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Know Thy Opponent 2019: Wisconsin Badgers

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If we could tackle that Jonathan Taylor guy it would be great.

Wisconsin v Purdue Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Last season’s Wisconsin game felt like a missed opportunity. The Badgers have now won 13 in a row over Purdue. That is the most any team has ever won in a row over the Boilermakers. We were close to ending it last year, however, with a 27-13 lead at home in the fourth quarter. A pair of touchdown catches by Danny Davis III sent the game to overtime and the Badgers prevailed after three extra sessions.

It certainly felt like we blew it. Leading 24-13 Ben Makowski recovered a fumbled punt at the Wisconsin 28 and Purdue eventually had a 2ndand goal at the 1, but managed just a field goal with 9:57 left. The Badgers took their second life and responded with a pair of touchdowns sandwiched around a three-and-out. The defense was completely gassed in overtime, but after an Isaac Zico touchdown in the second OT Purdue had a chance to win the game without getting the defense involved. Instead of taking the chance on winning or losing the game with a single play and going for two Purdue kicked the extra point and lost in the third OT.

One day, that streak will end. Purdue is clearly getting closer after years of struggling against the Badgers. While it will be tough to win at Camp Randall this season, there is at least a chance now.

Wisconsin Badgers

2018 Record: 8-5, 5-4 Big Ten West

Bowl Result: Beat Miami 35-3 in Pinstripe Bowl

Blog Representation: Bucky’s 5th Quarter

Series with Purdue: Wisconsin leads 49-29-8

Last Purdue win: 26-23 at Wisconsin on 10/18/2003

Last Wisconsin win: 47-44 (3 OT) at Purdue on 11/17/2018

Head Coach: Paul Chryst (42-12 in 5thseason at Wisconsin, 61-31 overall)

Last Season for the Badgers

For the first time since 2013 Wisconsin did not win at least 10 games. They struggled against the better teams on their schedule, had inconsistent quarterback play, and even lost to Minnesota for the first time in ages. They still dominated Miami in their bowl game, but a 7-5 regular season was very un-Wisconsin-like. They had a home loss to BYU, fell out of the division race with a 31-17 road loss at Northwestern, and had the near miss mentioned above against Purdue.

This is still Wisconsin, though. You know what they are going to do. They are going to have an extremely talented running back running behind five very large gentlemen hat are really good at pushing other people out of said running back’s way. It is a system that has worked for more than two decades in Madison under multiple coaches. When they have a quarterback that can make a few big throws per game and combine it with a solid defense it is a recipe to churn out 10-win seasons in infinitum.

Having one of the best players in college football will certainly help.

Wisconsin Offense

I believe Jonathan Taylor just scored again on us. Taylor was unstoppable against Purdue last season, going for 321 yards and three scores on 33 carries. He had more than 60 yards and two scores, including the game-winning TD, on just five overtime carries. This is after he went for 219 and a score as a freshman in the 2017 win over Purdue. That’s an astounding 540 yards in just two career games against Purdue. Oh, and he ran for 2,194 yards a season after going for 1,977 as a freshman. After just two seasons he is already 103rdin all-time rushing yards at the FBS level and another 2,000 yard season would get him into the top 7 all-time. In the extremely unlikely event he returns for his senior season in 2020 he could put the NCAA career rushing record virtually out of reach. While he probably won’t reach that record (7,125 yards held by Ron Dayne) this season, he’ll likely safely be in the NFL in 2020.

As always, he will have a great offensive line in front of him. Tyler Biadasz will anchor the line as one of the best centers in the country. Tackles Cole Van Lanen and Logan Bruss will be great on the outside. Jason Erdman and Tyler Beach will handle the guard spots. Only Biadasz is a returning full-time starter, but in reality Wisconsin just grows 6’7, 330 pound linemen in a field behind Camp Randall Stadium somewhere.

As for who starts at quarterback, that is up in the air. Jack Coan is the presumptive starter and he threw for only 515 yards and 5TDs last year. He had just 160 yards in the win over Purdue, but directed the two critical fourth quarter TD drives. He also must hold off incoming freshman Graham Mertz. The good news is that with this line and a back like Taylor Wisconsin quarterbacks are basically interchangeable. Aside from the one year of Russell Wilson it has been a parade of Jim Sorgi clones back there for years.

Whoever wins the quarterback job will have a wealth of receivers to throw to. AJ Taylor (32-521-3), Jake Ferguson (36-456-4) and Danny Davis (40-418-5) are all back as the top three receivers from last year. Kendric Pryor (23-273-3) is also back, so as long as the four new starters up front are fine this offense is going to be very good.

Wisconsin Defense

On defense a total of eight starters remain, so experience will be a major factor. Scott Nelson and Eric Burrell will be the heart of the secondary at safety. They can both play the run and the pass well. Faion Hicks and Rachad Wildgoose will hold down the corner spots.

The linebacker spots should be pretty good with Zack Baun (63 tackles) leading the way. Noah Burks, Chris Orr, and Jack Sanborn will man the other spots in their 3-4 scheme. One of the deficiencies they had last season was a pass rush. They managed only 17 sacks as a team, but the linebackers are expected to have a bounceback year this season.

Up front Garrett Rand will help the defensive line after missing all of 2018 with an injury. Bryson Williams and Isaiahh Lowdermilk will step up to help form a solid front line. Lowdermilk had only 15 tackles and a sack last year. This group didn’t play a lot last year, but they have a lot of promise.

Wisconsin Special Teams

The Badgers need to find a new kicker for 2019 and Zach Hintze is the only player back that attempted a field goal last year. He missed his only kick, but it was from 50 plus. Anthony Lotti is back as the senior punter, but he averaged less than 39 yards per punt.

In the return game Jack Dunn was average on punt returns and Aron Cruickshank averaged a little over 20 yards per return on kickoffs.

Game Outlook

The Badgers are going to be much closer to being WISCONSIN in 2019, which bodes well for their win streak over us. Purdue has proven incapable of stopping Taylor on the ground the last two years, so I expect him to run rampant once again. This game is also in Madison, late in the season, in cold weather. That’s not something we excelled at last year offensively as seen in the Minnesota game. It all points to a bad day for Purdue.

Still, under Brohm Purdue has at least been competitive with the Badgers. With a few breaks this could be a game that decides the West Division. The Boilers will have to handle their business at home before this and likely will need wins at Northwestern and Iowa to be a factor in the conference race, but it is at least nice to have it as a possibility.

Way-too-Early Prediction

I think this is our toughest game on the schedule aside from the road game at Penn State. Purdue plays a lot of good, but not elite teams in 2019, but the Badgers are probably the best and they have dominated this series for a long time. Wisconsin 35, Purdue 24