SOC - Purdue 2021
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I have no feel for this game. I really don't. I suppose that's what the SOC is for - I just dig through my brain and end up with a prediction - but I usually have some footing when I start. I have no footing right now.
So maybe the best way to start here is to look at this game from the perspective of the Purdue fan. If I'm a Purdue fan looking at the game tomorrow, I think my thought is this: "If Jeff Brohm cannot beat 1-3 Illinois at home as an 11-point favorite, then fire Jeff Brohm into the sun." Brohm is in year five, has an insane salary, and his first four years were 7 wins, 6 wins, 4 wins, 2 wins (Covid season). Given the contract he signed when Louisville came calling (what was it? sixth-highest salary in college football at the time?), he absolutely has to win this season.
If I was a Purdue fan writing this, I'd probably note how this game sets up perfectly. Virginia (and UTSA) tore up the Illinois defense through the air. Brohm's specialty is "through the air". It's the worst matchup of the season for this Illinois defense and maybe the easiest home game for Purdue. Their crossover opponents are Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana, so yeah, this is BY FAR Purdue's easiest conference game.
What have we learned so far?
- After UConn (which barely has a functioning college football program), this is Purdue's easist game of the season.
- What Purdue does well (pass the ball) Illinois does poorly (defend the pass).
- Things look ragged for an Illinois team in Year One with a new coach and this is Year Five for Jeff Brohm with a roster of his own recruits.
I can almost stop right there, right? That seems to be the story here. The line is 11. Year Five vs. Year One. Strong passing offense vs. poor pass defense. At Ross Ade Stadium. Everything seems to point to a Purdue blowout.
Maybe I should try to talk myself into an Illini upset. How could that happen? I'll go back to the mindset of the Purdue blogger and list three things that would scare me about this game.
- David Bell was in concussion protocol this week and will be a game time decision. If Bell plays, he might have 12 catches for 213 yards. If he doesn't play....
- Illinois will be "the healthiest it has been all season" when they enter Ross Ade Stadium.
- The Illini continue to force a lot of fumbles, and Purdue can cough it up from time to time. Ball security is everything.
Yeah, even with that I can't see a way for Illinois to win this. We saw what the last road game on grass looked like, so why would we expect this road game on grass to look any different? There's just too many mistakes right now. We were all hoping that the Super Senior Season would mean a crisp, mistake-free team that surpised some people, but it just hasn't been there.
Maybe that's the best way to gather my thoughts. I'll do another list of three things. Here's the three things we were all hoping to see this season:
- With most every tailback returning and four of five offensive linemen returning, the Illini run game has the potential to be very good.
- With all of the key pieces from last year's defense returning, and especially with Jake Hansen and Owen Carney changing their minds and returning to Champaign, a more flexible scheme could mean a surprising defensive surge.
- The Illini get a second chance at a Year Five season. Last year was supposed to be the season where playing 22 true freshmen in 2017 paid off. It didn't happen, and that coach was fired, but maybe a second crack at it means a surprising bowl season.
That hasn't happened. So far, we've seen a lof the first season stuff we've seen in the past. The players don't quite grasp the new schemes yet. The QB and receivers aren't on the same page. There's glimpses of a run game and even glimpses of a passing game but then something like the final series against Maryland happens - sack, sack, intentional grounding, and suddenly it's 4th and 37 - and all of the gains are thrown out the window and we're back to square one.
So I just can't see a win tomorrow. And I'm not sure I see a cover. If Purdue loses this game, they might go winless in the Big Ten West, and I don't think that's going to happen. I think Purdue wins and covers.
Purdue 38, Illinois 17