Illinois spoiled Penn State’s Homecoming last year, and the Nittany Lions would love to avenge that loss. PSU (7-1, 4-0) hosts the Illini (6-2, 2-2) after beating Northwestern 34-24. Penn State is the only undefeated team in the Leaders Division.
Illinois is coming off two losses to Ohio State (17-7) and Purdue (21-14). The Nittany Lions dispensed with the Boilermakers 23-18 two games ago and face the Buckeyes on Nov. 19, but JoePa said in his press conference that this is the best team PSU has played since Alabama.
Anyone hoping for an end to the 2-QB madness at Penn State (ie me) will not be happy. JoePa was asked: “Who do you plan to start at quarterback Saturday?” He replied: ”I haven’t got the slightest idea yet. That is why we are practicing.” Maybe he’s crazy like a fox to keep the other coaches and teams guessing? Maybe he’s just crazy? Regardless, Rob Bolden has more picks (four) than TD passes (one) and you have to wonder if Paterno feels obligated to play him since he convinced him not to transfer after last year. Bolden has thrown for 526 yards. If you reverse the TDs and INTs, Matt McGloin has more than doubled Bolden’s production – seven TDs (with only two INTs) and 1095 total yards passing.
Still no good news on receiver Derek Moye (well, not good enough to allow him to play) so PSU will again be without its leading receiver, but will hopefully see him in its next game against Nebraska. Justin Brown (26 catcges for 343 yds and one TD) and Devon Smith (16 receptions for 297 yds and two TDs) will see more looks this weekend. Silas Redd is still in charge on the ground, rushing 165 times for 869 yds and half a dozen touchdowns. Kicker Anthony Fera has tallied some impressive numbers this year, going 11-for-12 on FGs, 12-for-12 on PATs for a total of 45 points.
Penn State’s defense is really what has kept is above water this year. It’s led by Gerald Hodges - 58 tkls (35 solo), 8.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks.
Like PSU, the Illini boast a strong, quick defense. Jonathan Brown has 58 tackles, 9.0 TFL and 3.5 sacks.
Nate Scheelhaase passes (122 of 189, for 1624 yds,11 TDs, 5 INTs) and runs (123 carries for 412 yds and 5 TDs) while Jason Ford (101 carries for 392 yds and 6 TDs) rounds out the ground game. A.J. Jenkins has caught seven touchdowns of 62 passes for 987 yards.
On Saturday the Nittany Lions will face their first true test since the Crimson Tide rolled over them. Hopefully the lessons learned from that game and the loss to Illinois last year will stay with them.
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Written by Stephanie Geosits