SOC - Purdue
I've started this post three times now. That's 100% a violation of Stream Of Consciousness protocol, but I just haven't found a launching point for what I want to say. I'm also very tired after a long week and will be fighting off sleep during this entire post. Strap in, it might be a weird one.
Here's where I stand on this game: it could be a really big moment, but I don't think it's going to be a big moment. Partly because we spent every last emotion last Saturday and will have nothing left for a road game. But also because I can't shake the feeling that the team that lost to Eastern Michigan is 2019 Illinois football, not the team that beat Wisconsin.
OK it's not just that. We haven't shown much depth this season (these are easily, by a factor of 10, the tightest player rotations Lovie has used in his four years), and now we have a lot of injuries, and either we simply had all this depth and weren't using it (uh, probably not) or we don't have much depth and it's going to show tomorrow.
With Trevon Sidney out for the season and Ricky Smalling almost certainly out for this game, we're down to... Bhebhe, Stampley, Washington, and Navarro? At defensive end, if Wole Betiku is out, I'm not sure who gets to the Purdue QB? There just aren't many more levers to pull here. The second stringers, for the most part, haven't been playing. And so I feel like there's nowhere to turn to answer some of these "who will step up?" questions.
Which is really disappointing. I really want to be writing a "CORNER TURNED" post right now, but that's just not how I'm feeling on the eve of this game. I've promised to write these as "here's where I'm at", and this is where I'm at.
In my football preview in 2017, I kinda sorta mentioned this game. I talked about how Brohm was inheriting the crest of the Hazell rebuild for a couple years while Lovie was entering 2017 with the youngest team in college football. And so I expected Brohm to be better for two years, and then, in 2019, when Brohm's real rebuild begins, Lovie should surge past him. Brohm would be the one playing all the freshmen; Lovie would be the one with the experienced team.
And that's where we're at. Purdue, sans Rondale Moore and Elijah Sindelar, is the new Youngest Team In The Big Ten. They're 2-5, but that's kind of expected with so much youth. Illinois is a junior-heavy team - a one-year-away team - and comes into this game with a boatload of confidence after beating Wisconsin.
But I still think I like Purdue in this one? I keep investigating this, wondering if I'm hung up on something.
- Am I emotionally hedging? I mean, if we win this one, we're beating Rutgers to move to 5-4 and will be staring at "win one of the final three to go bowling". Maybe that's too exciting for me to think about so I'm hedging by predicting a loss?
- Is this perhaps just as simple as "corner turned"? I've talked about the click, I've talked about the corner - perhaps I should recognize it when it's actually happening?
- Perhaps I'm overrating Purdue based on their six point loss to Iowa and their seven point loss to Minnesota? Maybe they're legitimately bad and are headed for 3-9 and after the season I'll be all "I mean, of course we were going to beat Purdue"?
I keep going over all of that, and I keep thinking we're going to lose. It's supposed to rain, and we've fumbled 13 times this season already, so I can't help but think we're going to fumble a bunch. And no team in America is as emotionally drained as we are. I just can't see us getting up for a road game.
So when I go over everything in my head, this feels like a loss. If the turnovers happen, maybe a big loss. I really really really really hope this is just an emotional hedge - I'm too scared for face mid-November just looking for one win in the final three games - but I don't think it is. It won't mean that the season is lost (we redeemed the EMU loss by beating Wisconsin, we can redeem this loss by winning at Michigan State), but it will mean that November will have to be "win three of four to bowl". I think Purdue wins and covers. (Please be wrong.)
Purdue 31, Illinois 17