CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After a 0-3 start, Purdue has found some footing, beating nationally-ranked Boston College and Nebraska by double digits. Now, following a week off, the Boilermakers will look to maintain that momentum Saturday when it visits Illinois in the Illini’s homecoming game.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Purdue -10.5
Purdue opened with tough losses to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Missouri by a combined eight points but has followed with convincing wins over the Eagles (30-13) and Cornhuskers (42-28). Credit the Boilermakers’ aerial attack for the resurgence as senior David Blough has taken command at quarterback after splitting time early in the season. Blough has thrown for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns while tossing only one interception over the last three games, including a school single-game record 572 passing yards and a Big Ten-record 590 yards of total offense against the Tigers on Sept. 15. Illinois, meanwhile, started 2-2 overall before evening its Big Ten record at 1-1 a week ago with a 38-17 win at Rutgers in its first road game of the season.
ABOUT PURDUE (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten)
Blough ranks third in the conference and 25th nationally with 263.6 passing yards per game and his favorite target has been freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore, who leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally with 8.2 receptions per outing while totaling 457 yards and four TDs on the season. Moore has had at least eight catches and 85 yards in four of the Boilermakers’ five games so far. Linebacker Markus Bailey has totaled a team-most 40 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks for a bend-but-don’t-break Purdue defense, which is surrendering 447.2 total yards and 26.4 points.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (3-2, 1-1)
The Illini have relied on a formidable ground game which ranks third in the Big Ten and 13th nationally with 260.8 yards. Behind 137 yards from tailback Reggie Corbin and 116 from quarterback AJ Bush Jr., Illinois rolled up a season-high 330 rushing yards against Rutgers and have 11 runs of 30-or-more yards, ranking third in the FBS. Defensively, Illinois ranks 12th in the conference in points allowed (28.6) and last in yards surrendered (483.4), but tops the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally with a 1.6 average turnover margin (plus-8), including three interceptions apiece for cornerback Jartavius Martin and linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips.
1. Illinois holds a slim 44-43-6 series lead, but Purdue has won three of the last four, including a 29-10 home victory a season ago.
2. Bush, a graduate transfer who has had stops at Nebraska, Iowa Western Community College and Virginia Tech, returned against Rutgers after missing the South Florida and Penn State games with a hamstring injury, and had 205 yards of total offense while accounting for three TDs in the rout of Rutgers.
3. Purdue’s Moore also is averaging 20.7 yards per kickoff return and ranks third nationally with an average of 179.0 all-purpose yards.
PREDICTION: Purdue 37, Illinois 30
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