Indiana (2-5) at Illinois (2-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (60,670) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Indiana 1-3, Illinois 2-2. Away Record: Indiana 1-2, Illinois 0-3. Neutral Record: Indiana 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Conference Record: Indiana 0-3, Illinois 0-3. Series Record: Illinois leads, 45-22-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams still winless in the Big Ten Conference Leaders Division try to get their seasons back on the right track when the Illinois Fighting Illini host the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon.
Indiana's season started off very well with a pair of wins over non-conference foes Indiana State (24-17) and UMass (45-6), but since then it has gone into a tailspin with five consecutive losses. The Hoosiers' three losses in league play have come in hard-fought battles against very good teams in Northwestern (44-29), Michigan State (31-27) and Ohio State (52-49). Still, they have gone just 3-25 against Big Ten opponents since the start of the 2008 season.
Illinois is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, falling most recently to Michigan on Oct. 13, 45-0. Unlike the Hoosiers however, the Illini have not shown much promise in their games, with all five of their losses coming by 14 points or more. They have scored a pair of wins at Memorial Stadium, although they came against obviously inferior competition (24-7 versus Western Michigan, 44-0 versus Charleston Southern).
The Illini have had their way with the Hoosiers in the all-time series, going 45-22-2. Indiana hasn't won in Champaign since 2006 (34-32).
It's safe to say that the Indiana offense (34.7 ppg, 465 ypg) has not been the team's issue in the first half of the season. It leads the Big Ten in passing offense with 303.1 ypg (18th nationally) and it has scored 24 points or more in seven straight games in the same season for the first time in school history.
Cameron Coffman has been largely impressive in the action he's seen (133- of-209, 1,320 yards, seven TDs, three interceptions), but he is coming off a poor performance against Navy last week where he threw two picks and no touchdowns. Nate Sudfeld (31-of-50, 434 yards) hasn't started a game yet but he has been impressive in limited duty with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Shane Wynn (38 receptions, 370 yards) and Cody Latimer (30 receptions, 465 yards) are both among the top-10 in the conference in catches. Wynn's five touchdown receptions tying for third-most in the league.
Stephen Houston has emerged as the lead running back with a team-high in carries (84), yards (450), and touchdowns (seven), but D'Angelo Roberts 233 yards, three TDs) and Tevin Coleman (206 yards, TD) get plenty of opportunities as well.
While the offense has found success, the defense has been the league's worst, allowing 31.7 ppg and nearly 450 ypg. Since allowing a total of 23 points in its first two wins, the Hoosiers have surrendered 31 points or more in each of their five consecutive losses, including three games allowing more than 40 points.
The unit has recorded 13 sacks and 48 tackles for loss, numbers it didn't reach until the 10th games of the 2011 season. Defensive tackle Adam Replogle (5.5 TFL, three sacks) leads all Big Ten defensive linemen with 6.3 tackles per game. Greg Heban (48 tackles) has two interceptions, but the team has forced just six total turnovers.
Not only does Illinois have the worst offense in the conference, but one of the worst in the country as it ranks 111th in the FBS in points per game with 18.1. Outside of a 44-point effort against FCS foe Charleston Southern, the Illini have put up more than 14 points just once in six games.
The quarterback play reached new lows in a shutout loss to Michigan, as Reilly O'Toole and Nathan Scheelhaase combined for just 29 yards on 7-of-16 passing with an interception. O'Toole has been the more effective of the two this season (62-of-83, 539 yards, six TDs, three INTs), although five of those scores came against Charleston Southern.
Ryan Lankford leads the team in all major receiving categories (26 receptions, 366 yards, five TDs). Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young have 23 catches each, but neither average more than 34 yards per game.
The running game has been stagnant for the most part. Young is the leading rusher with 276 yards and two scores, but he averages only 3.7 yards per carry.
The Illini's offensive woes often puts the defense (30.7 ppg) in difficult situations. The unit has shown some promise however, ranking 12th nationally in defensive three-and-outs, forcing 4.7 per game.
Ashante Williams (48 tackles, INT, FR) and Jonathan Brown (44 tackles, 6.5 TFL) are the unit's top performers. The Illini have difficulty getting to the quarterback, as Michael Buchanan leads the team in sacks with just 2.5.
It's been a long season so far for each of these teams, and a win is an absolute must if either has aspirations of making a bowl game this year. Illinois should be able to put up some points against a lackluster Indiana defense, but the Hoosiers' offense has been explosive and with a few big plays on the afternoon, Indiana could pull off an impressive road victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Indiana 31, Illinois 27
10/24 10:33:06 ET