Illinois vs. Penn State College Football Odds & Picks: QB Uncertainty Leads to Betting Value (Saturday, Oct. 23)

Illinois vs. Penn State College Football Odds & Picks: QB Uncertainty Leads to Betting Value (Saturday, Oct. 23) article feature image
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Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Jahan Dotson.

  • The Illinois Fighting Illini travel to University Park, Pennsylvania to face the Penn State Nittany Lions in Big Ten college football action on Saturday, Oct. 23.
  • Star quarterback Sean Clifford is questionable to play for Penn State, and Clifford's absence may limit the team's ceiling on Saturday afternoon.
  • College football betting analyst Alex Hinton breaks down today's Big Ten football matchup between Illinois and Penn State below.

Illinois vs. Penn State Odds

Saturday, Oct. 23
12 p.m. ET
ABC
Illinois Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+23
-105
45.5
-115o / +100u
+1000
Penn State Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-23
-115
45.5
-120o / +100u
-2000
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

As cross-division Big Ten foes, Illinois and Penn State do not see each other often.

However, Penn State has won six of the last seven meetings and leads the all-time head-to-head 20-5. The last two meetings have been decisive Penn State victories, 63-24 in 2018 and 56-24 last season.

This year’s matchup likely won’t see that kind of offense.

Illinois comes into this one at 2-5 off of a bye week. In its last game, Illinois was shut out at Wisconsin. Things won’t get much easier for the Illini going against Penn State’s defense.

The Nittany Lions will not be happy entering this one after their undefeated season came to an end at Iowa. PSU held a 17-3 lead before quarterback Sean Clifford left the game with an injury. His status will have a big impact on Saturday’s game.


Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois Offense

I will have a close eye on how the Illinois offensive line responds after being called out publicly by head coach Brett Bielema.

Thus far, the offensive line has not gotten the job done whether it is due to Bielema or the players he inherited. The Fighting Illini rank 100th in pass-blocking grade and 119th in Pass Success Rate.

As a result, the Fighting Illini are 120th in scoring offense at 17 PPG and 117th in Finishing Drives.

Starting quarterback Brandon Peters, who missed time already with a shoulder injury, left the Wisconsin game with an unspecified injury and his status is in question for Saturday.

Backup Artur Sitkowski has six touchdowns and only one interception on the year, however, he is completing just 51% of his passes and averaging 5.7 yards per attempt.

The Fighting Illini will also be without running back Mike Epstein for the remainder of the season, but Josh McCray and Chase Brown have formed a solid duo. McCray is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, while Brown averages 6.9.


Illinois Defense

Defensively, the Illini have had a solid pass rush this season with 15 sacks and a ranking of 34th in pass-rush grade. However, as a unit, the Fighting Illini have struggled to defend both the run and the pass.

Illinois ranks 101st in total defense, 108th in passing yards allowed per game and 87th in rushing yards allowed per game.

The Fighting Illini are 83th in Havoc and are middle of the pack in allowing big plays and their opponents to finish their drives.

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Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State Offense

Penn State has been quiet on Sean Clifford’s injury status, both in terms of what his injury is and the timeline for his return. Clifford is back at practice, though backups Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux were splitting first-team reps.

It was Roberson who got the call when Clifford went down and he went for 7-for-21 with 34 yards and two interceptions. Roberson will have to perform much better if he starts, but he will be going against a far less formidable Illini defense.

Nonetheless, if Clifford can’t go it will be a huge loss for the Nittany Lions, not only because of the inexperience at quarterback but because the offense is pass-driven.

Lead back Noah Cain is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and the Nittany Lions rank 114th in Rushing Success Rate and are 117th in Line Yards. The rushing attack will be going against an Illinois defense that is 115th in rushing yards and 124th in Line Yards, so something will have to give.


Penn State Defense

If the Nittany Lions struggle to score offensively, they will have their dominant defense to rely on.

Penn State is fourth in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing 13.6 PPG. It is extremely difficult to score on PSU when crossing the forty as it has the second-best red zone defense and is fifth in Finishing Drives in the country.

Penn State also does not allow many explosive plays and ranks fourth in big play allowed rate.

The Nittany Lions are third in pass coverage grade, partly thanks to standout Jaquan Brisker. He’s the leader of the unit and has 25 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups this season.


Illinois vs. Penn State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Illinois and Penn State match up statistically:

Illinois Offense vs. Penn State Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 73 30
Line Yards 52 19
Pass Success 119 27
Pass Blocking** 100 55
Big Play 131 4
Havoc 68 53
Finishing Drives 117 5
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Penn State Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 114 115
Line Yards 117 124
Pass Success 35 122
Pass Blocking** 46 34
Big Play 59 64
Havoc 78 83
Finishing Drives 47 62
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 58 23
Coverage 61 3
Middle 8 38 11
SP+ Special Teams 11 36
Plays per Minute 76 25
Rush Rate 55.% (64) 50.% (92)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


Illinois vs. Penn State Betting Pick

Penn State is going to win this game whether Clifford plays or not, but 24 points is a lot to lay given how dependent Penn State’s offense has been on Clifford throughout the season.

I would look at the under, though if Clifford starts Penn State is going to have a lot of success against this Illinois defense.

Illinois may be without its starting quarterback too, but it is not going to move the ball much no matter who is under center.

I would stay away from this pre-game and look for live action.

Maybe Penn State gets off to a slow start and you may be able to catch the spread at -13.5 or lower in the first half. You might even be able to grab under 53-55 if there are a couple of early touchdowns.

Pick: Look for Live Action

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