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Purdue at Illinois Preview

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We interrupt all this pissing and moaning to bring you a football game preview.

Nebraska v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Let’s taking a moment from the fomenting rebellion of Purdue fans and players to remember that there is an actual football game this weekend, and it is one that might be winnable even for Darrell Hazell! There is only one place away from Ross-Ade Stadium where a Darrell Hazell coached team has won, and that was two years ago at Illinois. For a long time Illinois was well behind Purdue when it came to football, but Hazell continues to make history by helping the Illini pass us.

Before Hazell got to Purdue the Boilers had won 7 of 8 in the series with Illinois, allowing them to creep closer in the all-time series standings. Hazell has now lost two of three to the Illini, including a 2013 game where Illinois broke a 20-game Big Ten losing streak. Last year’s loss in West Lafayette was a complete debacle as Illinois won 48-14 and ran for more yards (382) than it had in its four previous games to that point.

To me, that was really the turning point game where I really started to go against Darrell Hazell. Before that game some of the losses could still be explained away. There was no excuse for this one, however. Illinois was horrid against the run and went crazy. Their defense wasn’t great, but became a brick wall against the Shoopfense. What’s worse, Purdue had actually beaten Illinois the year before and was supposed to be better at home. It was the most points ever given up by a Purdue team to Illinois and one of the worst beatings in the series history. It was a gigantic step back when it should have been a second straight victory and a chance to get some momentum.

2015 Record: 5-7, 2-6 Big Ten

2015 Bowl result: None

Blog Representation: The Champaign Room

Series with Purdue: Illinois leads 44-41-6

Last Purdue win: 38-27 at Illinois on 10/4/2014

Last Illinois win: 48-14 at Purdue on 11/7/2015

Illinois So Far

The Illini are thankful for Purdue. They have lost 7 of their last 8 Big Ten football games, but their visit to Purdue is the only thing standing in the way of a 8-game Big Ten losing streak and 10-game losing streak to FBS teams overall. Last season the Illini offense struggled in every Big Ten game against Purdue. It was shutout once, scored 3 points another time, and was held to 14 or fewer points three times. The 48 points given up by Purdue was a true outlier and a complete embarrassment as far as we should be concerned.

So far this season that trend has continued. Illinois won its opener 52-3 over Murray State, but has since scored only 49 points in three straight losses. Western Michigan was thoroughly dominant in a 34-10 win in Champaign. They played North Carolina well for about a half and led Nebraska 16-10 in the 4th quarter, but could not hold on in either game.

Who to Watch on Offense

Ke’Shawn Vaughn – RB – Vaughn has only 188 yards in four games and had just a single carry last week, but he definitely remembers last year’s game. After spurning Purdue in recruiting he rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns against the Boilers. He had 116 of his yards against North Carolina. Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin played more last week, but Vaughn absolutely torched Purdue last season.

Wes Lunt – QB – It seems as if Lunt has been around forever, but that is only because he played against Purdue as a freshman in the heart of Dallas Bowl after the 2012 season when he was with Oklahoma State. So far this year he hasn’t been bad. He has 798 yards passing and 6 TDs against just one interception. Last year he threw for just 169 yards, but had three touchdowns.

Malik Turner – WR – It is no secret that Turner is the No. 1 option in the passing game. He has 20 receptions for 280 yards and three scores. Justin Hardee is the only other player on the roster with 10 receptions. Turner is the kind of big, strong receiver on the outside that should torment Purdue all game long.

Jeff George Jr. – QB – Yes, this is Jeff George’s kid and he looks exactly like his dad with longer hair. He actually got to play against Murray State as the third string QB. If I am Illinois and up big, I play him just to rub salt in the 30 year old wound.

Who to Watch on Defense

Carroll Phillips – DE – Phillips leads the country at 2.5 tackles per game and he is going against Purdue’s struggling offensive tackles. God help us all. He has four sacks and 10 tackles for loss overall. He could have a field day against the edge of Purdue’s line, which was simply awful at Maryland.

Gimel President – DL – President is a pretty good defensive lineman in his own right with 2.5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. He is a transfer from Auburn that was a starter in the SEC.

Dawuane Smoot – DE – Smoot is one of the best ends in the Big Ten and has 16 consecutive starts entering this game. He was an all-B1G honorable mention last season and had 8 sacks, but has been mostly quiet this year with just one sack.

Chunky Clements – DT – Yes, Illinois has a fourth defensive lineman that is very, very good. Clements is one of Illinois’ most experienced players and is a solid run stopper in the middle. He also has 14 tackles and two sacks thus far.

Hardy Nickerson – LB – Nickerson transferred in from California after serving as a starter there for three years. He has been excellent so far with a team high 39 tackles, which is third in the Big Ten. Yes, his dad is THAT Hardy Nickerson that played for 16 years in the NFL. He was able to play immediately as a graduate transfer.

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Chase McLaughlin – K – McLaughlin is a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals this season with a long of 48 yards. Purdue hasn’t made a field goal beyond 35 yards in more than 2 years.

Game Outlook

Do we really trust Darrell Hazell to fix things in a week? (A month? A year? Ever?) the answer at this point is a definite no. Mistakes and issues that were there in year one under Hazell continue to be there in year 4. Illinois is a stronger running team this season with three good backs and Purdue just got flattened by Maryland. Wes Lunt is an experienced quarterback that has a good receiver with a matchup advantage. The Illini have a dominant defensive line and excellent middle linebacker against Purdue’s ramshackle offensive line.

There is a reason Purdue is a 10 point underdog. Hammer the over.