Time once again for the Blue White Round Table. We're once again late to the table this week but check out Black Shoe Diaries later for a ful round-up of this week's discussion.
1. Northwestern's offensive output against the Penn State defense was rivaled only by Alabama. What made the Wildcats so effective? What adjustments did Penn State make in the second half?
Northwestern came in to last weekend and played an up-tempo style and found a way to crack a soft secondary, which was giving Northwestern all kinds of room to work with in a bend-don't-break philosophy. I think that everybody was prepared for a wild first half but I just did not see Northwestern being able to do what they did in the first half for 60 minutes, which favored Penn State.
I think the key in the second half was not necessarily the adjustments made, but the fact that Penn State's defensive line was more athletic and physical than Northwestern's offensive line. There was more pressure in the second half than the first and I credit that to wearing down the offensive line. It looked as though Penn State brought more pressure in the second half by blitzing a linebacker or two more often as well.
2. Illinois also features a mobile quarterback and an option style attack. How helpful is it to have played Northwestern one week before facing Illinois?
It can't hurt, that's for sure, but Illinois should be more physical than Northwestern and that is what will make this a tougher game to get through for Penn State. Like last week, it may be important for Penn State to weather a storm from Illinois in the first half and not get too discouraged if they make some big plays early on. Illinois is going to cause some problems for Penn State's defense but after the last couple of weeks I expect Penn State's defense to come out with a strong performance.
3. Welcome back, Stephfon Green. How large of a role do you see him playing for the rest of the season?
I think Green is going to see an increased role each week and will be the first alternative to Silas Redd by the end of the season. Of course, I wrote a story in Maple Street Press Nittany Lions Kickoff 2011 about the dynamic duo of Redd and Green and it clearly has not panned out as I expected this season. But seeing Green contribute is a very good thing to see for Penn State.
4. Gerald Hodges has emerged as the playmaker he was expected to be coming out of high school. Can he continue his streak of exceptional play against the Illini?
Since Mike Mauti was lost for the season I think the pressure was turned up on Hodges to step his game up a bit and I think he certainly has done that, which is why I felt Penn State's defense may be able to survive without Mauti (not saying they are better off without Mauti of course). I don't expect to see monster performances like last week but it will be important to see Hodges be a leader on defense the next four games.
I have this strange feeling that Penn State comes out on fire this weekend and puts Illinois away early. Maybe it's the revenge factor from last year's game, which seems to be fresh in everybody's mind this week. And the way Illinois has played the past couple of weeks tells me that they are ripe for a loss this weekend.
Penn State 27, Illinois 14