Illinois (3-5) at Indiana (3-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (52,929) -- Bloomington, Indiana. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Illinois 3-2, IU 3-3. Away Record: Illinois 0-2, IU 0-2. Neutral Record: Illinois 0-1, IU 0-0. Conference Record: Illinois 0-4, IU 1-3. Series: Illinois leads, 45-22-3.
GAME NOTES: It has been longer than a month since the Illinois Fighting Illini or the Indiana Hoosiers have tasted victory, as the two square off on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in a Big Ten Conference tilt.
Illinois got off to a 3-1 start this season but has since suffered four straight losses to fall to the bottom of the Leaders Division. The Fighting Illini put up a strong fight at Penn State this past weekend, however they wound up falling in overtime, 24-17. They are winless in three tries outside of Champaign this season.
Meanwhile, Indiana has dropped three in a row since claiming a 44-24 win over Penn State to open Big Ten play back on Oct. 5. Most recently, the Hoosiers were dealt a 42-39 loss from Minnesota on homecoming weekend. Following this tilt, they'll hit the road to take on Wisconsin and Ohio State in the coming weeks.
These teams have split the last 10 head-to-head meetings, although Illinois owns a 45-22-3 edge in the all-time series.
The Illinois offense has been wildly inconsistent from game to game. A week after putting up 50 points in a win over Miami-Ohio, the Illini were held to 19 points at Nebraska on Oct. 5. They followed that up with 32 points against Wisconsin, but then managed only three points against Michigan State and 17 in last week's overtime session against PSU. Nathan Scheelhaase was having a decent day against the Nittany Lions, as he threw for 321 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while also running for a team-high 35 yards as the teams headed into overtime. However, Scheelhaase's first pass of the extra session was intercepted in the end zone, which allowed Penn State to escape with the victory. That final pass spoiled an otherwise solid day for the offense, which racked up 27 first downs and was 8-of-13 on third down to keep the chains moving.
Defensively, Illinois ranks 96th in the nation in points allowed (32.5 ppg) and 105th in total yards allowed (461.8 ypg). Linebackers Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim have combined to rack up 150 tackles (13.0 TFL), but the defensive front has not generated pressure with any consistency, and the secondary has managed only one interception all season. Given the limited number of takeaways, the Illini have often found themselves worn down in the latter stages of games. In Saturday's meeting with Penn State, the defense took the field near midfield, clinging to a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play. The Nittany Lions managed to move into field goal range, and they forced overtime with a 35-yard kick in the final minute of regulation. PSU ran four plays in the extra session and gained positive yardage on each play, culminating in the deciding touchdown pass in the end zone.
Despite Indiana's sub-.500 record, the team enters the weekend ranked ninth in the nation in scoring offense (42.0 ppg) and 11th in total offense (511.8 ypg). Nate Sudfeld has completed 60.2 percent of his passes on the season and is averaging 239.4 passing yards per tilt. He has thrown 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions while sharing time with the more mobile Tre Roberson, who has thrown for nine TDs (two INTs) and ran for five more. Tevin Coleman is averaging 93 rushing yards per game and has scored 10 times, while Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Ted Bolser and Shane Wynn have all caught five or more TD passes. Last week's loss to Minnesota was a wild one, as the Hoosiers trailed 35-13 midway through the third quarter before rallying to take a 39-35 lead on Sudfeld's 30-yard scoring strike to Latimer with 5:33 remaining. But after Minnesota regained the lead, IU drove to the Golden Gophers' nine-yard line before Sudfeld lost a fumble on a lateral on 2nd-and-goal.
In its last three games, Indiana has given up 42, 63 and 42 points. The Hoosiers have averaged a healthy 38 points in that span, but they lost all three games thanks largely to the defense's inability to come up with key stops. Last week, they allowed Minnesota to compile 573 yards of total offense and hold a 17-minute edge in time of possession. The Gophers also managed to score touchdowns on all three of their trips inside the red zone. Mark Murphy led the way for IU with a game-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble in the loss. David Cooper chipped in with 10 stops (seven solo), including one for loss. On the season, Cooper is tied with Greg Heban for the team lead with 60 tackles, while Heban has also notched a team-high two interceptions.
Both of these offenses can put up points in bunches, and neither defense has proven very adept at stopping the opposition. This one could very well come down to who has the ball last.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Indiana 45, Illinois 42
11/06 10:45:05 ET