First-year head coaches Tim Beckman and Bill O'Brien will open their Big Ten careers Saturday as Illinois hosts Penn State at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Both the Illini and Nittany Lions enter the weekend's contest at 2-2, and both got to their current record in much the same way. Penn State suffered a surprising defeat to the Mid-American Conference runner-up Ohio Bobcats, then took a second loss against Virginia before recovering Navy and Temple. Illinois opened with a win over Western Michigan, but was blown out at Arizona State in Week 2 and surprisingly lost to Louisiana Tech last Saturday.
There is no love lost between the two coaches and programs, after Beckman sent a handful of assistants to Happy Valley to camp out near the Penn State player dorm and recruit Nittany Lion football players. The NCAA allowed all Penn State players to transfer without penalty after announcing crippling sanctions against the program, and Beckman looked to take advantage. PSU offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki ended up transferring to Illinois.
Illinois has struggled offensively, due in no small part to the lingering ankle injury suffered by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in the loss to Arizona State. Scheelhaase did not play in Illinois' Week 3 win over Charleston Southern, and was pulled after just one quarter of last week's game. Beckman cited Scheelhaase taking a big hit and reaffirmed his commitment to the junior as the team's starting quarterback. He is expected back this week.
Penn State has thrown for more than 250 yards per game behind the quarterback play of Matt McGloin. The senior signalcaller has completed 59% of his attempts so far this year and thrown nine touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Game time, TV channel: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Point spread: The game is a pick'em at most sportsbooks, with Illinois a one-point favorite in a few.
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