So far this season, Penn State Football has barely been challenged this season. Outside of the overtime home opener against Appalachian State, the Nittany Lions have outscored their opponents 114-16 over the past two games. The next test for Penn State Football is a road game against Illinois to open the Big Ten season. Illinois might not be the best team in the conference, but James Franklin should not take this team lightly if he wants to have his team in the College Football Playoff.
The big key for Penn State Football is the play of quarterback Trace McSorley, who enters the game on the fringe of Heisman conversation. Through three games, he has accumulated 746 total yards and 11 touchdowns. McSorley’s ability to run the option has opened huge holes in the run game for Miles Sanders and created numerous windows for him to throw into.
His completion percentage leaves a lot to be desired as he has only completed 51.7 percent of his passes, but his receivers have dropped numerous passes over the course of three games. McSorley has been lethal in the red zone with six rushing touchdowns, but he needs to show more accuracy if Penn State Football wants to win the Big Ten East.
His favorite target, KJ Hamler, has been solid for McSorley all season as he leads the team in receiving yards with 129. His play late against Appalachian State forced the game into overtime and ever since than, Hamler has been a top option for McSorley in the passing game. He and Brandon Polk are both receivers to watch for Penn State Football as they have combined for four of the team’s seven passing touchdowns this season.
Franklin trusts the pair to make plays in the passing game as Juwan Johnson has not broken out the way many pundits believed he would before the season started. His issue has been consistency as Johnson has struggled with drops this season and did not catch a pass against Kent State. The Big Ten opener will be his breakout moment as Johnson will go for over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Brent Pry’s defense has been huge over the past six quarters as Pitt and Kent State to less than 100 rushing yards since the third quarter of the Pittsburgh game. Nick Scott has been huge for Pry’s defense and his hard work will pay off against Illinois with his first career interception. His play along with linebacker Koa Farmer should set the tone for Pry’s defense early in the game, allowing Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens to flourish in the trenches.
Penn State Football are considerable favorites in its Big Ten opener as the Nittany Lions are favored by 28 points over Illinois. McSorley might account for four touchdowns on his own, and that’s not including what Sanders will add to the equation. Penn State’s offense will just be too much for Illinois to stop, while Pry’s defense will stifle Illinois for most of the night. Score Prediction: Penn State 45 Illinois 17.