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Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers Win Leaders Division Showdown

With Purdue facing its own quarterback quandary, Wisconsin can seize hold of a comfortable spot in the Big Ten this weekend.

Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images
The Predictions:
  • Sahil Shah (+95): Wisconsin 28, Purdue 17
  • Nathan Palm (+106): Wisconsin 24, Purdue 21
  • Andy Johnson (+120): Wisconsin 24, Purdue 21
  • Phil Mitten (+125): Wisconsin 28, Purdue 27
  • Mike Fiammetta (+139): Wisconsin 31, Purdue 17
  • Jake Harris (+140): Wisconsin 27, Purdue 21
  • Andrew Rosin (+168): Wisconsin 32, Purdue 31
  • Louis Bien: Wisconsin 21, Purdue 17
  • John Daly: Purdue 27, Wisconsin 17
  • Jack Moore: Wisconsin 34, Purdue 21
  • Adam Tupitza: Wisconsin 27, Purdue 24

The Reasoning:

The best football in the Leaders Division is probably being played in State College and Columbus. But with Penn State and Ohio State both ineligible to appear in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Illinois and Indiana each sitting at 0-2 in league play, Saturday's game between Wisconsin and Purdue could go a long way in determining who goes to Indianapolis.

Purdue is looking to finally turn the corner under head coach Danny Hope. Quarterback injuries and inconsistent play have marred Hope's tenure to date. The Boilermakers showed some promise in getting off to a 3-1 start that included a three-point loss to an impressive Notre Dame team in South Bend. But then they suffered an inexplicable 44-13 loss to Michigan at home.

Which Purdue team will show up Saturday? The team that averaged 51 points per game in its three wins this season, or the team that averaged just 15 points per game in its two losses? The Boilers will use two quarterbacks, starter Caleb TerBush and backup Robert Marve. TerBush, a senior, is a traditional pocket passer who has completed 63.8 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Marve doesn't run well either.

The Badgers should enjoy feasting on two statuesque quarterbacks after trying to contain some crafty, mobile athletes the past few weeks. It is uncertain whether defensive end Tyler Dippel, who had a nice game against Illinois, will play Saturday, and UW's secondary will need to slow down Purdue's talented receivers.

Defensively, Purdue has been in a free fall. After giving up 17 points or fewer to each of their first three opponents, the Boilermakers allowed Marshall to explode for 41 points and then surrendered 44 points to Denard Robinson and the Wolverines. Defensive tackles Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston are stout and will seriously test the interior of Wisconsin's subpar offensive line. Cornerback Ricardo Allen will look to shut down UW's only serious receiving threat in Jared Abbrederis. Quarterback Joel Stave will need to look for his second and third options, but will the line give him enough time to do so?

Raheem Mostert averages 23.6 yards per kickoff return for Purdue. It will be interesting to see whether Bielema instructs kickoff specialist Jack Russell to boot the ball through the end zone or whether he sticks with the strategy of trying to pin the opponent deep with good hang time. Also something to watch will be whether Kenzel Doe gets another chance to return a punt after he muffed two chances last week. Abbrederis is clearly the better option, but will the Badgers risk injury to their offensive MVP?

If this game comes down to a kick, as many think it might, it will be on a freshman to carry the day. Kyle French has been inconsistent for the Badgers all season, while the Boilers start their own rookie in Paul Griggs.