Fire the Cannon! The Illinois Predicto!
Purdue plays a rivalry game this weekend, and as Dave details below, they’ve played many, many times – and for a trophy of sorts! And yet, does anyone care? Is there any animosity? Are there any memorable games between these two? I go back 20 years as a Purdue fan and I really can’t think of any defining moments where these games meant much to us as fans. And yet here we are. Speaking of cannons, I must digress for a moment here. As some of you know (who pay attention on Twitter), I was at the Rutgers-Tulane game last weekend with my brother, who lives nearby. (I grew up in Jersey, its nearby college football, I have friends who went to RU, etc.) The fan support is decent for Rutgers, but what’s peculiar is that this place that bids itself as the “Birthplace of college football” seems to not be able to make up its mind as to what is its… thing.
Purdue, obviously, has train whistles and Boiler/train-themed chants, sound effects, etc. MSU has Sparty. Michigan has overmatched coaches. IU has decades of losing. You know…longstanding traditions. At Rutgers, their mascot is the Scarlet Knight. Now, while you can still be “knighted” in some countries, the battle-armored knight was more commonly seen centuries ago. Some quick Wikipedia-ing tells us that knight were seen as early as the third century and then commonly throughout the early middle ages, generally the fifth to tenth centuries, with the first military knights being recorded during the first crusade in 1099. Regardless of which of these we go with, we can agree that this was a long-ass damn time ago.
However, after most score, as well as just before the game begins – and again at halftime – they fire a g-ddamn cannon(and let me tell you, it scares the life out of you when you’re not expecting it). And who mans the cannon? A few yo-yos dressed as Continental soldiers. The American Revolution, you’ll recall from elementary school, took place in the 18th century.
Ah, but then just before kickoff and again before the start of the second half (and perhaps after scores – it was hard to keep up since I felt like we were under fire from a cannon), they blow a train whistle! Located atop the north end zone scoreboard, it sounds remarkably like the one at Ross-Ade….which is to signify what, Rutgers? The fact that NJ Transit goes by the area?
And of course, now they’ve added fireworks that are shot off the top of the South end zone scoreboard following scoring plays. Maybe this signifies more battling. I have no idea. What’s my point in all this? I forget… other than hey, pick something, Rutgers. The cannon or the knight themes are fine – but don’t mix centuries like that. And drop the damn whistle. That most certainly is not yours.
This would make a lot of sense as a lead in to the predictos for the October 2017 Purdue-Rutgers battle, but since we’ll have long since gone insane and decommissioned Boiled Sports by then, you get it now. It’s also better than anything we could say about Illinois since the less said about Beckman and company, the better. Alas, we’ll still say plenty.
Read on… and see some real differing opinions for the first time this season.
You young'uns might not recall a time when the Big Ten literally did not care about the rest of the football world. The two goals you were permitted were to win the conference and to win the Rose Bowl. Nothing else mattered. Naturally, this led to a style of play that worked against other Big Ten schools but not against the Pac-8to10, and thus it created a bigger mess than they'd have had if they had just not been provincial idiots who couldn't see past the ends of their noses.
Fortunately, things are completely different now that we have (sort of) a playoff system. The Big Tenteen ... well, Nebraska's unbeaten, but that's because they've played a schedule nearly as soft as Purdue's. They might also be good, which is a good thing, because a Maryland-Minnesota title game is probably not what anyone other than Jim Delany was looking for when the conference expanded to include every eligible school west of London.
Never mind the top of the conference. At the other end, by pretty much every metric you can find, lie Illinois and Purdue. It is only fitting that the trophy for this rivalry is a cannon: something that once upon a time was feared, but these days is often remembered in conjunction with a circus. You probably don't know that Illinois holds the record for most Big Ten conference wins in a season, or that Illinois and Purdue once won back to back conference titles. You probably do know that the only person who thinks Tim Beckman is capable of coaching in the Big Tenteen, besides Beckman himself, is the guy who hired him. You probably also know that Beckman's first team, a horrid outfit that won two games in 2012, lost by three points to Purdue in Champaign.
The Cannon is there today, courtesy of a four-point loss that gave the Illini something extra to put on the bus last year. It's one of the longer rivalries in college football, with this being the 90th meeting between the two teams. (Illinois leads 43-40. What's that? Oh, 6 ties. Ties? It's when ... oh, never mind.) Thus endeth our history lesson for today. Back to the present ... no, let's talk about history instead.
Illinois hasn't won consecutive games in the series since 2001-02, when they hung 38 points on the Boilers in consecutive seasons. They haven't won consecutive meetings in Champaign since 1990-92, back when zlionsfan was a sixth-year senior, part of a six-year winning streak that provided them with wins here, there, and everywhere from 1988 to 1993. The winning team has scored 21, 20 and 20 points the last three years, the first time since 1987-89 that the winners failed to top 21 three straight years. (9-3, 20-0, 14-2. Good times, my friends. Good times.)
These are two bad teams. When you put bad teams together, anything can happen. Maybe lemon meringue pie will fall from the sky. Do you like lemon meringue pie?
Repeat of 10/29/1960:
Illinois 14 Purdue 12
Mike RRT Henry:
Illinois does not have a good football team. In fact, they haven't been that good in a while. Tim Beckman is in his third year in Champaign, and he managed to follow a two-win rookie season with a four-win sophomore effort. Maybe things are looking better this year (they do have three wins thus far), but how confident can you feel in your chances at a bowl when you barely beat North Texas and Washington beats the pants off of you? And...this is where I point out that Illinois is a 10 point favorite over Purdue.
There are facets of this Purdue team that seem to be getting a lot better, while other facets seem to be getting a lot worse. Or maybe they aren't getting worse, they are just staying really bad, to the point where it feels like they're getting worse. First, the positive. The defense is looking like an honest Big 10 defense. Frankie Williams deserves a ton of credit. As does Ja'Whaun Bentley, who is fourth on this team in tackles. The DL has been playing well too. Outside of Williams, I'm not sure there's a star on this team, but they play hard, and they took it to Iowa in the first half of the game last week.
Of course Iowa wore them down over time and by the end, it wasn't much of a contest. Illinois ground Purdue down with these relentless, extended drives. Iowa's second possession in the third quarter was a monster 17 play, 84 yard drive (that didn't even end in points!). The offense lent no assistance to the defense; Purdue went from their last drive of the first quarter to their last drive of the fourth quarter without a drive that went for more than 17 yards. Only two of those nine possession even went over 10 yards. Hard to pin too much on the defense when the offense won't give them a freaking break.
The offense is struggling as a whole, but really it comes down to the passing game, which seems to get worse every week. I may not know how to fix it, but I do know that Purdue isn't going to win any more games this season if all they get is what you saw in the Iowa game. Whether it's Austin Appleby or Danny Etling, this team can't continue to fall on its face when trying to throw the ball. No more dumb sacks when the ball should have been thrown away; no more panicking after your first option is taken away; better situational awareness of where you are on the field and what your team needs; better completion percentage on third down. All of it needs to get better, and soon. But new quarterback or not, there aren't any quick fixes here.
Sadly, I'm not sure a week is enough time to turn it around. Illinois is bad, but Purdue is worse. Illinois is not guaranteed to win this game, but I need to see a lot more from Purdue before I start picking them to win B1G games.
Illinois 27 Purdue 10
Aneesh the Swamy:
Why does this feel so miserable? Weren’t we expecting this record? Why are we such an abysmal second half team? Is Danny Etling regressing? Is it Coach Hazell’s lack of adjustments? How about John Shoop’s…well…everything? Why was I trusted to write a preview when I’m clearly just full of unanswerable questions? This entire season reeks of morning breath: completely expected yet still stinks.
Since I’ve been emphasizing the (embarrassing) reputation of the Boilermaker program for the last few weeks, let’s get down on the field this joyous week and address the “fastest player in the nation”. I agree Raheem Mostert needed to be held accountable for his frequent fumbles, and that Green should be getting more carries…but completely shutting Mostert down? With Hazell pledging to get him back in the gameplan this week, my mind can’t help but think of two weeks ago when it looked like Hazell had no contingency plan in case Etling started the season poorly. It seems like Coach Haze is flying by the seat of his pants with this Mostert decision as well, a glaring lack of foresight from the dude burdened with rebounding after the supposed worst hire in recent Big Ten history (thanks for that one, Pat Forde). I’m still not seeing what I hoped when Hazell was given his first $2M check, which is disappointing as he creeps closer to the two-year mark on the job.
As Coach Hazell so eloquently put it, Illinois is an even matchup for Purdue on paper. Ain’t that the least comforting thing you’ve ever heard? After watching them closely these last two weeks (because it looked like Purdue’s only shot at a win), I can honestly say that I have no idea whatsoever about Illinois’ biggest strength. Tim Beckman’s squad is just as bad as Hazell’s, which might make for some of the ugliest football played in the Big Ten this year. And if you've been watching Purdue’s second halves, you know I don’t say that lightly.
Quote of the week, from the Champaign Room’s post trying to ease the concerns of the restless Illinois fanbase after a blowout loss (stop me of that sounds familiar): “If Illinois loses to Purdue, then I will hand craft a torch and pitchfork and join these fans at the gates of Hell.” We've become that team, folks. Not too sure what to do about it… then again I’m not writing or cashing the big checks to figure it out. But the Morgan Burke/Mitch Daniels rant is for another day after we hit rock bottom (again) (again) (again).
Ugh, prediction time I guess. If in doubt, take the home team to win and the underdog to cover the spread. And I live my life in doubt, especially when it comes to this forsaken team.
Spread: Illinois -10
Illinois 28 Purdue 24
Watching Purdue struggle as we have, it’s very hard to keep perspective. A commenter on our site this week took a very natural and non-emotional approach. He said that year one is when you bring in the new staff and begin to reshape everything. Year two is when you rebuild it all into your mold. And year three is when you’ve now got some of your guys in there and can really have it all take shape and begin looking like the new Purdue. I like this logic and it really does shine some light of perspective on things. We’re getting really impatient and expecting Hazell to do what he did at Kent State and that just isn’t reasonable.
That said… when much of the fanbase is simply requesting some visible progress, that’s not all that demanding. And as we’ve noted, there has been some progress this year, to be sure. But of course, what does that really mean? Last year’s team was so legendarily bad, it would be hard to not to have some forward progress. Hell, losing out from here could be argued as progress over last season, when they failed to beat an FBS foe and almost lost to their one FCS opponent. Now that those hurdles have been cleared, we very understandably want to see more. And when the offense shows many signs of being the lethargic, sleepy outfit it was last year, that’s what is alarming people. Losing games when you’re rebuilding is not unacceptable – having an offense that can’t put up more than 160 yards on homecoming against an average Iowa team is. Especially when your D is playing well enough to win games.
Which brings us to Illinois. Tim Beckman is still the coach there, despite being something like 1-16 in Big Ten play since he arrived. His lone win, of course, was a 20-16 rockfight in Ross-Ade last season. So Boeck has yet to win a conference game in front of the home fans. So you can bet they’re looking a this game as just as much of an opportunity as Purdue is. And Purdue should be – if they cannot beat a flimsy Illinois team, then I don’t think they win another game this season. Sure, they could surprise us and fall into one but really, the road gets tougher from here and weeks of having their brains beaten in with surely erode at their confidence and will.
Illinois defense is not very good and can be run on. So in my opinion, Purdue needs to run the ball with guys like Hunt, Mostert and Cottom until Illinois stacks the box heavily and then take advantage of that with the occasional play-action pass. It doesn’t matter whether it is Etling or Appleby – they shouldn’t be throwing more than 20 times in this game and they should be successful. There is nothing that Illinois does particularly well. And if Purdue’s defense plays as it has been playing, it shouldn’t take more than 20 points to win this game.
I’m going to be optimistic and say that Purdue gets Coach Hazell his first Big Ten victory and his first road win as Boilermaker head coach. That would put the 2014 Purdue team at 3-3 at the halfway marker… which is actually respectable. Let’s hope it happens.
Purdue 23 Illinois 16
I've been out of town for a few days...thanks for noticing.
While away, I've read more practice reports than the previous weeks simply because I'm not watching much TV and am not on the computer with work for big chunks of the day.
The reports seem to point to what I'd like to see- Appleby starting for our Boilers...but honestly, I don't think it matters who starts at QB. Illinois is not that good.
Plus, unlike last season, Purdue has had a pretty good showing following each mediocre or bad effort this season...and I think it will be that way again tomorrow. But for that to happen, the guys up front have to collapse Illinois' pocket and the DBs have to come up with a pick (or two). If Illinois finds rhythm in their passing game, I'm pretty sure Purdue can't play a shootout in the 40s to win.
It might be that I'm vacation drunk...or drunk while on vacation...but I feel pretty good about this one.
The good guys win a squeaker in which the offense actually shows up in the third quarter.
Purdue 33 The Chief 27