Games to Watch: No. 5 - Purdue

IlliniPlaybook counts down Illinois' biggest games of the 2013 season.

No. 5 - Key game: 11/23 @ Purdue.

Hold on now; don't call me crazy for this pick.

I know the Boilermakers had a losing record last season. I know they have a new head coach in Darrell Hazell. I know they're not a glamorous team. I know hardly anybody outside of Champaign and East Lafayette will care about this game.

All of those reasons are exactly why I picked Purdue for this list.

Under the direction of Hazell, Purdue won't be expected to do much in 2013. The ceiling is probably somewhere near what happend last season, and going through the transition to a new coach won't make matters any easier. So technically, both the Illinois and Purdue programs will be in similar re-build modes this fall. And the game takes place near the end of the season, giving both teams time to both install their plan and get better.

See where I'm going with this?

What I'm getting at is, if Purdue beats Illinois this season, it will show that it's program is already moving ahead of what Coach Tim Beckman is trying to instill at Illinois. For Beckman, in the second year leading the program facing an upstart coach of a team that isn't supposed to be very good (and hasn't been very good for some time), a loss will not be a good sign for the sake of progression and moving in the right direction.

That's why it's an important weekend. It's the perfect example of a barometer game.

Last time: Purdue 20, Illinois 17 - Nov. 17, 2012 - Champaign, Ill. Memorial Stadium

An Akeem Hunt 63-yard touchdown catch gave Purdue a 13-3 lead in the third quarter on a play where quarterback Robert Marve rolled to the right and threw back across the field.

Hunt raced down the sideline untouched for the score.

The Illini scored 14 second half points in an attempt to come back, capped by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's short touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That made the score 20-17, the eventual final score as the comeback attempt fell short.

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