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It is Purdue vs. Wisconsin for the leaders Division title
The Purdue football program needs some good news to wash the bad taste of last week out of its mouth. No one is happy at all after crapping the bed at home yet again in a big game. Much of that ill will can be erased though with a win over the Badgers. Of all the teams in the Big Ten (Nebraska excluded) Wisconsin strangely has the longest winning streak over Purdue in Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue has beaten every other team in the Big Ten at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2003, but our last home win over Wisconsin came in 1997.
In addition to the potential for the leaders Division title there is history here. We all remember The Fumble, but Wisconsin won a battle of Heisman candidates (Drew Brees vs. Ron Dayne) in 1999 and a couple of offensively challenged games in 2006 and 2010. Wisconsin has been a thorn in our side for quite some time, more so than even Michigan or Ohio State. At least we have a couple of wins over those schools. We've beaten Wisconsin only once since 2001.
I wish that confidence was higher given their struggles, but after asking this morning via Twitter it clearly is not:
@hammerandrails Not confident at all. We were completely out-coached last week. Wisky can be dangerous.— Aneesh Ramaswamy (@phoenyx29) October 11, 2012
@hammerandrails After last week, and with what Danny the Wonderhope has been saying to the media, I'm not feeling good about this one.— Ben DeVoe (@interroben) October 11, 2012
2011 Record: 11-3, 6-2 Big Ten (Big Ten Champions)
2012 Record: 4-2, 1-1
Bowl Result: Lost to Oregon 45-38 in Rose Bowl
Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter
Series With Purdue: Wisconsin leads 41-29-8
Last Purdue win 10/18/2003 at Wisconsin 26-23
Last Wisconsin win: 11/5/2011 at Wisconsin 62-17
Time & TV: Noon ET on Big Ten Network
Line: Purdue by 2.5
Weather: Sunny and 72 degrees, 40% chance of storms
Things have not gone according to plan for the Badgers in 2012. The offensive has been hit-or-miss and that has led to some uncomfortably close games. A late fourth down stop saved them from losing to Northern Iowa. A missed field goal allowed them to hang on against Utah State at home. The UTEP game was far from pretty, but it was a win.
Their remaining schedule gives Purdue slight hope if it loses this game but somehow wins the final six on the schedule. Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State are serious challenges, but they would basically have to lose all three and Purdue would have to win five of its final six games to pass them with a loss on Saturday.
Wisconsin Offense Vs. The Purdue Defense:
Normally, I would be terrified of this matchup after last week. No team usually power rushes better than Wisconsin and we just got torched on the ground by Michigan. Wisconsin is looking shockingly mortal on the ground this season though. They have gained only 801 yards rushing in six games, down almost 100 yards per game even with the same stable of running backs.
The offensive line is part of the problem. It is predictably big with Kyle Costigan the smallest at 313 pounds. Travis Frederick (6'4" 338 pounds) and Rob havenstein (6'8" 342 pounds) are massive individuals that anyone should be able to run behind. They have not clicked, however. Here is what Mike said in the Q&A yesterday:
I think the only rational answer (boy, have there been many irrational ones) is the combination of several new starters and the firing of first-year offensive line coach Mike Markuson after the Week 2 loss at Oregon State is a whole heck of a lot of turnover to deal with.
Still, they can get it done. Ball has 596 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. What is a bad season compared to last year is still a very good one compared to anyone else. James White (171-2) and Melvin Gordon (150-1) do a good job of spelling him, but this is still Ball's team. Given what he did against us last season I am not excited with the prospect of seeing him again.
Another major reason is inconsistency at the quarterback position. Joel Stave and Danny O'Brien have split duties about as much as Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush with similar results. They are a combined 89 of 146 with 1,172 yards, seven TDs, and three interceptions. For now, Stave is the starter, but both could play in addition to Curt Phillips.
The pass defense should be simple: It needs to consist of covering Jared Abbrederis (27-516-5). He is the only receiver averaging more than two catches per game. Jacob Pedersen and Jordan Frederick are No. 2 and No. 3, but barely average 18 yards per game.
On paper it should be easy. Stave and O'Brien are hardly as mobile as Russell Wilson, so we need to stack the box and double cover Abbrederis. He is by far the No. 1 target, so I swear I am going to completely lose my shit if he wanders wide open over the middle of the field on third down. There is no excuse for it. I'd stick Josh Johnson on him and make sure we have seven guys in the box on every down. If the defensive line and especially the linebackers wake up this week it gives us our best chance.
Wisconsin is also a pathetic 22 of 78 on third downs for 28%, so that is even more reason to be infuriated if they throw to a wide open Abbrederis on 3rd and 18.
Wisconsin Defense Vs. The Purdue Offense:
The Wisconsin defense has not really been the problem this year. Holding a team 10 points should be enough for a team with Wisconsin's historical offense, but it wasn't at Oregon State. They really failed in the second half against Nebraska, but the rest of the season has been decent.
It is a good run defense giving up 114.7 yards per game, so we should expect the yards to be hard for Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt yet again. Both backs simply have had nowhere to go on many plays, and against Michigan the running game was abandoned quickly for an ineffective passing game because we fell behind by so much.
The pass defense has struggled a little, giving up 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns. Linebacker Chris Borland has been the heart and soul of the defense and may be the best linebacker we have faced since Manti Te'o. Borland and Mike Taylor are playing at an all-Big Ten level. Taylor leads the conference with 67 tackles and Borland is sixth with 53 tackles and three sacks.
The defensive line has not gotten much of a push with Beau Allen and David Gilbert each only having two sacks. They are not helping out a secondary that has only one interception on the year. That pick belongs to Devin Smith.
This needs to be the game where Caleb TerBush finally shows why Danny Hope is all hyped up about him. He's not going to throw a pick unless it is a royal screwup and he should have time to make throws. We need to get away from the screens and start looking at some slants over the middle. O.J. Ross, Gary Bush, and Antavian Edison are all speed merchants, but we have been getting them the ball at a dead stop instead of already in stride where their speed is better used.
Most importantly Purdue has to lead early. The common theme in almost every big game loss under Danny Hope is this team's tendency to curl up and die when it falls behind early. That leads to blowouts like 2009 Wisconsin, 2010 Ohio State, 2011 Notre Dame, and last week. We can move the ball through the air here. If TerBush can't do it we have to go to Marve before we're down multiple scores. I am okay with going with Rob Henry, Austin Appleby, Austin Parker, or hell, even Stone Cold Steve Austin as long as it gets an ineffective TerBush off the field if he struggles again.
Special Teams vs. Special Teams:
One of the very small bright spots last week was Paul Griggs, who got a chance to settle in and make a couple of field goals. He's now 3 for 3 on the year and will be about even with Kyle French, who is 4 of 5. Drew Meyer and Cody Webster are each averaging better than 42 yards per kick, but Webster has been better about downing htem inside the 20.
In the kick return game teams are terrified of Raheem Mostert, and Wisconsin will likely do anything they can to kick away from him after he single-handedly tried to keep us in last year's game. Melvin Gordon is not near the threat he is.
On punt returns we need to be aware of Kenzel Doe, who has an 82 yard return for a score. Gibboney's unit hasn't given up a punt return TD... yet.
It looks like thunderstorms could come in later in the afternoon, but otherwise it should be a perfect fall day in West Lafayette.
After looking at the stats and the matchups I feel a little bit better, but I cannot be too confident after last week. We just looked too awful on offense. So far Caleb TerBush has checked completely out against the two good defenses (Michigan and Notre Dame) he has faced. He cannot afford to do that again. Another three and out on our first possession would, quite frankly, be a disaster.
Purdue has to score first in this game. Their run defense is good, but it is not a brick wall. The offensive line has got to open some holes for the Akeems. We also need to get the ball in space to guys like Hunt and Mostert more. Gabe Holmes could also be a very useful weapon here if we're willing to go to him over the middle.
Defensively it is simple: stop Ball and Abbrederis at all costs. We cannot let either of these guys go wild. They are their two biggest offensive threats by far, so we have to focus on them and make someone else beat us. Ball has been a little careless with the football in recent weeks too, so a Kawann Short strip or two would be nice.
Book tickets to Indianapolis if:
- Purdue scores first.
- Kawann Short, Ryan Russell, and the D-line has a big day.
- Abbrederis is contained.
- Purdue runs the ball well.
- Purdue goes away from exclusive screens and throws over the middle.
- TerBush avoids an interception
Start building Danny Hope effigies if:
- Purdue starts slowly on offense.
- TerBush throws a pick.
- Ball runs for 200 yards again.
- Abbrederis is open with impunity on third and long.
- The defense in general can't stop 3rd downs.
- We abandon the running game again.