Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.
After narrowly beating Army last weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers (3-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) are back to .500 on the season. This week they will head back on the road to take on the No. 25 Purdue Boilermakers (4-2 overall, 2-1 B1G). The Boilermakers are coming off a dominant upset win over Iowa in Iowa City, and, like the Badgers, control their own fate in the West Division race now.
In an attempt to preview what to expect on Saturday, let’s take a look at how Purdue has looked so far this season.
- Win vs. Oregon State 30-21
- Win at UCONN 49-0
- Loss at Notre Dame 27-13
- Win vs. Illinois 13-9
- Loss vs. Minnesota 20-13
- Win at No. 2 Iowa 24-7
Status of the offense:
Purdue’s offense is fairly one-dimensional. The Boilermakers rank just a bit ahead of the Badgers in scoring offense, averaging 23.7 points per game (No. 99 in the country), and rank No. 124 in rushing offense. However, Purdue is in the top-10 of passing in passing offense. While their efficiency metrics are not amazing, they have talent out wide and rely on their passing attack to move the ball.
At quarterback, Purdue has used multiple players through six games. Jack Plummer earned the starting nod out of fall camp, but recently it has been senior Aidan O’Connell who has received the bulk of reps as QB1.
O’Connell has thrown for over 370 yards in back-to-back games and appears to be giving Purdue a jolt of energy on offense. He is not going to wow you with his physical tools, but he has been solid recently and has done a good job of distributing the ball to the playmakers around him. On the season, O’Connell is completing 68.5% of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
I would imagine that O’Connell starts the game, but Jeff Brohm has shown a willingness to rotate his quarterbacks and ride the hot hand this year.
A big reason for Purdue’s shift to an even more pass-happy approach this season was an early-season injury to starting running back Zander Horvath. Since he went down against UCONN, Purdue has not found much success on the ground. King Doerue leads the team in rushing at just over 50 yards per game, but as a team, they have only scored three times via the running game.
Another key reason that Purdue relies on their passing game is it fits their personnel. Out wide Purdue has a talented crop of wide receivers for O’Connell and Plummer to throw to. The main target is definitively David Bell.
The junior from Indianapolis has been pretty much uncoverable this season, recording over 100 receiving yards in four of the five games he has been available for. This past weekend against Iowa, Bell put on a show with 11 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown. He is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten and is expected to be an early-round draft pick. Beyond Bell, wide receiver Milton Wright and tight end Payne Durham have also flashed at times and are talented options.
Status of the defense:
The area that Purdue has made the biggest improvements from a year ago has been along the defense. Last season the Boilermakers allowed 29.8 points per game, this season they rank No. 13 in the country in total defense and are No. 4 in scoring defense, only allowing 14 points per game.
Their attack all starts up front, with defensive end George Karlaftis and defensive tackle Branson Deen. The two pass rushers have combined for 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss this season. They both recorded a sack against Iowa and can cause havoc in the backfield on any play. Karlaftis, specifically, is a major NFL prospect that has started since his freshman year.
Behind them, Purdue has been very good against the pass this season. Safety Cam Allen has three interceptions, two of which took place this past weekend against Iowa. Hyrbid safety/linebacker Jalen Graham, linebacker Jaylan Alexander, and safety Marvin Grant are all active tacklers and are used all over the field.
This Purdue defense has not gotten much national attention this year, but they have been very good thus far.
Purdue comes into this contest with the Badgers riding high after their upset win over Iowa. How they respond this Saturday will be interesting. Do the Boilermakers build on that performance, or is it a letdown spot? I think that is a big question heading into this game.
The Boilermakers are now ranked inside the top-25 and are playing well. Bell and Karlaftis are key pieces that Purdue has built their team around, and Jeff Brohm has his team confident. Like the Badgers, they have struggled at times with turnovers and special teams, and Purdue only mustered 13-points in three consecutive games before taking down Iowa.
This game is a major opportunity for both teams now that the West Division is wide open.