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10 Things to know about Wisconsin vs. Purdue

Wisconsin takes on Purdue this weekend, here are the 10 things you need to know about these two teams heading in to Saturday afternoon’s contest.

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The Wisconsin Badgers are only two games in to their Big Ten journey, yet they are seemingly firmly in the driver’s seat. However, Saturday sees a different kind of challenge come to Camp Randall.

UW will face off against Purdue, which with a 1-1 record in B1G play to date come in as the only team not down by two games to the Badgers. Can Wisconsin stand tall and seemingly put the West division race to bed or will Purdue pull of a potentially program-defining victory?

It might seem easy given Wisconsin owns an 11-game win streak in the series. But, this Purdue team isn’t the doormat it once was. There’s life to the bunch from West Lafayette, Ind. these days. So, what do we need to know ahead of UW hosting the Boilermakers?

Let’s check out 10 things you need to know…

 

1: Alex Hornibrook is No. 1 in the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating

This is a number that may surprise some people given a few up-and-down performances. However, his passer efficiency rating of 167.2 tops the Big Ten and is No. 8 in the country. Hornibrook has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,011 yards and has 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions on the season. Those numbers suggest a highly efficient passer, and it should be noted that his 107 attempts are the second-fewest amongst all quarterbacks in the nation’s top 10 of passer efficiency.

2: That is the number of weekly Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards earned by Jonathan Taylor

It’s an impressive start to Taylor’s career at UW to say the least. He earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after rushing for 249 yards in Wisconsin’s win at Nebraska last week. He also has won two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards as well. All of that in just five games so far this season. Taylor’s 767 yards also leads the Big Ten, as does his nine touchdown runs and his 153.4 yards per game average.

3: Purdue ranks 3rd in the Big Ten in passing offense

There’s no doubt the Badgers defense is going to get its biggest challenge, at least in terms of the passing game this week. Purdue comes in averaging 265.2 yards per game in the passing game, while the Badgers pass defense is just fifth in the league and has been susceptible to the big play. However, Purdue’s yardage doesn’t tell the whole tale about its passing game. They’ll use two quarterbacks for part of the game, with David Blough and Elijah Sindelar both seeing snaps. That’s created some inconsistency at times, as Purdue has 13 passing TD’s to six interceptions. Three of those came against Louisville, while Michigan’s pressure got a pair of interceptions.

4: Jonathan Taylor’s 153.4 rushing yards per game sits 4th nationally

For all the talk of Saquon Barkley as the best running back in the country, the raw rushing numbers suggest a very different tale. Taylor not only leads the Big Ten with 153.4 yards per game, he is fourth in the country behind Stanford RB Bryce Love (206.7 ypg), Navy QB Zach Abey (174.0) and San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny (165.5). With some of the worst Big Ten defenses coming up, Taylor has a chance to really cement himself in the national picture heading in to key battles against Iowa and Michigan later this year.

5: Through 5 games this season, Wisconsin has allowed only 48 rushing yards in the second half. 

Just how dominant are the Badgers in the second half? Defensively you can’t even think of running the football, because it just doesn’t work. 48 rushing yards on 55 carries in five games speaks volumes, it also means about 1.1 yards per carry for opponents in the second half of games. Purdue may be a pass-first team, but they are also averaging a decent 4.1 yards per carry so far this season.

6: That is Wisconsin’s rank in tackles for loss thus far in the Big Ten

One of the hallmarks of Wisconsin’s stingy defense has been its ongoing ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. The Badgers have racked up 35 tackles for loss so far this season, on pace to top last season’s 75 tackles for loss. UW has also put up two games with 10 or more tackles for loss (Florida Atlantic and Northwestern). Last weekend was a low mark, as the Badgers had just two TFL’s. Let’s see if that changes against Purdue’s pass-happy offense.

7: Wisconsin has allowed just 7.0 sacks so far this season

It’s an impressive number considering the moving parts for UW’s offensive line. Only David Edwards and Tyler Biadsz have avoided the injury report so far this season. Injuries have run deep beyond the starters as well, and so it is impressive that UW ranks 5th in the Big Ten in fewest sacks given up.

8: Purdue spreads the ball around a lot in the pass game, with an average of 8.8 players with a reception per game. 

Wisconsin’s secondary has been pretty good at taking away multiple passing options this season, but the Boilermakers throw a lot more bodies at teams than UW is used to facing. Can an already thin Badgers secondary stand up to the pure volume of bodies the Boilermakers will throw at them?

9: UW ranks ninth in the nation in scoring defense 

The Badgers defense has been stingy to say the least, allowing opponents just 14.2 points per game on the season. In fact, no one has scored more than 24 points on them all season long. Purdue comes in to this game averaging 29.6 points, so that should make things interesting at Camp Randall on Saturday.

10: (x2) That is the number of red zone chances Purdue has had on the season.

Purdue has been the best team in the Big Ten when it reaches the red zone, converting on 19 of 20 opportunities inside the opponents 20-yard line this year. Wisconsin’s defense has been the second best against opponents in the red zone, allowing just 10 of 15 possessions to end in a score. Something is going to have to give in this matchup, and the red zone is going to be a key factor on both sides of the equation it appears.

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Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019

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We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker |

Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.

What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.

Best Case Scenario

Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.

Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.

No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.

It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.

Worst Case Scenario

What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?

Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.

Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.

The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.

Most Likely to Happen

The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.

I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.

Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.

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Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019

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This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.

But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.

Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.

In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver

Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.

Best Case Scenario:

Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.

Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.

Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.

Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.

In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.

Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.

Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.

If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.

Most Likely to Happen:

Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.

I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.

That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.

So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.

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Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers Wide Receivers in 2019

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The heat of summer is upon us and the recruiting trail has been even hotter for the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that heat also indicates that the long offseason nightmare is about to be over.

With that in mind, we’re taking a summer-long look at each position group heading in to the 2019 season.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line |

Today, we flip back to the offensive side of the ball and look at a second skill position — wide receiver.

After what was supposed to be a breakout year for the group in 2018, what will this group have in store for 2019? Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios at play.

Best Case Scenario

If the Badgers want to get going in the pass game, the wide receiver group needs to step up the deep game in a big way. While A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor have proven to be reliable assets, 2018 felt much like they all barely scratched the surface of their potential.

The trio combined for 95 receptions (which was 53 percent of all receptions as a team), 1,212 yards and 11 of 19 touchdown receptions on the year.

For this season, the best case scenario actually involves the quarterback position almost more-so than anything this group can do. The receivers could benefit from a consistently good passer at quarterback and a more open playbook as well.

Whether it is Jack Coan or wonderkid recruit, Graham Mertz, the consistency and trust to open up the playbook needs to be there.

Additionally, an increased role for speedster Aaron Cruickshank would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

Danny Davis emerged as the most targeted receiver last season, catching 40 passes to lead all wide receivers on the team. He will enter his junior season with an increase in expectations and no off-field distractions like he had to deal with last season thanks to his stupid decision-making.

That aside, Davis is the most well-rounded receiver in this group and the one that could wind up be the deep threat that has been missing for awhile now. So, any injury to Davis would be bad news.

In fact, any sustained injuries to the likes of Davis, Pryor and Taylor would not be good. UW is very inexperienced behind this trio, and inexperience at QB and WR may not be a fun combination.

Dare I say, it would lead to UW not being back on top of the West division mountain?

Most Likely to Happen

I fully believe that the coaching staff will go in to the season knowing which quarterback they’ll go with and stick with. Confidence is key to helping this wide receiver group and I expect the Badgers offense to be much more balanced in 2019 than it was over the past two seasons.

Look for Davis, Pryor and Taylor to all increase their overall numbers and likely go over the 15 touchdown mark as a group. More importantly, I expect much more play-action and much more from the deep passing game too. That should be music to a talented, but under used group’s ears.

Don’t be surprised to see one of the Badgers wide receivers make a run at All-Big Ten honors as a result of that shift back to balance.

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Hill is Badgers QB in 2021 class

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With all the flurry of activity around the 2020 class, apparently someone wanted to bring the 2021 class some attention on Tuesday as well.

Following back-to-back linebacker commitments in the 2020 class, Wisconsin picked up a verbal commitment from 2021 quarterback Deacon Hill.

The 3-star player out of Santa Barbara, Calif. went with his gut despite the potential to earn offers from the likes of USC, Oregon and Oregon State — all much closer to home.

Instead, Hill chose the Badgers over official offers from Kansas State and Nevada to date.

The 6-3, 225-pound quarterback was first offered by Wisconsin quarterback coach Jon Budmayr in May. It was the first overall offer Hill received in the 2021 class.

Wisconsin was able to get out in front of the 2021 quarterback class after a pair of big targets in 2020 passed on offers from the Badgers. Once that happened, the focus turned to the next class and it paid off in building a quick and solid relationship with Hill.

It may not be a big home run get like Graham Mertz was, but then again the Badgers were hip to Mertz before most of the country was and that paid off as he developed.

Hill is much more physically imposing than most quarterbacks entering their junior season would be, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have mobility either.

Nevada’s more spread-orientated offense and Kansas State’s quarterbacks are certainly going to be mobile ones in the new offense that is being installed.

As for Hill, the 247Sports composite rankings have him as the No. 30 ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class. But, given the small amount of attention paid to that class so far we’ll see where that ends up should Hill hit the QB camp circuit in the coming months and year.

UW will only be taking one quarterback in this class, so they certainly trusted their early evaluation of the tool set that Hill possesses and could posses by the time he is finished at Wisconsin.

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