PREVIEW: Illinois at Purdue

Purdue, Hazell aim for second-straight win against Illini

Illinois (4-4, 1-3 B1G) at

Purdue (2-6, 1-3)

Time: 11 a.m. CT

TV: BTN - Cory Provus (play by play), Glen Mason (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (sidelines)

Last week: Illinois lost 39-0 at Penn State; Purdue beat Nebraska 55-44

Series: Illinois leads the all-time series 43-41-6 but trails 21-20-4 at West Lafayette

Vegas betting line: Illinois (-5); Over/under: 52.5

Injury Report: Josh Ferguson probable vs. Purdue

More injuries: Enyenihi, Clary OUT vs. Purdue

Know Your Enemy: Lafayette Journal & Courier's Mike Carmin breaks down Boilermakers

Bellamy: 'There's no excuses' for WR struggles

Chain Mail: Breaking down Baber's candidacy

Werner: Cubit's candidacy crushed?

Werner's Whits: A retread who makes sense -- even if unlikely

Werner's Whits: Evaluating the 2016 Illini football depth chart

B1G Power Rankings: Hazell has hope; Illini, Huskers fall hard

Number-crunching

  • .188: Winning percentage for Darrell Hazell (6-26) at Purdue with one of thsoe six wins coming at Illinois last season
  • 6: Number of Purdue starting quarterbacks against Illinois the last six seasons; David Blough will become the seventh in seven seasons
  • 6.25: Average margin of vicctory of last four meetings between Illinois and Purdue -- the Boilermakers have won three of the meetings -- with no game decided by more than 11
  • 11.8: Points per game for Illinois during Big Ten play, worst in the conference by five points (Northwestern)
  • 12.2: Tackles per game for Clayton Fejedelem during Big Ten play, highest in the Big Ten
  • 24:50: Time of possession for Purdue during Big Ten play, worst in the conference
  • 33.5: Points per game allowed by Purdue during Big Ten play, 11th among 14 Big Ten teams
  • 46.3: Third down conversion percetage allowed by Purdue, 13th among Big Ten teams
  • 51.4: Illini QB Wes Lunt's completion percentage during Big Ten play
  • 67.8: Rushing yards per game for Illinois, worst in the conference by 40 yards (Northwestern)
  • 98.8: Illinois pass efficiency during Big Ten play, 12th among 14 conference teams

Boilermakers to watch

1. David Blough, QB: The redshirt freshman is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after completing 28 of 43 passes for 274 yards, 4 TDs and 0 touchdowns. He took advantage of short fields, but Purdue offensive coordinator John Schoop finally took off Blough's training wheels and allowed the mobile quarterback to ... well, be mobile. Blough ran for 82 yards and a TD on 10 carries against Nebraska, showing he's a dual-threat. Blough has played like a freshman though: inconsistent. In five starts, he has two good games and three bad games. He still does not rank in the top-10 among Big Ten quarterbacks in pass efficiency, 

2. Markell Jones, RB: The 5-foot-11, 207-pound freshman isn't Saquon Barkley, but he's pretty impressive. Jones has 550 rushing yards (5.4 ypc) and seven touchdowns. He's also a threat in the passing game. He has eight catches for 80 yards during the last two games. Sophomore scatback D.J. Knox (339 rushing yards, 155 receiving yards) gives Jones a nice complement, but he has a high-ankle sprain and missed last week's game. He's questionable for Saturday.

3. DeAngelo Yancey: The 6-foot-2, 223-pound junior (23 catches, 432 yards, 4 TDs) is the Boilermakers perimeter playmaker. Following one reception during the previous two games, Yancey went for five catches for 111 yards and 2 TDs vs. Nebraska. Senior Danny Anthrop is seventh in the BIg Ten in receptions per game but lacks the explosion he had before last year's knee injury (38 receptions, 283 yards, 2 TDs). He caught a career-high 10 passes against Nebraska but gained just 40 yards.

4. Evan Panfil, DE: The former Illini commit, now a junior, has bulked up (6-foot-5, 262 pounds) and turned into Purdue's best contributor up front. He leads Purdue with 4.0 sacks, along with Antoine Miles.

5. Anthony Brown, CB: The 5-foot-11 senior is tied for second in the Big Ten withfour interceptions, three of which came against Nebraska

6. Frankie Williams, CB: The 5-foot-9 senior cornerback was a second team All-Big Ten selection last year and has six passes defended, including two interceptions, so far this season.

Keys to the game

1. Commit to the runIllinois is the worst rushing team in the Big Ten and every time Illini interim coach Bill Cubit has tried to run the ball during Big Ten play, the offensive line hasn't provided enough push or Ke'Shawn Vaughn has struggled to follow any of the blocks that are provided. But defenses continue to play 2-man, meaning press man coverage on most of the Illini's four wide receiver sets (just reading the receivers) with two safeties deep, reading quarterback Wes Lunt. That takes away both deep throws and quick throws and forces 1) the offensive line to protect Lunt and 2) Lunt to zip the ball into small windows. Often, it results in Lunt throwing the ball away. But it also means that the Illini are getting one-on-one battles in the run game. WIth Ferguson back and with the worst defensive line Illinois has played so far during Big Ten play, Cubit must commit to the run to open up some passing lanes.

2. Force long drives: While Purdue techinically won against Nebraska and scored 55 points, Nebraska certainly helped the Boilermakers. Four of Purdue's eight scoring drives came after Nebraska turnovers inside their own 25-yard line (Purdue drives of 16, 22, 19 and 6 yards). Purdue has a young, maturing quarterback but he's still mistake-prone. The Illini offense and special teams must set up its defense for success and win the battle of field position to force Blough and the Boilers offense to put together long drives to find the end zone.

Illini in the spotlight

Offense

Josh Ferguson, RB: The Illini need someone who can win one-on-one battles, so returning their biggest playmaker is a welcome addition. Ferguson should earn extra attention from the Purdue defense -- whether he's in the backfield or the slot  -- which should open up opportunties for others, including go-to receiver Geronimo Allison.

Defense

T.J. Neal, LB: Like Illinois with Vaughn, Purdue is riding a freshman running back, Markell Jones, who won Indiana Mr. Football last year. With D.J. Knox injured, the Boilermakers are starting to run the athletic David Bough more. The Illini linebakers need to slow down Jones and contain Blough.

Prediction

This is a big game for both of these lower-tier Big Ten teams. Purdue and Darrell Hazell are trying to build some momentum and prove progress in Year Three. They're feeling good following a big win over Nebraska and also have confidence against Illinois, which it beat 38-27 in Champaign last season. But Purdue is still bad. Illinois is more talented and more experienced at key positions, and the Illini likely need this one if they're going to make their second straight bowl game. Illinois is 0-3 on the road this season but it's first three road games were against top-40 Sagarin teams: 15 Iowa, 23 North Carolina and 37 Penn State. Purdue is 88th in the Sagarin and will likely have fewer than 30,000 fans at its homecoming game. Ferguson's return gave the Illini a boost in Vegas and should give the Illini offense a much-needed boost. But the Illini locker room was simply devastated following a 39-0 drubbing at Penn State. Is the adversity of this season -- coach fired a week before the season, injuries and a likely new coach a month away -- finally crushing this team's resolve? Or do these players -- who came back to win a bowl after a 4-6 start last season -- have a bit more fight left? I think Illinois has something left in the tank and will feel a little refueld with Ferguson back. The offense won't be great, but it'll be enough to get Illinois its fifth win of the season.

Illinois 23, Purdue 20


Illini Inquirer Top Stories