Purdue (2-3) at Illinois (3-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (60,670) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Purdue 2-2, Illinois 3-0. Away Record: Purdue 0-0, Illinois 0-2. Neutral Record: Purdue 0-1, Illinois 0-0. Conference Record: Purdue 0-1, Illinois 0-1. Series Record: Illinois leads, 43-40-6.
GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to Memorial Stadium for a Big Ten Conference clash on Saturday afternoon.
Purdue opened its Big Ten Conference schedule with a 24-10 home loss to Iowa last weekend. This marks the first true road game of the season for the Boilermakers, who will play three of their next four in unfriendly confines.
Illinois also lost its conference opener last week at Nebraska, 45-14. However, the Fighting Illini are 3-0 at home this season.
Illinois won last year's Cannon Trophy game against Purdue by a 20-16 final, and the Illini lead the all-time series, 43-40-6.
Purdue ranks 94th in the nation in scoring offense (23.8 ppg) and 113th in total offense (312.0 ypg). Danny Etling has had a shaky start to his sophomore season under center, completing only 54.9 percent of his passes while averaging just 160.0 ypg through the air. He has thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Running backs Akeem Hunt (6.0 ypc) and Raheem Mostert (4.4 ypc) have been productive when handed the ball, and Hunt reeled off 90 yards on 14 carries against Iowa last week. But Purdue managed only nine first downs and 156 total yards for the game.
Meanwhile, the Purdue defense held Iowa without a first down in five first- quarter possessions. It was the second straight week the Boilermakers held their opponent scoreless in the first quarter. Defensive back Frankie Williams also came up with a big play early on, notching his second interception of the season in the opening frame and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown to stake the Boilermakers an early 7-0 lead. He finished with 10 tackles, while sophomore safety Landon Feichter led the way with 11 stops. For the third straight game, the Boilermakers defense did not allow a 100-yard rusher.
Illinois boasts the nation's No. 23 passing offense (309.4 ypg), but is just 111th in rushing (102.2 ypg). The Illini have relied on big plays, as their 32 offensive plays of 20-plus yards stands as the seventh-most in the FBS.
Sophomore QB Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, leads the Big Ten with 309.3 passing yards per game, and his 11 passing TDs ranks second in the league despite sitting out the Nebraska game (knee, questionable). He also leads the FBS in fourth-quarter efficiency (226.74). Lunt's replacement against the Cornhuskers, Reilly O'Toole, was intercepted three times and sacked four times in last week's loss. Josh Ferguson ran for 61 yards and a score on 11 carries.
The Illinois defense prides itself on making plays in the backfield, as the unit tops the Big Ten and ranks 11th nationally with 8.0 TFL per game. There were 11 TFL against Nebraska, in addition to a couple of takeaways, yet the Cornhuskers had little trouble in racking up 35 first downs and 624 yards from scrimmage. The biggest problem area for the UI defense in that game was stopping the run as Nebraska rolled up 458 yards (6.5 ypc) and five TDs on the ground. Defensive back Zane Petty paced four double-digit tacklers with 15 stops in the loss. Sophomore DB Taylor Barton, who added 11 stops, leads the Big Ten in tackles per game (10.8).
Both teams have had their share of problems in the early going. Assuming Lunt is healthy enough to suit up, expect Illinois to rebound from last week's effort and move to 4-0 at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 34, Purdue 24Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 4, 12 p.m. (ET).