Illinois (2-5, 1-3 Big Ten) at No. 7 Penn State (5-1, 2-1), Saturday at 12 p.m. EDT (ABC).
Line: Penn State by 23 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Penn State leads 20-5.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Both teams are coming off bye weeks and need to get their offenses going, possibly without their starting quarterbacks. Illinois was held scoreless by Wisconsin and lost Brandon Peters on Oct. 9. Penn State’s Sean Clifford was hurt that day in a loss at Iowa. The Nittany Lions still have a wide-open path to the College Football Playoff. Illinois could win its first over a ranked team under coach Bret Bielema.
Illinois’ running game against Penn State’s front seven. Before hitting a wall against Wisconsin, the Illini were averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Chase Brown and Josh McCray are big, strong runners — McCray checks in at 240 pounds — and have split carries with 414 and 334 yards, respectively. This duo could pose a challenge for the Nittany Lions who’ll be without vaunted tackle PJ Mustipher for the rest of the season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Illinois: DB Kerby Joseph. The junior has been all over the field this year. He’s made 36 tackles and is the only player in the country with three or more interceptions.
Penn State: WR Jahan Dotson. The veteran smoked the Illini last year for 189 yards and two touchdowns on six catches. He’s seemingly stronger and faster this year and has drawn heavy workloads every weekend, catching at least five passes in eight straight games.
FACTS & FIGURES
This is Illinois first game against a top 10 opponent since the Illini beat No. 6 Wisconsin on Oct. 19, 2019. … The Illini defense has held opponents to 24 points or fewer in four straight games for the first time in a decade. … Illinois leads the Big Ten with eight fumble recoveries. … OTs Vederian Lowe and Alex Palczewski are expected to tie the Illini record for career starts with 48. … Penn State will wear throwback uniforms it calls its “Generations of Greatness” look which draw features from different eras such as numbers on helmets, white cleats and a pants stripe. … Penn State notched a season-high 11 tackles for loss at Iowa. … RB Keyvone Lee leads Penn State with 38 carries for 204 yards. … Kicker Jordan Stout has landed 94% of his kickoffs for touchbacks this season, the highest percentage among FBS players. He’s also averaging 48.7 yards per punt, good for fifth nationally.
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