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Penn State-Illinois: Where to watch, key storyline, point spread and more | TribLIVE.com
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Penn State-Illinois: Where to watch, key storyline, point spread and more

Tribune-Review
| Friday, September 21, 2018 5:00 p.m
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Penn State’s KJ Hamler reaches for a pass in the endzone against Kent State during the first half in State College on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

Penn State visits Illinois in its Big Ten Conference opener, seeking to remain unbeaten for the Sept. 29 showdown against Ohio State.

Here’s our weekly Gameday look.

PENN STATE (3-0) VS. ILLINOIS (2-1)

• 9 p.m. Friday (ET) at Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

• TV: Fox Sports 1

• RADIO: 96.5 FM, 730 AM

• SERIES HISTORY: Penn State leads 18-5

• LAST MEETING: Penn State 39-0 in 2015

• BETTING LINE: Penn State -28

THE STORYLINE

In 2017, then-unbeaten (and second-ranked) Clemson visited Syracuse for a seemingly benign Friday-night game against a .500 team. And then the Orange won 27-24, immediately rattling the Tigers’ plan to repeat as national champs.

Ultimately, the loss didn’t affect Clemson’s playoff chances. The Tigers won the ACC title and climbed to No. 1 before Alabama flattened them in the CFP semifinals. Still, that Clemson-Syracuse game was instructive for Penn State.

The Lions are four-touchdown favorites over Illinois, which won a nerve-ratting, 31-24 opener over Kent State — a team the Lions beat by 53 last week. Though the game shouldn’t be close, Illinois might get a surge from the atmosphere (as Syracuse did) and some returning players.

Three Illinois starters suspended for the first three games could play against Penn State. Among them are tight end Lou Dorsey and safety Nate Hobbs, both of whom made Big Ten Network’s all-freshman team last year.

Quarterback AJ Bush, who played at Nebraska and Virginia Tech before winning Illinois’ starting job last summer, also could return from an injury he sustained in the opener. Bush, a graduate transfer, gives Illinois a measure of stability at the position (the Illini started true freshman M.J. Rivers II last week).

“We’ll be as close to having our entire roster available as we can possibly be,” coach Lovie Smith said this week.

Illinois might be a .500 team at best, but a win over Penn State would give Smith a stake on which to tie his program rebuild.

PENN STATE PROBABLE STARTERS

OFFENSE

WR, 84, Juwan Johnson, Jr.

LT, 52, Ryan Bates, Jr.

LG, 74, Steven Gonzalez, Jr.

C, 62, Michal Menet, Soph.

RG, 66, Connor McGovern, Jr.

RT, 71, Will Fries, Soph.

TE, 18, Jonathan Holland, Jr.

QB, 9, Trace McSorley, Sr.

RB, 24, Miles Sanders, Jr.

WR, 3, DeAndre Thompkins, Sr.

WR, 1, KJ Hamler, Fr.

DEFENSE

DE, 48, Shareef Miller, Jr.

DT, 30, Kevin Givens, Jr.

DT, 54, Robert Windsor, Jr.

DE, 99, Yetur Gross-Matos, Soph.

LB, 7, Koa Farmer, Sr.

LB, 36, Jan Johnson, Jr.

LB, 6, Cam Brown, Jr.

CB, 21, Amani Oruwariye, Sr.

FS, 17, Garrett Taylor, Jr.

SS, 4, Nick Scott, Sr.

CB, 29, John Reid, Jr.

ILLINOIS PROBABLE STARTERS

OFFENSE

WR, 9 Sam Mays, Sr.

LT, 79, Vederian Lowe, Soph.

LG, 55, Kendrick Green, Fr.

C, 65, Doug Kramer, Soph.

RG, 53, Nick Allegretti, Sr.

RT, 63, Alex Palczewski,, Soph.

TE, 29, Lou Dorsey, Soph.

QB, 1, AJ Bush, Sr.

RB, 26, Mike Epstein, Soph.

WR, 15, Trenard Davis, Jr.

WR, 4, Ricky Smalling, Soph.

DEFENSE

DE, 97, Bobby Roundtree, Soph.

DT, 96, Tymir Oliver, Jr.

DT, 91, Jamal Woods, Soph.

DE, 99, Owen Carney, Soph.

LB, 3, Del’Shawn Phillips, Sr.

LB, 35, Jake Hanson, Soph.

LB, 10, James Knight, Soph.

CB, 21, Jartavius Martin, Fr.

FS, 7, Stanley Green, Jr.

SS, 4, Bennett Williams, Soph.

CB, 8, Nate Hobbs, Soph.

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