4. Josh McCray
Everyone knows that running back Reggie Love III is going to get his. He has been an extremely consistent and reliable runner since taking over the starting job this season.
The thing with Love is the fact that offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. has clearly game planned for him to only get 8-12 carries per game. In fact, Love has 12 carries in three out of four contests this season.
That means Illinois needs a reliable backup. The Illini have multiple options at the backup spot. One is freshman Kaden Feagin. He got the final carry that sealed away the game against Florida Atlantic. Josh McCray is the other option.
McCray is clearly the trusted running back for Lunney. He had a terrible start to the season with 19 carries for 48 yards, which was 2.5 yards per carry. Against Florida Atlantic, McCray finally broke out of his slump. He was given the rock on 14 carries and amassed 73 yards. This was, by far, the best he has looked all season.
Purdue’s defense is susceptible to a good running game. I mentioned how the Syracuse quarterback went for nearly 200 yards against the Boilermakers. Opposing running backs have had an easy time as well.
Last week, Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen averaged 7.3 yards per carry. He finished the game with 16 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The lead running backs for Syracuse and Fresno State each averaged 4.7 yards per carry as well.
Love is going to get his yards, but having a backup behind Love who can gain huge chunks of yards at a time is going to be important. We have to have a balanced attack against the Boilermakers. If McCray can get going on the ground, then Purdue will have to bring more players in the box. This will leave more opportunities for Luke Altmyer to strike downfield.