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Illini need to watch out for Penn State’s Allen Robinson

Penn State receiver Allen Robinsruns past Ohio State linebacker JoshuPerry during an NCAA college football game Saturday Oct. 26 2013

Penn State receiver Allen Robinson runs past Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Penn State 63-14. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

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SATURDAY

ILLINOIS AT PENN STATE

The facts: 11 a.m., ESPN, 560-AM.

The records: Illinois 3-4, 0-3 Big Ten; Penn State 4-3, 1-2.

The line: Penn State by 10 1⁄2.

Updated: December 3, 2013 6:15AM



Illinois is 3-4 overall and 0-3 in Big Ten play. Penn State is 4-3, 1-2.

Hey, those records are similar. Does that mean these teams are nearly even?

If only it did, but we all know better, don’t we? Five other things I don’t want to know yet about this matchup, but am afraid I already do:

1. The star of this game will be Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson, a true No. 1 guy who was the best player in the Big Ten at the position last year and might well be again. Robinson caught 12 balls for 173 yards and a touchdown last weekend at Ohio State. He’ll feast on Illinois’ young, thus far unimpressive cornerbacks whether or not V’Angelo Bentley, who’s listed as questionable with an ankle injury, is able to play.

2. Penn State’s top two running backs, Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton, are separated by only three carries (95 for Zwinak, 92 for Belton). There’s no question the 240-pound Zwinak has a nose for the goal line — he has eight rushing touchdowns, to three for Belton — but Belton is better suited to torch the Illini. At 205 pounds, Belton is fast and quick like the backs who’ve done the most damage against them. The junior will have the third 100-yard game of his career.

3. Running back Josh Ferguson, who at times has been Illinois’ most effective and impressive offensive player, will bounce back from two down games with a strong performance. Penn State isn’t nearly as good as usual up the middle. Ferguson is athletic enough to exploit that.

4. The Nittany Lions are better than Illinois at creating turnovers (isn’t everybody?) but much worse at committing them. True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has thrown eight interceptions, and PSU has fumbled away the football eight times. Do the Illini actually have a chance to win the turnover battle? Yes! But they won’t.

5. You’ll watch this game and be left thinking Penn State really isn’t all that good, and you know why? Because Penn State really isn’t all that good. It has beaten one team with a winning record, and that’s only because Michigan was so determined to blow it three weeks ago in a 43-40, four-overtime defeat in Happy Valley.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg



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