Illinois continues its brutal State Stretch as it heads to State College to take on the Nittany Lions tomorrow morning.
As the Penn State contest is the Illini’s first true road game, there are many questions yet to be answered. Illinois proved against Ohio State last weekend that it can hang around with the best at home, and now is the time to see if the same thing can be said on the road.
Hawthorne With The Team
Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who has missed the first four games due to injury, has made the trip to State College with the team.
While there is still no final word on whether he will be playing tomorrow, the news from the team’s camp is positive.
Zook addressed the media, saying:
“Terry’s here and doing well. He looks good. He’ll probably be more of an emergency-type role. He’s running around out there.”
Battle of the Freshman
Both teams will be starting freshman quarterbacks in Rob Boldin and Nathan Scheelhaase. This makes tomorrow’s game even more interesting because of the uncertainty surrounding both players.
Boldin has had big moments so far this season, but he has also had more interceptions than Scheelhaase and is strictly a pocket passer.
Scheelhaase can extend the play with his legs and has made improvements at protecting the ball, but he is still an unpolished passer.
In the end, the flow of the game will determine who has the better performance.
If the crowd gets into the head of the Illini defense and Boldin can give Penn State an early lead, Scheelhaase will struggle to play catchup.
However if Illinois can stay close in the game and then Scheelhaase can let the plays come to him, Illinois stands a real chance to pull off the upset.
Writing Illini Prediction
Just like at the start of the Ohio State game, Illinois will jump out to an early lead. In this case, an early field goal by Dimke will put Illinois up 3-0.
Illinois’ defense will hold early as they pressure Bolden in the backfield and keep PSU running back Evan Royster from breaking off any big runs.
In the second quarter, Penn State’s defense will make some big stops and create some turnovers that give the Nittany Lions good enough field position to get on the board themselves before the end of the half.
In the third quarter, Illinois will once again have a hard time getting its offense going coming out of the half as the Nittany Lions extend the lead.
In the fourth quarter, Illinois will start to come back behind some big runs from Mikel Leshoure. Scheelhaase will convert some big third downs as the Illini get back to within a field goal, but once again late penalties will keep the Illini from completing their comeback.
Penn State 20, Illinois 17
Illini Game MVP Prediction
Senior Linebacker Martez Wilson
Penn State Game MVP Prediction
Senior Running Back Evan Royster
Some Predictions from the Credentialed
→ Bob Asmussen: (News Gazette): Illinois 21, Penn State 20
→ Tom Young: (News Gazette): Penn State 17, Illinois 14
→ Shannon Ryan (Chicago Tribune): Penn State 24, Illinois 21
→ Scott Powers (ESPN-Chicago): Penn State 24, Illinois 20
→ Adam Rittenberg (ESPN): Penn State 19, Illinois 14
Until tomorrow’s kickoff, which is set for 11:00 a.m. central time.
The game is on ESPN 2 and ESPN 3.
Writing Illini will pick up with live play-by-play and blogging in the second half, and then recap the first half later tomorrow afternoon.
Topics: Adam Rittenberg, Bob Asmussen, Derek Dimke, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, Evan Royster, Football, Gameday Binoculars, Illini, Illinois Fighting Illini, Illinois Fighting Illini Football, Illinois Football, Martez Wilson, Mikel Leshoure, Nathan Scheelhaase, News Gazette, Ohio State, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State, Penn State Football, Penn State Nittany Lions, Penn State Nittany Lions Football, Rob Bolden, Ron Zook, Ron Zook Nathan Scheelhaase, Scott Powers, Shannon Ryan, Terry Hawthorne, Tom Young, University Of Illinois, Victory Bell Rings, Writing Illini