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Week 3 Preview: Illinois Football are underdogs versus Penn State



Illinois Football
Sep 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer (9) runs the ball against the Toledo Rockets during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football is a heavy underdog against Penn State this weekend. 

This weekend’s game between the Illini and Nittany Lions has a different tone and tenor than it did during the preseason. Illinois’ struggles in the first two games this season are well-documented. On the other hand, Penn State looks as advertised. The Illini struggled against Toledo in its home opener. Penalties and inconsistency along both lines of scrimmage were issues against the Rockets. Those problems reappeared in their loss to the Kansas Jayhawks on the road last weekend.

Penn State could not have asked for a better start. Everyone around college football wondered if Drew Allar could be a difference-maker for the Penn State offense. No disrespect to Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford, but they were not quarterbacks who could cape up and win a game for the Nittany Lions. So far, Allar is the real deal. He’s completed 78% of his passes and thrown four touchdowns with –most important — no interceptions.

For Illinois football, it all starts in the trenches.

Illinois has to play better along the lines of scrimmage if they want any chance in this game. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen might be the best running back combination in the Big Ten, and the Illini has to slow that running game. A balanced Penn State offense is a dangerous one. The Nittany Lions are a better match-up for Illinois, however. They won’t have to deal with the motion and formations Kansas implemented.

Offensively, Luke Atlmyer leads the Illini in rushing because the offensive line has not been great so far this season. The running game hasn’t been able to establish itself in either game. Simply put, the offensive and defensive lines must play to their potential.

The Illini cannot fall behind.

The Illinois secondary has its second test of the season. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels had a big day, throwing for 277 yards and two touchdowns last week. DeQuan Finn’s numbers weren’t as impressive, but Toldeo averaged 11 yards per completion with two touchdowns. The secondary was bound to take a step back when four players are on NFL rosters, but the expectation was that the experienced front seven would produce more of a pass rush than they have so far this season.

Offensively, the running game has to find its way. Illinois has to score touchdowns and keep Drew Allar and company on the bench. That’s the only way they can keep this one close. If not, it’s going to be a long afternoon.

Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.