The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions ahead of Illinois football’s game at Purdue


Cameron Krasucki

Offensive linebacker Seth Coleman runs to tackle his Maryland opponent during the game Sept. 17. The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions as to how the game against Purdue will play out.

By The Daily Illini Sports Staff

After holding a late lead and letting it slip away against Maryland at Memorial Stadium last weekend, Illinois returns to action in its first Big Ten road game of the season: a showdown with the Boilermakers for the Purdue Cannon.

The Illini will head to West Lafayette riding a three-game losing streak, highlighted by inconsistent quarterback play and dismal defensive performances. Though the Illinois defense held Maryland to 20 points, its fewest of the season, the Terrapins still threw for 350 yards and just under 500 yards overall.

The Boilermakers enter the game off a 27-13 loss to the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, though they sit at 2-1 following two early wins against Oregon State and Connecticut. The hosts won the matchup, 31-24, last season in Champaign and have won four of the last five games between the programs, while the Illini’s last win came in 2019 in Ross-Ade Stadium.

With Illinois looking to snap a three-game losing streak and Purdue hoping to start its conference schedule with a win, The Daily Illini sports staff made some predictions ahead of the matchup.

Jackson Janes: Purdue 35, Illinois 21

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Illinois comes into West Lafayette with little, if any, momentum, as it is currently riding a three-game losing streak that has been as ugly as losing streaks come. A poor performance at home against UTSA under the lights, an all-around shocker in a 28-point blowout at Virginia and a dismal offensive performance to Maryland in Champaign have seen the Illini fall in three consecutive games after beating Nebraska in the season opener.

Purdue, though coming off a loss, features the more dominant offense, with quarterback Jack Plummer and wide receiver David Bell the stars of the show. Though the defense played fairly well last week, a lack of consistency in the two previous games doesn’t give me much hope for that unit.

With questions about Brandon Peters and a disappointing Illinois offense still looming, I don’t think the Illini can do enough to leave West Lafayette with the Purdue Cannon.

Wes Hollenberg: Purdue 34, Illinois 17

I’d take Purdue winning handily 34-17. Illinois’ defense stepped up last week to hold Maryland to 20 points, but it still ranks as the worst against the pass in the Big Ten. With Purdue featuring the best passing attack in the Big Ten, I’d be surprised to see Illinois contain them much at all through the air.

The offense was the weak point last week. Brandon Peters will need to shake off the poor performance and ensuing criticism if the Illini want a chance in their first Big Ten road game of the season. With Illinois already on a three-game losing streak, things might get worse before they get better.

Will Payne

Josh Pietsch: Purdue 31, Illinois 20

Vegas thinks Purdue will win this one by 11, and so do I. Now, Boilermaker star receiver David Bell is still in concussion protocol. If he doesn’t play, I think Illinois might actually have a chance to win this one. However, I’m gonna write under the assumption that he is good to go for Saturday.

With Bell, I don’t think Purdue will have any trouble moving the ball against the Illini secondary. Illinois’ pass defense did look better last week against Maryland, but I do think Bell is better than any receiver that Maryland has. Quarterback Jack Plummer did get pulled in the second half in Purdue’s loss to Notre Dame last week, but a week before he was leading the Big Ten in passing. He’s capable of being really good.

Illinois should be just about at full strength Saturday, returning Keith Randolph and Doug Kramer — and not losing Josh McCray — really helps. I think this will help the Illini, which is why I only think they’ll lose by around 11. If the running group has another good game and Peters plays better than last week, Illinois has a shot at an upset in West Lafayette.

Carson Gourdie: Illinois 28, Purdue 21

The greatest rivalry in conference is on deck, as the Illini prepare to win back the famous Purdue Cannon from the Boilermakers!

I’m, of course, joking around, but this honestly is a series with a lot of history — and a lot of even-matched battles. The schools hold a lot of similarities — engineering and basketball schools — and the series is actually tied 45-45-6 all-time. Call me crazy, but last year gives me hope Bielema can stun the oddsmakers and gain some momentum after a tough losing steak.

Last year, without Brandon Peters and Isaiah Williams, the Illini nearly came back and knocked off the Boilermakers in Champaign. Although the Illini played with fourth-string quarterback Coran Taylor, who committed four turnovers, the Illini were 10 yards away from forcing overtime. 

Purdue, coming off of a 27-13 loss to Notre Dame, lives off of its passing game, and potentially without wide receiver David Bell, who is currently following concussion protocol, the offense won’t be as lethal. The Illini have struggled mightily defending the pass, so Purdue will still be able to pass it effectively. 

However, the defense wasn’t the problem last week; the offense was, and the key to the game will be Brandon Peters. The senior was livid after his performance, and I expect him to bounce back and play better — even though I still think Artur Sitkowski should be starting. 

Peters needs to play better and make plays on his own, or else the team will get destroyed. While Purdue lost to Notre Dame, it only allowed just over 120 rushing yards, and it held Oregon State to 80. Peters can’t count on 285 rushing yards to open up the passing game. 

My head tells me to pick Purdue, but the way the defense performed last game, I have a lot more confidence. I say Peters finally throws for over 200 yards, and the Illini stun the Boilermakers on the road.

Claire O’Brien