The Penn State Nittany Lions look to move to 7-1, while Illinois tries to shake off their two consecutive losses and return to the Top 25 by obtaining their second win over a ranked opponent this season.
Penn State has the fifth-ranked defense in the entire nation and given Illinois' offensive woes, the Fighting Illini know the fight they have in front of them.
It's an uphill battle for Illinois and the adversity will prove too great to overcome. Let's take a closer look at what to watch for in the upcoming matchup.
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania
When: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Live Stream: ESPN3
Listen: Free Football Radio
Betting Line: Penn State -5 (via Bodog)
Which Big 10 sleeper pick will rise to the occasion?
Illinois is coming off two consecutive losses after getting off to a 6-0 start. Penn State has only one loss on the season, which came at the hands of National Championship contender Alabama. With Wisconsin falling, the winner of this game will be launched right into the Big 10 championship discussion.
Who Might Not Play for lllinois
Darius Millines, WR, (Foot) Questionable
Corey Lewis, OL, (Knee) Questionable
Zach Becker, FB, (Ankle) Out for Season
Who Might Not Play for Penn State
Stephon Morris, CB, (Undisclosed) Questionable
Malcolm Willis, S, (Shoulder) Questionable
Derek Moye, WR, (Foot) Questionable
Brandon Beachum, RB, (Ankle) Questionable
Michael Mauti, LB, (Knee) Out for Season
Paul Jones, QB, (Academics) Out for Season
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Illinois will have two wins over ranked opponents if they take down Penn State. Even with two losses, they would have to be involved in the BVS discussion. The Nittany Lions would pick up a quality win and continue to validate their high standing. At 7-1, cracking the Top 15 is an attainable goal.
What They're Saying
"The focus this week is to be an old fashioned, tough grind-it-out win," he said. "We've got to have 10- and 12-play drives."
Illinois has to rebound after two brutal losses in a row. Illinois doesn't want to see a couple of losses turn into a string of losses. This is a must-win game and they need to come in focus and prepared to turn their season around.
This week's starting quarterback, Joe Paterno:
"I haven't got the slightest idea yet."
That isn't a good sign. Given that Matt McGloin tossed a couple touchdowns in a winning victory, if the lack of a surefire starter is anything more than a facade, it's going to be a bad sign not just in this game, but going forward as well.
Illinois Player to Watch: A.J. Jenkins
A.J. Jenkins has 987 yards and seven touchdowns. He's hit the 100-yard mark four times so far this season. Every time he's done so, Illinois has obtained a victory. If Illinois is able to get him going once more, their productivity is going to be hard to match.
Penn State Player to Watch: Whoever starts at quarterback
Penn State is a run-first team with the Top 5 defense in the nation, but they have to settle on a quarterback eventually. It's too late in the season for a "who is the starting quarterback?" question being pitched at press conferences.
Key Matchup: Penn States' Defense vs. Illinois' Offense
Penn State's defense still isn't being given enough credit. They allow a ridiculous 13.1 PPG, but they're widely overlooked because of their relatively soft schedule.
Illinois' offense has been up and down, but their combined 21 points over the last two weeks is an indication that they are going to lay down against the Nittany Lions' defense.
Prediction: Penn State 28, Illinois 20
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