Date: October 13th, 2018
Game Time: 3:30 PM ET
Venue: Memorial Stadium Champaign, IL.
Television Network: FS1
Illinois (3-2) vs. Purdue (2-3)
The Fighting Illini play host to the Purdue Boilermakers, as it’s homecoming weekend at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. These two teams have had very different seasons so far with Purdue starting 0-3 and Illinois, 2-0. We are approaching the half-way point of the season. Both teams would like to pick up the W to right the ship. These two programs met last year in West Lafayette with Purdue coming out on top 29-10.
The Purdue Boilermakers have won two consecutive games (Boston College and Nebraska) since the disappointing 0-3 start to the season. The main cause of the turnaround can be credited to Head Coach Jeff Brohm for bringing in senior QB David Blough for freshman QB Elijah Sindelar. Blough has been fantastic this season completing around 68% of his passes, throwing for 1318 yards, and a 7 to 1 TD to INT ratio in just 3 games. He is clearly the player that makes this Purdue offense click.
The Illinois Fighting Illini earned their first B1G Football victory in 2 years against the Rutgers Scarlett Knights. While the Illini got a double digit victory, there are things that will have to improve if they are to win anymore games this season. One issue that stood out was drops by receivers. On numerous occasions, sophomore WRs Ricky Smalling and Carmoni Green had multiple drops that could have gone for six. If that doesn’t improve, it could be very difficult for the Illini to stay with the Purdue offense.
Why Purdue Can Win
Purdue has the potential to be one of the best offenses in the B1G, when everyone is clicking on all cylinders. One player that stands out is senior RB DJ Knox. He has had himself a nice start to the season totaling 390 rushing yards on 70 carries while also scoring 5 rushing TDs. Knox is the type of player who doesn’t look very fast at first, but has excellent second level speed. He also is a shifty player and is able to squeeze through tackles for big plays. Another player that has stood out is freshman sensation WR Rondale Moore. Moore has totaled 41 receptions for 457 yards and 4 TD’s this season, including a sensational first collegiate performance against Northwestern where he totaled 11 receptions for 109 yards and a TD as a receiver, and as a runner he carried the ball twice for 79 yards and a TD.
On paper, Purdue’s defense doesn’t wow you as they are giving up 26.4 points per game. There aren’t too many stars on this unit. In the secondary, a name that you should keep an eye on is junior safety Navon Mosley who has 38 tackles on the season. He could be a big part of snuffing out big plays in Illinois’ dynamic run game. At linebacker, junior linebacker Markus Bailey has been productive as well totaling 40 tackles this season. He also has 4.5 sacks. If he can make the opposing quarterback feel the pressure, that could help the defense create some turnovers.
Why Illinois Can Win
While the Illinois passing game is still among the worst in the country, the rushing attack is just the opposite. The dynamic duo of junior RB Reggie Corbin and sophomore RB Mike Epstein are averaging 92.8 yards a game and 77.4 yards a game, respectively. Along with those two 5th year senior QB AJ Bush has also been electric running the ball in the three games he has played averaging 83 yards per game. In fact, the Illini rush attack is averaging about 252.3 rushing yards a game which is ranked 13th in the country . That is something that most Illini fans did not even dream of before the start of the season.
On defense, the Illini were dealt a blow this week with news that sophomore DB Bennett Williams will not be a part of the team anymore. Luckily, others have stepped up in his place. The starting DB duo of sophomore Tony Adams and freshman Jartavius Martin had a fantastic game against Rutgers and will look to continue their strong showing. The Illini linebackers were a point of concern at the beginning of the season. Despite that, they have been one of the strongest parts of the unit. Look for junior Del’Shawn Phillips and sophomore Jake Hansen to have another strong showing, if they are going to beat Purdue. My Under-the-radar player to watch for the Illini defense is sophomore defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree. He is one of the leaders in batted passes and is due for a breakout game this season.
The last time Purdue played, Nebraska made their offense look unstoppable. Now, they have had two weeks to prepare for how they will attack the Illini defense. So don’t expect the Purdue offense to slow down. As for Illinois, it is time for the Orange and Blue to ride the momentum. Memorial Stadium is all but sold out for the annual homecoming weekend. There hasn’t been this much optimism around the football program in a while. Expect Illinois to come out and try and establish a tone early in the game.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some gut punches by QB David Blough, as he is looking for some bitter sweet revenge as his season was ended (season ending injury) by the Illini last year. All in all, expect this to be a shootout as both offenses will be showcased. It will come down to a game winning drive for the Illini, and Head Coach Lovie Smith will double his season total with 4 wins this year.
Prediction: Illinois 37 Purdue 33
Line: Purdue -10.5