On paper, Purdue appears to be the better team. They are ranked 48th in S&P mostly due to their offense which is ranked 23rd in S&P. The Illini, on the other hand, are 100th in S&P and 103rd in Defensive S&P. As such, the Illini’s Defense versus Purdue’s Offense looks like a mismatch. Illinois’ Offense (77th S&P) versus Purdue’s Defense (81st S&P) looks like closer matchup, but in the aggregate, Purdue looks better. HOWEVER, Illinois is breaking out the grey uniforms for homecoming so throw the stats out the window. Expect a shootout as both offenses move the ball at will before the Illini outlast Purdue in triple overtime. Illini 50 Purdue 42 (3OT).
If you’re a fan of good offensive football, this game has your name on it. Expect 900-ish yards of total offense in this game. Purdue has one of the best passing offenses in the country, and the Illini one of the best rushing offenses in the country. I see two keys for the Illini in this game. First — win the turnover battle. Second — limit Purdue’s all-purpose weapon Rondale Moore’s ability to get outside of the tackles where he’s exceptionally dangerous. If the Illini do that, and I believe they can, Illinois moves to 4-2 on the season. This one’s close and high scoring. Illini 45, Purdue 38
I’m scared of Rondale Moore. There, I said it. I’m confident enough in the Illini secondary that I think they can keep us in this game, but I do not see Illinois outshooting Jeff Brohm’s high-powered offense. Purdue may be 2-3, but they are a legitimate offensive team. Defensively, they might be worse than Illinois, but I have very little faith in our run defense. Mike Epstein and Reggie Corbin will again go off, you can be sure of that. Whether or not AJ Bush can complete throws down the stretch will determine the result of this game. Unfortunately, David Blough is a better quarterback than Art Sitkowski, and you saw what he did at the end of the first half last week. I think this one will be close going into the final few minutes, but I don’t see the Illini getting enough stops to bring home their second Big Ten win — yet. Purdue 45, Illinois 38
The game will be determined early, and will likely hinge on how Illinois plays out of the gate. If Illinois falls behind a couple scores, I don’t see this team coming from behind, playing catch-up with a high powered offense. However, if the Illini can keep it within a score early and/or grab an early lead, I like the chances for Illinois to control the ball on the ground, and dominate the clock. Illinois should be able to then dictate the game in the fourth quarter with the three-headed back-field attack of Bush, Corbin, and Epstein. And the Illini have the perfect late game winning weapon in Chase McLaughlin. Illinois 34, Purdue 31
This is the turning point of the season. Win this game and Illinois is 4-2 with a real shot at a bowl game berth. Lose and, well, there aren’t a lot of more winnable games on the schedule. Don’t get me wrong, Purdue is no slouch. Quarterback David Blough and receiver Rondale Moore are two of the best in the Big Ten at their positions. Jeff Brohm is an excellent coach. That being said, their rush defense might be worse than Rutgers, who we just ran over for 330 yards. It could be a high scoring affair. Give me the upset at home on Homecoming. Give me the glass half full. Illinois 48, Purdue 45
One of the things I like best about college football is the coaching chess match that takes place throughout the game, 11 on 11, and how over four quarters a coaching edge can account for so much scoring variance. I don’t think that will be my favorite part of college football on Saturday, because I’m prepared for Jeff Brohm to Bobby Fischer Lovie Smith into an Illini loss. I don’t think the talent gap is as large as Vegas is accounting for, but I don’t see Lovie & Hardy making enough changes from what I saw at Rutgers. Rondale Moore is one of the scarier offensive weapons Illinois will have to account for all year, and I imagine him working under the linebackers, and having room to catch and operate, which is a nightmare. The Illini offense has done enough to earn my trust, so I imagine them keeping decent pace with Purdue until the 4th quarter, but eventually the lack of plus pass rushers and the defensive stubborness to bury Illinois. Purdue 41, Illinois 27
I’m a senior. The Illini have three more home games in my collegiate career, and I’m just thirsty for W’s. Maybe it’s not realistic, but unless the other team has a number next to their name, I’m going to believe that Illinois will win. Plus, I still think about Chase’s clank and Chayce’s fumble from two years ago, and I get angry. Like really angry. AJ Bush, who seemed really confident when I spoke with him Monday, will rush for a pair of TDs and throw another to Smalling, while the Illini’s defense steps up and shuts down Rondale Moore. That’s enough in my mind for a win. Mhmmmmm. Illinois 28, Purdue 20
The Illini are playing better than I expected, and the blowout conference victory last week was an important step in the right direction. But Purdue is has a very high powered offense, and I don’t see our defensive line creating enough pressure to keep Blough and Moore in check. The offense should continue its torrid pace, but the law of averages brings the Illini turnover margin back down to earth, and Purdue pulls away late. Purdue 35, Illinois 21
I think a lot of my colleges and fellow Illini fans look at this Purdue game and see it as a winnable game just based on Purdue’s record of 2-3 and the fact they lost to EMU. Don’t get me wrong, if Purdue plays like they did against EMU Illinois can beat them. The floor of where Purdue can play is below the ceiling of where Illinois can play. An upset is possible, but I think it’s very unlikely.
Purdue could easily be 5-0 and should at least be 3-2 probably 4-1. The EMU game was played in the rain and it was rather fluky — Purdue missed a short field goal and an extra point in heavy rain in a game they lost by 1. Northwestern and Mizzou could have gone either way, and possibly should have. The post-game win expectancy for those games from S&P was 63% and 64% respectively, higher than what it was for a game Purdue won against Nebraska (62%).
Here’s what I’m looking at. We have two bad defenses — Purdue 83rd in S&P, Illinois 103 — but Purdue’s is better. We have one mediocre offense — Illinois 77 in S&P — and one very good offense — Purdue 23 in S&P. This isn’t really that hard of a choice.
Purdue can throw the ball very well and Illinois struggles mightily in pass defense and pass rushing. Unlike what Illinois last week against Art Sitkowski and Rutgers, David Blough can also run a bit and will be able to get some easy yards against the Illini man-coverage heavy defense. Even if Illinois does shut down the passing attack and Rondale Moore, Purdue has a couple of good running backs and a good offensive line — Purdue is 5th in rushing marginal explosiveness.
Illinois should be able to run the ball a bit, but in a shootout passing rules and day. I don’t think Illinois can hold Purdue under 35, and I don’t think Illinois can score more than 30 against Purdue without an effective passing attack. Give me Purdue 41, Illinois 24.
But hey, let’s all live in that little space — even if it’s only a 1-in-10 shot — where Illinois can win this. That’s where I’ll be until the game is over on Saturday. Feed me some crow guys.