When: Sat.; Oct. 17 (noon ET)
Where: Madison, WI; Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
Line: Wisconsin -24
1 Burning Question: Can Wisconsin Finally Blow An Opponent Out?
There is no doubt the Badgers have done some good work on the defensive side of the football this season. It allowed an average of 1.0 points per game to opponents not named Alabama in the non-conference season. However, the offense didn’t come along for the party, and the Badgers are ranked 83rd nationally in scoring offense (26.7).
UW has failed to score more than 28 points in each of the last four weeks after a 58-0 thrashing of woefully bad Miami (OH). Many fans have felt the Badgers should have done more against Troy and Hawaii, and they are right.
How can the Badgers offense get it going? It would help if UW doesn’t have to have the sixth different starting offensive line (center Dan Voltz could be scratch). It would also help if the Dare Ogunbowale that showed up in the second half against Nebraska could show up once again against Purdue.
2 Key Stats
— 9: That is the number of consecutive wins the Badgers currently have in this series. The Badgers history as a football program isn’t great, but this is a historical series they have dominated. UW leads 45-29-8 overall, but have one nine straight in this series and haven’t lost to the Boilermakers since a 2003 loss in Madison.
— 110.5: That is the amount of passing yards allowed by the Boilermakers defense. Purdue’s defense comes in to this matchup giving up the third-fewest yards through the air in the Big Ten. It will go up against a Badger offense that put up 322 yards on the arm of Joel Stave last weekend against Nebraska. Something will have to give in this matchup, and if it’s Purdue they are in serious trouble and vice versa given UW’s struggles running the football.
3 Key Players
Markell Jones, RB (Purdue): He is easily the best player on the field when the Boilermakers have the football. Just how good though? Jones is third in the nation amongst freshman, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He also has 412 total yards, which is good enough for 10th in the B1G, and his five touchdowns are currently tied with now backup quarterback Austin Appleby for the team lead.
Joe Schobert, OLB (Wisconsin): All this outside linebacker has done is lead the nation in tackles for loss (13.5), while ranking second nationally in sacks (9.0) and forced fumbles (4). He is just one sack and one forced fumble away from the national lead in both of those categories. This guy is a must-stop for Purdue and a must have as the Badgers continue to work in two freshmen at inside linebacker.
David Blough, QB (Purdue): There is little doubt that a lot is going against Purdue winning this game, and a matchup against the likes of Schobert and fellow Badgers’ outside linebacker Vince Biegel has to have Blough shaking a bit. So does the fact that he looked like a freshman for the first time in his career last weekend. He needs to be the David Blough that showed up big late against Michigan State and not the one that worked over last weekend. If he can’t, Purdue doesn’t have much of a shot in this contest.
4 Bold Prognostications
— Dare Ogunbowale goes for over 150 yards: The second half of last week felt like the lightbulb finally went off between the Badgers offensive line and Ogunbowale. It led to him reaching a career-high 117 yards rushing on a career-high 18 carries as well. Purdue’s rush defense is laughable, and as long as Ogunbowale gets going early it could be a long day for the Boilermakers.
— Vince Biegel gets more sacks than Joe Schobert: Coming in to the season, Biegel was the bigger name nationally between the two Wisconsin outside linebackers. However, it’s the senior stealing the show from the junior so far this season. Schobert has 13.0 tackles for loss to Biegel’s 7.5 and he’s got 9.0 sacks to Biegel’s 3.0 as well. Look for this to be the game where Biegel climbs closer to his teammate on the sack total for the season and beat him out in a game.
— Wisconsin Challenges its largest margin of victory: UW’s largest margin of victory in this matchup was its 62-17 victory in 2011 at Camp Randall. Purdue’s biggest nightmare of a road trip is no doubt to Madison, and after last week’s performance this could be all sorts of bad news for the Boilermakers.
— Darrell Hazell pulls David Blough at halftime: Look, playing musical quarterbacks hasn’t worked out so well for Hazell so far, but this is one of the best defenses Blough is going to face. He’ll learn a harsh lesson, and Hazell is trying to find himself a winning way. He can’t afford to stick with a long-term project if he’s getting beat up, and UW’s defense will do just that in the first half, while Blough gets pulled at the half.
5 Staff Predictions (overall season record; record against the spread)
Andy: Wisconsin 42-17 (56-13 overall; 30-38 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 34-10 (58-11 overall; 38-29 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 42-6 (51-18 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 35-17 (56-13 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 27-13 (10-4 overall; 4-9 ATS) *joined in Week 5