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November 18, 2013

First Look: Illinois

Someone has to win this weekend in Ross-Ade Stadium when Purdue and Illinois meet.

The Boilermakers are 0-6 in the Big Ten and riding an eight-game losing streak overall, while the Illini have lost their last 20 conference games.

GoldandBlack.com will have much more on the Illini throughout the week, but here's a quick First Look.

While Purdue has struggled mightily on defense, Illinois' been even worse, allowing 493.5 yards, nearly 50 more than the Boilermakers are yielding. The Illini are one of the worst run defenses in college football, as opponents are rushing for 259.7 yards per game.

Illinois has allowed 39 or more points in five of their six Big Ten games, coming off a 60-35 loss to Ohio State in which the Buckeyes ran for 441 yards, 246 from running back Carlos Hyde and another 184 from QB Braxton Miller.

While Illinois hasn't been able to stop the run, it's allowed a Big Ten-high 20 touchdown passes with just two interceptions, while also matching the Boilermakers' league-low total of 12 sacks.

The Illini offense can be dangerous, paced by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, the Big Ten's leading passer. The senior is completing a near-league-best 65.4 percent of his passes for an average of 270.8 yards per game and 17 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

The dual-threat QB is the Big Ten's total offense leader, too.

Illinois is the Big Ten's second-leading passing team, behind just Indiana.

Illinois really needs a win.

Second-year coach Tim Beckman came under some fire after his 2-10 debut season and it obviously hasn't gone over well that Illinois showed flashes in non-conference - like a 45-17 win over Purdue common opponent Cincinnati - only to get its doors blown off by all but one of its Big Ten opponents thus far. That game was at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions needed overtime to win 24-17.

A sideline confrontation between Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit during the Ohio State game probably hasn't helped the second-year coach's perception.

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