Purdue Continues to Be Favored Despite Last Win Being a Month Ago – The Illinidicto
If I told you before the season that Purdue would be favored by two touchdowns in any game this season, you would have said I was crazy. What if I said they would be favored four times in five weeks, including three straight games (including one on the road!)? Well, you’d not only say I was crazy, but then you’d get pretty excited because you would figure your dreams of Jeff Brohm returning Purdue to glory will have come true early.
Strangely, though, Purdue is still being Purdue and is currently riding a three game losing streak. Perhaps they haven’t learned how to play as favorites. Perhaps they’re still not good. Perhaps the meat grinder of a Big Ten season is wearing down these guys. Perhaps a lot of things. The cure should be rolling into West Lafayette this weekend, as the hapless Illini come to town. (This simulation has Purdue eking one out, if you’re into 43 minutes of watching a video game.)
So what do we think is going to happen?
As of Monday, ESPN’s “matchup predictor” has Purdue with an 85% chance of winning this game. What would you put the percentage at?
Aneesh: Damn, how did I turn into the pessimist? Before the Rutgers game, we called this the most important month of the season. Two/three wins, and Purdue's on their way to a bowl. Drop even two, and we'll have to reevaluate the season.
Purdue's dropped two, can't seem to put away inferior teams, and has no wide receivers with opposable thumbs. And you think the Good Guys should be favored against anyone by 14 points, with a 75% chance to win? No way.
I'm going with 55%-60%, and channeling my inner J Money with this answer -- I love this team, I love this coaching staff, and Purdue football is absolutely moving in the right direction. But before I'm confident again, I'm going to need to see some life from Purdue's receiving core.
Boilerdowd: One of EsPN's predictors said Purdue had a 90+% chance of victory with two minutes left last week...how did that work out? Computers don't notice when an all-con type of linebacker gets injured and a starting corner is already out, all while a coach is going into his shell, from a play-calling standpoint...But everyone in Ross-Ade did.
Illinois might be bad...but depending upon who is healthy at kickoff and stays healthy 'til 0:00, Purdue could win or lose on Saturday...even v. Illinois. I'd say it stands at 65-70% chance of victory...whatever that means.
J Money: I don’t see how Purdue can be an 85% likely winner against anyone in the conference right now. Favored? Okay, sure, maybe at home against this Illinois team. But 85% means, to me, that it’s almost a lock to be a blowout. I’d sure take it but I have been very concerned about this game for weeks, even before this slide began. I’ll say 60%.
Michael: 75%, unfortunately. I think they should be favored to win this game, but we've seen this team make critical errors in key moments in the last three games, so I would need to see that trend reverse itself because I believe that it will. Illinois is baaaaaad. I'm not even sure Lovie Smith has a clue that he's still the coach. Having said that, after losing to Rutgers in a way that suggests that Purdue should look past nobody, you have to think that Illinois has a pretty solid chance here.
Dave: 85% looks good to me. Connelly has Purdue at 80%, but Illinois isn't where Rutgers and Nebraska are, and I think Jeff Brohm gets at least 5 percentage points when Lovie Smith is on the other sideline. I wouldn't go higher than 85% after the last couple of weeks: while this is as close to a gimme as the conference provides these days, the Boilers aren't quite in a position to take as easily as they will next season.
For the first game all season, Elijah Sindelar didn’t see any action (on the field) and David Blough, despite losing, threw some great passes and hasn’t thrown a pick since the first half against Minnesota. Has he officially won the job?
Aneesh: Everyone knows my position (reverse cowgirl? –Ed.) – Sindelar has the size, poise, and in a conservative game-management scheme is a perfectly fine option. But when he has to throw, he can't hit the broad side of a barn. Accuracy has been an issue all year, and when that's compounded with mistakes like the game-clinching pick vs Wisconsin, I don't see how he's "earned" playing time.
This job has been Blough's all season. Brohm was seemingly excited about Blough under center all summer, but once he sustained that shoulder injury the confidence eroded. Blough has the ability to leave the pocket and create plays out of nothing, has an accurate-enough arm, and was making pinpoint throws last week only to be let down by his receivers. The redshirt junior QB was voted a captain, has the trust of his teammates, and is the much better option at this moment.
Boilerdowd: Blough is a better runner and throws a more-catchable ball...some of that is his accuracy...some of that is his velocity. He undoubtedly throws a better deep ball, which is important to Brohm. Sadly, it seems it's utterly uncatchable for this corps, at this point.
Here's to Brohm calling a game like Brohm for four quarters...Blough playing fearless...and the receivers doing their jobs as well.
J Money: I think so and I think he deserves it. He’s the better quarterback and the team has generally looked more lively with him in there, with a few notable exceptions. I’m fine with Sindelar being in the bullpen and coming in when Blough is painfully ineffective (like the first quarter versus Minnesota). But short of that need, I think Blough should get all the snaps, as he did last weekend.
Michael: I hope so. I like Sindelar, I think with better tools around him he's a better QB than Blough. But Purdue did not lose to Nebraska because of Blough; they lost to Nebraska because Purdue's WRs either can't get open or can't catch the damn ball, even if it hits them in the hands and they're wide open. They also lost because their OL can get a push up front and their defense was tired from being on the field the whole time...point being, Blough was a bright spot for Purdue and I think he's done enough to afford him the privilege of not having to look over his shoulder. Having said that, if he turns in a poor performance this week then we're right back in the same spot. If he makes it to halftime without any dumb errors, then we're probably ride-or-die with Blough for the foreseeable future unless the wheels completely come off. If he struggles right off the bat, then that's evidence that his horribly inconsistent play has not gone away, he can't be trusted for long stretches of play, and Sindelar better keep that arm warm.
Dave: Blough has the job as much as is possible this year. He threw at least two passes Saturday that could only have been improved by piloting a drone downfield and having it lower the ball gently into a receiver's hands (unfortunately, given the outcomes, that might have been necessary), put other balls on target, took sacks instead of lofting the ball up for grabs ... basically doing everything that was asked of him. There's always a chance that Sindelar will get more playing time this year, especially if Blough regresses, but as of right now, I'd expect Purdue to use a one-QB game plan against the Illini.
Purdue wins this game if….
Aneesh: ...Brohm sticks with the running attack he deployed vs Nebraska, and the receivers catch like four more balls. Illinois is slowly rebuilding in Lovie's second year (yeah, we're stunned it's only his second year too), but doesn't have anywhere close to the talent of Nebraska or even Rutgers. Purdue's stable of very solid running backs should be able to tire out Illinois' linebackers, and if the wideouts can catch just a few more to keep the secondary honest I think Purdue banks their fourth win of the year. But those are two massive if's.
Boilerdowd: Blough throws for over 250yds, has at least 2 TDs, and 2 Ints or fewer...I think the other stuff works itself out v. Illinois.
J Money: The receivers catch the ball. That’s really it. The defense will do their part and the running game has been solid. When Coach Brohm asks David Blough to toss it downfield and he puts it in his receivers’ hands better than if he had walked down the field and placed it there, they need to hold on. If they do, Purdue wins easily.
Michael: They run the ball and their receivers catch the balls that fall gently right in their bread basket. Seriously, last week was awful to watch. The defense has done enough to show that they are legit, it all falls on Purdue's playmakers on offense now.
Dave: Purdue wins this game if ... hold on, I've got to compose myself. If the passing game improves on both offense and defense. We all saw the issues on offense: Purdue simply doesn't have receivers who can spread a defense and catch passes. But the defense - aside from Gelen Robinson, who reminded us that yet again, the Good Guys have an outstanding DL this season - was surprisingly ineffective against Nebraska's passing attack, particularly on standard downs, where NU had a 49% success rate (compared to 23% on passing downs) and got 9.33 yards per pass attempt (5.65 on passing downs). With the Boilers shutting down the Huskers on the ground, it shouldn't have been a surprise to see Nebraska go to the air again and again, but it sure looked that way from the stands. Illinois is bad. B-a-d bad. But pretty much any I-A QB can hit open receivers; the Good Guys just need to do a better job of getting non-Robinson pressure and covering receivers when they don't get that pressure.
Final score predicto?
Aneesh: Purdue 28, Illinois 24. A loss this week, and we're really going to have to reassess the early-season "progress" of this coaching staff.
Boilerdowd: Purdue 30, Illinois 20
J Money: Purdue 24, Illinois 14. Nervously.
Michael: Purdue 24, Illinois 13.
Dave: Illinois' run defense is bad. Purdue's running game is excellent: 22nd in S&P+, 7th in adjusted line yards, 13th in success rate. The OL will get the backs some yards, and the backs will get those yards and then some. Lovie will keep sifting through his QBs, looking for one that will solve his problems. Hint: there isn't one. The Boilers will catch the breaks they didn't get last week, but they won't need them. Purdue 31, Illinois 6
BONUS QUESTION: How many more games will Purdue win this season? (Yes, your third shot at a final record prediction.)
Aneesh: I said 4 wins during the preseason, and 6 wins in the Predicto Reviso. Let's split the difference -- I think Purdue ends up with 5 wins (vs Illinois this Saturday, and one other wild card...dare I say vs Indiana?).
Boilerdowd: One. Dammit.
J Money: I’ll go bold and say two, finishing with five victories. A legit step forward, no matter how it feels in the moment.
Michael: Two, I think. I couldn't tell you which two though. [Good thing this isn’t a Predicto, then. Oh, wait…-Ed.]
Dave: Purdue will win 2 more games. They played just about well enough the last two games to make those coin tosses, and they lost both. Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana are all basically coin-toss games; it's unlikely the Good Guys will take two in that group, with the Wildcats showing unexpected life against Sparty and Iowa being a road game. I like the idea of a 5-7 Purdue team going to a crappy bowl because nobody else can, but I'd rather see them hit my middle prediction and win 3 regular-season games plus a bowl. (In theory, they could also win out and lose a bowl game. After last week, I'm not ready to predict that.)