Illinois (3-7) at Purdue (1-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Illinois 3-3, Purdue 1-5. Away Record: Illinois 0-3, Purdue 0-4. Neutral Record: Illinois 0-1, Purdue 0-0. Conference Record: Illinois 0-6, Purdue 0-6. Series Record: Purdue leads, 32-26-2.
GAME NOTES: The last place tie in the Big Ten Conference's Leaders Division will be broken as the Illinois Fighting Illini match up with the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium.
The Fighting Illini's promising 3-1 start to the season unraveled once it entered conference play. Since coasting past Miami-Ohio on Sept. 28, Illinois has lost six games in a row to fall to 0-6 in the Big Ten standings. Coach Tim Beckman's team suffered a 60-35 setback to the powerful Ohio State Buckeyes last week in Champaign in its most recent outing. Despite the end result, Illinois finished the game strong after falling behind 28-0 by the 10:20 mark of the second quarter. The Fighting Illini will conclude their 2013 season next week at home versus Northwestern as the loss mathematically eliminated their chances of becoming bowl eligible.
Darrell Hazell's first year as the Boilermakers' head coach has been disappointing, as the team dropped to 1-9 last week with a 45-21 loss to Penn State in State College. Purdue's only victory came over its lone FCS opponent Indiana State and eight of its losses have come by a double-digit margins. Hazell came to the program with a 16-10 career record he built at Kent State and was the 2012 MAC Coach of the Year. He will have a chance to try to rebuild his squad after the Boilermakers conclude their season at Indiana next week.
This will be the 62nd time in history Illinois and Purdue battle for the Cannon Trophy. The Boilermakers won last season's meeting, 20-17, in Champaign to increase their all-time series lead to 32-27-2.
The poor showing by Illinois this season has not come to a lack of production on the offensive side of the ball. The team is averaging 30.2 points, 23.7 first downs and 428.8 yards of total offense per game. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase passed for 288 yards versus OSU to arrive at 8,004 career passing yards. The trip to West Lafayette could be a historic event for Scheelhaase as he enters the contest just four yards shy of 10,000 career total yards of offense and is the same number away from the 2,000-yard mark in career rushing yards.
Scheelhaase threw a pair of touchdown passes and was picked off twice last week. On the season, the senior signal caller has hit on 65.4 percent of his throws for 2,708 yards, 17 TDs and 10 interceptions. His favorite target, Steve Hull, made eight receptions for 105 yards and a score against the Buckeyes. The rushing attack has been less efficient as sophomore Josh Ferguson is pacing the Illini with 554 yards and five touchdowns on 107 carries.
The defensive unit has let Illinois down since its season opener when it surrendered 34 points to FCS foe Southern Illinois. The Fighting Illini has allowed 39 points or more in five of their six Big Ten outings and three opponents surpassed the 50-point mark during that stretch. Zane Petty tallied 15 tackles to pace the team versus OSU. Senior linebacker Jonathan Brown, who finished with six stops to arrive at a conference leading total of 94 on the campaign.
Illinois could fare better this week as it faces Purdue's weak offensive unit that is averaging only 259.6 total yards and 12.7 points per game to rank last in both categories among BCS conference schools.
The Boilermakers turned the reins of the offense over to freshman quarterback Danny Etling after Rob Henry failed to get the job done. The rookie has experienced some growing pains during his six games. Last week at PSU, Etling was 21-of-33 for 223 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked six times, while Purdue's offensive line paved the way for only 41 team rushing yards on 20 attempts (2.0 ypc). Etling, who is just the second true freshman to start for the program since 2002, has tossed five TDs and six INTs in six games.
Rebuilding is clearly a priority for Hazell, who started six freshmen on offense last week and played 16 different rookies in total. One of which was DeAngelo Yancey, who leads the team with 338 receiving yards.
Purdue is not much better defensively, ranking 102nd nationally in total defense (444.7 ypg) and 113th in points allowed per game (38). The Nittany Lions exposed the Boilermakers' many weaknesses as they amassed 501 total yards, 31 first downs and six offensive TDs. Senior corner Ricardo Allen was named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list in the preseason. He has registered 38 tackles and three interceptions through 10 games.
The inexperience on the offensive side of the ball for Purdue will most likely lead to giveaways. The Fighting Illini's defense has been porous to this point, but they can help the team to victory if they can return the ball to their capable offense for a few extra possessions.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 34, Purdue 20
11/20 10:40:43 ET