Illinois football has a chance to move above .500 with a win over the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday.
Here is what the Illinois football team will face, as these are the pregame grades of the Purdue offense
- Quarterback – Passing B-, Running B, Overall B-
Purdue quarterback Hudson Card isn’t a bad player by any means, but he has been struggling lately.
After a solid start against Fresno State where Card threw two touchdowns, he hasn’t been the same since. Over the past two weeks, he has just one touchdown through the air and three interceptions.
It seems that Card can move the ball down the field at times, but he makes those backbreaking mistakes that put the offense behind the eight ball. The one issue that Illinois might have with Card is his running ability.
This season, Card has 95 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. If Purdue wants to take control of this game, it will need to be with Card’s scrambling ability. I think he might struggle in the passing game.
- Running Back – Running B-, Receiving C-, Overall C
With Graham Harrell as the Boilermakers offensive coordinator, the program doesn’t run the ball at a high rate. They are a passing team.
But that doesn’t mean when Purdue does run the ball that they aren’t effective. Devin Mockobee is a solid running back who has averaged 4.0 yards per carry this season. In 2022, he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in the game against Illinois.
Purdue might have found a spark at running back in Tyrone Tracy Jr. He is averaging 7.0 yards per carry this season and is coming off an impressive eight carries for 84 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin.
Overall, I am not too scared of the Purdue running backs. It is the quarterback play that will determine how well the Boilermakers do on Saturday.
- Wide Receiver – Overall A-
When they actually get the ball, I think Purdue has some explosive wide receivers. Card can spread the ball out, and this is good and bad for the Illini.
TJ Sheffield is a great, experienced, pass catcher in the slot. He is going to be dangerous as a check-down for Card. Deion Burks is extremely explosive out on the edge and has the big play ability. I am also worried about Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen who can fly as well. He has great hands and is having the best season of his career.
The problem with Purdue won’t be their wide receivers. It will be can the quarterback get the ball accurately to these playmakers.
- Tight End – Overall B+
Purdue has one of the best freshmen tight ends in the country in Max Klare. He joined the program and has instantly made an impact.
Klare has 19 receptions for 169 yards through four games. He is second on the team in receptions and has become a primary go-to target for Card.
It is always nice to have a reliable safety blanket in a tight end. Klare isn’t flashy, but he has the ability to get you a crucial first down when needed. He is a standard Purdue tight end.
- Offensive Line – Overall C
The offensive line for the Boilermakers has been suspect this season. They have a lot of talent in right tackle Marcus Mbow, as the sophomore has 18 starts under his belt in the short time in West Lafayette. He also has a Pro Football Focus grade of 73.4, which ranks No. 58 in the country.
Purdue’s biggest issue is on the other side of the line with left tackle, Mahamane Moussa. He is struggling this season with a grade of 55.7, which ranks No. 421 in the country. This is where Illinois could thrive, especially if Purdue has to double-team Jer’Zhan Newton. Look for Keith Randolph Jr. and whoever is coming off the corner to feast.
The rest of the offensive line has a ton of experience but is playing some average football. You have 92 starts between LG Preston Nichols, C Gus Hartwig, and RG Jalen Grant.
One thing to keep in mind is how often Card is getting pressured too. On 36.8% of passes, he is under pressure. He only competes 50% of his passes and has thrown an interception when this happens.
The Purdue offensive line is going to be important, but they could struggle greatly against Illinois. Look for the Illini to take advantage of a weak left tackle.