The University of Illinois Fighting Illini haven’t won a Big Ten game in their last 20 tries. Tomorrow, they will have their best shot to end that streak in nearly three seasons when they travel to West Lafayette, IN to take on an inexperienced Purdue Boilermakers squad.
All the offensive numbers suggest that if the Illini simply play an average game, they will defeat the Boilermakers. Illinois averages 18 more points and 170 more yards of offense per game than Purdue does. The equalizer between these teams that could keep the Illini from snapping their streak, however, is poor defense. There isn’t much separation between these two teams on that side of the ball.
The Boilermakers average allowing 38 points per game, the Illini 37.2. As far as yardage allowed goes, Illinois actually gives up about 50 yards per game more than Purdue. The Boilermakers are worse against the pass, but the Illini are dead last in the Big Ten against the run. Both defenses’ lack of ability to take the ball away has created a negative turnover margin for their teams.
Illinois could also continue to lead the Big Ten in another category — laundry. The Illini are the most penalized team in the conference, and continuing that trend could lead to the Boilermakers hanging around for longer than they should. The key for Illinois winning this game that they should win will be getting into the end zone.
The Illini don’t have a defense that has been able to consistently stop anyone, but the Boilermakers don’t have an offense that has been able to consistently score touchdowns either. If Illinois is able to get enough big plays out of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and running back Josh Ferguson to get to their average of 30 points, they will end their conference losing streak.
Purdue running back Akeem Hunt and the Illini getting penalized many times could lead to Illinois’ streak being extended, however. If Hunt is able to take advantage of the Big Ten’s worst rush defense and keep the Illini offense on the sideline, then Illinois compounds that problem by killing the drives they do get with penalties, the Boilermakers could get their first Big Ten win of the season.
One of these teams will find a way to end its Big Ten losing streak tomorrow. Which team that is will be the one that better avoids the problems that have gotten them into this situation in the first place.