Know Thy Opponent 2014: Southern Illinois Salukis

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue is a perfect 9-0 against FCS teams, so at least history is on its side.

This week I am going to try and churn out two of these, mostly because one is an FCS opponent with no opponent blog to interview. I tried to set up an interview with One Foot Down for Notre Dame, but haven't gotten a response yet. So, we'll move on to Southern Illinois.

One very small bright spot for Purdue is that we have never lost to an FCS team. The FCS division was created in 1978 and Purdue is a perfect 9-0 against the lower division. Many of the games have come since the expansion of the schedule to 12 dates:

1990 - Indiana State - W 41-13

2002 - Illinois State - W 51-10

2006 - Indiana State - W 60-35

2007 - Eastern Illinois - W 52-6

2008 - Northern Colorado - W 42-10

2010 - Western Illinois - W 31-21

2011 - SE Missouri State - W 59-0

2012 - Eastern Kentucky - W 48-6

2013 - Indiana State - W 20-14

As you can see, Purdue not only wins, but it is often by a large margin. Last year's game against Indiana State was the closest we have come to an embarrassing defeat. Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota have all been bitten (Minnesota three times!), while Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin have had some very close calls.

Fortunately, it hasn't happened to Purdue, and quite honestly, should never happen. I remain steadfast in saying that no major conference team has any valid excuse to ever lose to an FCS team. The advantages in recruiting, scholarships, training, depth, and talent are just too great. I even say this when a good FCS team, like North Dakota State, likely would have crushed Purdue last season. It still would have been a deeply embarrassing defeat, just as any loss to Southern Illinois would be this year.

Southern Illinois Salukis

2013 Record: 7-5

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: None

Series with Purdue: First Meeting

Last Season for the Salukis:

Southern Illinois is often a decent FCS program, as they won the 1983 National Championship and have made the playoffs eight times, most recently in 2009. Last season was not too bad, either. They lost 40-37 in overtime to eventual FCS semifinalist Eastern Illinois and eventual FCS champion North Dakota State 31-10. They play in one of the tougher FCS conferences in the nation and they even came close to beating Illinois in their opener.

The Fighting Illini won 42-34, but the Salukis had First and Goal at the Illinois 9 with less than two minutes left before the Illini made a goal line stand. This was not a great FCS team, but they were not as bad as Indiana State, either.

Southern Illinois Offense:

The Salukis will have one of the top FCS running backs in the nation in 2014, and he could be the type of player that gives Purdue struggles. If he can consistently move the ball on the ground and keep the clock moving that is a recipe for disaster. Malcolm Agnew enters his senior season on several Awards watch lists after running for 888 yards and six touchdowns last year. That's more than Purdue had as a team last season. He is a transfer that played two seasons at Oregon State before stepping down a level, so he is not going to be afraid of the competition. SIU also has Georgia transfer Ken Malcome in the backfield, and he ran for 277 yards and five scores. In his two years at Georgia he had 448 rushing yards and was a four-star recruit.

Finally, they have former Iowa running back Mika'il McCall, who was a 2011 victim of AIRBHG due to a broken ankle.

Ryan West will likely take over quarterback duties after starting the final four games as a freshman last season. He went 3-1 in those starts, one of them being a 31-9 win at Indiana State. He had 675 yards passing and 6 TDs against five interceptions, but Kory Faulkner played the most last year as a senior.

West lost his top receiver in John Lantz to graduation, but has a solid tight end in MyCole Pruitt who hauled in 48 passes for 601 yards and five touchdowns. Slot receiver LaSteven McKinney is also a speedy specialist and is sometimes used as a wildcat quarterback. He had 51 catches for 486 yards and 5 TDs, as well as 89 yards rushing. SIU is not afraid to throw out of the wildcat either, as Lantz had seven passing attempts and completed five for 110 yards and a score as a wildcat QB before graduating.

The offense was pretty balanced overall with 1,837 yards rushing and 2,782 passing, but with two solid FBS level running backs things could go well on the ground in 2014. As a team SIU averaged 28.5 points and gave up only 14 sacks.

Southern Illinois defense

Here is where Purdue could be in major trouble. Southern Illinois had 24 sacks in 12 games and it wasn't just one major pass rusher that feasted on the quarterback. Four different players had at least sacks and they like to bring pressure in a variety of ways. Bryan Presume earned a free agent contract with Atlanta after topping 100 tackles and three sacks last season, so this is a team that will move guys around to the football. Tyler Williamson had 66 tackles and four sacks as a linebacker bringing pressure off the edge. Given Purdue's pass protection troubles this could be a major area of concern.

In the secondary D.J. Cameron and Chris Davis are able to create some turnovers as each had two interceptions. Anthony Thompson is another FBS-level player at safety and he had two interceptions as a starting safety after playing at UCLA earlier in his career. Victor Burnett, a transfer from Washington that has fought knee injuries, could contribute at linebacker, along with Lamonte Edwards, a transfer from Minnesota.

Southern Illinois Special Teams

Thomas Kinney was one of the best kickers in the Missouri Valley Conference last season, hitting on 18 of 24 field goals with a long of 52. He gives SIU the ability to score almost any time they get inside the 40. Tay Willis was also a solid return man with a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Game Outlook

There is a lot of underrated FBS talent on this team. As sometimes happens, guys transferred to SIU because they could play immediately instead of sitting out a year since it is a level down. SIU has 10 players that have played football at the FCS level, and three of them will be in the offensive backfield at running back. That could make this game a lot more difficult than expected.

Still, they are an FCS team and Purdue is in the Big Ten. Of all the games on Purdue's schedule, this is an absolute must win, mostly because a loss is just about the only way things could get worse after last season. A loss in this game, especially if Purdue comes in 0-3, likely means a winless season and raises some serious questions about Hazell's rebuilding plan. That would extend the losing streak to 22 straight by the end of the year, and by that point nothing good could be said about the program.

I would normally say this is a lock win, but after seeing Purdue need everything in the bag to beat possibly the worst FCS team in the country last year we can't consider anything a lot. I think I would rather say this is a likely win, mostly because a loss probably confirms the worst fears possible about Purdue football.  Purdue 34, Southern Illinois 20

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