Last week, Purdue faced a talented, but struggling Notre Dame defense and got exposed. This week they face a struggling defense that also lacks talent. They should be able to get back on track, even if David Bell isn’t able to go.
In fact, even if Bell is ready to go, Brohm should probably give him another week to recover, because there is no way this Illinois defense should be able to slow down the passing attack, regardless of the available receivers. Travis should be able to line up and hobble his way to a 2 touchdown game. If Purdue doesn’t dominate this game from the opening whistle with their passing game, it’s time to worry.
I’m confident they will dominate.
Scoring Offense vs Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 30.7 (63rd)
Illinois Defense: 30.25 (102nd)
Purdue’s offense took a huge step back in the national standings last week, but should recover this week against a putrid Illinois defense.
The Fighting Illini defense have been sworn pacifists most of the season, but they come into this game with a good feeling after holding Maryland to 20 points last week ( in a loss). They’ll look to channel that same energy against on Saturday, but this is the type of defense Purdue is built to score against. In the predictions article, I had Purdue scoring 27, but after further consideration, if they don’t hit the mid 30s against this team, there are serious issues.
Total Offense vs Total Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 437 (42nd)
Illinois Defense: 481.5 (122nd)
The Boilermakers can move the ball. They’ve shown that consistently throughout the season. That hasn’t necessarily led to points though, because the passing game is methodical to the point of being tedious. It’s hard to sustain long drives with the short passing game. Too many things can go wrong.
Illinois will be happy if they can hold Purdue close to their season average on offense, and not their season average on defense. They won’t be able to stop Purdue from moving the ball, but will try to limit the damage on the scoreboard and make Purdue methodically work the ball down the field. I don’t think they can do it, but that’s the gameplan.
3rd Down Conversion Percentage vs 3rd Down Conversion Defense
Purdue Offense: 43% (51st)
Illinois Defense: 39% (76th)
Purdue’s poor showing on 3rd down (25%) doomed them against the Fighting Irish. They won’t be facing the same level of athlete this week, and should be able to pick up around 50% of their attempts this week.
The Ilini defense has been decent at getting teams off the field, in comparison to their otherwise terrible defense across the board, but it’s still not good. I anticipate them trying to crowd the line on third downs like Notre Dame did last week, but they don’t have Kyle Hamilton, and Purdue’s receivers should be able to make a few more plays this week.
Rushing Offense vs Rushing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 110.7 (112th)
Illinois Defense: 160.2 (82nd)
Jeff Brohm talked about an improved run game all offseason. The Purdue run game isn’t improved. Not having Horvath or a speed back hurts. Dorue and Downing are serviceable, but otherwise unspectacular. A quarterback run game (Austin Burton?) would be helpful, but Plummer isn’t that guy, and I don’t see Brohm going out of his way to kick start things on the ground, despite my desire for him to do so against a bad defense.
This defense can’t stop the run, but neither could Notre Dame’s. Purdue’s offense won’t put them to the test, and even if they do, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort based on what I saw last week. I’ve given up on Brohm attempting to run the ball this season until further notice.
Passing Offense vs Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 326.3 (16th)
Illinois Defense: 321.2 (123rd)
This should be a walk over for Purdue. They want to throw the ball and Illinois can’t stop anyone from throwing the ball. They kept Maryland out of the end zone for the most part last week, but Tagovailoa still threw for 350 yards. I expect Plummer to throw for 375+ and wouldn’t be surprised if he threw for 425+.
What can you say, this defense is bad. They need Purdue to help them out with turnovers and red zone mistakes, because the Boilermakers are going to accumulate yardage in the passing game. Short of Plummer and company tossing 3+ picks, I don’t think they can hold up.
Yards Per Passing Completion vs Yards Allowed Per Completion
Purdue Offense: 10.31 (108th)
Illinois Defense: 13.39
This stat gives you the best look at Purdue’s offensive philosophy. Brohm is all in on the air raid. Purdue will attempt to spread the field horizontally in order to open up seams for their receivers vertically. This isn’t the offense Purdue thought it was getting when they hired Brohm, but it’s the offense they have. The horizontal part has worked, but the receivers haven’t turned many short passes into long gains. I think they break a few against Illinois.
What can you say about this defense. They give up yards in every facet of the game. Notre Dame struggles against the run but had a credible pass defense. Illinois struggles against both, and does so while giving up chunks of yardage at a time. Purdue has to up their yards per completion this week. If they can hit 13.39 yards a completion, it’s a wrap. If Illinois can hold them to under 10, they’ve got a shot. I don’t think they’ve got a shot.
Sacks Allowed vs Defensive Sacks (Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 2.33 (83rd)
Illinois Defense: 2.25 (62nd)
This isn’t surprising for a team that throws as often as the Boilermakers. When you attempt 50+ passes, you’re going to take some sacks. I think the offensive line has been decent, not great, but decent, in pass protection. They’ll need to be decent again, because I finally found a strongish part of the Illinois defense.
The Ilini pass rush has come from 2 interior defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers. They’ll try to heat up Jack Plummer this week, but unless they’ve got some edge rushers I haven’t seen yet, I don’t think they get the job done without sending the house, and the quick passing game eats up teams that consistently blitz. One slipped tackle on the outside and it’s a house call.
Illinois will probably get Plummer on the ground a few times, but unless it’s a complete avalanche, I think Purdue should be able to handle an occasional sack.
Tackles For Loss Allowed vs Tackles for Loss (Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 7 (99th)
Illinois Defense: 5.8 (71st)
Purdue doesn’t run the ball often, and when they do, their running back (or wide receiver on the sweep) has a tendency to not make it back to the line of scrimmage. All the talk about and improved offensive line and a commitment to running the ball was a smoke screen.
This is the way forward for Illinois. If they’re going to win this game, they’ve got to live in the Purdue back field and dare Plummer and the receivers to beat them on the outside. I think Purdue is more than willing to take that dare,
Passing Efficiency vs Passing Efficiency Defense
Purdue Offense: 152.22 (40th)
Illinois Defense: 155.33 (110th)
Purdue’s passing efficiency took a step back last Saturday, but should take a step forward this Saturday. Illinois will see a steady diet of short/intermediate routes and Plummer will complete 75%+ of his passes.
Purdue’s going to complete passes. The only way Illinois defense holds up is if they can get the receivers on the ground after they catch the ball or jump a few routes and pick the ball off. Notre Dame pulled that off, Illinois won’t.
Red Zone Offense vs Red Zone Defense(% of Scores Inside the Red Zone)
Purdue Offense: 84.6% (71st)
Illinois Defense: 85% (85%)
When you don’t have a running game, red zone scoring is difficult. The field shrinks, the windows get tighter, and defensive backs get closer to your receivers. Purdue has 13 red zone attempts and has 2 rushing touchdowns, 6 passing touchdowns and 3 field goals. They’ve been stopped twice. The limited number of attempts skew this number a bit, but a team that can run the ball in the red zone doesn’t have the problem of throwing picks in the red zone, and a red zone pick essentially ended the game last weekend.
Illinois has given up 20 red zone attempts, and allowed 5 rushing touchdowns, 6 passing touchdowns, and 6 field goals. They’ve made 3 stops. Expect them to drop 8 into pass coverage, flood zones with defenders, and beg Purdue to run the ball in the red zone. Brohm still won’t run (and probably shouldn’t), but Plummer should be able to fit in enough passes to get the job done. Holding Purdue to red zone field goals is the goal for Illinois tomorrow. They did a good job of it against Maryland, and will try and repeat the trick. It would be nice if Purdue could find away to break a couple big plays and avoid the red zone all together.
My Take Away
Purdue has to dominate the game on offense.
Period. End of story. No excuses.
This is a bad Illinois defense and Brohm, Plummer and company should shred them without the services of Bell, Rice, or any other ailing receiver. Purdue has plenty of receivers capable of carrying the load. In fact, it would be nice to win a game without needing David Bell to carry the entire weight of the offense. Getting another receiver going won’t keep Bell from getting double teamed the moment he steps on the field, but at least Purdue could punish a team for doing it. Milton Wright is the obvious choice to fill this role, but if he can’t get going against this Illinois team, it’s time to start looking for a different #2 receiver.
It would be nice to see an attempt to get the run game going, but I’m not holding my breath. Either way, it won’t matter against this defense.
I’m adjusting my score prediction for tomorrow upward.
Give me Purdue 37, Illinois 17