The parade of guest bloggers continues this week and shrinks back down to one. Bucky's 5th Quarter is a long-time member of the SBNation Network and Mike Fiammetta has done an excellent job writing about the Badgers. Earlier this week I answered his questions at B5Q and even took part in the Kielbasa Kings podcast last night. Mike was kind enough to answer my questions about the Badgers in advance of Saturday's conference opener in Madison.
T-Mill: Purdue is used to getting trampled by Wisconsin in the running game. Is Andersen running a similar system where he only needs a QB to hand off and make maybe 10 throws per game?
Mike: I wouldn't say that's the intent of Andersen's system, but yes -- Wisconsin's running game will be the key until Joel Stave develops into a consistent quarterback. Those backs are good enough to have the Badgers live up to expectations this season, too. Melvin Gordon may already be Wisconsin's next great running back -- he's the only FBS rusher this season to average more than 10 yards per carry, among those with at least 30 carries. James White catches flak for not being Gordon and Montee Ball combined, but the senior is as good of a 5'10, 195-pound back as you could have. Then there's Corey Clement, the true freshman who crushed UW's first two opponents, but didn't really do anything against Arizona State.
Best-case scenarios for Wisconsin this season have always, and will always, hinge on the passing game's ability to keep defenses honest and complement the rushing attack however possible. Stave's been shaking so far, but it's not all his fault -- Wisconsin's pass protection vs. Arizona State was mostly terrible.
T-Mill: How much of a carry-over effect do you think last week's screwjob in the desert will have?
Mike: Honestly, not much. I think if Wisconsin falters vs. Purdue -- either by looking sloppy or losing outright -- it'll be more due to looking past the Boilermakers and toward Ohio State, who's next. With Gary Andersen at the helm, nobody thinks that'll happen.
One thing, too, people shouldn't forget: As laughable as it is, these players are accustomed to terrible losses. Just look at each of their last three Rose Bowl losses. Heck, each of Wisconsin's last 11 losses have come by seven points or fewer.
So much as that ASU ending stinks -- and oh yeah, it stinks -- I don't think there'll be much hangover once kickoff comes Saturday.
T-Mill: Chris Borland is a tackling machine and the centerpiece of a defense that hasn't given up a point at home. Is that a testament to how good it is or how bad the competition is?
Mike: Chris Borland is absolutely that good. He's one forced fumble shy of tying the NCAA career record, and he's recorded 332 tackles in his three-plus seasons and counting. He's the rock of the linebackers, and if Dezmen Southward wasn't so tasked with keeping the insanely young secondary together, it'd be undeniable that Borland is the most important player on Wisconsin's defense.
T-Mill: How does it feel knowing that Wisconsin (The Fumble in 2004) was the impetus for the entire decline of Purdue football from its highest point in decades?
Mike: It doesn't really feel good or bad, honestly, though we'd definitely like Purdue to return to that high point. I like West Lafayette, I like Purdue's tradition and I think their uniforms are pretty sweet. Yes, it's nice having a consistently weak opponent on the schedule (sorry), but I think all us B1G bros would gladly welcome a deeper conference. That's not just on Purdue, of course.
T-Mill: Obviously this game is big in the Big Ten standings. Do you think Wisconsin can make it four straight Rose Bowls?
Mike: Arizona State was the first step in making four straight Rose Bowls happen, though it was certainly never required. Ohio State's the key there, but any missteps along the way (Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota) will obviously prevent that from happening. My non-biased-as-possible opinion is that Wisconsin has the talent, it's just a matter of following through by winning games.
T-Mill: The Badgers have dominated this series since 2003. What has to happen for Purdue to stun them in Madison?
Mike: Purdue will have to force turnovers, fluster Stave and exploit Wisconsin's vulnerable secondary to make that happen. All of those are absolutely possible, and they're the principal reasons some Badger fans may be fearing a trap game. I personally don't see it happening, but... wilder things have happened. Like, last week.