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Is Penn State on upset alert against Illinois today?

Penn State football is a heavy favorite coming into today’s game at Illinois. But are the No. 7 Nittany Lions on upset alert? One popular college football analyst explained why an upset could be in the works in Champaign.

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Sep 9, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts from the sideline during the first quarter against the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Penn State football travels to Champaign to take on Bret Bielema and the Illinois Fighting Illini. Just a few short weeks ago, this game was anticipated to be one of the deciding contests of the early Big Ten season. Now after two subpar showings from Illinois, the Nittany Lions, led by sophomore phenom Drew Allar, are widely expected to cruise to victory. But is a win for Penn State a lock today? Popular college football analyst Josh Pate recently explained why the Nittany Lions could be on upset alert. 

Josh Pate explains why Penn State could be on upset alert today against Illinois

Illinois was one of the surprises of the college football season in 2022. The Illini jumped out to a 7-1 start before finishing 8-5 with a ReliaQuest Bowl appearance. Given that Illinois shocked then-No. 7 Penn State in 9 overtimes at Beaver Stadium in 2021, many were looking forward to today’s rematch coming into the season. 

Unfortunately, a rocky start from Illinois has dulled the sparkle of this game. The Illini are 1-1, losing to Kansas last weekend. The defense, typically a calling card of a Bret Bielema-coached team, has not been impressive. Nationally, Illinois ranks 122nd in rushing defense and 105th in scoring defense through two games this season.

Currently, Penn State is a two-score favorite going into the game. But with a top-10 team coming to Champaign, many still expect a fight from Illinois in this one. On Thursday’s episode of the popular college football podcast Late Kick, analyst Josh Pate explained why Penn State could be on upset alert. 

“It’s Drew Allar’s first real road test as the starting quarterback at Penn State,” Pate said. “It’s an 11 a.m. local kick. Illinois is totally off everyone’s radar because they lost to Kansas last Friday night, meaning they got a little extra rest for this one…Penn State, according to my research…they did let that West Virginia quarterback run on them a little bit. And Luke Altmyer can do the same for Illinois….So Penn State at Illinois. I think the upset meter [is at] a 6 on a 1-10 scale. So, in other words, keep your eye on it.”

Is Drew Allar ready for his first road start?

While the heavy favorite, several factors could swing against the Nittany Lions in this game. However, the most talked about element of this matchup coming into the week is Drew Allar, who is making his first career road start today. 

When asked how he thought his first-time starter would do in a hostile environment, head coach James Franklin highlighted Allar’s preparation for the moment. 

“I keep saying with Drew, he’s doing all the right things and taking all of the necessary steps,” Franklin said at media availability this week. “We expect it to be a challenging road environment. But we didn’t wait until this week to prepare for that. You know, whether that’s crowd noise or whatever that may be. You know, we’ve done that all training camp.”

“But again, he’s doing all of the right things in terms of preparation, in terms of watching film, in terms of nutrition, hydration, and sleep,” Franklin continued. “I do think his game last year at Purdue was helpful. Most importantly, I want to make sure by Friday night when we are going to bed that we have done everything possible to be prepared to play and play well.”

While the Nittany Lions have looked impressive in their 2-0 start, we will learn much more about Drew Allar and this Penn State football team during today’s game. Kickoff of No. 7 Penn State vs. Illinois is mere hours away, set for noon EST on Fox. 



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Matt is a Co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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