In order to evaluate the status of a team, sometimes it’s best to look at their coach’s record in conference play.
Wisconsin Badgers coach Bret Bielema owns a 34-16 record in Big Ten Conference play while the Purdue Boilermakers Danny Hope has a 10-15 record. Hope has aspirations to go in the direction Bielema has taken the Badgers and it all begins with a critical game in West Lafayette this weekend.
Meanwhile, Bielema looks to maintain the Badgers recent dominance against the Boilermakers; six straight wins and four straight at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium (last loss back in 1997).
Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 0-1) Analysis: Prior to Purdue’s embarrassing loss to Michigan by 31 points, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Boilers. Due to the in-eligibility of Penn State and Ohio State, they were seemingly the frontrunners for the Leaders Division, considering their surprising play at Notre Dame (a close loss) and the underwhelming Badgers. But a lot has changed since the opening of the Big Ten season a short time ago. The Badgers have improved and Purdue has regretfully regressed.
Where they’ve regressed most in on defense where they returned ten starters from a season before. Purdue’s opponents over the past two weeks (Marshall and Michigan) have scored a total of 85 points, including a damaging 5.86 yards per play. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had his best game of the year while rushing for 235 yards on the Boilermakers. Everyone knows the Badgers offense has struggled mightily this season, so it will be up to this defense to improve upon a conference best 13 take-aways, the one area where this experienced unit thrives.
While the Badgers have been dealing with a quarterback controversy, Purdue has quietly been involved with one of their own. Coach Hope has named Caleb TerBush the starter this week, but didn’t dismiss the idea of bringing in Robert Marve at some point. Marve is only a month removed from an ACL injury and TerBush is completing 63.8 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Whoever the signal-caller, they will make sure to find wideout O.J. Ross who ranks 16th in the nation with 7.00 receptions per game. Even though the Badgers front has been impressive, they hope to improve upon the season-low 213 yards they produced against Michigan.
Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-1) Analysis: The Badgers are fresh off an offensive renaissance in the fourth quarter against Illinois. Montee Ball rushed for 97 of his 116 yards in the quarter and scored two touchdowns (just ten shy of the all-time NCAA record now). The biggest surprise of the year has been Joel Stave who is admittedly better than expected. He helped lead the offense to a season-high 427 yards against Illinois and is leading the Big Ten with a 156.7 pass efficiency through two conference games. Most comforting is how the coaches and players seem to be fully-invested in Stave, a notion not felt with Danny O’Brien.
UW wouldn’t be where they are today without the defense, they have been the story in Madison this season. They rank 28th in the nation in total defense (338.0 yards per game) including 25th in rush defense (114.67 ypg) and 28th in scoring defense (19.17 point per game). Not only that, this unit is only getting healthier and improving with each week, particularly at defensive line where it’s been by committee and in the secondary. The return of safety Shelton Johnson and defensive back Penial Jean will have an immediate impact.
Prediction: Wisconsin Badgers 30 Purdue Boilermakers 20
I think this is going to be one of the better games in the conference this season. The first half will start off as a defensive battle, similar to how most Big Ten games begin. Both teams will look to establish the run game before using the play-action in and attempt to open it up and spread the field. The reason I like the Badgers in this game is because I think their defense is better. Neither of these offenses are very good and I’m not buying Purdue as on the rise necessarily, they still have many problems on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin is supposed to be the better team and I expect to see that this weekend.
TV Coverage: Big Ten Network at 11:oo AM CT with Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Chris Martin (analyst) and Jon Jansen on the sideline.
Betting Lines: Purdue favored by 2.5 points and over/under set at 51 points.
2012 Record straight up: 5-1
2012 Record against the spread: 1-4
2012 Record in over/under: 4-1
What did you think of my preview between the Badgers and Boilermakers? Do you agree with what I said or am I completely off base? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James White (madison.com)
Ralph Bolden (zimio.com)