No, I haven't completely given up on football in favor of basketball. Yesterday was a travel day back from Florida, so I am just now getting back in the game fully. I'd also like to announce that Andy (a.k.a. Purdue_Pete) is coming on staff as an actual paid contributor now. That means he's upping his posts as SB Nation believes in the site enough to add a contributors budget. I spoke with them today and they admitted they were very surprised at the success of a Purdue site within the Network compared to sites that have been around longer and that have great fanbases. It is hoped that bringing Andy on as a paid contributor will only make the place better. Once again, credit goes to you readers for building it to this point.
So onto Wisconsin and Saturday: To be quite honest, it doesn't look good. Wisconsin is the team in the conference we have our longest active losing streak against, as we haven't beaten them since the game before The Fumble. Before the season started I felt this was the game we were least likely to win. With the Badgers dropping two in a row in heartbreaking fashion it is possible they are a bit demoralized. Any chance at the national title is gone. The Big Ten title hopes have taken a major hit. Everything they have worked for has gone up in smoke so maybe they are falling apart.
It's not likely, but that's about the only hope we have.
2010 Record: 11-2, 7-1 Big Ten (Big Ten tri-champs)
Bowl Result: Lost to TCU 21-19 in Rose Bowl
Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter
Series With Purdue: Wisconsin leads 40-29-8
Last Purdue win 10/18/2003 at Wisconsin 26-23
Last Wisconsin win: 11/6/2010 at Purdue 34-13
Russell Wilson is a true dual threat with 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns to go with stellar passing numbers. He's making a one-year-only appearance after transferring over from North Carolina State where he led the ACC in total offense. He has over 2000 yards passing and 19 touchdowns against only three interceptions. Those are all-Big Ten numbers, my friends. As long as we continue to dance around with Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush we don't even come close to matching Wilson in this department. I'm not sure we come close if we could somehow combine Marve and TerBush. I won't get into the quarterback debate, but it is clear to me we need to pick one and stick with him. I don't care who. Major Edge: Wisconsin
Where was Akeem Shavers last week? For the most part the running game didn't work aside from a big Jared Crank run, though we were playing from behind most of the day, thus requiring more passes. We don't have anyone like Montee Ball, who is putting up Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year-type numbers. He has 853 yards and 18 scores on the ground and another 220 yards and three scores through the air. When he does rest they only send in James White (474-4) who was a 1,000 yard rusher a year ago. Our backs our good, but theirs are excellent. Major Edge: Wisconsin
I like what Justin Siller did against Michigan and Gary Bush is starting to break out a little, but this is another case of our guys being good while theirs are better. Nick Toon (30-544-6) and James Abbrederis (36-595-4) give Wilson two solid options on every play (if they don't decide to run). Jacob Pedersen also has a very quiet six touchdowns on the season. White and Ball are both accomplished receivers out of the backfield who will each get a pass or two their way during a game. Basically, the Badgershave the offensive weapons to do whatever they want, and even last week against a great defense they still scored two touchdowns in their comeback without breaking a sweat. Major Edge: Wisconsin
This is the first very minor chink in the armor. Wilson has been sacked 13 times in eight games, but that hardly means he is running for his life in games. Ricky Wagner, Josh Oglesby, Travis Frederick, Kevin Zeitler, and Peter Konz are all at least 6'4" 315 points, with Oglesby topping out at 6'7" 330. That is as massive of an offensive line as we will see all season. In comparison to our own, well, you have seen our lack of pass protection. We do seem to run block well, but Ball and White have gotten a ton of yards behind these bulldozers plowing the way for them. Major Edge: Wisconsin
The Badgers have 21 sacks in eight games, but Louis Nzegwu leads a pass rush by committee with 4.5 sacks. These guys are hardly a brick wall against the run at almost 140 yards given up per game, so if (and it is a big if) we can establish the ground game early it serves the dual purpose of wearing them down and keeping their offense off the field. The long we can keep the offense on the sidelines, the better. In fact, I have no problem with a 15 play 80 yard drive of all runs followed by an onside kick and another such drive. For us to have a chance we need Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden to replicate their games against Illinois. Edge: Wisconsin
Mike Taylor and Chris Borland are two of the best in the Big Ten at their positions and are well on their way to 100 tackle seasons each. Combined they have 170 stops, 2.5 sacks, and two interceptions. Kevin Claxton, with 32 tackles, isn't exactly bad. Joe Holland started the game very well for us last week, but for the most part our linebackers were torn apart by the ground game. Wisconsin's rushing attack is much better than Michigan's too. Edge: Wisconsin
Wisconsin starts two juniors and two seniors, so the secondary is loaded with experience. Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus each have a pair of interceptions and the Wisconsin defense gives up less than 160 yards through the air. Once again, that tells me if we're going to have any success, it will be on the ground. It was nice to see Josh Johnson get his first pick of the season last week, but the secondary didn't need to do a lot when Michigan was running all day. Edge: Wisconsin
Philip Welch and Kyle French have split the kicking duties, going 4 of 7 on field goals. It often does not matter since Wisconsin usually just puts it in the end zone. Brad Nortman averages 42.5 yards per punt, while Abbrederis is one of the best punt returners in the nation (17.6 yards per return with a touchdown). Even here, we lack an advantage. Carson Wiggs has a big leg, but I don't trust our coverage units at all so he had better put it in the end zone every time. Raheem Mostert might break a big return, but it could be because he'll get a lot of chances since we will probably be giving up a lot of points. Edge: Even
Once again, the wolves are circling and people continue to call for the job of Danny Hope. It's not going to happen this year though. People talk about expecting nine win seasons and competition for BCS bowls while not wanting to "accept the mediocrity of a 6-6 year". Well, I don't think it is accepting it when most people agreed that is improvement over the past three seasons. I still think we're going to win two more games, and that will be enough for Hope to get another shot next season. There is still a lot of football to be played this year too. When you look at the way most people expected this season to unfold it has gone almost exactly to script. The loss to Rice was unexpected, but the upset of Illinois was a toss-up at best even as recent as two weeks before that game. There is still the possibility of a bowl game, a good recruiting class is coming, and key players will return at every position. In reality, Hope has only mismanaged the Rice game entirely and the whole quarterback situation.
Those are, of course, very large mistakes, so they standout. Bret Bielema is in no such trouble in Madison. Edge: Wisconsin
Last season we stunned many by leading the Badgers at halftime before succumbing to numbers and talent in the second half. Sean Robinson got his first career start and we played about as well as we possibly could for a half. Then Wisconsin methodically took us apart piece by piece in the second half in a 34-13 win. The year before our one highlight was Carson Wiggs booting the opening kickoff for a touchback before they drove 80 yards, all on running plays, for the opening score in a 37-0 blowout.
As optimistic as I usually am, I see us having a very difficult time unless Wisconsin goes completely against its character. This is a team that rarely makes mistakes, but they'll need to make a lot to even the playing field. They need to be soft against the run, but they have the ground game to chew us up instead of us chewing them up. For us to pull off what, in my mind, would be a shocking upset we'll need a few special teams breakthroughs, multiple turnovers, improved discipline (read: no dumbass penalties), and a lot of luck.