Potential return of Ferguson would provide major lift for Illinois vs. Purdue
Who: Illinois vs. Purdue
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, Purdue
Spread: Illinois -2
TV: Big Ten Network
Matchup to watch: DeAngelo Yancey vs. Clayton Fejedelem
The star of the Illinois defense seems to do everything for the unit these days. On Saturday, he’ll have to contain the Boilers’ top deep threat. Yancey can take the top off the defense with his ability to make plays downfield. David Blough showed some trust in Yancey after two weeks in which he was basically invisible. Fejedelem is asked to make so many plays for the Illini defense, often times stopping the run. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some play-action looks to lure Fejedelem into the backfield
Thing I’m excited to see: Josh Ferguson’s return?
It’s been a rough go since the Illini senior injured his shoulder a month ago. Illinois has four touchdowns in the three-and-a-half games without Ferguson. Well, there’s a decent chance Ferguson returns to action on Saturday. Needless to say, that would be big news for Illinois. Ke’Shawn Vaughn can’t make the same impact that Ferguson can in the passing game. It’s a lot to ask a freshman to do all things that Ferguson does. And there’s still plenty of reason to believe that one day Vaughn will be able to, but in the immediate future, Illinois needs its senior back.
Number to remember: 5
That’s how many blocked kicks Illinois has this year, which is tied with Temple for the most in the country. Rob Bain had two last week and even more impressively, they were on extra points. And even though the kicks were considerably lower than they should’ve been, that still shows a potential weapon Illinois. That could be huge if and when this one stays close. Paul Griggs has just three made field goals all year, and he’s missed a pair of extra points. He hasn’t even made a field goal since Sept. 19. This game could easily come down to a field goal and if it does, Darrell Hazell has to be aware that there are no gimme kicks.
Prediction: Illinois 42, Purdue 35
I don’t think the defenses shine in this one. Illinois threw for 450 yards against Purdue last year. Even without Mike Dudek this time around, Illinois shouldn’t have a problem moving the ball. Just because Purdue put up 55 points on lowly Nebraska last week doesn’t mean it has its defensive issues figured out. I see a monster game for Geronimo Allison, who is making a case for an All-B1G season. Wes Lunt bounces back in a big way and Illinois gets enough stops down the stretch to hold off the Boilers.