Big Ten rivals clash when No. 7 Penn State travels to Illinois Saturday in the first game of a tripleheader on FOX.
The action begins at 10 a.m. ET with Big Noon Kickoff followed by No. 7 Penn State vs. Illinois at noon ET, and at 4 p.m. ET, Western Kentucky takes on No. 6 Ohio State, and in primetime, TCU faces Houston at 8 p.m. ET in a battle of Texas rivals.
No. 7 Penn State vs. Illinois
Penn State (2-0) will play in a hostile environment for the first time Saturday, opening its Big Ten season on the road at Illinois.
The Illini (1-1) are coming off a disappointing loss last week at Kansas, and they hope a raucous home crowd can carry them to an upset win over the No. 7-ranked Nittany Lions.
Nicholas Singleton #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions scores a touchdown against the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens during the first half at Beaver Stadium on September 9, 2023 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Illinois will have their hands full on the defensive as the unit tries to contain Penn State sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, who has completed 43 of 55 passes for 529 yards and four touchdowns, a 78% completion rate, according to the Associated Press.
One bright spot for the Illini D is defensive back Matthew Bailey is expected to make his season debut Saturday after being sidelined since spring by a foot injury.
Illinois set a team record last season with 24 interceptions, but suffered losses in the secondary. Defensive backs Devon Witherspoon, Jartavius Martin and Sydney Brown were selected in the NFL draft.
When these teams met in 2021, it took nine overtimes to decide the winner of the last Penn State-Illinois game. The Illini won 20-18 at No. 7 Penn State in the longest game in college football history, the AP noted.
Western Kentucky vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Ohio State (2-0) is trying to get the kinks out of their offense before their Sept. 25 collision with No. 9 Notre Dame at South Bend. The Buckeyes have a new starting quarterback and three new starting offensive linemen.
Devin Brown #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes calls a play during the fourth quarter of the game against the Youngstown State Penguins at Ohio Stadium on September 9, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes beat the Penguins 35-7. (Photo by Lauren Leigh Ba
But the defense has looked stout allowing a total of 10 points in the first two games. But Western Kentucky (2-0) hasn't had trouble scoring. The Hilltoppers' 93 points in the first two weeks is second best in Conference USA.
Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. is arguably the best wideout in the nation. Harrison Jr. had seven catches for 160 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season last week. Western Kentucky has limited opponents to about 189 passing yards per game.
But the quarterbacks will be the players to watch in this matchup.
Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed is tops in Conference USA averaging more than 294 passing yards per game, the AP noted. Reed tossed six touchdown passes. And Ohio State QB Kyle McCord played well in the Buckeyes win throwing three touchdown passes for 258 yards last week.
TCU vs. Houston
TCU (1-1) and Houston (1-1) are seeking wins in the Big 12 opener Saturday night after the two teams suffered disappointing losses in the first two weeks of the season.
Bud Clark #21 (R) of the TCU Horned Frogs and Vernon Glover #26 celebrate after an interception against the Nicholls State Colonels at Amon G. Carter Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
A matchup to watch is Houston QB Donovan Smith vs. TCU’s secondary. According to the AP, the Horned Frogs rank 126th in the nation in giving up 343.5 yards passing per game. Smith, a transfer from Texas Tech, has thrown for 493 yards with four touchdowns and has 88 yards rushing with three more scores.
TCU QB Chandler Morris has thrown for 542 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and is also a threat to run. Morris has 93 yards rushing with two more TDs.
Houston and TCU are meeting for the first time since Andy Dalton led TCU to a win over Case Keenum and the Cougars in the 2007 Texas Bowl. TCU has won the last eight meetings in the series. Houston’s last win over the Horned Frogs was in 1992.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.