Wisconsin vs Purdue Game Preview
What: Wisconsin at #25 Purdue
When: Saturday, October 23rd, 2:30pm
For the first time in nearly 15 years, the Purdue Boilermakers will enter a game ranked in the AP Top 25. On the heels of a massive upset win at #2 Iowa last weekend, the Boilermakers are looking for their first victory against the Badgers since 2003. Wisconsin limps into Ross-Ade Stadium coming off yet another disappointing outing vs Army, albeit a win. Nonetheless, a win here and the Badgers will cement themselves in the Big Ten West race to Indianapolis.
How They Got Here
As previously mentioned, Purdue is now ranked for the first time in over a decade. Riding the back of an underrated defense, and All American hopeful in standout wide receiver David Bell have Purdue positioned for another upset. He’s not the only uber talented player for head coach Jeff Brohm however. Led by one of the best defensive ends in the country in George Karlaftis, the Boilermakers come into the contest top 12 in the country in total defense. Yielding more than 21 points just once this season, they will undoubtedly be licking their chops vs an anemic Wisconsin offense.
Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers come into Lafayette still searching for an identity. Week after week, the Badgers continue to struggle on all fronts offensively. The most glaring weakness is quarterback Graham Mertz’s inability to guide the offense. In addition to his woes, the offensive line has been a far cry from the standard that has been set before them. These inadequacies, coupled with conservative play calling, have led the Badgers to a 3-3 record entering late October. Even with one of the best defenses in the country, the Badgers are staring a third mediocre season in the last four years right in the face.
What To Watch For
Two words. David Bell. As mentioned earlier, the stud receiver will be around the ball on every Boilermakers possession. Knowing they won’t be able to have much success on the ground, look for Purdue to expose the Badgers one weakness defensively. The deep ball. With as explosive as Bell is, this can create a matchup nightmare for Jim Leonhard’s secondary, and he could be in for a big, big day.
Defensively, do not underestimate this Purdue defense. Averaging nearly six tackles for loss per game, they will look to keep Wisconsin’s offense from gaining any sort of rhythm. Obviously, the Badgers will look to get the ground game going and control time of possession, but if they don’t they’ll be in a world of trouble. Pass rushers like Karlaftis and Branson Deen can wreck havoc.
While most things have been difficult offensively, a few bright spots have emerged. The tandem of Chez Mellusi and freshman starlet Braelon Allen is quietly turning into an effective duo. Allen just entered the rotation late in September. Since then, he has averaged nearly seven yards per carry and shown much needed explosiveness. Behind these two, there’s enough there to slowly spark a slow, grueling, offensive attack. The game plan undoubtedly will be to feed them both, and keep Purdue off the field. There is no reason to expect anything different.
Defensively, they’ve looked as stout as ever. While they still don’t force turnovers at a high rate like other elite defenses, they continue to keep this team in every game. Since his return from being sidelined with Covid-19, junior linebacker Leo Chenal has taken off right from where he left off in 2020. A mixture of ferocity and athleticism, he has every trait of the great Badger inside linebackers. Jim Leonhard will need every bit of that ferocity, along with the continued ascension of edge rusher Nick Herbig, if they want to come out of this weekend with a victory. Getting to the quarterback early will be pivotal. The secondary isn’t bad, but will be exposed by Bell if there’s even an inkling of time given to Purdue quarterback Aiden O’Connell.
Both teams come in here with much to play for. The winner may very well have a path to Indianapolis. The loser, will see expectations grounded yet again.
The Badgers come in as 3.5 point favorites. Deserved? Absolutely not. They’ve been favored in every game this season, yet sit here 3-3. In their fourth matchup vs a ranked opponent, they’ll be searching for their first win vs one.
Expect another low scoring game, but one where Purdue’s superior top end talent makes one or two more plays to win it. While weird to hear, it is a fact nonetheless.
Prediction: Purdue 24 Wisconsin 16