Purdue at Illinois
Time: Saturday, Noon ET, 11 a.m. local time CT
Location: Memorial Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
2020 Schedule/records: Illinois (0-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten); Purdue (1-0; 1-0)
Series notes: Thanks to a 24-6 win in a rain-soaked Ross-Ade Stadium last season, Illinois now leads the all time series 45-44-6. Purdue has won six of the last nine meetings and three in a row of the last four. Jeff Brohm is 2-1 versus Illinois coach Lovie Smith, having also won 29-10 in 2017 in West Lafayette and 46-7 last year in Champaign in 2018. The Boilermakers have won four in a row in Champaign. While the Purdue-Illinois series in recent years has been dominated by the road team, Illinois has not lost a home opener since 1997 when they went winless under first -year coach Ron Turner.
TV: BTN (Brandon Gaudin, play-by-play; James Laurinaitis, analyst; Rick Pizzo, sidelines
line: Purdue -7, after opening Purdue -4
Radio (Purdue): Sirius 138/XM 195/ Tunein.com (Tim Newton, play-by-play; Pete Quinn, analyst; Rob Blackman, studio host)
Pregame: Gold and Black Radio
Purdue roster | Purdue Schedule/Results | Purdue Game Notes (PDF)
llinois roster | lllinois schedule/results | Illinois Game Notes (PDF)
More: First Look: Illinois | Gold and Black Radio podcast: Purdue rallies for Week 1 win Jeff Brohm back on Wednesday. Rondale Moore’s status? Uncertain | Big Ten power poll: Didn’t you used to be Michigan State? | Opponent View: Illinois |Number Crunching: Week 1 |GoldandBlack.com Wednesday Purdue chat session |How is Purdue trying to keep its QBs COVID-free? | Now hear this: Soft-spoken Bell speaks loudly on the field |Purdue game at Wisconsin Nov. 7 may be in peril |Weekly Word |Lorenzo Neal getting ‘back into the groove’ along a deep Purdue d-line |Deep Dive
Illinois rushing versus Purdue against the run
Illinois actually ran the ball relatively well in its 45-7 loss at Wisconsin on Oct. 23 averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The trouble is that quarterback Brandon Peters (No. 18), not necessarily known as a runner, was the Illini’ leading rusher gaining 75 of its131 yards. And Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith says he may look to utilize Peters more in the run game this week as the Illini are trying to replace Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin from last year’s bowl team, a unit that amassed 242 yards against the Boilermakers in rain-soaked Ross-Ade Stadium last year. With four starting offensive linemen returning, one has to presume that the Illini will improve in Week 2. Mike Epstein (26) did manage a run of 20 yards last week at Camp Randall, and brings experience to the backfield.
Last Friday night, the Illini were held without an offensive touchdown and nine drives had five plays or fewer. Purdue defended the run relatively well in its opener, especially as the game wore on. It will have an opportunity to win this battle in Week 2. Still Iowa averaged 5.4 yards every time they touched it, leaving room for overall improvement by the new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s unit.
Illinois passing game versus Purdue against the pass
Peters did not have a productive game at Madison in the 38-point loss, especially through the air as he completed just 8-of-19 passes for 87 yards. Isaiah Williams came in as a backup and missed on all three of his attempts. Peters targeted Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) in 10 of his 19 attempts, but only completed three to him for 26 yards. Peters was sacked three times by the Badgers.
Last year in the deluge, Peters attempted only six passes in Ross-Ade Stadium, but the Illini didn’t need him to throw much. Illinois wants to be a quick-strike tempo offense but should no signs of it in Week 1.
Can Purdue get pressure against the veteran Illinois line to fluster Peters a bit? That will be a key question against what appears, at least in Week 1, to be a sleepy Orange and Blue offense.
Purdue run game versus Illinois against the run
Running back Xander Horvath came up big when it counted against the Hawkeyes as he is one of just three Purdue backs this century to gain over 125 yards on the ground in consecutive games.
Illinois held Wisconsin to just 3.4 yards per rush attempt, and Purdue, while productive on the ground when it had to be, is not going to be confused with a great rush attack — at least not yet. Purdue would like to have more balance in the backfield, and if King Doerue returns, that might be possible.
Purdue may not get a lot on the ground, but if it gets what it needs, that may be a difference-maker in this one. A big question will also be whether the Illini linebacker Jake Hansen (35) returns from injury. He is the lynchpin of the defense.
Purdue passing game versus Illinois against the pass
For argument and maybe logical sake, we will assume that Rondale Moore will not play on Saturday. Illinois not only couldn’t contain Graham Mertz and the Badger passing game, it couldn’t force more than one incompletion in 21 attempts. So their is ample opportunity for the visitors in this one.
Junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell came up big in the fourth quarter, leading Purdue from behind for the third time in five games the junior quarterback has appeared. David Bell was phenomenal last week, but we have almost come to expect that performance. What was a bit unexpected, however, was the play of Milton Wright at receiver. We expect O’Connell to continue to try to spread the wealth (he found seven receivers last week), and don’t be surprised if someone else emerges behind Bell this week.
O’Connell did get intercepted twice last week and showed a tendency to throw into coverage. Illinois’ defense want to be opportunistic as it scored its only TD last week and had 28 takeaways last year scoring 14 percent of the team’s points. The Boilermakers need to avoid giving away points in the passing game.
Purdue was solid in its kicking game as sophomore punter Brook Cormier was terrific last week with a 47.5 average. Senior J.D. Dellinger nailed his only field goal attempt and was good on kickoffs. Illinois’ Blake Hayes also had a good opener averaging 43.2 in five kicks.
There just wasn’t enough data in Game 1 from either team to get a great feel of who might have the advantage. The weather is supposed to be clear and seasonable on Saturday. Assuming Moore doesn’t play in the return game, I am not sure anyone has a big advantage going into this one.
In an eight game season, every game is big, and this one is no different. Purdue can put itself in contending position with a victory, and Illinois’ season of promise could be in the dumpster if it doesn’t prevail in its next two games against the Boilermakers and Minnesota, both at home.
Before the season, Illinois coach Lovie Smith called the 2020 squad his best at Illinois, and he has to hope that last week was an aberration. Coach Jeff Brohm is expected to be back on the sidelines for Purdue, and that should boost the Boilermakers’ desire to show their boss what they can do in their first game in front of him.
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