Mark Brennan (mxbscout)Comment: I look for a defensive struggle between two teams that have both had issues moving the ball vs. decent defenses. I've overestimated Penn State's ability to score so often this season that it is time to finally learn my lesson and get low. Take the under, folks.
Prediction: Penn State 11, Illinois 5
Scott Cole (PSU96)Comment: Illinois does not feature a mobile quarterback and will be without some key offensive threats. Penn State continues to struggle to strike an offensive balance between the run and the pass. All of this should result in a low-scoring affair. Penn State rides the home field advantage to win No. 7.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Illinois 13
Keith Conlin (keithconlin)Comment: Going to be a very tough game on both sides of the ball for PSU. The Illini are much improved over what they have been the last decade or so. Is this the week that Hack ANNNND the running game are clicking at the same time? As usual, the best part of a passing game is a run offense and the best part of a running team is a good passing game. Week nine is here, will it all come together? As you knowm I always wish for the best so we shall see. PSU by a TD as The Toe adds two field goals and three tackles.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Illinois 20
Nirav Dalal (PlaybookNirav)Comment: This game is going to be a punt-fest, with both defenses controlling the line of scrimmage. Points will be at a premium. Penn State has a better running attack, and a couple of key Saquon Barkley runs will be the difference in this game.
Prediction: Penn State 20, Illinois 16
Mark Harrington (PlaybookMark)Comment: If Penn State can manage a win, it’ll be another winning season, the fourth in a row since the sanctions. Penn State’s offense needs to take what the Illinois defense gives it in order to get sustained drives and put some points up.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Illinois 17
Tom Hoffman (underscoreTom)Comment: Penn State is back at home, where its defense has allowed 12 ppg as compared to 32 ppg on the road. Also as an added bonus, Penn State faces possibly the least mobile QB in the B1G. This is likely Penn State's weakest opponent of the four remaining, and I'm sure the team would love to move up a hair in the bowl pecking order to try to avoid the Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 26. This will probably be a generally boring game, but at least it's not supposed to rain.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Illinois 6
Tom McLaughlin (WeRPSUPlaybook)Comment: The Nittany Lion offense hasn't shown any consistency so far this season, and there are no signs that this will be any different. Penn State's defense, however, has kept the team competitive. It's usually a hard fought battle regardless of records when these teams meet, and I expect that defense will carry the day once again on a cold afternoon. The special teams could well play a major role in this game, which means the Lions need productive punting, and they need to minimize returns. This should be a nailbiter from beginning to end.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Illinois 13
Donovan Neal (PSUMtnBike)Comment: Penn State has done what is needed for bowl eligibility and faces its best chance of getting to seven wins at home against the Illini. This game is a toss-up, so slight edge to the Lions at home.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Illinois 23
Rob Riva (rriva)Comment: Look for another game where Penn State has to trudge through. Ultimately field position puts Illinois in a position to win, given the Nittany Lions' woeful punting game.
Prediction: Illinois 17, Penn State 13
Mark Brennan (mxbscout)Comment: Barring the loss of a key player or two, Penn State figures to be favored in every game but two -- and I don’t see the Lions winning at Ohio State or Michigan State. They’ll stub their collective toe in one other game along the way because they are still very young and there is a big question mark at kicker. But expect significant improvement from last season.
Scott Cole (PSU96)Comment: The first half of the 2015 schedule is tailor-made to allow the much more athletic, but still young, Nittany Lions to get comfortable and rack up wins before things get tougher. Outside of Ohio State and Michigan State, this Penn State team should be able to hold its own against anyone as long as the offensive line shows enough improvement to give the running backs a hole to run through and Christian Hackenberg time to throw more often than not.
Keith Conlin (keithconlin)Comment: Gotta say I am looking forward to this season more than any I have in a long time. Hack and company will do some stuff not seen around here. Big Maple will get it done for sure, but obviously this season is 150 percent dependant on the O-line. True story. Every writer in the world will say that, but it really is the case this year. Defense will be great. Offense could be great IF the line gets Hack time. Bottom line: O-line gets it done and we are 10-2. The O-line doesn't, 7-5. Goon’s got faith in Herb Hand getting his guys straight. Let's get it boys
Nirav Dalal (PlaybookNirav)Comment: I expect the Lions to bumble their way through some early wins and then start to hit their stride by the time the visit to Columbus arrives. Losses to Ohio State and Michigan State seem likely along with a Maryland-like loss to Michigan or Indiana.
Mark Harrington (PlaybookMark)Comment: Young but talented is the theme of 2015 for the Nittany Lions. Penn State has the tools and talent to have a strong showing this season. The concerns are the showdowns with veteran Buckeye and Spartan units. This aside, I expect the Lions to have a few early slow starts, but find success with experience and have marked improvement in several areas over last season.
Tom Hoffman (underscoreTom)Comment: Penn State will be better at just about every position group than it was last year. And that says a lot since PSU had one of the best defenses in the nation in 2014. And while it doesn't say much about the offense considering its struggles, that unit will be significantly better. There are still question marks on the offensive line (though written in pencil, not red ink) and someone has to step up to replace goat-to-GOAT Sam Ficken. But the schedule sets up nicely for Penn State to be a surprise team in the college football landscape this season. So I'm going to be that guy and think big.
Tom McLaughlin (WeRPSUPlaybook)Comment: This is an important year for the Nittany Lions, now sanction free, as they strive to return to elite status. Penn State has done well to maintain their competitive level over the last few years, and 2015 is a season that could cement legendary status. The early season lines up well to give the Lions some comfort before the heart of the schedule arrives, and in a Big Ten that has shown a lot of weakness in recent years, there are few obstructions between this team and a significant post season bowl. Put a big circle around the Ohio State and Michigan games. If Franklin is able to motivate the team around the travesty of the 2014 officiating meltdown, this could be an epic season.
Donovan Neal (PSUMtnBike)Comment: The schedule is set-up nicely for this young team to grow. The defense should be stout, but serious questions remain in the kicking game and along the offensive line. To help protect the QB and open up the offense, the Lions must establish an early rushing attack and remain consistent throughout the year.
Rob Riva (rriva)Comment: Penn State remains a young but very talented and athletic team that should show improvement over last year's campaign, particularly with a favorable schedule. Key question marks include how much the offensive line will improve over last season and whether the Nittany Lions' kicking situation can get resolved in a hurry. The Bob Shoop-led defense should be as good, if not better, than last year's corps which will keep the Nittany Lions in most of its games. Look for Penn State to drop losses in Columbus and East Lansing as well as two other games as a result of either offensive line or kicking woes.