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November 21, 2013

Matchup Preview: Purdue-Illinois

GoldandBlack.com breaks down how Purdue and Illinois might match up Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium.

When Purdue's running ...

Well, Purdue has one of the least productive running games in college football and Illinois has one of the worst run defenses in college, so something has to give, right? Illinois allows 260 rushing yards per game, an astonishing number. If Purdue can just get to half that, it would be doubling its average output this season.

Advantage: Neither

When Purdue's passing ...

We're going to take a little bit of a flier here and go with the Boilermakers just because we thought they showed some signs at Penn State, but injuries to B.J. Knauf (out) and DeAngelo Yancey certainly are problematic. If Purdue can run just a little bit at least, it would help provide some balance against a defense that doesn't get much pressure and has gotten this deep into the season with just two interceptions.

Advantage: Purdue (slight)

When Illinois is running ...

This pick's more about Purdue's struggles than Illinois' ability. The Boilermakers have been trampled against the run all season and are banged up or have been ill at several spots in their front seven. Josh Ferguson is a solid back for Illinois and Nathan Scheelhaase is a dual-threat QB who's shredded Purdue on the ground at times before.

Advantage: Illinois (decided)

When Illinois is passing ...

Scheelhaase is the Big Ten's leading passer and wide receiver Steve Hull's on a touchdown binge lately, with three in the past two games and 329 yards receiving in those two weekends. Ferguson, coming out of the backfield, leads Illinois with 43 catches, so matching up with him out of the 4-3 fronts will be important. Rattling Scheelhaase will be important for Purdue, but Purdue hasn't done that to any QB it's faced, really, this season.

Advantage: Illinois (decided)

Special teams

Purdue scored on its second kickoff return of the season last week and still has one of the best punters in the country. Difficult to assess the Boilermakers' placekicking situation right since they haven't tried a field goal in a month, but all other phases have been solid, at worst.

Advantage: Purdue


Well, Purdue has homefield on senior day, but the comforts of home haven't meant all that much this season. … Illinois coach Tim Beckman needs this game desperately, for whatever that's worth. … The Boilermakers are kind of banged up at wide receiver and in their defensive front seven.

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