Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Preview

The purest form of a packed college football stadium is Happy Valley in State College, Pennsylvania, under the lights, with a white-out crowd. The nation got that visual earlier in the season against Auburn, but Illinois is far from getting that treatment against their Big Ten foe.

This game gets the classic early slot Big Ten kickoff that will have most fans cooking bacon at tailgates and most students rolling out of bed, shaking off the Friday night adventures. 

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Illinois Fighting Illini Team Preview

Bret Bielema found his way to Champaign after Illinois fired Lovie Smith following the 2020 season. The man with the Santa Claus beard couldn’t deliver enough gifts on Saturday afternoons to the Illinois brass and now finds himself back coaching on Sundays.

Bielema trades days of the week with him after a stint in the NFL following his time at Arkansas. The former Wisconsin headman hoped to bring his Big Ten experience to raise an already sunken ship up to competitive levels in his first season. 

The start to the season looked like orange and blue nation could have some hope as the team knocked off Scott Frost and Nebraska in a Week 0 matchup that was scheduled to be played in Ireland. Ultimately the season has gone downhill fast from there. The Illini are 1-5 since the upset of Nebraska, including three straight conference losses. 

The offense has struggled mightily and ranks dead last in the Big Ten in scoring per game. Bielema called out his offensive line specifically this week, remarking that the team “doesn’t have a player in the 2-deep that is really doing anything for us right now”. Some harsh, even if true, words to get your team motivated to face off against the #7 ranked team in the country. 

Penn State Nittany Lions Team Preview

Penn State started off their year, continuing their win streak from the end of 2020. The streak continued in Week 1 at Wisconsin and remained intact for four straight home games before a matchup at Iowa two weeks ago in a top-five showdown. The Hawkeyes came from behind in Iowa City to win the matchup after Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford left with an injury. 

Backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson came in for the injured Clifford and had a rude awakening against the dominant Hawkeyes defense. Roberson completed just a third of his passes and threw two interceptions to finish the game. 

It’s unknown whether Clifford will be available against the Illini, but if he’s unable to go, that absence can’t be ignored when looking at the betting line. Roberson should find more success if he gets the start with two weeks to prepare and going up against the conference’s worst passing defense rather than coming in cold against an Iowa defense that leads the country in takeaways. 

Regardless of the quarterback situation, Penn State can lean on their defense to carry the team. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in scoring defense and face the league’s worst scoring offense. 

Penn State is 4-2 against the spread this season and has played to the under total points betting line in four games as well. 

Betting Preview

If Sean Clifford is available and is mostly healthy, this betting spread should be an easy one for Penn State to cover. Looking at the betting lines, we can see that both BetOnline and Bovada have the spread set at 24 points favoring the Nittany Lions.

As for those interested in totals betting, there is a total point spread of just 46.5 points.

Illinois was shut out a week ago at Wisconsin, and the Penn State defense should find similar success. Bielema’s comments may motivate his offensive line, or it may just create less resistance for the Penn State defenders to attack Illini ball carriers deep in the backfield.

If you are looking to bet online, take the Nittany Lions laying 24 points, and if there’s a play at all on the total betting line, lean under. 

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