Penn State vs. Illinois odds: Expert picks, predictions from data scientist who's 8-1 on Nittany Lions' games

A Big Ten battle highlights the Friday night college football slate as the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions visit the improved Illinois Fighting Illini at 9 p.m. ET. The Lions are 27-point favorites, down from an open of 27.5. The total has moved to 61 points from an initial offering of 60. Penn State has dominated its last two opponents, Pitt and Kent State, and will look to keep its momentum going in this conference-opener. Meanwhile, Illinois will try to pull the massive upset after coming up just short of one last week against South Florida. Before you enter your Penn State vs. Illinois picks, check out what SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh has to say.

The renowned co-founder of AccuScore, Oh simulates each game 10,000 times using the SportsLine projection model. Oh already is crushing college football in 2018 and is coming off a week in which he went 4-1 with his spread selections. However, he's even more impressive when it comes to handicapping Penn State, as he boasts an 8-1 mark over the past two years in picks for or against the Nittany Lions.

Oh improved on his astounding Penn State record just last week when he recommended backing the Lions as a 35-point favorite against Kent State. They rolled to a 63-10 victory, covering the number with plenty of room to spare. Anyone who followed Oh's advice picked up another easy winner. 

Now, he has crunched the numbers and generated a strong point-spread selection for Illinois vs Penn State. It's only available over at SportsLine. 

Oh knows in his senior year, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley appears headed toward contention for the Heisman Trophy while setting plenty of school records along the way. He accounted for five total touchdowns in last week's blowout of Kent State. In doing so, he became the program's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 24. He also joined Michael Robinson as the only other Penn State signal-caller to surpass 1,000 rushing yards. 

Penn State's defense has also clamped down. It has allowed an opening-drive touchdown the last two games before tightening up the rest of the way. Kent State crossed midfield twice after its first-quarter score and was held to just 221 total yards. The Flashes gained only 41 rushing yards on 37 carries.

Just because Penn State has been hot doesn't mean it will cover a huge number against an Illinois (2-1) club that is noted for being a stubborn home underdog. 

One such instance came last week in a 25-19 home loss to South Florida as a 14-point dog. The Illini dominated most of the way and held a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Bulls mounted a late rally. 

Illinois exhibited a powerful running game that piled up 212 yards, led by Mike Epstein's 113 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Freshman quarterback M.J. Rivers threw for 168 yards while hitting on 20 of 29 passes. 

Oh has analyzed this matchup and while we can tell you he's leaning under, he has discovered a crucial x-factor that makes one side of the spread a must-back. He's only sharing at SportsLine.

Who covers Penn State-Illinois? And what crucial x-factor causes one side of the spread to hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to jump all over Friday, all from the data scientist who's 8-1 on picks involving Penn State.

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