We're a little late again this week, but once again, we have another guest blogger to break down an opponent for us. This week it is Max Bayer, one of our Badger experts at Bucky's 5th Quarter.
T-Mill: Please, stop running all over us. No one beats us up like Wisconsin has over the last decade. Tell me this is the year we at least get a small break.
Max: Well, as much as I'd like to say we have converted to a no-huddle spread offense with Joel Stave at the helm, we have not. The Badgers are once again going to be led at the running back position with Corey Clement taking the bulk of the carries running behind an experienced offensive line led by Ray Ball and Dan Voltz. However, there are a couple ways the Boilermakers could get some slack. First, while Corey Clement is expected to succeed, he is not Melvin Gordon. I would love if Clement matched or exceeded the 205 yard performance Gordon put on last year in West Lafayette but I won't be expecting it. More importantly, Joel Stave had one of his best games of the year throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns, 190 of which came in the first half. Depending on what Stave we get, that could be another glimmer of hope.
T-Mill: Would you say the Badgers are the favorite in the West? Who would be their top challenger?
Max: After further view, the Badgers are once again the favorites to win the West. However, it is not the Nebraska Cornhuskers who will be chasing them, rather the Minnesota Gophers once again. The Badgers have just simply been blessed with too easy (sorry guys) of a conference schedule to not seize the B1G West crown. I believe that the Gophers will beat Nebraska in their head-to-head matchup on Oct. 17th and then shock the world the following week with a home victory against Michigan. The Gophers have an outstanding offensive line and a stout defensive (especially in the secondary) and in the B1G West that's about all you need for second place. Oh, and a kicker.
T-Mill: Can Corey Clement be the next great back? Does he have enough behind him to give him a rest now and then?
Max: The rumblings I've heard on campus are that Corey Clement is going to shock some people. Not surprise, shock. Does that mean he is going to be the next Melvin? Probably not. But you can be a fantastic running back and still not be Melvin Gordon. Last year as a backup, Clement had 949 yards and nine touchdowns averaging 6.5 yards per run. I think as the focal point of the offense, Clement is going to put up at least 1500 yards and turn some heads while doing it. With that being said, I don't think there is another Corey Clement waiting in wings this season. Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale are fighting for that number two spot and it'll be interesting to see who receives reps when Clement needs a breather. Both lack the agility and lateral movement that Clement has but are a force when running north-south. We won't be as versatile when he's on the sidelines but we shouldn't have to change much.
T-Mill: Aside from the obvious of Purdue getting bigger and stronger, what will it take for the Boilers to finally get competitive against the Badgers?
Max: For Purdue to compete against the Badgers, they need to come out and play some defense! The last time the Badgers scored less than 30 points against the Boilermakers was in 2006 where we still won 24-3. You guys (like the rest of the B1G West) must stop our running game first and foremost and hope that Joel Stave doesn't pull out a top performance. Wisconsin's offense revolves around rhythm so if you can get us out of sync you have a chance. Purdue will need long drives that result in scores so to keep our offense off the field and exhaust our defense.
T-Mill: What are the strengths of the defense going into 2015?
Max: Wisconsin's defensive strengths will be in their linebacker and secondary units. Safety Michael Caputo and OLB Vince Biegel have both been named to the Bednarik Award watch list and will be the leaders of the defense. Tanner McEvoy, after rotating with Stave at QB last season, will be returning to Safety this year and looked very solid in the spring game. The Badgers lost a force on the defensive line in Warren Herring but should be able to build with defensive ends Chikwe Obasih and Conor Sheehy.
T-Mill: Finally, a prediction.
Max: I expect the Badgers to handedly beat Purdue at home this year by a score of 45-14. I think Stave is mightily undervalued this season and will throw at least three touchdowns. I also predict Clement to run for at least 150 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Purdue is still rebuilding and just does not have enough talent and depth to handle Wisconsin's ground and pound attack for four quarters. Looking at our respective seasons as a whole, I think Wisconsin will go 10-2, dropping the opener against Alabama and then tripping up in one of their road conference games; possibly against Maryland or Nebraska. On the other hand, I think Purdue will show some improvement. I have you guys winning three out of your four non-conference games and then picking up two conference wins: one against Illinois and another in the season finale against Indiana.