Illinois Football: Pregame grades for the Penn State offense

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar (15) prepares to throw a pass to Liam Clifford (2) during warmups before a NCAA football game against Delaware Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in State College, Pa.
Penn State quarterback Drew Allar (15) prepares to throw a pass to Liam Clifford (2) during warmups before a NCAA football game against Delaware Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in State College, Pa. /

Illinois football hasn’t been able to stop the opposing offense in the first two games of the season.

The Illini are giving up 31 points per game in 2023, which ranks No. 81 in the country. That is a stark contrast from the dominating defense we saw last year.

Penn State is going to be the best offense we face this season. They have talent at every position, and it has shown over the first two games of the 2023 campaign.

Here is what the Illinois football team will face, as these are the pregame grades of the Penn State offense

  • Quarterback – Passing A-, Running C, Overall B+

Penn State has a pretty good quarterback in Drew Allar. He is finally getting his chance to shine, and he hasn’t disappointed this season.

Allar has thrown for 529 yards and four touchdowns through two games. He also has a completion rate of 78.2%.

The one caveat is the fact the Nittany Lions haven’t had much competition. West Virginia was the best team they played, and who knows what the 1-1 Mountaineers will be this season.

Watching Allar, I love his pocket awareness. He can step up in the pocket and deliver a strike down the field. When needed, he can scramble as well. Allar isn’t the runner Illinois has faced the last two weeks, but he is the best passer.

  • Running Back – Running A-, Catching D-, Overall B+

Coming into the 2023 campaign, Penn State was supposed to have one of the most feared running back squads in the country. Their numbers haven’t been mind-blowing impressive, though.

Kaytron Allen leads the way with 154 yards and a score on the season. He averages a solid 5.3 yards per carry. Nicholas Singleton was supposed to be the horse for the Nittany Lions, and he has only tallied 25 carries for 117 yards and four touchdowns. His 4.7 yards per carry is the lowest among their top ball carriers.

We have also seen a smattering of Trey Potts in there. He has 65 yards on the season and a 5.4 yards per carry average.

If Penn State is in a bit of a slump when it comes to running the football, don’t worry. They are playing Illinois this weekend. I do like the Nittany Lions’ running backs despite their struggles. They will probably have a good game. And they have a three-headed monster.

  • Wide Receiver – Overall A-

Allar has his favorite targets when it comes to the wide receiver corps. Keandre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III each have 10 receptions this season, which outpaces No. 3 by double the amount.

These talented pass catchers have Penn State as one of the most dangerous teams through the air. The Nittany Lions average 15.1 yards per completion, which ranks No. 17 in the nation.

This Penn State wide receiver group is actually pretty deep as well. Their fourth-leading pass catcher is Dante Cephas. That name sounds familiar because if anyone has bet on MAC games randomly during the week, you probably rooted for Cephas to catch a few touchdowns for Kent State the last four years. Cephas had 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns with the Golden Flashes back in 2021.

Penn State has impressive playmakers. Illinois is going to have a tough time stopping what is one of the best Nittany Lions offenses I have seen in the last 20 years.

  • Tight End – Overall C

The tight end position at Penn State seems to be used more as a checkdown than a weapon. Tyler Warren is the leading tight end for the Nittany Lions, and he has seven receptions for 46 yards this season.

Warren is the fifth-leading pass catcher for Penn State. His backup, Theo Johnson, only has two receptions for 14 yards this season.

Penn State has a lot of weapons, and they can use the tight ends. But this is clearly an afterthought for this program.

  • Offensive Line – Overall B

Penn State has an impressive offensive line. LT Olu Fashanu (11 starts), LG JB Nelson (2 starts), C Hunter Nourzad (30 starts), RG Sal Wormley (15 starts), and RT Caedan Wallace (29 starts) are what Illinois will be going up against on Saturday.

This offensive line is only allowing one sack per game this season, which ranks No. 21 in the country. While the left side of the offensive looks to be weaker because of less experience, it is the right side that is graded lower.

Fashanu and Nourzad have a grade of 65.1 or higher while Wallace, Wormley, and Nelson check in with a grade of 63.2 or lower. Nelson has the worst Pro Football Focus grade of 55.7, which ranks No. 360 out of 519 graded centers.

Despite the grades, I still think this offensive line is solid. I watched them against West Virginia and they were able to create a nice pocket for Allar.

Next. 3 key players for the Illini to beat Penn State. dark