With the Illinois football season quickly approaching, the Fighting Illini will look to start off 2014 with a bang as the Youngstown State Penguins come to Champaign to open the season.
Youngstown State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, will start the season ranked 21st in the nation, making this game anything but a cake walk. The Illini will need to play smart offensive football and limit mistakes on defense to win this game.
The Penguins defense, like the Illini, return many starters in 2014, with three of four from the secondary and defensive line returning for this season.
Add in Iowa transfer Laron Taylor and the Penguins have one of the better defenses in all of FCS football.
On the front line, junior defensive tackles Emmanuel Kromah and Terrell Williams both started all twelve games for Youngstown State in 2013, giving the front line some veteran leadership and experience that most teams desire. Kromah racked up 31 tackles, four of which were sacks, while Williams tallied another 30 tackles for this team last season.
Sophomore defensive end Derek Rivers added an additional 13 stops, with three of those being quarterback sacks in 2013.
It may seem like a “no brainer,” but one of the things to look for in this game will be the amount of points the defense allows in regards to their chances of winning.
Youngstown State is 12-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer, and 21-2 when allowing 27 points of fewer under Head Coach Eric Wolford.
Additionally, the Penguins are 22-3 when allowing 33 points or fewer, so the Illini will be looking to run the score up in this one, ensuring a victory for the Orange & Blue.
Head Coach Eric Wolford is very familiar with the Illini, as he was the Offensive Line Coach under Ron Zook in 2007-2008. Other Youngstown State coaches Tom Sims and Carmen Bricillo also have ties to the Illini from the Ron Zook era.
All in all, the Illini will look to overpower the Penguins defense on Saturday and will try to open the season with a win in Champaign.
Youngstown State will have their hands full with newly appointed starter Wes Lunt and a receiving corps that will look to pile on the yards.
The Illini should have this game, but you can never count out your opponent. If the Illinois offense comes out and plays up to their ability, this should be a good day in Champaign, and the beginning to a fun 2014 campaign.
Prediction: Illinois goes deep and scores often, winning this one 52-10
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