STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — No. 7 Penn State looks to get back in the win column after a demoralizing loss to Iowa two weeks ago that produced a roster littered with injuries. Penn State (5-1) returns to home against the Illini (2-5) on Saturday, Oct. 23 on abc27.
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The Nittany Lions haven’t named a starting quarterback ahead of kickoff against Illinois. Third-year starter Sean Clifford was injured against Iowa in the first half and didn’t play in the second half of the 23-20 loss.
Penn State’s five wins came over ranked Wisconsin in the season opener 16-10, defending MAC Champion Ball State 44-13, Auburn in the White Out game 28-20, Villanova 38-17, and Indiana 24-0. The team’s only loss was to Iowa their last time out 23-20.
As Penn State gets set to host Illinois, here are five things you need to know before the game kicks off.
Penn State Quarterback situation
James Franklin has yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game. The head coach said after Wednesday’s practice that Clifford, Ta’Quan Roberson, and Christian Veilleux split first-team reps at practice.
It was a sight Penn State fans longed to see after a particularly long bye week: QB Clifford back at practice taking snaps with the offense after an unidentified injury against Iowa cause him to miss the second half.
But just because he’s throwing at practice, doesn’t mean the QB will be ready to play against Illinois.
“It won’t be because of a lack of effort on [Sean’s] part,” Franklin said on Tuesday. “He’s going to do everything he’s supposed to do, from the doctors and the trainers and their recommendations, make sure the parents are informed and involved in the process as well. And then as I’ve told you guys before, mentally in terms of how he approaches the game, as good as I’ve been around. He’s doing all the right things. Not surprised by that. Hopefully, that will put him in the best position to come back as soon as possible.”
Illinois has issues of its own
The Illini have issues of their own, possibly playing without QB Brandon Peters. He was injured during the loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 9; Illinois also had a bye week last week.
Head Coach Bret Bielema said he hoped to get Peters back, but on Monday Peters still wasn’t cleared to practice. Waiting in the wings is backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski. The QB has completed 66 of 129 passes for 666 yards, six scores, and just one interception this season.
“(Peters) could get cleared on Friday or Saturday,” Bielema said. “But to have a quarterback that hasn’t repped with your players during the course of the week and the game plan, unless it’s forced into an emergency situation, probably isn’t hugely beneficial.”
Jaquan Brisker is a beast
With PJ Mustipher done for the season, the Penn State defense will continue to rely heavily on the leadership of Jaquan Brisker. The midseason All-American has emerged as one of the best safeties in college football. He has compiled 25 tackles and two interceptions.
He’s a key component of the Penn State defense that only allows just over 200 yards per game. Look for Brisker to continue to make key plays down the stretch if Penn State hopes to remain in the AP Top 10 during the second half of the season.
Gameday forecast cools off
It will not be as warm as previous weeks in Happy Valley this football season, but still not a bad outlook for Homecoming! Temperatures will likely be in 40s for any tailgating with game time temperatures rising to the low to mid-50s. A stray shower can’t be ruled out as clouds roll through, but it will remain partly to mostly cloudy throughout the game. Any shower should be light and brief.
Last time out vs. Illinois
The Nittany Lions will meet Illinois for the 26th matchup. Penn State has won the last three contests, including a 56-21 win last season in Beaver Stadium.
Jahan Dotson had a career-high 189 receiving yards, including touchdowns of 75 and 70 yards. Sean Clifford threw for 285 yards and two scores, while Keyvone Lee added 85 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brandon Smith led the PSU defense with eight tackles, three tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery.
Game kickoff is set for Saturday, October 23 at noon on abc27. Plus join the abc27 sports team for a special preview show at 11:30 a.m. leading into kickoff.