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Watch now: Who will start at quarterback for Illinois? Brandon Peters or Artur Sitkowski?

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CHAMPAIGN — Illinois is currently on a bye week, so the answer to this question will linger for at least a few more days.

Who will start at quarterback for the Illini?

Throughout the year, injuries have been a big part of determining who is the team's QB1. Sixth-year senior Brandon Peters entered the season as Illinois' starter, but he lasted only 13 snaps before being knocked out of the season-opener against Nebraska with an AC joint sprain in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, according to the ACC Network. Peters missed the rest of that contest and the next two as he recovered.

Backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski replaced Sitkowski and guided the Illini to their lone conference win of the year, a 30-22 season-opening victory over the Huskers on Aug. 28. The Rutgers transfer then started versus UTSA and at Virginia on Sept. 4 and 11, respectively, before Peters made his return at home against Maryland on Sept. 17.

When Peters was sidelined, first-year Illinois coach Bret Bielema and his staff maintained that he was the starting quarterback when healthy.

This time around, after Peters sustained another injury in the Illini's shutout loss to Wisconsin last week and Sitkowski filled in again, their tone has changed.

"It’s kind of to be determined," Bielema said Tuesday. "The reason we did (put Peters back in as QB1 after his early-season injury) is obviously for us as coaches to make the decision of what gave us the best chance to have success that game, that weekend. Obviously (Sitkowski) came in and did some good things (last week) but when we get to the decision of who we’re going to play or who we’re going to start against Penn State (next week), we probably won’t make that decision until we get closer to Tuesday preparation. ...

"We’ll make the decision of who is going to start against Penn State probably that Tuesday so the players know it going into the preparation on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to get ready for Saturday."

Neither quarterback played well against Wisconsin, which rolled to a 24-0 win last week. Peters was 3-of-7 passing for 12 yards before exciting the game in the second quarter. Sitkowski threw 12 straight incomplete passes before recording his first completion. He finished the day 8-of-27 passing for 55 yards.

In Bielema's postgame press conference, he said Sitkowski had been receiving more reps in practice "for a couple of weeks" leading up to the Wisconsin game.

Peters hasn't been available to the media since before the season started, but Sitkowski did speak to reporters following his insertion into the lineup.

"Just gotta hit the guys, man. I gotta do a better job of hitting those guys and put the ball where it needs to be, put it on their chin (strap)," Sitkowski said of his performance. "It's my job to get it in their radius, and I gotta do a better job with that."

For the season, Sitkowski is 66-of-129 passing for 666 yards and six touchdowns against one interception. Peters is 40-of-82 passing for 410 yards and one TD with one interception.

Bielema said Peters is "limited" this week with an undisclosed injury, but he should be back next week. 

When asked about Illinois' quarterback situation, offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said Bielema will make the final decision of who starts under center. He backed both Peters and Sitkowski, saying that they're "two guys really who I feel like are Division I type of players who you can go out there and win with," though he noted that Sitkowski's "juice" helps him command the team and the offense.

"One of Art's big, high assets is his personality, his natural outgoing leadership and his juice right there," Petersen said. "We talk about BP, it's one of the things he struggles with, just his natural personality right there, that's not him. He keeps working on it, but they're two totally different guys. When (Sitkowski) comes in, one of the things he does bring is he brings a lot of that juice to the table because of his natural personality."

Whoever receives the start next week at Penn State will face a tall task. The Nittany Lions have the No. 2 scoring defense in the Big Ten, limiting opponents to 13.8 points per game.

Bielema and Petersen both dismissed the idea of a two-quarterback system, confirming that a decision between Sitkowski and Peters is coming.

"Never really experienced it," Bielema said of a two-quarterback approach. " ... In the system that we've guided to and what we've recruited to or how we're trying to build for the future, never say never, but it's just not a path we would go down."


Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid

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