I have a pending Nebraska Q&A coming, but our friends at Bucky's Fifth Quarter were kind enough to continue our opponent blogger interview series here in the summer. As usual, the Badgers have a lot of confidence coming into the Purdue game, so here is what Drew Hamm had to say about this year's game:
T-Mill: Will you please stopping running us into the ground so much? I am getting tired of watching three different Wisconsin backs have 100 yard games against us. At least you do the same to Indiana.
Drew: Unfortunately part of freshman orientation at Wisconsin is taking a pledge to run any football team from the state of Indiana into the ground. It's why Notre Dame, Indiana State, and Valpo won't play us. I doubt the Badgers will have three 100 yard rushers this season, but I wouldn't put it past Melvin Gordon to threaten 200 by himself. And as always: go screw, Indiana.
T-Mill: In that same vein, it seems like no matchup has been so physically lopsided as Wisconsin over Purdue in the last decade. I assume we're expecting more of the same this year.
Drew: Last year the Badgers averaged 8.1 yards per rush, compared to Purdue's 2.1 yards per rush. While math dictates that it can't get much more lopsided than that, I expect things to be a little different this season. I know Purdue's offense was putrid last season, and the o-line was somehow worse, but I like the experience that Purdue brings back (and I like that some of the players that graduated). I think an o-line with a few experienced players (like Rob Kugler and massive Jordan Roos), a sprinkling of JUCO transfers, and a quick "gel time" could make things a lot easier for the Boilers on offense. I don't think Purdue will turn into 2010 Wisconsin and be four yards away from having three 1,000 yard rushers on the team, but I also don't think they'll average a hair over two yards per carry against the Badgers, or any team.
T-Mill: Is there some concern for the defense with so many new starters, especially up front?
Drew: Our top four linebackers are gone, most notably all-everything ILB Chris Borland, and four of our top six defensive lineman have moved on as well. Say what you will about Wisconsin's secondary (and believe me, I have) but they are the most experienced unit on defense in terms of percentage of team's tackles returning. While that's a bit of a misleading statistic since our scheme doesn't require our d-line to make a whole bunch of tackles and having your secondary making so many tackles is usually a bad thing, you get what I mean in terms of experience. There are players with loads of potential on Wisconsin's front seven, senior nose guard Warren Herring has been buried on the depth chart, but was able to record six TFL and four sacks last season in limited action; Jake Keefer and Chikwe Obasih were both rated as four-star defensive ends out of high school; and linebacker Vince Biegel has had Badger fans salivating since he signed his national letter of intent two years ago. While potential is nice and fun to talk about, replacing so much production is going to be a tall task. Hopefully, by the time November 8th rolls around, the Badgers will have figured out where their defensive production is going to come from. If not, it will already have been a long season.
T-Mill: Do you feel Wisconsin is the favorite in West? Is it a two-team race with Wisconsin and Nebraska?
Drew: I have Wisconsin penciled in as the cautionary favorite to win the West. The schedule lines up favorably for the Badgers to win the division, with the toughest game probably being at Iowa on November 22nd. I definitely see Nebraska being right there at the top, and depending on how things go, Iowa could be playing the Badgers for a trip to the conference title game. To say the West is "down" this year would be a pretty accurate statement. That's good for a reloading Wisconsin team and also good for a dark horse that catches lightning in a bottle (like Minnesota last year, or Purdue this year? *nudges Hammer and Rail's comment section*).
T-Mill: What would it take (aside from a small miracle) for Purdue to pull the upset? Is it as simple as finally being able to stop the run?
Drew: As it has been for most of my cognizant life, if you stop the run you'll have a chance to beat Wisconsin (except for that one glorious year of Russellmania). This year is no exception. The Badgers don't have anybody of note that can catch a football. Two promising freshmen just left the team for various personal/academic reasons and Jared Abbrederis ain't walking through that door. If Purdue can keep Gordon and Corey Clement in check and force Joel Stave/Tanner McEvoy (something we didn't really touch on, the Wisconsin quarterback situation isn't exactly, uh, settled yet) to beat them, I can see the game being close. If Purdue can pull an upset at Nebraska the week before and come in with some momentum...who knows?