"Penn State 27, Illinois 10:
Expect the success of the PSU running game vs. Temple to translate into the Illini being more honest defensively. That will allow QB Christian Hackenberg to finally enjoy a little breathing room, and get back dialed in with the passing game."
-- Mark Brennan, mxbscout
"Penn State 23, Illinois 10:
The Nittany Lion running game got on track against Temple and now gets to face the worst run defense in the country. Penn State plays effective ball control offense and the defense keeps Wes Lunt in check to key a 7th victory."
-- Scott Cole, PSU96
"Penn State 31, Illinois 0:
It’s here -- the boys finally pitch a shutout and the offense uses the mojo created by the defense to do some scoring and carry momentum into the regular-season finale vs. Sparty. Tim Beckman is fired on the spot, and asks James Franklin if he can catch a lift back to State College because he developed a taste for the poached eggs at The Waffle Shop back in the summer of 2012. Enjoy the ride boys and girls, I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride a little bit. BTW, pick 6’s are contagious."
-- Keith Conlin, keithconlin
"Penn State 27, Illinois 9:
Illinois is not athletic enough on defense and I think the Penn State offensive line got a ton of confidence last week. I think the Lions will come out sharp and will notch another win."
-- Nirav Dalal, PlaybookNirav
"Penn State 24, Illinois 10:
Despite their “backs against the wall” Illinois and Beckman’s “neck on the block” I expect Penn State’s lines on both sides to control the trenches. If they can protect the ball they should grab number seven."
-- Mark Harrington, PlaybookMark
"Penn State 20, Illinois 6:
The running game has started to come together since the return of Miles Dieffenbach and Illinois is the worst run defense PSU will face this year. The Nits defense is firing on all cylinders and Illinois likely will be missing two OL starters again this week."
-- Tom Hoffman, underscoreTom
"Penn State 26, Illinois 14:
Illinois' poor run defense is tailor made for a rushing offense finally finding some identity. Expect the Lions to move at will between the 20s with the run opening up some passing lanes for Hackenburg as well. Inside the red zone where the defenders are more bunched, Penn State will see less success, but Ficken and his automatic leg will ensure that points are put on the board."
-- Tom McLaughlin, WeRPSUPlaybook
"Penn State 24, Illinois 13:
The season could be deemed a success story already with bowl eligibility and the additional practice time, but the Lions will add one more victory to its resume against a struggling Illini team."
-- Donovan Neal, PSUMtnBike
"Penn State 31, Illinois 10:
If this is close, I might consider eating my Fight On State hat. The Lions' offensive line appeared to get its bearings last week against Temple, and there's no reason for that to not carry over to this one."
-- Greg Pickel, GregPickel
"Illinois 10, Penn State 6:
While the Illinois' rush defense is horrendous, I'm still not sold on the recent upswing of Penn State's running game. The Nittany Lions' offense still turns the ball over way too much, and it's something that keeps lesser opponents, like Tim Beckman's squad, in the game."
-- Rob Riva, rriva
Mark Brennan, mxbscout "7-5:
We knew all along that this would be the season where the NCAA sanctions had the greatest impact. Luckily, since most of the penalties have been (or soon will be) eased or eliminated, this should be as bad as it gets. I can see PSU winning a game or two more if the offensive line develops more quickly than expected and all the key players stay healthy. But things will go sideways in a hurry if key injuries hit."
Scott Cole, PSU96 "7-5:
The sanctions have taken their toll on the depth chart, leaving the offensive line and linebacker corps in a very precarious spot. All it will take is one or two injuries to key personnel for things to end up worse than my predicted record. However, I have faith in this coaching staff and feel they will get the absolute most out of the Nittany Lions. This team will be much better in November and will hopefully get a chance to have a month of bowl practices to use as a springboard into what looks to be a very bright future."
Keith Conlin, keithconlin "8-4:
With so many questions at my beloved offensive line position this season, I cant lie that I am not concerned about the franchise QB being protected. But offensive lines thrive under pressure IMO. The staff won lots of games at Vandy playing in the SEC, so the it knows how to get it done with less than ideal players/circumstances. Guess what, we have those less than ideal circumstances. When the sanctions were handed down in 2012, we always knew that the 2014 season would be the hardest one on the team and staff because of the loss of scholarships. It is not going to be easy, but I have faith in the new staff and the attitude of our players. Tough kids all around who have been put through the ringer more than once or twice. This team will have its struggles early but I think they hit their stride by October. Until Brady Hoke proves he can win tight ball games (see Michigan-PSU 2013) I am predicting a win at the Big House. I am ready for the season and can't wait to get it started."
Nirav Dalal, PlaybookNirav "8-4:
I can see this season going +1 or -1 a win but anything beyond that would be a surprise to me. The defense will keep the Lions in most games but the offense will be anemic with a struggling offensive line and very young receivers. The result will be some tough, close loses but a solid season overall when you consider the depth issues."
Mark Harrington, PlaybookMark "8-4:
This has the makings of being the toughest sanction season for the Nittany Lions, but with talent and speed throughout the squad and the "unknown" factor of a new staff in the Big Ten, I expect the Lions to win a major game few expect them to and lose a "gimme" few throught as possible. With paper-thin spots on the roster, things could unravel quickly with a key injury or two."
Tom Hoffman, underscoreTom "7-5:
I'd like to say 8-4, but I just can't see a six-deep offensive line allowing the offense to operate on all cylinders. The defense may be able to pick up some of that slack. James Franklin was able to wring every last drop out of the Vanderbilt sponge, so maybe he can do the same with PSU."
Tom McLaughlin, WeRPSUPlaybook "6-6:
This season could end dramatically different from the prediction, but so much will depend on team unity, and on how well Penn State gets out of the gate. A win in Ireland, particularly a convincing one, could set the tone for a 9-3 campaign, but on the other hand, pre-season excitement and enthusiasm is often watered down in the face of a slow start or a disappointing loss. It will be an interesting challenge for the staff, and we will learn much about how they handle adversity and success."
Donovan Neal, PSUMtnBike "8-4:
A season of unknowns with another new coaching staff, a depleted roster in key areas, and on paper the most crippling year from the sanctions to look forward to. The Lions must develop the offensive line and stay healthy. A healthy team may pull out 9 wins, but an unhealthly one may barely break even. I'm going with a prediction somewhere in the upper middle."
Greg Pickel, GregPickel "7-5:
The chorus has sung, as pundits and fans alike are projecting the Lions end up 7-5. A win they shouldn't have and a loss that shouldn't happen are to be expected, but the limited depth everyone knew was coming this fall makes it tough to make Penn State an eight win team. In fact, 9-3 seems just as plausible as 3-9, depending on how the cards fall. But 7-5 would be considered a success, with anything more than that simply being gravy atop the James Franklin express."
Rob Riva, rriva "6-6:
By now, everyone knows the depth issues facing the Nittany Lions, particularly on the offensive line, as a result of the sanctions. The game is won in the trenches, and Penn State is one or two injuries away from asking some run-ons to play offensive line. That also will likely temper the effectiveness of one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Christian Hackenberg, who has some extremely talented players in the backfield, at tight end and at wideout. The 2014 season will be the low-point of the sanction years with things looking up exponentially hereafter. Look for Penn State to drop a game it otherwise shouldn't early in the season as the team develops (i.e at Rutgers) but pull out a stunner by the end of the year (i.e. home against Michigan State)."