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TCR Staff Predictions: Illinois vs. Purdue

Who do we think will win?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Cohn: Purdue 31, Illinois 13

I struggle to feel good about this one. Nothing Illinois had last week gave me a ton of hope that this season is going to go well, and until I’m proven wrong I think I’m going to be negative. And I don't like doing that, but do we have a choice?

Too many question marks at this point in the season, when most other Big Ten teams seem to have an identity. Is BP going to throw? Is BP going to run? Will the RB run? How are we using tight ends? Can the secondary stop anyone? Is Blake Hayes the team’s best player for the fourth year in a row?

Prove me wrong, otherwise it’s a three-score loss and the loss of the Cannon at home.

Tristen Kissack: Purdue 34, Illinois 24

This is a Purdue offense that tore up Iowa’s secondary last weekend. What I saw last weekend from the Illinois defense wasn’t very indicative of a unit that is poised for redemption, especially considering what the Boilermakers did without their head coach and best offensive weapon. I’ll be shocked if they don’t put up 30+.

The good news for the offense is that this isn’t the Wisconsin defense. Maybe it’ll have a little bit better luck doing something. Surely, it can’t be as bad as it was last weekend, right? ... right???

Steve Braun: Purdue 42, Illinois 13

I’m apparently much more concerned by the opening game than many of my colleagues, because the Illinois that couldn’t get to Wisconsin’s 25 is no match for the Purdue that methodically beat Iowa. The Hawkeyes don’t have an elite secondary, but they had no answer for David Bell. If Rondale Moore is out again, Bell has a career day against a secondary that hasn’t displayed much willingness to change its approach. The Illini defensive line was better than expected and the defense was serviceable against the run, but again I simply don’t see the Illini defense performing much better in any facet than Iowa’s. To stay in this game, Illinois will need to force turnovers and follow them up with effective offense. The offense showed me so little last week that I’m not sure I care who starts at quarterback as long as they get positive yards on first down. I assume it’ll be Peters, who was worse against Wisconsin than in any game he played last year. He’s going to need to distribute the ball better, throw with more confidence, and run the ball at least 10 times. This game has me worried about it getting away from us in a hurry, whether that be at the beginning or during the 3rd quarter. I have more 2018 vibes than 2019 vibes.

May a monsoon save us.

Michael Berns: Illinois 27, Purdue 24

Keep your dirty paws off our cannon! I caught the fourth quarter of Purdue’s win over Iowa. Am I impressed? Not really. Purdue’s offensive line isn’t in the same class as Wisconsin’s, and it certainly is possible to rattle QB Aidan O’Connell. Much like the game a season ago against Purdue, the Illini defense steps up and scores. I expect Brandon Peters to be better and more settled in compared to last Friday’s debacle. Defensive touchdowns, field goals, and steady offensive play wins the day!

Jacob Rajlich: Purdue 24, Illinois 10

Following last week’s abysmal performance from the Illini and an impressive win for the Boilermakers (without Rondale Moore!), I don’t have much optimism this week. I do think Illinois gets points on the board though, and James McCourt gets an opportunity to show off his skills alongside Blake Hayes this time. Meanwhile, the defense gets stops to keep it close throughout most of the game before the Illini run out of time to mount a comeback.

Alex Orr: Purdue 31, Illinois 30

My prediction comes down to 2 main reasons. First, the road team has won the Cannon 7 out of the past 8 times in this series, and I expect that to continue. Second, I have a weirdly good feeling about this and can see a way for us to win (the offense clicks, the secondary doesn’t appear to be match fixing), which years of being an Illini football fan has taught me that we are definitely going to lose. My crystal ball is fuzzy, but I can just make out a pointsfest where after going 0-3 on 4th down last week, Lovie decides to punt or kick a field goal that hands the game to Purdue.

Quentin Wetzel: Purdue 31, Illinois 27

The optimist says that the performance at Wisconsin was just one game. Wisconsin looked like a national title contender, and the Badgers’ 17 garbage time points make the score look worse than it really was. The pessimist would point out that Lovie is now in his 5th year in Champaign, and this roster is completely his own. His rebuild was supposed to culminate in a truly competitive team this year. On Friday, the team did not look the part.

I think both are correct. We shouldn’t put too much weight on one game, even the first game of the season. But I do think it’s fair to say that this is not the team Illini fans expected. Unfortunately, our neighbors to the east have a rosier outlook. Expectations were already high in West Lafayette, and the Boilermakers have lived up to them so far with a win over always-solid Iowa. The Illini keep it close, but Purdue reclaims the Cannon.

Drew Pastorek: Illinois 23, Purdue 19

I’d forecasted this as an Illini win prior to the season, and despite a woeful performance against Wisconsin, I’m not ready to abandon that prediction yet. The offense can’t possibly be worse than last week, and the defense can’t possibly leave another chasm in the middle of the field for opposing receivers to roam...right?! The Purdue coaching staff clearly has confidence in QB Aidan O’Connell who chucked it 50 times a week ago. But we know this Illini defense excels at generating turnovers. I think the Boilers get a bit too pass-happy, with Illinois being the beneficiary of some forced throws. Brandon Peters won’t have to do everything himself on Saturday, and I expect the Illini to play with, well, fight. They haven’t beaten Purdue in consecutive games since 2001-2002. Maybe I’ve already had a bit too much Halloween candy, but I think Illinois bucks that trend.

Jeff Horwitz: Purdue 31, Illinois 17

Last week, I said that Illinois would have a fighting chance if they limited turnovers in their own territory. This week, I’m managing my expectations. So, I’ll say that the Illini should limit turnovers in their own territory on the first two plays from scrimmage. Last year in West Lafayette, Dre Brown lit up the Boilers for 131 yards on 18 carries in the mud. Dre Brown is gone now, but you can be sure that Mike Epstein got an earful from Lovie Smith after he fumbled on the second play in Madison. Run the ball. Run the option. And if Peters is going to throw it, throw it deep. Don’t turn it over, and if you do, don’t do it on your side of that Block I.