The University of Illinois football team travels to Happy Valley for their first true road test facing the Penn State Nittany Lions, a team known to have one of the most tradition-rich college football programs in the country. The Fighting Illini will have to overcome a hostile crowd at Beaver Stadium, which holds a capacity of 107,282 screaming Nittany Lion fans. The Illini football team proved last week they can compete with the elite in the Big Ten Conference, sending a message to their conference rivals that its goal is to go bowling at season’s end.
Penn State’s offense is lead by QB #1 Rob Bolden, a true freshman. The Nittany Lion ground game is anchored by senior RB #22 Evan Royster, currently averaging 130 yards per game. Its offense has sputtered in their two losses scoring only one field goal in each of those games.
Penn State’s passing attack has also been inconsistent against powerful foes like Alabama and Iowa, but is averaging 200 yards per game. Primary targets in their aerial attack are #6 Derek Moye and #83 Brett Brackett, and given recent history, it appears that #26 Justin Greene and the Illini secondary can shut them down. If the Illini defense, which played a stellar game against Ohio State, can continue to shut out the opponents’ rushing game and make the Penn State offense one-dimensional, they will stand a good chance of victory. If the U of I’s front four and line backing core apply pressure, as they did last week, they will be in great shape. Coach Ron Zook calls this a “must win game.”
Penn State’s defense is only allowing around 120 yards per game on the ground and 173 yards through the air. Their defense is lead by LB #48 C. Colasanti and #42 M. Mauti, who leads the team in tackles. Penn State secondary leader #1 Nick Sukay, with three interceptions for the year, will look to shut down #8 AJ Jenkins and the receiving corps of the Illini. The pressure this week for the Illini offense will be strictly on the offensive line, it will be critical that they open holes for their potent rushing attack. QB Nathan Scheelhaase must orchestrate sustained time consuming drives, while RB #5 Mikel Leshoure must get twenty plus carries for the Illini offense to be successful.
If last week’s game showed us anything it’s that the Fighting Illini is still a team to watch. If they play their cards right, this may just be the upset they need to turn this season in their favor. Fighting Illini is a minus-8 point under dogs but they will likely embrace that role. Weather at game time will be a perfect 63 degrees and clear.
Penn State Home Game tradition:
Before home games, players dress in their game uniform at the Lasch Football Building, and are bussed over to Beaver Stadium in four plain, blue university buses. First and second team offensive players ride in the first bus, first and second team defensive players ride in the second bus, and the rest of the team follows in the third and fourth buses. Only two seats on any of the four buses are reserved: Joe Paterno rides in the front right of the offensive bus, and his starting quarterback #1 Rob Bolden rides in the front left.
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno has said that if there is ever debate over who will be the starter for any game, look to who gets off the bus second.
Prep Picks for week 7: Villa Grove Bluedevils, Tuscola Warriors, SP Wildcats, Westville Tigers, STM Sabers, Unity Rockets, ST Joseph Spartans, and Danville Vikings