September 29, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Don't get beat by Illinois' defensive line
The strength of Illinois' defense is its front four. Justin Staples and Michael Buchanan have the ability to get to the quarterback off the edge, while Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster hold down the line in the middle. All four of these players are upperclassmen, and in the first Big Ten game of the season, Penn State's less experienced offensive line will get tested. Matt McGloin seems to be improving each week and Penn State's running game is as healthy as it's been since week one, but if Penn State's offensive line can't contain the Illini, it could be a long afternoon for the players in blue and white.
Remember Illinois' "recruiting" trip
All week, Penn State players and even Bill O'Brien have downplayed what Tim Beckman's coaching staff did in July (which was send coaches to State College days after NCAA sanctions). While players have publicly said it's water under the bridge, it's likely still in the back of the minds of many players. And they need to use that to their advantage. Penn State played with a lot of emotions in week one, but blew a halftime week against Ohio. If the Lions can find a way to take out any anger they may have against the Illini and use it positively on the football field for 60 minutes, it could provide a spark on the road.
Mix it up on the ground
As mentioned, Penn State's tailbacks are healthy for the most part. Bill Belton is back for the first time since week one, Derek Day is also making his return and Michael Zordich and Curtis Dukes are also going to play. The Lions now have their smaller backs (Belton and Day) to complement their big, bruising backs (Dukes, Zordich and Zwinak). O'Brien has said that he'll probably not play all five guys and go with a two or three back rotation, but even that change could be a big upgrade in the backfield.