By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Contributor
After a much-needed bye week, No. 7 Penn State (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) returns to the gridiron for a homecoming affair against Illinois (2-3, 1-3 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions are coming off a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to Iowa where they lost veteran quarterback Sean Clifford to an injury. The Fightin’ Illini lasted played two-weeks ago, a 24-0 shellacking by Wisconsin.
Penn State head coach James Franklin has stated the Clifford will be a game time decision. Clifford returned to practice this week however the first-team reps were slip between Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux.
Penn State is a 24-point home favorite according to William Hill sportsbook.
Date: October 23, 2021
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
When: 12:00 PM/Eastern
Radio: 1210 WPHT and the Penn State Radio Network
Penn State and Illinois have met 25-times. The Nittany Lions lead the series 20-5.
Last Match Up
2020: Penn State defeated Illinois 56-21 in Happy Valley
This Game at a Glance…
This is a game that Penn State should win rather easily with or without QB Sean Clifford. The Nittany Lions had a bye-week to rest and refocus on the remainder of the season. A Big Ten championship game appearance and a College Football Playoff berth are still possible for Penn State. Clifford, who was injured in the Iowa loss, took some practice reps this week and will be a game time decision.
The picture is not as rosy for the Fightin’ Illini. After Illinois’ shutout loss to Wisconsin, Illini coach Brett Bielema called out the previous regime for leaving the cupboard bare and not having Big Ten quality players. It’s not very often you see a coach do that in-season and live to the media. The moral in Champaign is at a low right now.
Penn State Wins If…
The Nittany Lions should cruise to a victory today, but they must focus on the task at hand and not look ahead to next Saturday against Ohio State. Penn State is the better team in every facet of the game and there’s a chance they could hand Illinoi their second consecutive shutout loss.
Illinois Wins If…
There’s a miracle.
Illinois is in the first year of a lengthy rebuild under former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. The Illini are lacking the impact players and the depth to keep up with a CFP contender like Penn State.