Penn State travels to face Illinois this Saturday (9/16/23) in a Big Ten showdown. Find the latest betting odds for Penn State Vs. Illinois here as well as a full preview and prediction. Also get best bets for the Penn State Vs. Illinois matchup where our current best play is Illinois +15.
Penn State Vs. Illinois Prediction & Best Bet
We’re about to learn a lot about Drew Allar. He looked great in limited action for Penn State last season and has started his season strong, but this is the first road start of his career. Illinois had to replace three secondary starters who left for the NFL, which has created some inconsistencies in coverage, but they can still get pressure.
Defensive lineman Johnny Newton is arguably the best player on the field in this game after he finished First Team All Big Ten last season. He had five pressures last week and is joined by Keith Randolph in a tandem known as the “Law Firm”. Penn State’s interior protection will be crucial in this game, and there are some chinks in the armor.
Illinois also has a new starting passer, former Mississippi State quarterback Luke Altmyer who was recruited by Mike Leach (RIP GOAT) to run his Air Raid offense. Altmyer has had some good and bad moments so far, but he’s led the Fighting Illini to a top 15 rank in success rate on offense.
Penn State has a tremendous pass rush of its own led by potential NFL first round talent Chop Robinson. Illinois ranks just 99th in PFF pass-blocking this year, but I’d expect some improvement there as they returned three starters from an offensive line that ranked top 40 in PFF pass and run blocking last year.
The market rating on Illinois is lower right now after a close win over Toledo and a loss to Kansas. However, Jalon Daniels is arguably a better quarterback than Allar right now while Toledo is one of the best teams in the Group of Five. Illinois needs to start these games faster to avoid falling behind, but they’ve shown the ability to rally, so the backdoor will stay open for a cover here.
Penn State Vs. Illinois Prediction & Best Bet: Illinois +15
Penn State Vs. Illinois Betting Odds
The spread for this game has been as high as -15.5 in favor of the road Penn State, but it has been pushed down as far as -14 at the time of writing. 14 points – two touchdowns and two extra points – is a key number in betting spreads, so keep that in mind when placing a wager on either side here.
Penn State Vs. Illinois Key Matchups
Many Big Ten matchups are decided in the trenches, and this game will likely be no different. Let’s take a look at two crucial matchups on the lines that will help decide the outcome of this game.
Hunter Nourzad Vs. Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph
As I mentioned above, the “Law Firm” of Newton and Randolph will create imposing pressure in the middle of the line, and Penn State’s interior offensive line will need to hold up. The onus will fall on new starting center Hunter Nourzad.
He held up well last week against Delaware, but in Week 1, he allowed four pressures against West Virginia per PFF. Nourzad is replacing Juice Scruggs, a third-team All Big Ten center from last year who was a second-round pick by the Texans in April.
As talented a passer as he is, Allar isn’t known as a particularly dynamic scrambler, and if the Illini can get pressure up the middle to flush him out of the pocket, that will make life easier for their defensive backs who have shown some inconsistency to start the season.
2 sacks and 3 more pressures for Illinois DT Johnny Newton last night
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 9, 2023
Zy Crisler Vs. Chop Robinson
My biggest concern in backing Illinois here is the play of Illinois right tackle Zy Crisler. He has a putrid PFF pass-blocking grade of 17.9 so far this season and will likely be seeing a lot of Chop Robinson, who was the second-highest graded pass rusher among edge defenders last season per PFF.
To Luke Altmyer’s credit, he’s made some big plays happen while under pressure this season, but the protection has to be better for the offense to be consistent through all four quarters. If Robinson is getting in his face like he did to Auburn in the video below, it’s going to be a long day for Altmyer.
Penn State EDGE/OLB Chop Robinson (6-3, 250). Ball get off and effort are two traits that repeatedly stand out when watching his tape. He had an FBS-best 12.1% pass rush win rate last year. pic.twitter.com/a72bNAVCsQ
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) June 1, 2023