Penn State opens their Big Ten Conference schedule with a game at Illinois. It is time to continue our College Football odds series with a Penn State-Illinois prediction, pick, and how-to-watch.
Penn State comes into the game ranked seventh in the AP Top 25. The Nittany Lions opened their season with two dominating wins. First was a 38-15 win over West Virginia. It was a slow start in the game, with just one major play giving them the lead. In the first quarter, Drew Allar hit KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 72-yard score. Still, it was just 14-7 at the half. Then Penn State turned it on. They would hold West Virginia to just one touchdown in the second half while scoring 24 points to take the win. The next week was a victory over Delaware. In that game, Penn State scored five times in the first half with Nicholas Singleton scoring three of them to take a 35-7 lead into the break. They could end up winning 63-7. Now they begin their quest to challenge in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, Illinois comes into the game at 1-1 following a loss to Kansas last week. After struggling with a mobile quarterback in the Tulane game, their struggle continued against Kansas. Jaylon Daniels would throw for 277 yards and a touchdown in the game while also running for another 24 yards. The run game was a major issue for Illinois. On offense, the majority of the run game came from their quarterback, Luke Altmyer, while they also gave up 262 yards on the ground.
Here are the college football odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
College Football Odds: Penn State-Illinois Odds
Penn State: -14.5 (-115)
Illinois: +14.5 (-105)
Over: 48.5 (-110)
Under: 48.5 (-110)
How to Watch Penn State vs. Illinois
Stream: Fox Sports App
Time: 12:00 PM ET/ 9:00 AM PT
*Watch college football LIVE with fuboTV (click for a free trial)*
Why Penn State Will Cover The Spread
Penn State's covering will start with Drew Allar. This year he is 43-55 for 529 yards and four scores. He has protected the ball well, not throwing an interception, while also only throwing one turnover-worth pass. Further, he has thrown four touchdowns already this year and could have a completion percentage over 80 percent if not for three drops in the game with West Virginia. He has not been protected greatly, but he is making the most of it. Allar has been pressured 19 times this year on just 59 dropbacks. He has been sacked twice, scrambled for positive yards twice, and gotten the ball out the other 15 times.
Meanwhile, Penn State will look to capitalize on a weak run defense from Illinois. Kaytron Allen ran 19 times last game for 100 yards while also scoring a touchdown. He was getting good run blocking as well, with an average point of contract two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, as he also forced six missed tackles. That resulted in him running for 47 yards after first contact, but he did fumble once. Meanwhile, Nicholas Singleton was amazing. He ran 12 times in the game for 47 yards. He only caused two missed tackles in the game and his longest run was just nine yards, but he scored three times in the game.
Meanwhile, Penn State will want to put pressure on Luke Altmyer. Last time out they managed to get just 15 quarterback pressured, but did convert that into four sacks. Leading the way there was Dani Dennis-Sutton. He had three pressures in the game but did not come away with a sack. Further, they will need good coverage downfield. Dominic DeLuca did that last game. He was targeted twice in the passing game and came away with an interception and a pass breakup. Penn State allowed just 40 percent of passes to a covered receiver to be completed in the game, and if they can keep that up, they will run away with this game.
Why Illinois Will Cover The Spread
Luke Altmyer is going to have to be special in this game to get the win. He was solid against Toledo but struggled against Kansas. Overall, Altmyer is 37-54 for 408 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The major issue this year has been his pass protection. While he has dropped back 71 times this year, he has only been able to attempt 54 passes. Twenty-five times this year he has faced pressure. That has led to eight sacks against him, including six against Kansas. Meanwhile, he has scrambled for positive yardage another eight times. Further, Altymer has attempted just one pass while facing pressure
Altmyer has been good on the ground this year though. In the two games, he has had eight designed runs. That has led to him rushing for 172 total yards with two touchdowns so far this year. He is not an elusive runner, with only two missed tackles and an average of just 2.38 yards after contract, but he finds open space and knows how to get to it. He is going to need to also get some big plays from a receiver. That may come from Isaiah Williams this year he has been targeted a team-high eight times. Williams has come down with six receptions for 99 yards with those. His average depth of target is just 8.3 yards downfield, but with 16.5 yards per reception, he is making things happen after the catch.
The Illinois defense will need to step up as well in this game. That is going to start with the pass rush. They had just 12 pressures last game and converted two sacks. That all starts with Jer'Zahn Newton. He had five pressures last game and both sacks for Illinois. Further, they need to be better in run defense. Newton was good there too, making five tackles and four stops for offensive failures, Xacver Scott was solid in the game as well, making five tackles and three stops for offensive failure, but as a corner, his average depth of tackle was nearly ten yards downfield. Still, misses tackled have been a major issue. They missed ten tackles in the game on running downs and allowed Kansas to have a success rate of running well over 50 percent.
Final Penn State-Illinois Prediction & Pick
The biggest issue here is the run game. Penn State has a great run game, while Illinois has struggled with it. They have faced two quarterbacks who can move around, and while Drew Allar may not be as mobile, he can run to open space. Further, Kansas beat up Illinois on the ground, and Penn State not only has better backs, but a better offensive line. Expect Penn State to run the ball well, while Illinois struggled to score.
Final Penn State-Illinois Prediction & Pick: Penn State -14.5 (-115)