Purdue and Illinois will try to end losing streaks when the Boilermakers host the Fighting Illini in a a Big Ten game on Saturday. Purdue has lost three in a row by a combined 11 points, and Illinois has dropped six straight, putting both teams well out of reach of No. 4 Wisconsin, the conference’s West Division leader.
Purdue publicly named a starting quarterback during the week for the first time this season, and David Blough will make his second consecutive start and fifth of the season. Blough became the first quarterback for the Boilermakers to start a game and finish it this season in a 25-24 loss to Nebraska last week, which prevented the Cornhuskers from experiencing a third straight loss for the first time since 2008. Illinois is ranked fifth in the Big Ten in pass defense, but the Illini have struggled significantly against the run, ranking last in the conference at 205.4 yards surrendered a game, which is also 108th among 129 FBS teams. Illinois is also last in the Big Ten in rushing, and the Illini may be without running back Ra’Von Bonner for a second straight game because of concussion symptoms.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Purdue -14.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten): Despite their struggles against the run, the Illini have some players who are having positive seasons on the defensive side of the ball, particularly linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips, who is fourth in the Big Ten at 8.4 tackles a game. Stanley Green has forced two fumbles after last season forcing three to tie for the most in the nation among freshman. Illinois will need to get through the first half without freshman linebacker James Knight, who was ejected in the second quarter last week against Wisconsin, becoming the fourth player for the Illini to be ejected for targeting this season.
ABOUT PURDUE (3-5, 1-4): Brian Lankford-Johnson rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown in a 34-31 overtime victory against Illinois last season, but the sophomore has been buried on the depth chart this year and hasn’t touched the ball in the last four games. Richie Worship was the main ball carrier last week against Wisconsin, finishing with 89 yards on 18 carries, three times as many carries as his previous high this season. D.J. Knox continues to make the most of his opportunities, as the junior running back has combined for 150 rushing yards on 22 carries in the past two games.
1. Purdue hasn’t given up more than two touchdowns in a game since a 28-10 loss to Michigan on Sept. 23.
2. Purdue DE Gelen Robinson has 5.5 tackles for loss this season, moving him to No. 5 on the school’s all-time career list (16).
3. Illinois has forced 13 fumbles this season, which leads the nation along with Tennessee, Memphis and Nevada.
PREDICTION: Purdue 29, Illinois 13