GAME NOTES: Recently inserted back into the national rankings, No. 25
Wisconsin turn its attention to the Purdue Boilermakers for a Big Ten
Conference matchup at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Wisconsin became bowl eligible with last week’s 37-0 victory over Rutgers in
what was the Scarlet Knights’ first shutout loss since 2002. The win was the
third straight and sixth in the last seven games overall for the Badgers. This
is the first of four straight games they will play against West Division foes
to close out the regular season.
Meanwhile, Purdue has drifted in the opposite direction with three straight
losses. The Boilermakers were on the wrong end of a 35-14 final at Nebraska
last Saturday. This marks their first home game in nearly a month, as their
current skid began with a 14-point loss to Michigan State on Oct. 11.
Wisconsin routed the Boilermakers in Madison last September, 41-10, and the
Badgers have won each of the last eight meetings to take a 44-29-8 lead in the
Wisconsin boasts the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense (333.4), of which Heisman
hopeful Melvin Gordon is the focal point. It took Gordon only six games to
crack 1,000 yards this season, and he is currently second in the country with
162.0 rushing yards per game. Gordon, who is the NCAA career leader with a
7.86 yards per carry average, is also second in the nation with 19 touchdowns.
Against Rutgers last week, he ran for 128 yards and two scores on 19 carries,
while teammate Corey Clement finished with a game-high 131 yards to go along
with two touchdowns on 14 carries.
In fact, Clement has averaged 130 yards on the ground and 8.7 ypc over the
last three games, essentially filling the James White role from last season.
“Watching a young man like Melvin Gordon play I’m sure doesn’t hurt (Clement)
at all, when he sees the angles that Melvin takes when he gets to the second
level,” Badgers coach Gary Andersen said at his weekly press conference.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin leads the nation in total defense
(253.8 ypg) and is third in scoring defense (14.1 ppg). One week after they
held Maryland to just 175 total yards and a season-low seven points, the
Badgers limited Rutgers to 139 yards from scrimmage and dealt the Scarlet
Knights their first shutout loss in 12 years. Those are some eye-popping
numbers in any context, and the fact that Wisconsin replaced its whole
starting front-seven from last year speaks to just how far this group has come
under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Still, coach Anderson is not taking anything for granted when it comes to his
powerhouse defense slowing down the Boilermakers.
“Purdue is an offensive football team that causes you a lot of problems,”
Andersen said. “They’ve got two very fast running backs, as fast as we’ve
played all year long as far as sheer speed.”
That duo, Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, is averaging a combined 132 yards per
game and 5.8 ypc. They have combined for eight touchdowns, and Hunt is
particularly involved in the passing game as his 36 receptions rank second on
the team. But while the Boilermakers have had some success running the ball,
the aerial attack is another story as they are 100th nationally in passing
offense (185.7 ypg) and 117th in team passing efficiency (105.82). Sophomore
Austin Appleby replaced a shaky Danny Etling as the starting quarterback a
month ago, but the results have been nearly indiscernible with both players
completing less than 55 percent of their passes on the season.
Purdue’s defense brings some much-needed confidence into this game after
holding nationally-ranked Nebraska to just 297 total yards, the first time
this season the Cornhuskers were held below 300 yards. The Boilermakers also
had a pair of red-zone stops and limited Nebraska to 3.5 yards per rush, well
below its season average of 6.3 ypc entering the matchup. Senior safety Landon
Feichter came up with two interceptions and now has nine for his career, while
redshirt freshman linebacker Danny Ezechukwu had a game- and career-high 12
Wisconsin has won five in a row at Ross-Ade Stadium, and given Purdue’s lack
of balance on the offensive side of the ball, it is tough to imagine the
Badgers not running that streak to six straight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 34, Purdue 10