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TCR Staff Predictions: Penn State

Illinois opens Big Ten play with one of their toughest matchups of the year, and it probably won’t go well.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Rajlich

If things go as they should, then Friday night’s game should not be nice to the Illini. However, good luck has seemed to have fallen on our side more than usual this year, and anything can happen. Following Penn State’s beatdown of Kent State last week, one could expect Penn State by a margin of over six touchdowns. However, I’m expecting this week’s game to be closer. If our offensive line can protect the QB, we might be able to stick around longer than expected, before the Nittany Lions pull away. Penn State 49, Illinois 24

Michael Berns

The line for this game has Penn State favored by four touchdowns. I think that’s spot on, as Penn State definitely has the horses to pull away and make this one ugly, but really — the Lions’ eye is on the massive, massive showdown vs Ohio State on 9/29. The winner of that game has the inside track to win the Big Ten Conference. Do I think Penn State overlooks Illinois? Not exactly, since Illinois looked formidable against USF last week. Do I think Penn State tries a few different looks, maybe plays a few more freshmen and perhaps pulls some of their regular starters in the 3rd and 4th quarters? Absolutely. Penn State 35, Illinois 7

Stephen Cohn

Maybe I would have been more hyped for this game had the Illini pulled off the upset over South Florida and entered the night game with a 3-0 record. They couldn’t do that, and now it feels like Illinois is about to lay a massive egg, even if the suspended players return. Penn State will overmatch the Illini across the board, en route to a big win. Illinois stays competitive in the first half, but a few big third quarter plays are more than enough. Penn State 38, Illinois 10

Kyle Huisinga

The game against South Florida was an all too familiar sight for Illini fans. Offense time and time again in the second half can’t even pick up a first down. The defense, with the lack of a pass rush, gets worn down and exhausted by the end and allows big play after big play. I was encouraged by some of the things that occurred last Saturday. The suspended players returning should help us win a few games down the stretch. This is not one of them, however. Penn State won’t overlook a game but undermanned Illini squad, and while Illinois plays solid early, Penn State is just too talented. Trace McSorley puts up huge numbers, and MJ Rivers plays the second half as AJ Bush proves ineffective. Penn State 56, Illinois 24

Austin Jabs

Penn State comes to Champaign to play under the lights and there is a bit of optimism in Illini fans. Despite a bad start against Kent State, the Illini have shown that they may not be as bad as expected. Illinois was able to erase a huge deficit in week one, they were able to take down Western Illinois in week two, and they held South Florida in check (aside from that last pass) in week three, a game they were expected to lose mightily. The question that needs asked, however, is did the Illini play well and force mistakes by USF or did USF just have an off week? In regards to Penn State, McSorley has yet to show he can play as well as he did in 2017 following the loss of Barkley. Through three games, the Nittany Lions QB has 603 yards through the air for five touchdowns. Illinois should be able to hang with Penn State early, possibly a one score game at the half, but Penn State should pull away late. Penn State 33, Illinois 20

Raul Rodriguez

The Illini defense has its work cut out for it Friday night. Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense is arguably the most prolific attack the Illini will face this season. On the other hand, we have seen enough from the Illini offense to envision a scenario where they can move the ball and score points on Penn St. These two forces merge Friday night to create a shootout. Expect the Illini to stay with Penn State in a track meet but ultimately fall short as Penn State pulls away late. Penn St 52, Illinois 35

Ian Gold

I come from a Penn State family, and they’ve always brandished stories of the immense football potential that Joe Paterno was stifling with his stubbornness and unwillingness to adapt or leave. Well, I guess they were onto something. Penn State has virtually owned the east in recruiting for the past few years under James Franklin, and the talent they’ve stacked is ridiculous. It’s not quite Buckeye ridiculous, but it’s ridiculous. Illinois has a chance to bring back their suspended players and feed off of what should be the best crowd of the year to hang in early with the Nittany Lions, especially if they look forward to Ohio State next week. I suspect the lack of Illinois pass rush makes holding McSorley under 42 points impossible, and the 28 point vegas spread says as much. AJ Bush needs to be back under center for Illinois to beat the spread. Penn State 48, Illinois 23

Brad Repplinger

In the event of an emergency, please assume the bracing position. Lean forward with your hands on top of your head and your elbows against your thighs. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor. Also, your seat bottom cushion can be used as a flotation device. Pull the cushion from the seat, slip your arms into the straps, and hug the cushion to your chest. Penn State 48 Illinois 13

Ben Ford

Despite opening it up on the past two opponents (Pitt only after half-time), Trace McSorley has some pretty mediocre numbers passing. That said, he is running for huge yardage, and his weapons seem to be emerging slowly, on a week to week basis. If he can hit passes at a higher rate than Blake Barnett, I don’t see Illinois stopping Penn State too often. This could get out of hand. Penn State 42, Illinois 20

Tristen Kissack

Illinois suffered their first loss of the season last weekend against South Florida, and unfortunately, they’ll take loss No. 2 of the year Friday night. Penn State simply is too much for either the Illinois offense or defense to handle. There have been rumors that we might see the suspended players get their first playing time of the season this week, but it won’t matter. Illinois struggled in Week One because of Woody Barrett’s ability to tuck and run. With McSorley, the Illini will be forced to honor both the deep ball and the run game. Hopefully, fans are treated to a competitive ball game in what should be a great atmosphere. Penn State 45, Illinois 20

Matt Rejc

Last week I predicted a 28-point loss for the Illini, and the game ended up being much closer. Although I was encouraged by some of what Illinois did last week, I find it difficult to predict a similarly close game against an opponent far superior to USF in Penn State. It’s tough to even find matchups that the Illini could exploit, since the Nittany Lions have such a pronounced talent advantage across the board. Illinois may hang in this one for a bit, but it’ll get ugly. Penn State 48, Illinois 14

Mark Schaer

I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the South Florida game, but I am also trying to keep in perspective that this Bulls team lost a lot from last year, and much of the reason we were ahead that game was they loved shooting themselves in the foot constantly. I’ll give credit where it’s due (the defensive line batted down plenty of passes and MJ Rivers didn’t turn the ball over), but it says something when your team is outgained 626 to 380 in overall yards. Enter Trace McSorley, perhaps one of the most electric quarterbacks in the entire country, and a more experienced and battle-tested Penn State team. Let’s not forget how good of a coach James Franklin is. I don’t expect this to be a 28-point loss as the line suggests, but I think it’s safe to say the Illini defense will have a tough time containing McSorley and keeping pace on the offensive side of the ball. Penn State 48, Illinois 27