Purdue Boilermakers @ Illinois Fighting Illini: The Battle for the Purdue Cannon

Dan WelinCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2010

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini calls offensive signals as Randall Hunt #66 waits to snap the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When: Saturday @ 12 PM EST


The Illinois Fighting Illini welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to Champaign, looking to hoist the Purdue Cannon trophy for the first time since 2002.

The Boilermakers have had the trophy since 2003 and hold the all time series lead at 30-26-2.

The Illini and the Boilermakers enter week nine with 4-3 records, but Purdue sports a 2-1 record in the conference, while Illinois is an even 2-2 in their first four Big Ten games.

Despite having a winning record in the conference, the Boilermakers beat the lowly Minnesota Golden Gophers and were manhandled by the Ohio State Buckeyes, 49-0.  They do have an impressive road victory over the Northwestern Wildcats that should not be overlooked.

Illinois had a tough beginning to their Big Ten schedule, playing Michigan State and Ohio State tough. The Illini only had so much fight in them before both of those opponents wore them down.

Illinois also has an impressive victory at Penn State and beat Indiana fairly easily last week.

Both of these teams have solid defenses, in particular on the defensive line.

Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and Illinois’ Corey Liuget have been forces in the Big Ten this season and are big reasons why both teams have shown the potential to make a bowl game this season.

Purdue and Illinois only need two more victories each to become bowl eligible, with Saturday’s contest being a pivotal game for both teams.

Purdue has a tough road ahead of them, with Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana all remaining on their schedule.

For Illinois, they have their sights set on finishing the season with an 8-4 record or even a 9-3 record, needing a victory against Purdue to keep their dream alive.

Purdue enters the game as a 17 point underdog and has had season injuries to some of their best players.

Quarterback Rob Henry’s injured hand does not help either, especially against the surprising Illini defense.

As long as the boys up front can keep Big Ten sack leader Kerrigan from Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, he should continue to find his comfort zone at home, especially considering that Purdue’s passing defense allows 232 yards per game and has had only six interceptions this season.

Look for running back Mikel Leshoure to get back on track and rush for over 100 yards for the first time since October 9 against Penn State.

The Boilermakers have held the trophy since 2003, but Illinois’ defense, especially against an undermanned Purdue offense, should be all the Illini need to return the Purdue Cannon to Champaign.