1. Illinois vs. No. 7 Penn State (September 16)
The Illini have a chance to earn a signature win before September even ends. Although the Nittany Lions recorded 11 wins in 2022, experts and fans consider them the third-best team in their division.
Last season, Penn State finished with a Rose Bowl victory over the Utah Utes despite losses to both Michigan and Ohio State. Along its offensive line, the Nittany Lions showcase left tackle Olu Fashanu, viewed as the top offensive lineman in the country.
Fashanu didn’t allow a sack last year and was considered a surefire top-10 pick before electing to return to Happy Valley. In addition, Penn State returns 2022 starters Sal Wormley, Hunter Nourzad, and Caedan Wallace.
On top of the obvious implications, the rest of the country is paying attention to this matchup as well. For the first time since the show’s inception in 2019, FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff will come to Champaign for this early-season showdown.
Illinois has just a 4-10 record at home versus the Nittany Lions. The Illini shocked the world in 2021 with a victory over the No. 7 ranked Nittany Lions at Happy Valley. Fast forward two seasons, the Illini are playing with a chip on their shoulder as they welcome another nationally ranked Penn State squad to Memorial Stadium for a matinee matchup.