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College Football: No. 7 Penn State opens Big Ten play with road trip to Illinois

The Nittany Lions will be looking to avenge their infamous 20-18, nine-overtime loss to the Illini in 2021.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — No. 7 Penn State opens Big Ten play with a road trip to Illinois on Saturday in the Big Noon Kickoff on FOX43.

It's the eighth straight conference road opener for the Nittany Lions, who have had one Big Ten opener at home in the last 14 years. 

In 31 seasons as a Big Ten member, Penn State has opened conference play on the road 22 times. The Nittany Lions are 16-14 all-time in Big Ten openers and 18-12 in Big Ten road openers.

This week, the Lions will be looking to avenge a 20-18, nine-overtime loss to Illinois in 2021 -- the last time the two teams met. 

Here's what you need to know about the game.

SERIES HISTORY: Saturday's game is the 27th meeting between Penn State and Illinois. The Nittany Lions hold a 20-6 advantage in the series, but the Illini's nine-overtime victory in 2021 snapped a three-game winning streak for Penn State.

Penn State has never lost consecutive games against Illinois.

ABOUT PENN STATE: The Lions improved to 2-0 last week with a 63-7 rout of Delaware at Beaver Stadium. 

Quarterback Drew Allar completed 22 of 26 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Fighting Blue Hens, adding another TD with a one-yard run in the third quarter. In his first two career starts, Allar has completed 43 of 55 pass attempts (78.2%) for 529 yards and four scores.

Backup Beau Pribula, a Central York grad, has played in both Penn State victories so far. Pribula has 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 carries and has gone 4-of-6 for 29 yards and a touchdown as a passer.

The RB tandem of Kaytron Allen (29-154, TD) and Nicholas Singleton (25-117, four TD) have powered a ground attack that averages 230.5 yards per game so far, while KeAndre Lambert-Smith (10-197, two TDs) and Harrison Wallace III (10-98) are the Lions' top receivers through two games.

Penn State is averaging 509 yards of offense per game, which leads the Big Ten after two weeks. The Lions also lead the conference in scoring (50.5 points per game) and rushing (230.5 yards per game).

Defensively, Penn State has allowed 224 yards and 11 points per game, forced a pair of turnovers, and generated seven sacks. 

ABOUT ILLINOIS: The Illini are off to a 1-1 start after falling 34-23 to Kansas last week. They defeated Toledo 30-28 in their season opener.

Coached by Bret Bielema (14-13 overall), Illinois is coming off an 8-5 campaign last year, which included an appearance in the ReliaQuest Bowl. 

Against Kansas, QB Luke Altmeyer threw for 202 yards and a touchdown on 19 completions, while adding a team-high 70 rushing yards and two scores. He was intercepted twice by the Jayhawks.

Illinois had 341 total yards, but the Illini defense was dented for 539 yards. Kansas built a 28-7 lead at halftime and were up by 27 points in the second half before Illinois scored a pair of late TDs and added a couple of two-point conversions to make the final margin look more respectable.

Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in total defense (477 yards allowed per game), rushing defense (224 yards allowed per game), and scoring (31 points per game). Their pass defense ranks 12th out of 14 teams (253.5 yards per game).

The Illini offense ranks ninth in the conference in total yards (357.5 per game) and scoring (26.5 points per game). Altmeyer is eighth in the Big Ten in passing yards (408) and is 11th in rushing (139 yards).

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