UI-Purdue: 5 keys
Marcus Jackson breaks down Saturday's game (2:30 p.m., BTN)
Where’s Ryan Lankford been?
The Illini’s junior receiver got off to a blazing start this season, catching 23 passes for 347 yards through the first five games. But since a seven-catch, 104-yard showing against Penn State in the Big Ten opener, the Florida native has been silent. He has 12 catches for 124 yards in the last five games. Pressure on Illinois quarterbacks has limited the deep threat’s production. If Nathan Scheelhaase can get time, he’ll be looking for No. 12.
Is Robert Marve still playing college football?
Yep, Purdue’s starting quarterback today will turn 24 in February. After missing two seasons with ACL injuries, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility. He actually tore an ACL again this season, but he’s battling through his final year, leading the Boilermakers in passing efficiency (130.17). When Marve started his college career in 2007 at Miami (Fla.), Illinois freshman linebackers Mason Monheim and Mike Svetina, who are both starting today, were sixth-graders in Ohio.
Will the Boilers rush for 200 yards again?
It’s hard to know for certain, but the Boilermakers have an opponent who might be good for racking up the ground yards. Purdue ran for 211 yards in last week’s thriller at Iowa, led by Ralph Bolden’s 102-yard effort. It was the second time this season Purdue had eclipsed the 200-yard mark (the Boilers ran for 392 yards in a win against Eastern Michigan). Illinois ranks ninth in the 12-team Big Ten, giving up an average of 178.2 yards per game on the ground.
Will Antavian Edison catch a pass?
Chances are he will. Purdue’s senior wideout has caught a pass in 32 consecutive games, so no matter who’s quarterbacking the Boilermakers, getting Edison the ball is a priority. Edison leads the team and is second in the Big Ten with 52 receptions. He’s also got 575 yards and seven touchdowns receptions.
How can the Illini score?
No Big Ten team scores fewer points than the Illini (16.9 points per game). Against conference teams, Illinois scores 10.5 points per game. Last week’s dud against Minnesota marked the first time the Illini went without a touchdown at home since 1998. It’s clear Scheelhaase and Co. are struggling like never before. If the Illini are going to put points on the scoreboard, they’ll need help from the special teams. Terry Hawthorne has been a bright spot since he took over return duties at Ohio State. The senior cornerback is averaging better than 23 yards per kick return with a long of 45. If he breaks one, it could be the spark Illinois needs to get over the hump.