Purdue (2-2, 0-1 B1G) at Illinois (1-3, 0-1 B1G)
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network; Eric Collins (play-by-play) and Glen Mason (analyst)
Series: The series with Purdue is the oldest in Illinois' 127-year history with t he two teams playing first in 1890. Illinois leads the all-time series 44-41-6. Purdue and Illinois have played for the Cannon Trophy since 1943. The Boilermakers lead that series 33-29-2.
Vegas betting line: Illinois (-10)
Last week: Illini lost at Nebraska 31-16; Purdue lost at Maryland 50-7.
The week's links
Minus-5: Purdue's turnover margin this season, which ranks 122nd of 128 FBS teams.
.080: Purdue coach Darrell Hazell's Big Ten winning percentage. He is 2-23 overall with one of those two wins coming at Illinois in 2014.
.320: Third-down conversion percentage for Illinois, which ranks 112th among 128 FBS teams
.530: Purdue red-zone percentage, which ranks last in the Big Ten. Purdue has scored just seven touchdowns and two field goals in the red zone with two missed field goals, two interceptions, one lost fumble and three turnovers on downs.
1.000: Field-goal percentage for Illini kicker Chase McLaughlin, who is 5-for-5 so far this season
2: Former Purdue quarterbacks currently starting in the SEC (Austin Appleby at Florida and Danny Etling at LSU).
2.5: Tackles for loss per game for Illini senior DE Carroll Phillips, which leads the FBS
10.76: Passing yards per completion for Illinois, which ranks last among Big Ten teams and 117th of 128 FBS teams
11: Rank for Illini senior DE Dawuane Smoot among NFL Draft prospects, according to ESPN.com's Todd McShay
15.8: First downs per game for Illinois, which ranks last among Big Ten teams
112.5: Passing efficiency rating for Purdue QB David Blough, which ranks 103rd of 121 qualified FBS quarterbacks.
135.0: Rushing yards per game by Purdue, which ranks 103rd of 128 FBS teams.
226.5: Rushing yards per game allowed by Purdue, which ranks 112th of 128 FBS teams.
Boilermakers to watch
1. David Blough, sophomore QB: Much is made of the fact that Purdue has two former QBs now starting for SEC teams, but it's not like Austin Appleby (Florida) or Danny Etling did much at Purdue. After all, Etling lost his job to Appleby who lost his job to Blough. Still, Blough has played kind of like his name sounds. Bleh. Granted, Blough doesn't have much around him and does have a strong arm. But he has a five-interception game under his belt (Cincinnati) and has one of the worst pass efficiency ratings in the country.
2. Markell Jones, sophomore RB: The 5-foot-11, 210-pound sophomore running back is the biggest bright spot for the Boilermakers so far this season. He has two games of 120-plus yards and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry behind a bad offensive line. The versatile running back had a good game against Illinois as a freshman (84 yards on 14 carries) and is a big-play threat against a shaky Illini run defense. But Jones has been hampered by a shoulder injury lately and is questionable on Saturday.
3. DeAngelo Yancey, senior WR: Like Illinois, Purdue doesn't have enough players who can make big plays. Yancey, who has 28 career starts, is one though. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver is long and athletic and is Blough's go-to target down the field and in the red zone. Over the last 16 games, Yancey has 67 catches for 966 yards and seven touchdowns.
4. Evan Panfil, senior DE: The former Illini commit has put together a solid career at Purdue. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound end is Purdue's best pass rusher. Over the last 16 games, he has 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks.
5. Jake Replogle, senior DT: Purdue doesn't have many NFL Draft prospect but the 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior is stout in the middle and gets a good push to breakdown the pocket. He'll be a handful for the young Illini interior.
6. Ja'Whaun Bentley, junior LB: The 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior is Purdue's leading tackler and best playmaker. But he is questionable for Saturday's game due to a high ankle sprain. Bentley missed seven games last season due to a knee injury.
Keys to the game
1. Commit to the run: Purdue's defense thought it took a step forward against the run when it held Nevada to 68 rushing yards on 33 carries. But then the Boilers allowed Maryland to rush for 400 yards (!!!) on 46 carries during last week's 50-7 rout. Illinois finished last in the Big Ten in rushing last year but ran for 382 yards (more than 20 percent of its season rushing total) against Purdue. The Boilers have some solid players up front, but they are very susceptible to giving up the big play. The Illini run game showed some promise against Nebraska, so if Illinois commits to the run, Reggie Corbin and Kendrick Foster at some point should have the opportunity to hit some home runs.
2. Force Blough to pass: Blough has some upside. He's a bit of a gunslinger, but he's also really inconsistent. He also stands behind a shaky offensive line that allowed six sacks against Maryland. The Illini have the best pass-rushing defensive line in the Big Ten. If they slow down the Purdue run game, Dawuane Smoot and company should have plenty of opportunities to get some shots on Blough, which could rattle him and force him into one of his bad performances (like his five-interception day against Cincinnati).
3. Someone make a play downfield: Junior Malik Turner is having a really good season for Illinois, averaging 70.0 receiving yards per game (fourth among Big Ten players). The problem is that the next most productive receivers are Justin Hardee (25.2 yards per game) and Zach Grant (18.8 yards per game). The Illini (and Lunt) need someone else to step up with a big play down field. If they don't have a receiver who can get open, maybe the Illini should line up one of their quick running backs on the perimeter. Anything to get more playmakers on the field.
Before the season, Lovie Smith said Ke'Shawn Vaughn could start for most Big Ten teams. But now, Vaughn isn't even starting for Lovie's team. Vaughn never totaled fewer than six carries in a collegiate game but had just one carry for one yard at Nebraska. He's fallen behind Reggie Corbin and Kendrick Foster on the depth chart, both of whom have proven they can make defenders miss. Vaughn has had one big play this season, a 65-yard touchdown against North Carolina but is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry on the rest of his carries this year. Vaughn also doesn't appear to be a happy camper right now. He wasn't made available to the media this week upon request.
What does offensive corodinator Garrick McGee want to see out of Vaughn?
"Be a great teammate," McGee said. "He's a good player. We're going to need him. He just needs to have a great attitude and be a good teammate. (His confidence) should be good. He's a good player. It should be good. I know our running backs are a good group. They're really good friends, so I'm sure he's happy to see other guys doing well."
Vaughn ran for a career-high 180 rushing yards against Purdue last season, so this week might be a nice time to get back on track.
Senior defensive end Carroll Phillips leads the nation in tackles for loss per game (2.5) and ranks 14th nationally in sacks per game (1.0). But the burgeoning NFL prospect suffered a knee injury in the second half of the Nebraska game. Smith said the injury isn't a long-term injury, and Phillips suited up in full pads for practice on Wednesday with the help of a knee brace. It's unclear if Phillips will play Saturday. If he can't, Illinois needs senior grad transfer Gimel President to step up. President has been solid this season (5.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) but isn't as scary to opponents as Phillips. Still, Purdue's offensive line is shaky and President must take advantage.
A huge sinkhole surfaced in the south end zone of Purdue's football field field this week after a water line broke at Ross-Ade Stadium. The jokes write themselves.
Purdue's football program has been a sinkhole since Darrell Hazell arrived. An 8-32 overall record and 2-23 Big Ten mark has the fourth-year head coach is on the chopping block, especially with new athletic director Mike Bobinski wanting to make a big splash after his arrival a few weeks ago. There is a sense of doom and inevitable turnover within the Boilermakers program, especially following an embarrassing 50-7 loss at Maryland.
But the Boilers also head to Champaign with some hope. They look at Illinois as their best remaining chance for a win this season. After all, Purdue came to Champaign and won two years ago.
This is a big game for Lovie's Illini too. They won't have many games this season where they have more talent. This is one of them. They won't have games where they will be the favorite. This is one of them.
Win and Illinois feels pretty optimistic that it can get back to .500 with a trip to Rutgers next week. That'd give Illinois some momentum and some confidence for later games against middling Big Ten teams like Minnesota, Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern.
But if you're the program that Darrell Hazell beats twice, you have some big problems -- most notably in explaining it on the recruiting trail.
Still, if Illinois plays like it did for most of the games against Nebraska and North Carolina, the Illini should be fine against a team that probably would finish middle of the pack in the MAC. It doesn't have to be pretty. Just win, baby.