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College Football Analysis: Can Penn State Take Down Illinois?

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Time once again to answer some questions for this week's edition of the Blue White Roundtable. Be sure to visit the redesigned Black Shoe Diaries (I'm getting used to the new look) later on for a full recap from the Penn State blogosphere. The topic this week, of course, is Penn State's Big Ten opener against Illinois this Saturday at noon eastern.

1. Our ground attack finally got moving this week by using two sturdy power backs, Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak. Is the power running game a better fit for this offense than Bill Belton? How much of a difference can Belton make when he returns?

While it was nice to see a standard ground-pound style offense with Zordich and Zwinak getting some carries, I still feel there is a tremendous value to having a healthy Bill Belton on the field to mix things up a bit. Having a guy who can spread things out behind the line of scrimmage seems to be something we should expect from O'Brien moving forward and if Belton is indeed back this week I would expect to see that became part of the game plan.

(2) Mike Hull seems to be coming into his own, and Ted Roof has apparently created a special "Road Runner" package to take advantage of his unique speed. What kind of role do you see him playing the rest of the season in this defense?

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Mike Hull is a guy I have been waiting for to become more a part of the defensive planning and scheme, so I am interested to see if he becomes more active in regular duty moving forward. I still feel he is behind the main three (Hodges, Carson and Mauti) but if Penn State is matched up against a speedy offense that likes to spread the ball around the field, having Hull see some more reps over a slower Mauti or Carson is certainly worth checking out.

(3) We all know the stories about how the Illinois coaches commandeering State College and lingering outside of players' apartments in the hours after the NCAA sanctions were issued. Has this game been circled on the calendar for the Coach O'Brien and his staff? Will those feelings have an impact on this game?

I'll let Mauti answer that question for you...

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We all know that this game has been circled for a while by those players who stuck with Penn State this summer. Anyone who will suggest otherwise is just delusional. But will they have an impact on the game? I don't think so. It may carry some emtionl play for some of the players in the early stages but once the clock starts running it is just another football game for these players. The images of Illinois coaches on Penn State's campus will be an afterthought once the game actually starts, I would imagine.

4. Predictions?

After watching the way Illinois has started this season I feel confident that a healthy Penn State offense can do some damage in this game, and I still feel Penn State's defense is going to be tough to score against most of this season. Everything tells me to go with Penn State in this one, but there is just something about it that I do not like and I can't exactly put my finger on it.

I'll say Illinois nips Penn State, 24-23.

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