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Big Number Shouldn’t Be Too Much For Penn State

Kerby Joseph and Illinois are big underdogs to Penn State in NCAAF betting odds.

The Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS) has been very good, with their only loss at then undefeated Iowa, while the Illinois Fighting Illini (2-5, 3-3-1) have been anything but. The host Nittany Lions opened as 24-point favorites and Illinois hasn’t scored more than 24 points in any of its last five games.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Date/Time: October 23, 12 noon ET
  • Stadium: Beaver Stadium
  • TV Coverage: ABC
  • Opening Odds: Penn State -24 | O/U 46 (Line History)
  • Illinois vs Penn State Matchup Report

Opening Odds Analysis

Illinois’ big season-opening win against Nebraska seems like a distant memory for a team that has managed just one victory since then. With Penn State’s defense one of the top units in the nation, it is easy to see how the Illini will struggle to score, making the 24 points very attainable for a Penn State squad that shut out its last Big Ten opponent, a much better Indiana team, 24-0.

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Illinois News & Notes

The first Illinois season under Bret Bielema, known for a power run game, has not gone as planned as he has struggled to get the offense rolling. In the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, the lack of a run game has led to an anemic offense that hasn’t scored 25 points in any of its last five games. The Illini are averaging just 17.7 points per game, 120th in the FBS among 130 teams, and in fact have broken 20 points just once in their last five games.

Illinois also has the worst passing offense in the Big Ten, averaging just 153.7 yards through the air per game. That’s almost 200 yards less per game than Ohio State, which leads the Big Ten in that category.

It also doesn’t help that they still haven’t settled on a quarterback for this week. Brandon Peters is banged up, but could see time, as could Artur Sitkowski.

Penn State News & Notes

After winning two straight against ranked teams to start the year, James Franklin’s team couldn’t manage a third. Penn State suffered its first loss at Iowa after blowing a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. Fortunately, the Nittany Lions had a bye last week to regroup and will be ready for a bounce-back this week.

Although Penn State has the fourth-ranked passing offense in the Big Ten, the offense is not what drives this team, which has averaged only 22 points per game against Power Five schools this year. Defensively, though, the Nittany Lions have the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, giving up just 13.8 points per game.

Coming off a bye week healthy and rested, the Penn State defense should be in a position to reassert its dominance.

How Illinois Will Cover

The Fighting Illini defense will have to step up big time because the offense is unlikely to score more than 14 points, and even that is a stretch. If either Peters or Sitkowski can get to 200 passing yards and the team can get to 100 rush yards, they should be able to score enough to cover.

How Penn State Will Cover

The Nittany Lions simply have to do what they have done all year. If they are able to throw the ball efficiently, hold Illinois out of the end zone and limit turnovers, they will win this game going away and may even cover the spread by halftime.

Computer Pick: Penn State -24

For more college football predictions, visit our NCAAF Computer Picks page.

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Shark Bites
  • Penn State is 6-0 SU in its last 6 home games.
  • The UNDER is 5-0 in Illinois’ last 5 games.
  • Penn State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games.