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Q&A: What to expect from Wisconsin vs. Purdue

Hammer & Rails previews the Boilermakers.

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers continue their November march to Indianapolis with a stop in West Lafayette, Ind., as they prepare to take on the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday.

Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) remains in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten West division title if it wins out, and could actually be crowned champ if Nebraska and Minnesota both lose.

Purdue (3-7, 1-6) is floundering without a head coach, and though its passing attack leads the conference, the defense is among the worst in the nation.

To help us dissect the Boilermakers, B5Q welcomed Travis Miller from Hammer & Rails.

Purdue enters its 11th game of the season at 3-7, 1-6 in the conference. Gerad Parker will coach his fifth game after taking over for Darrell Hazell. What's the feeling in West Lafayette now with Senior Day approaching on Saturday?

We’re ready for it to be over. The entire Hazell era has been a dismal slog with very few bright spots. Purdue has gotten blown out. A lot. It looks like it is going to be a cold, rainy, windy day in West Lafayette and that probably will call for an even smaller crowd than last week against Northwestern. Right now, people are much more excited about basketball. Football has only one question: Who is going to turn this all around?

Which injuries could affect the Boilermakers on Saturday?

A lot of them, really. Purdue has had a couple of starters suspended for a while now and some other front line guys like [defensive tackle] Jake Replogle, [running back] Markell Jones, and [mike linebacker] Ja’Whaun Bentley have missed games or have been playing hurt. Purdue has almost no depth behind its front line guys, so when someone goes down it is often a scramble to fill a spot. Personally, I think we should bench anyone even remotely injured and save them for the Indiana game. I would be shocked if we win this one.

Purdue's rushing offense is worst in the Big Ten, 124th in the nation, but its passing attack led by quarterback David Blough leads the conference and is 18th in the FBS. What's led to such a one-dimensional offense, and who are the skill players Wisconsin fans should know about?

Markell Jones has had a rough sophomore season, playing through a shoulder injury incurred in week 2. His top backups in Brian Lankford-Johnson and Richie Worship had some moments (especially at Illinois), but they, too are banged up. It was is bad we had to pull a redshirt off of a kid (Jack Wegher) who got a critical carry on 4th and 1 at Minnesota.

The offensive line has also been inconsistent in opening holes. Purdue’s center and guards are solid, but the tackles have been borderline awful all season. Purdue cannot set an edge against anyone and it is hard to run between te tackles in the Big Ten.

Defensively, the Boilermakers give up almost 250 rushing yards per contest, 122nd in the nation -- and ranks 113th in the FBS in total defense. What's led to the struggles on this side of the ball, and which players are standing out despite the rough season?

First, we are playing a ridiculous 4-2-5 scheme that was designed to do well against spread offenses despite having actual depth and linebacker and a ton of inexperience in the secondary. It has gone about as well as expected. Purdue’s defensive line has been okay at times, but injuries have decimated the group where we only have about three healthy tackles in a game.

[Outside linebacker] Markus Bailey has had a standout year as a redshirt freshman. He leads the team in tackles and interceptions and looks like a solid player to build around for the next three years. Purdue has really needed Replogle and Bentley, its two best defenders by far, and they have missed a lot of time with injuries.

What are your keys to the game, and your prediction for the game?

Can Wisconsin successfully find a way to physically get to Ross-Ade Stadium? If they do, they’ll win. Purdue just does not have the depth right now on either side of the ball to compete in the Big Ten for four quarters right now. It can do well for about a half, but the last four weeks it has worn down and collapsed in the second half. Unless Wisconsin royally screws up with something like six turnovers it will win easily.