The Wisconsin Badgers (3-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) are back on the road to take on the No. 25 Purdue Boilermakers (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue is coming off one of the biggest upsets of the season, beating No. 2 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, while the Badgers are trying to cobble together a winning streak as they head into the teeth of their Big Ten West schedule.
Wisconsin has been fairly one dimensional on offense (even more so than usual) and that one dimension isn’t as good as it has been in the past. I, uh, guess what my question is here is can anything be done to slow down George Karlaftis and Purdue’s defensive line?
The rest of the line is where I think we can see even more improvement, as DaMarcus Mitchell has been limited of late due to injury. He is the type of player that can really thrive on the other end of the line if he is healthy. He only played one snap against Iowa, but if he can come back Purdue should be even better with him as a hybrid end/linebacker.
As far as Karlaftis, it has been the usual tactics to slow down an elite end: double teams, triple teams, holding, etc. His overall numbers are not spectacular, but he is causing a lot of havoc just by pressures and the attention he demands. If you try to play him one-on-one it is game over unless you can get away with a hold. If the rest of the line can take advantage of that it will be a big day. Brandon Deen has been the biggest beneficiary with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
How many quarterbacks can we expect to see on Saturday after Jeff Brohm used three in the upset over Iowa? What does each QB bring to the table?
That is a good question. I think you’ll see at least two. O’Connell has moved the offense through the air even if turnovers were a problem before the Iowa game. Austin Burton debuted a special package against Minnesota where is primarily a rusher in a pseudo-wildcat, but he has the ability to pull up and throw if he sees something. Ironically, O’Connell had his first rushing touchdown ever against Iowa, so even statues move on occasion.
As for Plummer, he is more of a mix between the two. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards in his career, started the season at quarterback, and has not thrown an interception yet this year. He is more likely to run than O’Connell, but not as much as Burton. He generally makes good decisions, so you might see him like the Iowa game. It was a surprise that we were rotating in quarterbacks like a hockey line change, but it worked by completely confusing their defense, so I could see trying it again.
The Badgers have an extremely talented defense again, but are susceptible to big plays over the top. I know David Bell will get one (at least) but who else could make a big play for the Boilermakers offense?
Payne Durham missed the Minnesota game and much of the Illinois game with a concussion, but before that he was an excellent tight end that moved the chains in the middle of the field. He was the recipient of the first three passing TDs of the season. He was back against Iowa and was integrated back into the offense.
Milton Wright has been pretty good on the other side from Bell, even if he has had some issues with drops. TJ Sheffield seems to get better each game in the slot, and he has one of the most experienced backups in the conference with Jackson Anthrop, who came back for a sixth year due to COVID rules. He is as steady as they come in terms of performance. He won’t wow you with athleticism, but he does everything you ask of him.
Are you worried about a let down game after beating Iowa or is the rivalry, and losing streak, with Wisconsin enough to get everyone fired up?
I am absolutely concerned. The last two victories we had over top-25 teams (Ohio State and Iowa in 2018) were followed by pretty resounding thuds against Michigan State and Minnesota, respectively. It is clear Brohm can get some significant victories like this on occasion, but turning that into sustained success has so far eluded him.
That said, this is probably our best chance to end the streak against Wisconsin. Three years ago we should have gone for two at the end of the second overtime with Jonathan Taylor safely on the sideline and Rondale Moore out there to get three yards. Most of our games with you during this streak have not been close though.
We’re playing at home. We have momentum. You guys are not as traditionally strong offensively as usual. If we can’t do it this year, when can we?
Alright, let’s hear it. Does Purdue stop Wisconsin’s winning streak at 14? What do you think the score will look like?
I really hope Purdue figured its red zone issues out last week. It has moved the ball well all season, but against Notre Dame, Illinois, and Minnesota we couldn’t finish drives, scoring only 13 points in each. I expect it to be low scoring.
Purdue’s defense has been a very pleasant surprise and has kept us in games when the offense has struggled. It can get hit for a big play on occasion, as both Minnesota and Notre Dame hit on long gains three times, which was the difference, but this feels like a game where if Purdue can get to 24 again, that might be enough. I think it will be low scoring. The real key will be Purdue finishing drives like it did against Iowa.