In the preseason, if you were told that the Wisconsin Badgers would be 4-2 halfway through the regular season, you'd take it. You probably would want 5-1, but between Iowa always playing Wisconsin tough and a road game in Nebraska, you'd live with it. Record-wise, the Badgers are fine.
On the field, the Badgers are a bit of a mess. Injuries to the offensive line and running backs could have the Badgers going on their fifth version of a starting offensive line in the last seven games and a true freshman who was recruited at linebacker getting regular carries. Still, the 1-5 Purdue Boilermakers have regressed sharply from last season, apparently offering Wisconsin the opportunity to pick up a get-healthy win Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.
It all starts with Purdue's run defense. Currently 110th in the nation, it's a unit that -- while it can get penetration -- can get pounded into a fine mash on a per-play basis. The Boilermakers are the only run defense in the Big Ten allowing over 5 yards per carry; that was with the yeoman efforts of linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who looked like a future star this season before he tore his ACL against Minnesota.
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It's not guaranteed that Wisconsin is going to have a big day on the ground, but if Taiwan Deal is ready to go, this definitely feels like a day where he and Dare Ogunbowale could each threaten to surpass the century mark. Alec Ingold should get some run as well.
In the passing game, the Badgers should have a similar setup for success. Troy Fumagalli stepped up for the injured Austin Traylor at tight end last week and had an alliterative six catches for 60 yards. Robert Wheelwright contributed five receptions and 81 yards as well. Purdue is on the right side of the mendoza line with five team interceptions, but the defense's leader, defensive end Antoine Miles, has not hit the stat sheet in October. If Miles continues to be healthy and unused, Joel Stave should have plenty of time to make good throws. If the question of drops gets eliminated this week, then UW could enter blowout country.
When you have a Dave Aranda defense dealing with a John Shoop offense, there's a real chance for a good time. David Blough is a physically gifted quarterback who is struggling to adjust to Big Ten play, hitting 36 of 80 passes for two touchdowns and four interceptions. If the Badgers can slow up safety blankets D.J. Knox and Danny Anthrop, then they will make Blough go vertical. He was only able to have success doing that to Bowling Green.
Wisconsin's defense is a slight upgrade from Bowling Green's.
The interesting question for Purdue is how much it will end up letting true freshman running back Markell Jones tote the football. Knox is a solid back in the mold of former Boilermaker Akeem Hunt, but Jones deserves a lot of the credit for Purdue putting the fear of god into Michigan State with a 157-yard, two-touchdown performance in an Oct. 3 24-21 MSU win. His reward for grabbing the brass ring befitting of the WWE? A meager six carries against Minnesota last week.
Purdue has stark weaknesses in all three facets of play. It's a defense allowing 5 yards a carry and 34 points per game. It's an offense that's averaging a shade under three turnovers a game and has a quarterback whose trendline is poor right now. It's a special teams unit with a placekicker in Paul Griggs who's currently 3-for-8 on field goals. With the offensive situation fluid as it is, far be it for me to call this one a supermegablowout. On the shores of the smoothest run of the schedule, the Badgers should be a win from bowl eligibility by 3 p.m. CT Saturday.
Time: 11 a.m. CT
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Matt Millen, Lisa Byington)
Mobile: BTN2Go app on iOS and Android
Radio: Badger Sports Network
Odds: Wisconsin -23 1/2 (50 o/u)