Stephen Cohn: Purdue 28, Illinois 17
If you asked me about the final score of this game a month ago, I would have had Purdue by at least 30. The Boilermakers were firing on all cylinders, and the Illini were losing to everyone in sight, beginning with the South Florida game in September — and still not having come to an end. It has gotten to the point where it does not matter who is behind center for Illinois because I don’t have the confidence that either Jeff George Jr. or Cam Thomas can sustain enough offense for an entire game. I’m not saying Purdue is a powerhouse, but Illinois staying competitive in this game on the road should be enough of a victory.
Michael Berns: Illinois 23, Purdue 20
Illinois beat Purdue the last two times these teams have played in West Lafayette. The Illini make it a third straight and here’s why. The run defense against Wisconsin was rock solid, and that alone should give Illini fans hope. Purdue struggles when other teams impose their will running the football. If offensive coordinator Garrick McGee can install some zone read option plays with Cam Thomas in a no huddle offense, Illinois can surprise and overwhelm Purdue’s slightly below-average defense.
Ian Gold: Purdue 29, Illinois 16
The road team has dominated this series for the past few years, so hopefully I’ll be eating crow on my predicted score, but I think Purdue had more veteran talent for first year head coach Jeff Brohm. He’s also a very good coach who was able to take advantage of that talent with a spread scheme that takes advantage of mismatches. Illinois defense has played tough the past couple weeks, so mismatches won’t be as simple to find, but they’ll be there. The Illinois offense is hamstrung at the most important position and that’s not a recipe for winning on the road.
Mark Schaer: Purdue 21, Illinois 10
Normally I’m the optimistic guy, but I’ve pretty much reached the point of no return for this season. I don’t see us winning another game, although last week’s relatively controlled performance against Wisconsin impressed me. Still, Illinois is not going to march into West Lafayette and take down the Boilermakers. David Blough will have a nice day through the air, and D.J. Knox, Tario Fuller, and Richie Worship, all halfbacks that average over five yards per carry, will run the ball effectively enough to outscore the duo of JGJ and Cam Thomas. But hey, we’ll cover the spread again. That’s good news, right?
Matt O’Neall: Purdue 31, Illinois 13
Illinois’ defense has really stepped up the last 2 weeks allowing only 24 points to Wisconsin and Minnesota. For a young unit, they are holding up their end of the bargain and I expect that to continue early in Saturday’s contest. But neither Cam Thomas nor Jeff George Jr. have proven they can sustain drives that end in 6 points when the game is still up for grabs. I expect to see the offense struggle again on Saturday. Turnovers and short drives will leave the defense on the field for long stretches, and Jeff Brohm’s offense will eventually wear down the Illini defense and light up the scoreboard late.
Austin Jabs: Illinois 24, Purdue 22
Illinois has had a solid defense in 2017, one of the bright spots this season with such a young team. Other than kicking and punting, it may be the best aspect of this squad. I think this game will come down to a lot of field position battles, a lot of punting, a lot of seeing if you can get the ball back with good field position. I think the Illini will get a late interception to seal this game and get their first Big Ten win in 2017.