The top six teams in the BIG Conference (Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn St, Ohio St) have a combined record of 28-2 at home in 2011. Both home losses came against top teams with Penn State having lost to Alabama and Ohio St having lost to MSU before the Buckeyes had regained all of their suspended players. By way of comparison, the bottom 6 teams in the BIG Conference are 3-17 on the road. None of those three wins came against a top team: Northwestern beat Indiana and a bad Boston College team and Illinois won at Indiana. Additionally, the Badgers under Bret Bielema have a record of 37-3 at Camp Randall, the losses coming against PSU, OSU and Iowa.
2,Win the Special Teams Battle
After the calamities on special teams the last two weeks, this would seem obvious but it won't be an easy achievement. Punt returner Raheem Mostert and kick returner Waynelle Gravesande give the Boilers two fleet weapons for changing field position. In addition Carson Wiggs gives PU a clear advantage as a place kicker and sometime punter. Playing Wisconsin straight up isn't a winning strategy for Purdue. Stealing field position by maximizing the ‘hidden yardage' of special teams can keep Purdue in the game.
3, Run the Ball
The Badger rushing game against Ohio State stalled when it got away from its strength. Montee Ball ran for a respectable five yards per carry, but was only given the ball 17 times. And when running behind the strength of the O-Line, the Badgers fared well against Ohio State. When rushing up the middle, the Badgers averaged almost 10 yards per carry against the Buckeyes. When rushing on the edges, the Badgers tight ends and wide receivers couldn't sustain their blocks. Rushes left and right counted for only 44 yards on 17 carries.
Wisconsin will also have to define the role of James White in the rushing game. White's production has lagged of late, including five carries for 16 yards against OSU. Against MSU, White rushed 11 times for 42 yards. White hasn't been able to maximize his chances as holes disappear before James makes his move. By contrast, Montee Ball has made the most of his chances. The current platoon system limits the number of carries for best running back.
4, Getting a Helmet on Joe Holland
Holland plays outside linebacker and is the leading tackler for Purdue. Wisconsin needs to neutralize Holland to get Ball to the second level. Guard Kevin Zeitler and center Peter Konz will need to get to the second level if the running game moves inside. Rushing on the edges might meet the same fate as it did against Ohio State. Tight end Jake Byrne can help neutralize Holland, but his limited pass catching ability has restricted his playing time. If Byrne is off the field, the Badgers should run between the tackles where Holland can be effectively blocked by Zeitler and Konz.
5, Score First, Score Some More
No doubt the Badgers need to get the bad taste of the last few games out of their mouth. An early lead will help, but the Badgers enjoyed early leads against MSU and OSU. Regain the killer instinct and the Badgers won't be in a position to worry about a 6th key to defeating Purdue: defending the Hail Mary.
The Badgers jump out to an early lead and are never in danger of losing, though Purdue will score a late TD on good field position set up by kick returns. UW 38 PU 17.