Wins have been in short supply for Darrell Hazell throughout his short tenure as the coach of Purdue, although his best moment in 2013 came against an opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Boilermakers attempt to surpass last year’s win total on Saturday when they host unbeaten Southern Illinois. Purdue went 1-11 under Hazell in his first year at the helm, leading Purdue to a six-point victory over an Indiana State team that finished with the same record in the MVC.
The Boilermakers have started to show improvement in 2014, however, stopping a 12-game losing streak against FBS competition in their season-opening 43-34 win over Western Michigan before making No. 9 Notre Dame struggle for 2 ½ quarters in last weekend’s 30-14 setback. Purdue has won each of the four games it has played against FCS competition over the last four seasons, but another victory is far from guaranteed versus the Salukis, who are 3-0 for the first time since 2007. Southern Illinois ranks fourth in the FCS in scoring (44.3 points) and 13th in total offense (463.3 yards).
TV: Noon p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: None
ABOUT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (3-0): Mark Iannotti tied a school record with six touchdown passes, throwing five of them to different players – a first in Saluki history - in a 50-23 win over Southeast Missouri last week. Two of those five scores went to 2013 FCS All-American tight end MyCole Pruitt and another went to running back Malcolm Agnew, who is averaging 150 rushing yards and ranks second in FBS with six touchdowns on the ground. Southern Illinois has only allowed two sacks on 83 pass attempts this season without left tackle Ethan Wirth (ankle), who the team is hopeful will return this week.
ABOUT PURDUE (1-2): The Boilermakers forced a fumble while also recording season highs in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (nine) against a Notre Dame team that entered last weekend’s contest without committing a turnover or allowing a sack. Running back Akeem Hunt needs only 48 yards to move ahead of Scott Dierking’s 3,561 career all-purpose yards for ninth place in school annals. Saturday will mark the debut of highly-touted junior college transfer offensive tackle David Hedelin, who was suspended for the first three games of the season by the NCAA for competing in club football after high school.
1. The Big Ten is 49-2 all-time against MVC foes, although one of those losses came in 2006 when Southern Illinois downed Indiana.
2. The Salukis have allowed a total of three points in the second half this season.
3. The Boilermakers have forced only one turnover in each of their first three games, but have turned each one into a touchdown.
PREDICTION: Purdue 28, Southern Illinois 27