Big Ten Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions at Illinois Fighting Illini, Odds, Preview

christian hackenberg-penn-state-2014Penn state-Illinois
Time: Sat, 11 AM CST
Spread: PEN -7

Penn State is 6-4 on the season but has gone just 2-4 in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions will host the 4-6 Illinois Fighting Illini in a game college football oddsmakers at Bovada are setting the line 7-points in favor of PSU.

Penn State has been dominant on the defensive end of the football this season. The Nittany Lions allow just 16.2 points per game to opponents, which coupled with a pretty poor offense (21.3 points per game) has still led to a plus-.500 record. However, even with a win this week, PSU closes the season against No. 11 Michigan State, making the prospect of an eight win season unlikely.

The Nittany Lions have won the last two weeks against poor Indiana and Temple teams, but prior to that the team was riding a four game losing streak, including an OT loss to then- No. 13 Ohio State.

Sophomore QB Christian Hackenburg has taken steps back from his strong freshman campaign. He’s averaging just 6.21 yards per reception this season, while his completion ratio has fallen over 3 percent from a season ago. His passer rating is down 28 points from last season with a raw QB rating of just 29.7 this season, largely a product of having thrown 14 INTs and suffering 37 sacks.

PSU hasn’t got a lot of production from its backfield. Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch have combined for over 900 yards, but neither averages more than 4.7 yards per carry. Belton has six TDs on the season, but the Nittany Lions still only have 11 rushing TDs and eight via the pass (led by Jesse James’ three).

Illinois has been horrible on D this season. The Fighting Illini are allowing 36 points per game while scoring just 25.6 itself. The team has lost five of its past six games, and were outscored 85 to 28 the last two weeks against Ohio State and Iowa. Following this matchup, the Illini will take on a surging Northwestern team on the road, making the prospect of a 1-7 Big Ten finish very likely.

Sophmore QB Wes Lunt threw 14-of-25 last week in the 30-14 loss to Iowa, getting one TD while not throwing any interceptions. He did lose five yards on three rush attempts, but Lunt’s progress will be worth monitoring as Illinois moves forward next year. On Oct. 4 against Purdue, he threw for 332 yards on 69.2 percent completions.

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