As Purdue fans we annually dread this game. Even with Wisconsin struggling to run the football as well as the Badgers normally run it Purdue fans know better. We know we are the cure for wait ails their offense. To make matters worse, Purdue just gave up 326 yards rushing to a Minnesota team with a freshman at running back and a banged up offensive line. The Badgers have Taiwan Deal and center Dan Voltz injured at the moment and both could play, but it seems unlikely it will matter.
That's what makes this so frustrating. For over a decade now Purdue has not even been competitive with Wisconsin when we know what is coming every time. The Badgers are going to run a power offense and it seems as if the boilers are completely powerless to stop it. Two weeks ago Iowa forced four turnovers and held Wisconsin to 86 yards rushing on its home field, yet I bet Purdue could watch that tape and emulate the Hawkeyes exactly, yet give up over 200 yards on the ground.
So yes, things are grim right now as Purdue fans. I am just hoping we can hold on and possibly beat Indiana at the end of the season, and even then only if they are once again down to a third string quarterback. We're contractually obligated through SB Nation, however, to preview the Wisconsin game, so here we go:
2014 Record: 11-3, 7-2 Big Ten
Bowl Result: beat Auburn 34-31 in Outback Bowl
Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter
Series With Purdue: Wisconsin leads 44-29-8
Last Purdue win 10/18/2003 at Wisconsin 26-23
Last Wisconsin win: 11/8/2014 at Purdue 34-16
Who to Watch on Offense
Dare Ogunbowale - RB - It is an appropriate name for this back, as Wisconsin dares us to stop him. He leads the Badgers with 426 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He is not quite Montee Ball or Melvin Gordon, but as a big back at 5'11" 200 pounds he can definitely be punishing.
Taiwan Deal - RB - The redshirt freshman was a high school teammate of Ja'Whaun Bentley at DeMatha and he is an even bigger back at 6'1" 220 pounds. He was a four-star recruit that has 361 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. A steady diet of Deal and Ogunbowale should be more than enough to beat Purdue.
Joel Stave - QB - For good measure the Badgers can no throw the ball a little. Stave has been pretty solid this year with 1,386 yards passing and eight TDs against only four interceptions. Yeah, those are not world beating numbers, but as we will see with the defense, they are good enough to beat teams like Purdue quite easily.
Alex Erickson - WR - the 6' senior is a former walk-on that has taken over the Jared Abbrederis role of walk-on receiver turned star for the Badgers. He leads them with 33 receptions for 463 yards and a touchdown. He forms a nice tandem with Robert Wheelright when the Badgers feel like mixing things up.
Who to Watch on Defense
This is where things could get ugly. In games 2-5 of the season Wisconsin went 3-1 all at home, but gave up only 13 total points. They shut out Miami (OH) and Hawaii while beating Troy 28-0. They gave up just 10 points in the 10-6 loss to Iowa, but statistically this is an excellent defense. They rank fifth nationally in giving up only 11.5 points per game and they give up less than 300 yards total per game, good for 12th nationally. Purdue gets to face all of this with a freshman quarterback, a shaky offensive line, receivers that can't get separation, and John Shoop directing things.
A third shutout on the season may be in order.
Joe Schobert - LB - I cannot stress this enough: BLOCK. THIS. GUY. He is second in the Big Ten in sacks with 9 and he leads the Badgers with 40 tackles for good measure. Many of his tackles are behind the line of scrimmage, as he has 13.5 tackles for loss. Oh, and he has forced four fumbles, so this guy sounds like an absolute terror for our defense.
Vince Biegel - LB - Biegel is another active linebacker with three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss to go with 32 tackles.
Tanner McAvoy - S - McAvoy is a former starting quarterback that has moved on to a successful career as a safety for the Badgers. He has 21 tackles and an interception that he returned 41 yards. As a team Wisconsin has only picked off four passes.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Rafeal Gaglianone - K - he has hit on 9 of 15 field coals including a 46-yard game winner on the road last week at Nebraska. When you combine the struggles of Paul Griggs with the fact teams are only 2 of 9 on field goals against Wisconsin this is a nice advantage.
There has been a lot of talk this week at the site about hitting rock bottom, but it seems as if Purdue is in search of a new rock bottom every week. Really, can there be a rock bottom when expectations are minimal already? We all know Wisconsin has been dominant against Purdue in just about every way imaginable. They have done it for over a decade through multiple coaching changes on both sides. At this point it is a universal constant like gravity, thermodynamics, and hating IU. It is going to take a monumental shift from Purdue to be competitive on Saturday, much less win. This is the game we always count as a loss when looking at the schedule before the season, and it never fails to disappoint in that regard.
So what does Purdue need to do to compete? Well, much of the same we have talked about before. Reducing stupid mistakes and turnovers is a good start. This is a good Wisconsin team, but it is not as good as past seasons. It is vulnerable and its offense can get a little bogged down as it did against Iowa. Unfortunately, we cannot borrow Iowa's defense for a day.
Offensively I have a hard time seeing Purdue doing much of anything. Hazell and Shoop were too stupid to work Markell Jones much last week when he was coming off of a career day and he would be facing a banged up defense. Wisconsin's defense is better than Minnesota's. They are also playing at home. With things as simple as playcalling an absolute mess right now the Boilers are going to have a hard time moving the football.