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Know Thy Opponent 2013: Wisconsin Badgers

No team has owned Purdue on the football field more than Wisconsin.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin has simply owned Purdue since the Fumble. On that fateful day now nine years ago Purdue was in the legitimate discussion about winning a football National Championship. Then, it happened. Purdue not only hasn't beaten Wisconsin since the trip to Madison before that in 2003, it hasn't even come close.

2004: Wisconsin 20, Purdue 17 (a.k.a., the Fumble)

2005: Wisconsin 31, Purdue 20

2006: Wisconsin 24, Purdue 3

2009: Wisconsin 37, Purdue 0

2010: Wisconsin 34, Purdue 13

2011: Wisconsin 62, Purdue 17

2012: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14

Purdue hasn't cracked even 20 points in eight years and went almost nine quarters (and five calendar years) without scoring a touchdown. Even then, it was thrown by a guy who is currently a middle linebacker (Sean Robinson). Purdue has beaten every other team in the Big Ten since the last time it beat Wisconsin. It has won at Michigan (for the first time since 1966), Notre Dame (for the first time since 1974), almost Ohio State (since 1988), and Iowa (since 1992) since the last time we beat the Badgers anywhere.

This morning someone asked me about which team owned Purdue. I said it was Wisconsin and not even close. I described playing them as being like prison sex: you know it is coming and it is not going to be pleasant, but you still try to fight it off like Andy in the Shawshank Redemption.

But hey, we do play them well in basketball at the Kohl Center and no one else does, so there is that.

2012 Record: 8-6, 4-4 (Big Ten Champions)

Bowl Result: Lost to Stanford 20-14

Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter

Series With Purdue: Wisconsin leads 42-29-8

Last Purdue win 10/18/2003 at Wisconsin 26-23

Last Wisconsin win: 10/13/2012 at Purdue 38-14

Last Season for the Badgers:

It was a bizarre year for Wisconsin, as they were only 4-4 in the league and 8-6 overall, but the sanctions at Penn State and Ohio State meant that their 62-14 win over Indiana on November 10 decided the Leaders Division. In reality, it was them and three pretty bad football teams playing to represent the division. They went to Indy, however, and won a third straight Big Ten title before playing a decent Rose Bowl against Stanford. That made three straight Rose Bowl losses, but coming from a school that has only been twice ever I would take it.

The game against Purdue was really the beginning of the end for Danny Hope. He started it off with a 52-yard pass from Caleb TerBush to Antavian Edison down to the one. TerBush scored on the next play, but the Nordfense kicked in as our brilliant brain trust thought a 7-0 lead could hold up for 59 minutes against a team that scored 62 points against Purdue the previous year.

Purdue gained only 66 yards the rest of the half after getting 52 on its first play. Then Montee Ball did what Montee Ball always did against Purdue: He ran for a metric s&%*-ton of yards. In his Wisconsin career Ball had 5,738 yards and 83 touchdowns from scrimmage. Against Purdue alone he had 643 yards and 8 TDs, most coming in the final three games. He only played Purdue four times in 54 possible games in his career, but had over 11% of his total yards. He twice topped 200 yards and three TDs in the same game. Needless to say, I am glad Purdue finally devised a strategy to stop him.

We sent him to the NFL.

Wisconsin Offense:

Under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema you knew exactly what was coming when you played the Badgers. They would have five very large gentlemen up front paving the way for a host of good running backs. Just as one back would leave another would emerge, be it Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett, or Ball. The quarterback was often a guy who spent 2-3 years waiting for his turn and was asked to only make the occasional throw and not screw up (exception, as always, for Russell Wilson). When you can hand off to a guy 40 times per game and not get touched it can be pretty easy to play quarterback at Wisconsin.

The 2013 quarterback situation is a little unsettled as Joel Stave (70-119-3, 1,104 yards, 6 TD), Curt Phillips (46-81-2, 540 yards, 5 TD), and Danny O'Brien (52-86-1, 523 yards, 3 TD) all come back after each played a roughly equal amount last year. Phillips started the Rose Bowl and Big Ten title game, but Stave was listed as the starter out of the spring. None of the three was great, nor were they awful.

Whoever does start will have Jared Abbrederis (49-837-5) back as one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. His numbers were actually down a bit last season, but he missed one game due to injury and had two others with just one reception. Jordan Frederick (17-196-1), Kenzel Doe (16-121-0) and tight end Jacob Pedersen (27-355-4) mean the top four receivers all return.

New coach Gary Andersen has the personnel to continue the run-heavy attack. Wisconsin averaged 236.4 yards per game on the ground as the 13th best rushing team in America last year. The only way you average more is if you're a service academy running the option. There is also still a ton of talent in the backfield led by James White (840 yards, 12 TD). White already has 2,571 yards rushing in his career and 32 scores with a 1,000 yard season in 2010 as a freshman. That would be the sixth best career total at Purdue, but at Wisconsin he is just another guy. Melvin Gordon (643 yards, 3 TD) gives White a solid backup as he is coming off of a good freshman season. Four-star Corey Clement also comes in as a touted freshman back.

The aforementioned large men up front return with the massive Rob Havenstein leading the way at 6'8" 342 pounds. He is not even the biggest player on the roster as his backup, Riki Kodanko, is 6'9" 342, and his third stringer is Jake Meador at 6'7" 341. I have no idea how you can go over 1,000 pounds of human being at the three-deeps in one position, but Wisconsin does it.

Even with all the size up front Wisconsin quarterbacks were sacked an average of twice per game. Sacks matter little when you rush for over 3,300 yards as a team, however. Dan Voltz is the only relative newcomer on the line at center as a redshirt freshman. Dallas Lewallen, Ryan Groy, and Kyle Costigan. Groy was Second Team all-Big Ten last season, but the line lost First-Team all-Big Ten Travis Frederick and Rick Wagner.

Wisconsin Defense:

We have established that Wisconsin is poised to continue running the football all over everyone in the league. Defensively, they were pretty good last year at 19.1 points given up per game. They allowed 128.9 yards on the ground and the secondary allowed less than 200 yards through the air. It was a good unit that often did not get help from an offense that could move the ball, but struggled to score points outside the state of Indiana. Think I am kidding? In 14 games Wisconsin scored 414 points, but 170 came in the three games (at Purdue, at Indiana, Big Ten Championship) they played within the Indiana borders.

Linebacker Chris Borland returns as a First Team all-Big Ten selection that had 104 tackles and 4.5 sacks along with three fumble recoveries. Brendan Kelly also gives them a solid pass rusher off the end as he was a team leader with five sacks as a linebacker in the 3-4 last season. The entire defensive line of Patrick Muldoon, Ethan Hemer, and Beau Allen is made up of seniors. Allen in particular has not missed a game in his career.

Ethan Armstrong will be a leader at linebacker with Borland as he had 93 tackles and an interception in 2012. Dezmen Southward is the seventh senior started listed on the depth chart after a decent season at safety last year. Paniel Jean and Darius Hilary must step up at corner, but freshman defensive back Keelon Brookins could have an impact.

This is a very experienced defense that is expected to start seven seniors. They have been to three straight Rose Bowls and the consensus says that only Ohio State stands in heir way of at least a chance at a fourth. Only Ohio State's 1975 class went to four straight from the Big Ten and no one since Michigan's 1979 senior class has even had a chance at four straight. It is a proud group that will not go away easily.

Wisconsin Special Teams:

Junior placekicker Kyle French was 10 of 16 last year with a long of 46 yards, so he was respectable without being great. Drew Meyer gave them a decent freshman season as a punter with a 41.5 average. Both Doe and Gordon split kickoff return duties with Doe handling punts and returning one for a score.

This area could be a wash, with Raheem Mostert giving Purdue and edge at kickoff returns. It should be noted that Mostert was the only player really aware that Purdue was playing a college football game in the 62-17 beatdown back in 2011. He had 206 yards on five kick returns, but you get an awful lot of chances to return kicks when you give up 62 points. Mostert had returns of 74, 49, and 40 yards and the Purdue offense only outgained him by 78 yards.

Game Outlook:

For years Purdue has known exactly what was coming when it played Wisconsin and still could not stop it. The Badgers have not only soundly beaten Purdue seven straight times, they have been physically dominant in every aspect of the game. Until that changes, Purdue will not beat Wisconsin anywhere, let alone at Camp Randall.

This is where coach Hazell really needs to change the attitude of our entire program. No one has pushed Purdue around like Wisconsin. Our Boilers can play well against undefeated teams like Ohio State and Notre Dame. It owns the Buckeyes in West Lafayette when OSU has dominated the conference for most of the last decade. Still, Purdue has done little to nothing right in 10 years against Wisconsin. All that time the physical differences between the Badgers and Boilers have been akin to a Big Ten team playing Wabash College.

Wisconsin has been able to run as much as it has wanted to. I remember going up there in 2009 and the Badgers didn't even need to throw a pass on their first drive as they easily marched 80 yards. Last year, in what was billed as being the biggest home game in years, Purdue gave up 467 yards on the ground and didn't give up more only because Wisconsin was feeling merciful and it was raining. Even with preparation, hype, and knowing that a win likely meant a trip to the Big Ten championship game (and it would have, even if nothing else changed) Purdue was trampled.

Until I see something different on the field we can't expect a different result. Purdue has been beaten by at least three touchdowns in five straight games, only staying close when it surprisingly led 10-6 at halftime in 2010 before the Badgers woke up. The Purdue defense has to find some way, any way, of stopping their ground game. Wisconsin was one of the worst passing teams in the nation last year, so you know what is coming. Stick nine guys in the box if you have to.

Unfortunately, that massive offensive line often flattens our defensive line and linebackers to the point where even I could run for 150 yards and two scores.


I think you see where this is going. Wisconsin may have a new coach (the fourth new coach we will face in the first five games), but on paper they look like the same big, bad Badgers Purdue has not stopped in a very long time. Will Bruce Gaston and Ryan Russell be able to have success against that line? Well, multiple NFL draft picks like Ryan Kerrigan, Kawann Short, Mike Neal, and Alex Magee haven't. Purdue's linebackers have been a deficiency for years that hopefully coach Hazell can fix, but it will take time. Ricardo Allen can't intercept passes for touchdowns when Wisconsin doesn't even need to throw.

That leaves an offense that has either a freshman quarterback leading them into one of the toughest places to play in the country or a senior that has been shuffled around relentlessly. Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom will also be running into the teeth of an excellent and experienced front seven. It does not look good. Wisconsin 42, Purdue 17