Earlier today I previewed Penn State. If I said USF was going to be a challenge last week, Penn State is worse. The Illini will have to play their A game for all 60 minutes for there to be even a sliver of a chance.
Who is it going to be A.J. Bush or M.J. Rivers. Bush was out after game 2 but has yet to throw a TD. Rivers has led the Illini to a consistent, but slow offense. There is a chance that Rod Smith utilizes both under center against Penn State. The Illini still lack production at WR, but we should have Lou Dorsey back this weekend to play along side Ricky Smalling and Sam Mays. Mike Epstein and Reggie Corbin are the 1-2 punch we need behind a maturing offensive line. The best part for the Illini is that they have had 0 interceptions and only 2 lost fumbles on the year. Illinois needs to take care of the ball once again and find ways to stay on the field. The Illini have also scored on 70% of their red zone possessions and the Illini have a Chase McLaughlin that can score field goals from anywhere on the opponents side of the field.
There are a lot of holes and 626 yards of offense allowed last week has produced a lot of game film for the Penn State to review. Penn State runs their offense mainly through Trace McSorely and that is the man the Illini will look to get after Friday night. The Illini rank in the top 25 for tackles for loss and top 50 for sacks. The Illini have allowed massive yards through the air and the ground, but they still lead the turnover margin thanks to 6 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery. The Illini were able to keep 626 yards of offense to only 25 points last week, if we can do that to Penn State, I’ll be a happy man.
Does Illinois actually have it in them to beat a top 10 team? Probably not. But there is a lot to be happy about this young team. Yes, we will probably fall to .500 for the season. Yes, the QB will be sacked and yes, the offense may not be able to sustain long, time consuming drives, but the Illini have shown sparks of greatness and the gears are turning. A loss here should not be discouraging to anybody. Lets just hope the Illini stay competent verses a better team.