Purdue is a big time underdog this week at Wisconsin. That is not a surprise. Still, we press forward with the season. Let’s learn a little more about the Badgers from Drew Hamm, the manager at Bucky’s 5th Quarter:
T-Mill: Jonathan Taylor has rushed for 540 yards in two games against Purdue. Do we at least get a special footnote on his plaque? Can you guys just rest him for Minnesota this week?
Drew: The Wisconsin athletic department has been running a campaign all season to generate hype for Taylor and to encourage people to vote for him for various awards. He is “bringing running back.” With Purdue’s struggles on the ground this season I think it is more important than ever for Taylor to play against the Boilermakers. The plaque will have special spots for both Purdue and Nebraska, which is a great honor!
T-Mill: Wisconsin has won 13 in a row over Purdue, more than any other opponent ever against Purdue. Has this become just another game or did last year’s triple OT scare open some eyes?
Drew: Between last year’s game and the fact that Wisconsin lost to freaking Illinois earlier this year, there is no “just another game” for the rest of the season. Purdue can sling it around the field no matter who is at quarterback and who is playing out wide and Wisconsin’s secondary can be hit for a big play here and there. The Badgers have lost long winning streaks to both Minnesota and Illinois over the last calendar year, so again, they should hopefully be locked-in regardless of how previous games have turned out.
T-Mill: After a couple of stumbles, the Badgers got things going against Nebraska. Are there still come concerns after the Illinois and Ohio State games?
Drew: The Badgers lost to Illinois on a last-second field goal, got steamrolled by Ohio State, outlasted Iowa and then beat Nebraska in unimpressive fashion. It hasn’t been the most impressive four-game stretch in program history, and yes I would say there are still concerns. The rush defense looked non-existent against Nebraska, so a game against Purdue’s lackluster ground game might be just what they need to get back on track. Jack Coan has been serviceable, nothing more and nothing less, over the last four games. The big difference between Coan, last year’s starter Alex Hornibrook (who Purdue didn’t see) and last year’s version of himself (who Purdue did see) is that he isn’t turning the ball over much at all. If the game is close and the Badgers need Coan to make a big throw he can do it...sometimes. The play calling on offense hasn’t been the most creative or exciting for most of the season, but Chryst has shown a willingness to go for it on fourth down when appropriate, which is a change from years past.
T-Mill: Purdue is also very banged up but might get Rondale Moore back for this. Is he enough to make a difference?
Drew: Short answer, no. Long answer? Maybe! Moore is as dynamic a playmaker as there is in the country and putting him back on the field immediately changes everything Purdue can do on offense. He has a gravitational pull where he draws defenders towards him, opening up space over the rest of the field for his teammates to get open. I love Rondale Moore and have since his first game freshman year when he lit up Northwestern. I hope he plays because Wisconsin fans need to see him in person to believe how good he is.
T-Mill: After starting the year so strong what has happened to the defense?
Drew: I was curious about this question because upon reading it I thought “well, nothing, you jerk!” but then I thought back to watching the last four games and went “ohhhh yeah, maybe T-Mill ISN’T a jerk!” Anyways, what I discovered was the Badgers aren’t forcing turnovers anymore! Over the last four games, they’ve forced three...which is good for fewer than one per game for the one person reading this who isn’t an engineer. Over the first six games, they forced 14 turnovers which is more than two per game! The pass rush is still getting to the quarterback at about the same rate and the tackles for loss are about the same too, so my final answer is turnovers. The defense isn’t forcing as many turnovers and they are struggling because of it.
T-Mill: What will it take for Purdue to pull the upset?
Drew: I think it will take a lot of things going wrong for the Badgers and at the same time a lot of different things going right for the Boilers for there to be an upset on Saturday. Could the Badgers be looking ahead to Minnesota? They looked ahead to Ohio State and lost to Illinois, so maybe! Could Jonathan Taylor have a below-average day? He’s had a couple this season, but it’s unlikely! If Rondale Moore plays will he be at 100%? WHO KNOWS?!? I don’t think this game will be a blowout and I think Purdue covers, but I do not think they can win. It should be noted, however, that I’ve been wrong before.