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Keys to Victory at Purdue

What do the badgers need to do to pick up an important road victory on Saturday?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Purdue at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Purdue Boilermakers played spoilermakers last week and knocked off the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes which in turn opened the Big Ten West wide as the Grand Canyon. This week, the Badgers will put their 14 game win streak over Purdue back on the line in a crucial division matchup. What do the Badgers need to do to come away with a victory in this key game?

Let’s take a look.

Contain David Bell

It’s a pretty simple key on paper, but ask the Iowa Hawkeyes how hard of a task this was. Purdue’s David Bell comes into this contest against Wisconsin fresh off an incredible performance that saw him rack up 240 yards in the Boilermakers win over the Hawkeyes. It was the most impressive individual performance of the weekend and now Wisconsin has the pleasure of trying to slow Bell down.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The last time these two teams met something Wisconsin did not show the ability to do so. Bell’s only meeting against Wisconsin came back in 2019 where he racked up 12 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. It was only Bell’s second career game, but it showed that Purdue had another promising wideout coming up after Rondale Moore (Editor’s note: swoon).

This year, keeping Bell in check will be crucial as he is basically Purdue’s entire offense. Coming into this week Purdue ranks No. 124 in rushing offense and No. 10 in passing offense. That is a big disparity, but nothing new for Purdue.

Essentially, they’ve relied on throwing the ball to Bell and letting him make a play. He is the leading receiver by a wide margin, racking up 424 yards more than the next receiver (!!) on the team. That is incredibly impressive, but it also shows that Purdue is very reliant on one single player offensively. Wisconsin won't shut down Bell completely, but they’ll have to slow him down and prevent the big plays, something we have not seen from this Wisconsin secondary this year.

Keep the chains moving

One way to neutralize the threat of a player like David Bell is to keep him off the field completely. The only way for Wisconsin to do that is to keep the ball and chain moving consistently. Simple formula, harder to execute. Especially for Wisconsin.

We’ve seen Wisconsin do well for control the time of possession so far this season, but it will be even more crucial in this contest to help alleviate the pressure facing the defense and give you offensive success.

NCAA Football: Army at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Wisconsin won the time of possession battle against Army which was impressive, but the offense didn’t really show a lot. Yes, the game plan did enough to beat an offense that has no explosiveness, but doing just that won’t work against a strong defensive team like Purdue.

Yes, I said that.

The Boilermakers have a very impressive defensive unit this year that ranks No. 13 in total defense. A good chunk of that has been against the pass where they rank No. 19 in passing yards allowed. Their slightly weaker phase has been against the run, but they still rank No. 30 in rushing defense.

Syndication: Journal-Courier
Purdue’s defensive line has some studs on it.
Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

As you can see, the run defense has been the bigger issue for Purdue, and Wisconsin will be by far their biggest test yet. The Badgers rank No. 25 in rushing offense which is the highest mark of any Purdue opponent yet this year. If the Badgers want to make it 15 straight wins against the Boilermakers they need to come out, lean on their defensive line, and play a traditional ground and pound football game. Turn that into points and keep Bell off the field and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Be ready for anything

Wisconsin football has dominated Purdue for over a decade, winning 14 straight contests against the Boilermakers. If you want to make it 15 you’ve got to prep for anything. Purdue was clearly hungry to play spoiler a week ago, but they’ll be just as hungry to end Wisconsin’s winning streak against them. There is no doubt that message will be driven home to them all week, and I would imagine Purdue will pull out all the stops to try and do so.

Syndication: HawkCentral cJoseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

In their win over Iowa, Purdue used three quarterbacks in different roles. They ran a lot of different things and went with a lot of different looks to try and confuse the Iowa defense. That will once again be in play here. Trick plays, fake punts, fancy wrinkles will all come out as Purdue looks to end that streak.

Just think to last time these two met, Purdue busted out a double pass for a touchdown in the first half which got them right back into the game. If Wisconsin wants to continue their winning streak, both against Purdue and overall this season, they’ll need to have a good week of practice and be ready for whatever gadgets Jeff Brohm and company dial-up.

You’re on the road against a team that hasn’t beat you in years, in a game that could go a long way in the Big Ten West standings so you’ve got to be ready for absolutely anything here.