WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Illinois pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the college football season last week when the 31-point underdog Fighting Illini rallied to stun No. 6 Wisconsin 24-23. Illinois will now try to make it two wins in a row when it travels to Purdue on Saturday in the battle for the Cannon Trophy.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Purdue -10
A 39-yard field goal by James McCourt as time expired capped a nine-point comeback in the final six minutes for Illinois against the Badgers, garnering the school its first victory over a top-10 team since defeating Ohio State 28-21 in 2007. "The air smells a lot better," Illini offensive coordinator Rod Smith told the Champaign News-Gazette. "The food tastes a lot better. Everything is better. It's just natural. That's the reward that comes with winning. The vibe is up. ...They're bouncing around and excited to get going for this weekend." A win over the Boilermakers, who have won the last three meetings and are coming off a 26-20 loss at Iowa, would gave Illinois, which still has home games with Rutgers (1-5) and Northwestern (1-5) on the schedule, a legitimate shot at getting to six wins and bowl eligibility. "It gets you really excited for what the future holds for us for the rest of the season because we still have a long season ahead of us," Illini linebacker Jake Hansen said.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten)
The Fighting Illini trailed the Badgers by as many as 13 points and faced a 23-14 deficit with six minutes left before a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Peters to Josh Imatorbhebhe, an interception by safety Tony Adams with 2:32 left and then McCourt's walk-off field goal. Reggie Corbin (83 yards) and Dre Brown (70 yards) had the two top rushing performances against the Badgers this season while Peters, a transfer from Michigan, completed 9-of-21 passes for 174 yards and two TDs. Illinois leads the nation in forced fumbles (13) and fumble recoveries (12) with Hansen, named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after registering 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack against Wisconsin, leading the nation with seven forced fumbles and three fumble recovered.
ABOUT PURDUE (2-5, 1-3)
The Boilermakers have dropped four of their last five games with the lone win coming on Oct. 12, 40-14, over visiting Maryland when redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer completed 33-of-41 passes for 420 yards and three scores. All-American wide receiver Rondale Moore has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, but freshman David Bell has helped to pick up the slack with 39 catches for 635 yards and four TDs, including 13 receptions for 197 yards and a score in last week's loss to Iowa. Freshman defensive end George Karlaftis leads the defense with 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
1. Purdue leads the traditional Cannon trophy series 36-29-2 including 11 wins in the last 14 meetings. The overall series is tied 44-44-6.
2. Corbin's career yards per carry average (6.9) ranks third among all active FBS players with at least 2,000 rushing yards and he has 10 scrimmage plays of more than 50 yards in his career, all coming in Big Ten play.
3. McCourt is one of two FBS kickers with three field goals of 50 yards or more this season including a 57-yarder against Eastern Michigan that is tied for the longest in FBS this season.
PREDICTION: Purdue 34, Illinois 24