-7 last week in a rout that was never really close.
The Fighting Illini themselves are coming off a frustrating loss vs Kansas last week and will look to bounce back at home.
Too many self-inflicted mistakes, turnovers, penalties, and sloppy play cost Bret Bielema’s team in a very winnable game. Look for them to try and empty out the sink vs PSU to win this week.
Penn State should win this matchup handedly, as shown by PSU’s status as double-digit favorites. It won’t come easy but Drew Allar and the offense should have another strong showing vs this vulnerable Illinois team.
Two reasons for Penn State Football to be confident and one reason to worry vs. Illinois
Penn State’s offense is clicking in both the run and the pass game.
Through two games, the Penn State Offense has shown a wide variety of ways to attack and beat opposing defenses.
In the first game against West Virginia, it was the pass game that beat the Mounties and Allar was flawless in his debut start to kickoff 2023.
Last week against Delaware, it was a blended attack highlighted by a monster run game with plays coming from seven different ball-carriers.
Against Delaware, PSU rushed for six touchdowns in the dirt and Nick Singleton accounted for half of them with a hat trick.
Meanwhile, Kaytron Allen led the way, with four players tallying over 45 rushing yards, six with over 25 rushing yards, and 315 total yards on the ground. Against WVU, Allar went for 325 yards and 3 TDs through the air.
This Penn State offense has strong depth and balance at every position group. The line has held up well early and they give the chance for Allar to find guys open downfield and create holes for the backs in the run game.
If Illinois couldn’t stop Kansas last week, it will be a much tougher task to expect them to stop this high-octane PSU offense.
Look for PSU to keep instilling their will on opponents, and play some more bully ball with the run game this week. Until teams prove they can stop the PSU offense, it’s hard to bet against them having another huge game.
Penn State’s Stingy Defense is still yet to truly have a breakout game yet.
This should come with an asterisk.
Penn State has only let up 22 points through two games with a points difference of +78, that is of course very good.
However, Penn State Football has yet to be really challenged yet through two games, but the first Big Ten test of the year, especially on the road, is always a more challenging test.
Altmeyer was their leading rusher in the loss vs Kansas, with 13 rushes for 70 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also 202 more yards through the air with one more touchdown, albeit with two interceptions.
It will be important to collapse the pocket on Altmeyer and force him to make plays through the passing game.
Penn State’s front seven matches up very well for this contest and we are yet to see a truly dominant individual performance yet from a PSU front-seven player to start the season.
Look for this to be Abdul Carter’s first truly dominant performance of the year and remind people how good he can be.
Penn State Football should be able to generate pressure, force some turnovers, and maybe spark the team with a score. Look for the defense to come out and set the tone early.
Reason to Worry: Can Illinois repeat the upset again, with the same recipe as they used in 2021?
Illinois found a recipe to beat James Franklin’s squad just two seasons ago, winning one of the longest and most epic college football games ever.
Bielema’s team went into Happy Valley and turned it into a house of horrors.
If there’s one thing Bret Bielema is good at, it’s grinding games out in whatever fashion necessary to eke out a win.
It’s usually not pretty or glamorous, but he has a proven track record of winning Big Ten games dating back to the 2000s with Wisconsin.
In 2021, Illinois won 20-18 after an absurd NINE overtimes. That will almost definitely never happen again but this game could end up a slugfest if Illinois finds life with their run game.
This is their DNA and who they want to be as a physical, nasty team, who consistently holds the battles in the trenches. They rushed for over 300 yards that game while only going for 38 yards passing and only completing 8 attempts.
Illinois has three capable runners in Altmyer at QB while Reggie Love and Josh McCray are both capable backs as well. If they get hot early, it could spell a long game for Penn State.