Coming into a home game that saw Illinois as a substantial underdog, the Fighting Illini decided to ignore all of the naysayers and focus on playing their absolute best against an undefeated and highly regarded Wisconsin team. The result was a shock to the college football world — a last-second 24-23 win over the Badgers that nobody, with the exception of head coach Lovie Smith and his team, saw coming. "Our program, we needed to get a signature win," Smith said. "I was just hoping today was the day, and the day came." The win over Wisconsin gave Illinois a 3-4 record, with optimism that things might be pointed in the right direction for the program.
At 2-5, the Purdue Boilermakers are facing a crucial moment in their 2019 season. Injuries have plagued the Boilermakers across the board, and Purdue returns home after a painfully close 26-20 loss at Iowa. Purdue suffered two turnovers in the first half at Iowa, and Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm went for a questionable onside kick that failed after the Boilermakers had cut the lead to 19-13. When asked about the onside kick, Brohm stated, "Well, we thought about it and before we've kicked it deep and we’ve never gotten the ball back and we wanted to give ourselves a shot to possibly get the ball back... And, you know, it’s not a high percentage to get the onside kick, but we wanted to try and get that done."
Illinois at Purdue
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Purdue -8
When Illinois Has The Ball
Illinois was able to run the ball effectively against Wisconsin, largely due to the performances of Reggie Corbin (17 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown) and Dee Brown (11 carries for 70 yards). Transfer quarterback Brandon Peters also was instrumental in the upset win over the Badgers, throwing two key touchdowns while completing 9-of-21 passes for 174 yards. Illinois' big-play wide receiver is Josh Imatorbhebhe, who snagged two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown from Peters. As they face a Purdue defense that is susceptible to big plays through the air (the Boilermakers allow 275 passing yards per game), it will bear watching to see what the Fighting Illini game plan is when they travel to West Lafayette.
When Purdue Has The Ball
Purdue is very capable of throwing the ball but struggles in the run game. Quarterback Jack Plummer completed 30 passes in 50 attempts for 327 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Iowa. Purdue's leading receiver is true freshman David Bell, who caught 13 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. Illinois is giving up an average of 237 yards per game through the air, and the Illini may look to clamp down on this facet of the Boilermaker offensive attack, as Purdue is only rushing for an average of 59 yards per game. If Illinois can make Purdue truly one-dimensional, the Fighting Illini have an excellent chance of making it two wins in a row.
If this game were in Champaign, perhaps it would make more sense to pick Illinois to win this one. It will bear watching to see if Lovie Smith will be able to keep his team focused after such an emotional and unexpected upset over Wisconsin. Purdue has been moving the ball through the air, and Jeff Brohm may be second-guessing himself over some of his coaching decisions that contributed to the Boilermakers' close 26-20 loss at Iowa last week. It could be a close one, but Purdue seems likely to rebound from the loss at Iowa, while Illinois may be due for a letdown on the road.