After two weeks away from Camp Randall the Badgers come back home looking to right the ship following two well documented last second, hail mary, losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. Purdue stands in the way of Wisconsin this weekend as they try to avoid their 1st three game losing streak since the 2008 season when they dropped 4 in a row. The Badgers will be looking to prove they haven't lost their mojo and a little home cooking may just be what the doctor ordered.
Overall Wisconsin leads the series 41-29-8 and have taken the last 5 games, winning last year 34-13 in West Lafayette. The last home game for Wisconsin in this series was a 37-0 win in the 2009 season and should be a very memorable one for Badgers fans as it was the game where David Gilbert went flying over Purdue's punt block protection to block a punt that led to Aaron Henry scooping it up and scoring at TD right before halftime to put Wisconsin up 24-0. The series has really heated up over the past decade or so with some really memorable plays and games happening to make these fan bases and teams not really like each other all that much. Ask anyone on either side of this game about the "Kyle Orton fumble" and they'll know exactly what you're talking about, but if not see the 2004 game for reference.
Of course we can't mention this series as Badgers fans without mentioning this date: Oct. 10, 1998. Doesn't ring a bell? Well it should, as that was the date that the tradtion of "Jump Around" started at Camp Randall. It was played that fateful day against Purdue between the 3rd and 4th quarters as a way to pump up the crowd on the way to a 31-24 Badgers win and has stuck around ever since!
All of that stuff is fine, but what about what's happened in 2011 on the field, right? Purdue is coming off a loss just like Wisconsin, losing 14-36 to Michigan in the Big House last Saturday and sit at 4-4 on the year. The Boilermakers will be looking to play a much better game as they were bad on all fronts against Michigan. QB Caleb TerBush was 9 of 13 passing for 156yds, while back up Robert Marve was only 8 of 14 for 66yds with 1TD/INT in the loss. Those totals weren't all that great, but that looks good compared to a Boilermakers D that was gashed for 535 yards, including 339 yards rushing.
Offensively Purdue needs to get better play out of Caleb TerBush, who is a solid QB that can get the job done passing, but has trouble when pressured or facing different coverages. He actually seems better rushing the ball and ranks 3rd on the team in rushing with 180 yards on the year. Which brings me to the strength of the Boilers offense, the rushing game. They rank 41st in the country as a team, rushing for 181.8 yards per game. Leading the way is a dangerous duo of Ralph Bolden (420yds, 3TD's) and Akeem Shavers (328yds, 5TD's, 5.0 yards a carry). If Purdue had a resemblance of consistency from their offensive line this duo would be even more explosive. The WR's are also pretty good when they get the ball thrown to them and the trio of Antavian Edison (team leading 370yds), Justin Siller (team leading 33 receptions), and O.J. Ross (team high 3TD's receiving) can all be dangerous in their own ways.
Wisconsin will welcome a team that isn't quite to the level of MSU or OSU offensively and we have to mention that this could be another huge week for LB's Mike Taylor and Chris Borland. Taylor is coming off a 22 tackle performance last week and now has a season total of 86 tackles, leading the confreence and only 2 tackles ahead of teammate Chris Borland's 84 tackles. Taylor and Borland also rank in the top 15 (11th for Taylor and 14th for Borland) in takles per game. The pass defense has been a strong suit of this Badgers team, even though they gave up bad "hail mary" TD's in the past two games. Currently Wisconsin is only giving up 156 yards a game through the air, ranking 4th nationally and 2nd in the conference behind Michigan State, which is the #1 team in the country at 127.3 yards a game. Additionally, over the past 5 games the D has forced 7 INT's and recovered 3 fumbles. What they've been lacking is a consistent pass rush and hopefully that inconsistent Purdue offensive line shows up this weekend on the Camp Randall turf.
Offensively Wisconsin has been hurt by turnovers and bad special teams play over the past few weeks. QB Russell Wilson and the offensive line have not lived up to expectations, culminating in the Badgers only gaining 86 yards rushing against Ohio State last weekend, totally unacceptable for a Badgers team that should dominate or at least hang with any defensive line in the country. Montee Ball has been a model of consistency however, as he still leads the country with 21 TD's on the season and has a legitimate shot at tying the all-time single season Badgers TD record at 24 (Brian Calhoun, 2005) and it looks like the all-time Big Ten TD record of 26 is in jeopardy with 4 games left to go as well. Ball also has been racking up the numbers in yards, with 853 yards rushing a game. He's also been a great threat out of the backfield catching the ball with 220 yards receiving on the year. All of that adds up to him ranking 2nd in the conference in terms of all-purpose yards.
Despite the funky play over the past few weekends away from Camp Randall, QB Russell Wilson still leads the nation in QB Efficiency with a 197.0 rating and is on pace to break numerous Badgers and NCAA records. With only 3 TD passes Wilson will break Jonn Stocco's Wisconsin single season TD pass record of 21 and is on pace to also shatter the all-time FBS record for passer efficiency and could also have the all-time consecutive games with a TD record (currently 36) with a TD in each game the rest of the season, as he sits at 32 right now. He's clearly been much better at home this year and that should help gain a bit more confidence before heading back out on the road for two more games following Saturday's tilt.
The most intriguing match up to watch will be the Wisconsin WR's vs. the CB duo of Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson. Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis might just be the best 1-2 punch from that position in the conference and Allen is certainly one of the best in the nation at his spot, while Johnson has shown that he can make teams pay for throwing away from Allen, as he's got 1INT on the year to go with 6 pass break up's. On the Wisconsin side of things Abbrederis has been on fire lately and currently leads the team in catches with 36 and yards with 595.
Special teams will be important in this game, especially since Wisconsin is making a personnel change on the right side of it's punt halo protection unit. Purdue has the kicking advantage with one of the nation's best Kickers in Carson Wiggs. However, in the punt game you have to give it to the Badgers as Abbrederis leads the nation averaging 17.6 yards a return and is the only person in the Big Ten to return a punt for a touchdown on the season.
Overall, this is the perfect match up for the Badgers to take some aggression and frustration out on. Purdue's defensive and offensive lines are a liablity for them and something the Badgers need to and will exploit. Look for Wisconsin to win big and probably tick off a few more Purdue fans along the way, as they seem to take issue with getting their butts kicked by us for some reason? ;) I like Wisconsin 62-13 in this one.