Illinois football has its toughest game of the year, as No. 7 Penn State comes to town.
It would have been nice if this was an FCS team or some cupcake DI program, but that isn’t the case. Illinois gets to face one of the best teams in the country in the Nittany Lions.
Illinois can win this game. I am definitely not counting us out. But there are a few numbers that I believe will determine a win or loss for the Orange and Blue.
Three key numbers for the Illinois football team to beat Penn State
1. 332.0 yards per game
It has been no secret that the Illinois pass defense has been bad this season. There has been a complete 180-degree turn from what we saw in 2022.
This was bound to happen, though. Illinois lost four starters from the secondary to the NFL. It is hard to replace that type of talent, especially for a program like the Illini that doesn’t have multiple levels of four and five-star recruits.
On Saturday against Penn State, a key number for the Illini to get the win will be 332.0 yards per game. That is how many passing yards the Nittany Lions are averaging each game this season.
Drew Allar has been sensational in the first two games for Penn State. He threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia and followed that game up with 204 yards and a score against Delaware. I would say the most impressive thing is the fact he hasn’t thrown an interception yet.
Illinois’ pass defense is going to have a tough time on Saturday. We are giving up 253.5 yards per game through the air, which ranks No. 88 in the country. On top of that, our defensive backs are looking lost at times. This has resulted in some big plays for opposing teams.
If the Illini can hold Penn State to under 300 yards passing, then we might have a chance on Saturday. I think forcing Allar to throw his first interception of the season would go a long way as well.