April 18, 2024

Big Noon Live: Gronk is in the house, plus previewing Penn State vs. Illinois

It’s going to be a wild day of college football on Saturday, and it starts early with the “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show in Boulder, Colorado.

The two-hour show includes a pregame party hosted by Rob Gronkowski, with appearances by Lil’ Wayne, Deion Sanders and more.

Things got underway early in Boulder, with a pre-dawn gathering.

Once the fun of the pregame action settles down, the focus will shift East to Champaign, Illinois, where Bret Bielema’s Fighting Illini will play host to the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions in an early Big Ten showdown.

The game could be the first real challenge for Penn State (2-0), and coach James Franklin knows Illinois fans will be ready, especially with the Illini promoting an “orange-out.”

“It should be a great atmosphere at Illinois, a great environment for college football,” he said this week. “We opened our Big Ten season last year at Purdue. There was a black-out there.”

The Nittany Lions have opened their season by beating West Virginia, 38-15, and Delaware, 63-7. Meanwhile, the Illini opened at home with a come-from-behind 30-28 win over Toledo, before stubbing their toes in a 34-23 defeat at Kansas in Week 2.

HOW TO WATCH ‘BIG NOON KICKOFF’ THIS SATURDAY

  • 10 a.m.-Noon ET: “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show on FOX
  • Noon ET: Penn State at Illinois on FOX and the FOX Sports app

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the Penn State-Illinois showdown. Check back Saturday for pregame coverage, followed by live in-game analysis from FOX Sports’ Bryan Fischer!

Will Drew Allar lead Penn State to a win over Illinois?

Will Drew Allar lead Penn State to a win over Illinois?

No. 7 Penn State at Illinois

PREGAME NUMBERS TO KNOW

20-6: PSU’s all-time record against Illinois. The Nittany Lions have won the six of the last eight meetings.

78.2: Completion percentage for QB Drew Allar, which ranks sixth in the nation. He also sits 16th in passing efficiency (183.0) and 21st in yards per pass attempt (9.62).

9: Consecutive games PSU has scored at least 30 points — the nation’s longest streak.

6-of-17: Passing Delaware was held to last week by PSU; the seventh time PSU has held an opponent below 50% passing over the last two seasons, tied for most in the nation.

9th: Current Big Ten rank for Illinois in scoring (26.5 PPG), total offense (357.5 YPG) and passing (204.0). The Fighting Illini also sit at seventh in rushing (153.5).

164: Yards needed by QB Luke Altmyer to crack Illinois’ all-time top-10 list for rushing yards by a quarterback. Altmyer already has a team-best 139 rushing yards.

16-14: Final score for Illinois’ last win over Penn State in Champaign in 2014, when David Reisner’s 36-yard field goal with eight seconds left secured the W. 

3rd: Receiver Isaiah Williams‘ rank in the Big Ten in receptions per game (5.5). Williams is sixth in receiving yards (150).

[More numbers to know in Week 3 games]

Week 3 preview: Can Illinois upset Penn State?

Week 3 preview: Can Illinois upset Penn State?

PREGAME READING

Week 3 wagering: Chris “The Bear” Fallica shares his predictions from all the top games, including Penn State-Illinois. Read more.

The Prime Effect … on coaches: One interesting aspect of the instant success Deion Sanders has had at Colorado is the very real possibility that it could increase pressure on coaches — even established and successful coaches like James Franklin and Bert Bielema — to change the way they operate. Read more.

How Penn State prepared Drew Allar for this moment: Many observers think this is the best roster Penn State has had in the James Franklin era, but Franklin has gone to great lengths to make sure his young quarterback would be ready to lead it. Michael Cohen goes behind the scenes for the story. 

Heisman watch: Reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams of USC continues to be the favorite to win the prestigious award. But Allar is among those firmly in the mix. Check out our breakdown of the top 10 candidates.

Why Illinois has a chance: The Nittany Lions are big favorites vs. Illinois, but the Illini do have one top-notch NFL prospect who could wreak havoc — defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton. NFL Draft expert Rob Rang details why Newton could be a big problem for Penn State and also outlines other top prospects scouts will be watching in Week 3. Read more.

What our experts are looking for in the game: RJ Young, Michael Cohen and Bryan Fischer break down all the big games this week, including Penn State-Illinois. Read more.

Bonus reading!

“It’s hard to stop all of us”: Everyone knows about Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter, but Colorado has found success in large part due to the wealth of options it has compiled on offense. Read more.

Colorado will decide its ceiling: Some have doubted Deion Sanders’ methods at rebuilding Colorado, but it will ultimately be the Buffs who decide how high they can climb. RJ Young explains why.

What’s next for Texas? The Longhorns are flying high after their stunning victory at Alabama in Week 2, but coach Steve Sarkisian has bigger goals. “Championship teams continue to improve,” he said. Laken Litman has the story.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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