NCAA Football – Week 5
The non-conference schedule has been brutal for the Big Ten. The Big Ten has been the media’s punching bad, and for good reason, all through the first four weeks of the season. This is the week where the Big Ten starts to play against each other. Someone has to get off to a hot start inside conference play. Penn State travels to Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini this Saturday.
Bill O’Brien has an extremely difficult job this year. The Penn State Nittany Lions offseason was the toughest any football program has gone through in years. Penn State lost their first two games of the year in difficult fashion, but they bounced back with solid victories over Navy and Temple in the past two weeks. This team clearly has several weaknesses, first of which is overall team depth. On the other hand, the Nittany Lions aren’t as bad as some were saying they were as recently as a couple weeks ago.
Clearly the strength of Penn State’s team is their defensive. Specifically, the front seven is extremely tough. Michael Mauti is one of the best linebackers in the nation, and the defensive line is full of very talented players. The defense has given up only 15.3 points per game this year. The offense misses Silas Redd in the running game. Penn State is averaging just 124 rushing yards per contest. Matt McGloin has been very good so far this year at quarterback. McGloin has nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Expectations were pretty high for the Illinois Fighting Illini this year, but two big losses have really stung the team in the past couple weeks. A blowout loss at Arizona State might have been a bit excusable, but last week’s 52-24 humiliating loss to Louisiana Tech was awful. Illinois has quite a bit of talent, but this team isn’t in any kind of rhythm right now. Nathan Scheelhaase was pulled in last week’s loss to Louisiana Tech, but Tim Beckman says he is still the starting quarterback moving forward. Scheelhaase is a good dual-threat quarterback when healthy, but he is dinged up right now. The Fighting Illini also don’t have any real weapons on the outside.
The defense was supposed to be the strength of the team. Last year, Illinois ranked in the top 15 in the nation in all the major defensive categories. The rushing defense has been pretty good this year, but the secondary was been torched. Overall, Illinois is allowing opponents to score 26 points per game so far this season. This unit will have to be better if the team is going to make noise in the Big Ten.
Free College Football Pick:
Penn State doesn’t have the team to air it out against Illinois like Arizona State and Louisiana Tech did. The Nittany Lions do have the team to stop the Illinois offense though. Look for a low scoring close game here. The under looks like the best value.
Illinois 20 Penn State 17