The Q&A with an opposing football blogger returns this week as the Big Ten opener against the Wisconsin Badgers is the topic. Mike Fiammetta is the manager of SB Nation's Bucky's 5th quarter and he is here to tell us all about Wisconsin.
T-Mill: Thank goodness Monte Ball is gone! He was notorious for going off against Purdue. Who takes his place?
Mike: Wisconsin fans certainly miss Montee Ball, though I'm not sure the Badgers will on the field. Senior James White (806 yards, 6.4 YPC and 12 touchdowns in 2012) and sophomore Melvin Gordon (621 yards, 10.0 YPC and three touchdowns) will be the featured backs this year, and you could argue the only thing they lack as a tandem is Ball's trademark power rushing skills. White is the smaller of the bunch (he's 5-foot-10, 197 pounds; Gordon's 6-foot-1, 203 pounds), but he's proven durable and is fairly experienced for a guy who's never been the regular starter (422 career carries and no fewer than 125 in a single year). He's an able pass-catcher -- an underrated aspect of Ball's game, as well -- and is decent in pass-protection.
T-Mill: Wisconsin was a point of contention under Danny Hope because they were the only team Purdue wasn't even competitive against. Does that change under Darrell Hazell and Gary Andersen?
Mike: I'm not sure if much will change, though I'm also not entirely aware of how high expectations are under Hazell. While Wisconsin's coaching staff is entirely new save for two position coaches, 17 starters return (eight offense, seven defense and two special teams). The greatest changes will probably be seen on defense as first-year defensive coordinator implements a 3-4 base defense that will be varied and heavy on generating pressure.
Mike: As mentioned above, the Badgers are once again stacked at running back. The offensive line is younger (left tackle Ricky Wagner and center Travis Frederick are now in the NFL) than usual, with only one senior (Ryan Groy) projected to start along the offense line [You can find our projected 2013 depth chart here: http://www.
T-Mill: Given the ease with which Wisconsin has beaten Purdue, is there any reason for Badger fans to fear this game?
Mike: The only reason I can think of for Wisconsin fans to fear this Purdue game is that it's the Big Ten opener, one week after a big non-conference game at Arizona State. That match-up was just announced as a nationally televised night game on Wednesday, and I suppose there's letdown/"trap game" potential for Purdue the next week. But like you said, Wisconsin's owned Purdue this past decade -- the Boilermakers haven't beaten the Badgers since 2003. Looking at this game on paper, it's hard to rationally predict an upset.