YSU - Quarterback Kurt Hess probably had one of the worst games of his career last week against NDSU. He threw two interceptions (his first two of the season) and was running for his life much of the contest. But that's not the Hess that is known to the YSU faithful. Rest assured Hess will do everything in his power to come back this week and get the YSU offense back in the groove. Hess currently is averaging 176.4 yards passing per game and has nine touchdowns on the season.
Ill. St. - Senior Matt Brown leads the Redbirds' offense from under center. On the season, he's 130 for 210 with seven interceptions and 11 touchdowns. He's averaging 263.7 yards per game. Four of those interceptions came last week against Southern Illinois, a game in which the Redbirds suffered their first loss of the season. So like Hess, Brown will be looking for a bounce back day. Should be an interesting matchup.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - Jamaine Cook also had an out-of-sorts day against the Bison, which was evident when he fumbled the ball on the Penguins' first play from scrimmage. The NDSU defense might be the toughest unit Cook will see all season, and it limited him to 43 yards rushing. Like Hess, expect Cook to bounce back. Last year against the Illinois State, the senior put up 122 yards, and after last week's performance, he will be itching to get back to his running ways. On the season, Cook is averaging 97 yards per game.
Ill. St. - The Redbirds are definitely a pass first team, but when they do run the ball, they run it through Darrelynn Dunn. The senior has rushed for 533 yards and nine touchdowns this season and is averaging 106.6 yards per game. Dunn did not play last week against Southern Illinois due to an injury, but he's listed as the starting running back this week.
EDGE - Even
YSU - The receivers had a very hard time last week getting separation from the NDSU secondary, leaving Hess very few options. The only touchdown last week did come on a pass, as Hess found Carson Sharbaugh. Tight end Will Shaw still leads the receivers with 15 catches and 42.8 yards per game. Andre Stubbs has been a consistent person in the Penguins offense, now having four games this season with 100 multi-purpose yards.
Ill. St. - The numbers the receiving corps put up are staggering. Tyrone Walker is averaging nearly 92 yards per game receiving. He has 39 catches on the season for 549 yards. Even the next two receivers, Donovan Harden and Lechein Neblett, have caught for 352 and 333 yards, respectively. Like most weeks, the YSU secondary will get a workout.
EDGE - Illinois St.
YSU - This line had a very rough outing in Fargo, as they were manhandled by the Bison. Left tackle Andrew Radakovich said this week they will not let that happen again. After last week's game, it's very obvious that if the line has a bad game, the rest of the offense crumbles. The line will need to bounce back quick, as Illinois State has sacked opposing quarterbacks 21 times this season. If the line can stop the defensive front, this will mean success for YSU.
Ill. St. - Like Youngstown State, this unit will be looking to have a rebound game. Against Southern Illinois last week, the line allowed the running game only 41 yards and gave up three sacks. On the season, the line has allowed six sacks. A huge stat I saw here was that the line was 0 for 12 on third downs last week. That's a play that starts with the offensive line, no matter the distance or play call.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - The line will be tested again this week - not to the level of North Dakota State - but will still be tested. The Redbirds come into the game averaging 158.7 rushing yards per game, so the line has to start closing off some running room. Also, the offensive line of the Redbirds comes in averaging 6-foot-5, 316 pounds.
Ill. St. - If there is one thing the Redbirds like to do, it's rush the quarterback. The Penguins offensive line will have to watch out for Colton Underwood, who leads Illinois State with 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. But they can't just focus on him, defensive end Nate Palmer has five sacks and nine tackles for loss. The line as a whole is allowing 107.2 yards per game rushing.
EDGE - Illinois State
YSU - It was announced earlier in the week that Dubem "Bam" Nwadiogbu is out for the season with an ACL injury. Travis Williams will now be the starter at the Will position. Teven Williams is back listed as the starter after being bumped last week. Coach Eric Wolford said this week this is the group he needs to see some improvement from. The Penguins have been getting burned all year by screen passes up the middle, the linebackers have to start shutting those down.
Ill. St. - Middle linebacker Mike Zimmer leads the Redbirds with 56 tackles, four for loss and has 3.5 sacks. He also has an interception that he returned for 25 yards. Sam linebacker Evan Frierson adds 36 tackles, five for loss and three sacks for the unit. This is a very dangerous defense that the YSU offensive line needs to fend off to make sure Hess doesn't look like he did last week.
EDGE - Illinois State
YSU - It's very obvious now that teams are testing the secondary as the top two tacklers on the team are the strong safety (Jeremey Edwards, 26) and a cornerback (Julius Childs, 25). This still is the weakest part of the YSU defense, allowing 229.6 yards per game. That has to be brought down or teams are going to continue to burn the defense in this area.
Ill. St. - Free safety Ben Erickson has three interceptions this season, which leads the team. Illinois State is allowing 173.5 yards per game. If YSU is going to have success, this could be the area in which the Penguins can capitalize.
EDGE - Illinois State
YSU - If there was a YSU player of the game last week, it was punter Nick Liste. The Niles graduate had three punts last week and averaged 52.3 yards per punt, and pinned one inside the 20. This week's stadium is more open in terms of environment, so the wind could play a factor for Liste. Stubbs had a nice return last week for 46 yards on a kickoff, which was the team's long for the season.
Ill. St. - Punter Patrick Wright averages 40 yards per punt and has pinned 12 punts inside the 20 this season. Kicker Nick Aussieker is 4 of 5 this season on field goals, only missing one from the 30-39 yard range. His long this season is 42 yards. The return game is only averaging 19 yards per return.
EDGE - YSU
Illinois State coach Brock Space is a defensive coach, and his team shows it. The YSU offense will have a great test this week against a stout unit. The interesting note of this game is both teams are coming off their first loss of the season. Many were surprised of the Redbirds' loss, as they fell to Southern Illinois, which is 3-3 on the season. Both teams had uncharacteristic performances in the loss, so both squads are looking for a big bounce back. However, I think besides Eastern Michigan, YSU is the toughest team the Redbirds have faced so far this season. Last year's game down to one touchdown, I expect the same this year. I also expect the Penguins to bounce back.