Blog Entry

Keys to the Game: Illinois at Penn State

Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:08 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi

ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: Nathan Scheelhaase can figure out the Penn State defense. In the Big Ten, Penn State trails only Michigan State in every defensive metric except scoring defense -- and there, the Nittany Lions are ranked first. At the same time, PSU hasn't faced a quarterback nearly as dynamic as Nathan Scheelhaase this season, and it'll be crucial for Scheelhaase to make plays happen if Illinois is going to have any shot to pull off this road victory. Whether that means Scheelhaase does it with his feet on scrambles and option runs, or by getting A.J. Jenkins free in the secondary (a tall task for Ron Zook against a defense like this) remains to be seen.

PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: Silas Redd continues to wreck all those in his path. One of the biggest reasons Penn State is the only 4-0 team in Big Ten play is that all of a sudden, opponents can't stop Silas Redd and the Penn State rushing attack. In Big Ten conference games, Redd leads the pack in rushing yards per game with over 140 yards (Montee Ball and Rex Burkhead are close behind, while overall Big Ten rushing leader Denard Robinson's numbers have been curtailed sharply in conference play). This success forces defenses to key on the run, and that in turn opens up Matt McGloin and the passing game nicely.  

X-FACTOR: Will Good Zook or Bad Zook show up? Good Zook encourages his defense to play with maximum effort and puts his best players on offense front and center. Bad Zook loses track of the score, goes for it on 4th down when he doesn't have to, and has a team that comes out flat. Illinois has seen enough of Bad Zook in the last two weeks. 
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