Breakdown: Purdue

In a pivotal game in the Big Ten Leaders Division, Wisconsin travels to West Lafayette to take on Purdue, giving the winner an early advantage for a berth in the conference championship game. Badger Nation looks at the matchup.

Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, October 13 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium – Ross Ade Stadium (62,500/Grass)

Television – Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler, Chris Martin and Jon Jansen)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 40-29-8 (Tied 17-17-4 in West Lafayette, Ind.)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 62-17, on November 5, 2011 in Madison

Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

Bret Bielema is 4-0 against Purdue, including a 2-0 mark in West Lafayette.

Wisconsin has averaged 34.7 points against the Boilermakers during its current six-game win streak, winning by an average of 23.0 points.

The Badgers have given up an average of just 8.3 points in their last four meetings with Purdue.

Purdue has faced this season's opponent, Wisconsin, 20 times on Homecoming Weekend and are 9-10-1 all-time when doing so.

The 20 appearances by the Badgers as the Homecoming opponent is the most by any school

Head coach Danny Hope is 2-1 all-time on Homecoming, having defeated Illinois last season and Minnesota in 2010.

Wisconsin Notes

Bielema is 34-16 in Big Ten play since becoming UW's head coach in 2006. The Badgers' 34 conference wins are tied with Penn State for the second-most in the Big Ten since 2006. Only Ohio State (41) has won more Big Ten games over that span.

Wisconsin is 22-6 in its last 28 games. Each of the Badgers' six losses have come by seven points or less, with an average margin of 4.2 points (25 total points).

Redshirt freshman QB Joel Stave leads the Big Ten with a 156.7 pass efficiency rating in conference play. Stave has completed 28-of-48 passes for 468 yards and three TDs against a single interception. Ohio State's Braxton Miller ranks No. 2 at 144.1.

Through six games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing 19.2 points per game, a mark that ranks the Badgers fourth in the Big Ten and 28th nationally. UW is 43-3 under Bret Bielema when holding teams to 20 points or fewer.

UW's defense has allowed just 27 offensive yards on its opponents' six game opening drives. Opponents are averaging 3.0 plays and 4.5 yards of offense on their opening drives this season.

Purdue Notes

Junior wide receiver O.J. Ross has already caught a career-high 35 passes in five games this season (previous was 33 in 2011). He leads the Big Ten and is tied for 16th among all Football Bowl Subdivision players in receptions per game at 7.0. Prior to this season, Ross had never caught more than five balls in a game, a feat he has accomplished in all five contests this season, including a pair of games with eight receptions and one with nine.

The Boilermakers have been taking care of business when it matters most. Purdue is a nearly perfect 19 for 21 when penetrating the opposition's red zone (16 touchdowns, three field goals) and are converting third downs on 51 percent of its tries. Purdue has been perfect in the red zone in four its five games this season and only failed to convert while trying to run out the clock in two red zone appearances against Marshall.

Senior defensive tackle Kawann Short is third nationally amongst active FBS players in career tackles for loss (41.5) and tied for 13th in career sacks (16.5).

Purdue saw its three-game home winning streak get snapped with the 44-13 loss to the Wolverines last weekend.

Prediction

With all the video game numbers Wisconsin's offense has put up in recent years (including last year's 63 points against Purdue), people have forgotten how tough, balanced and simply good defense the Badgers tend to play. Now with the offense struggling with consistency, the Badgers' defense is being leaned on more than usual, and the group has responded.

Wisconsin has allowed only two opponents to score over 21 points this season and has allowed just 13 of its opponents' 78 drives to enter the red zone this season (16.7 percent). Among teams that have played six games, only four have allowed fewer trips inside the 20.

Once again, that success has come in part from the Badgers' 3-3-5 defense. Also known as the ‘Badger' package, Wisconsin has efficiently subbed in a nickel cornerback for the strongside linebacker and brings in another linebacker to play defensive end. With more speed on the field and creating confusion for opposing offenses, it's allowed players like junior linebacker Chris Borland the freedom to be playmakers.

Named a quarterfinalist for the Lombardi Award, one of four Big Ten players still in contention for the award, Borland recorded the 11th double-digit tackle game of his career with 10 stops verse Illinois. In his last three games, Borland has averaged 10.3 tackles, including a season-high 12 verse UTEP.

"(The 3-3-5 has) been pretty important to us," said Borland. "We've been good on third downs sine I have been here and that package is a large part of it. Sometimes what we do out it is basically play nickel with an extra pass rusher in there. It's worked for us, but it's nothing out of this world."

Running the defense an estimated 30 snaps a week, it was this formation that Borland cut his teeth as a freshman in 2009 en route to being named conference freshman of the year. It's a defense that requires intelligent, aggressive players, which has been Borland's M.O. since he arrived on campus.

"You have to be keyed in to your assignments and your adjustments with what the offense shows," he said. "After that, you have to be extremely aggressive when you rush the passer. You have to beat a one-on-one or take on a double team for someone else."

That defense will be vital in keeping the pressure on Purdue in what has turned into a true pick'em game. In its 44-13 loss at home to Michigan last Saturday, Purdue had just 213 yards of total offense, contributing to the school's worse home lose since 1990.

Head coach Danny Hope will continue to rotate quarterbacks, but said that Caleb Terbush remains the starting quarterback and Robert Marve will play. Marve played against Michigan after missing two games because of a knee injury. Hope said Marve has a stronger arm and likely has more big play potential, but TerBush makes better decisions.

Purdue also will likely get back senior tailback Ralph Bolden, who was Purdue's leading rusher last year and has not played since suffering a knee injury in the regular season finale against Indiana.

Wisconsin showed last week that it can handle offenses with multiple dimensions. Granted Purdue is not Illinois and Illinois is not Nebraska, but certain similarities in the offense should be prevalent and help the Badgers' defense take advantage.

Wisconsin's offense isn't as explosive as Michigan's, but the Badgers should feel encouraged by what it did in the fourth quarter against Illinois and what the Wolverines did throughout the game against Purdue the week before. I fully expect Wisconsin's trio of tailbacks to set the tone, the Badgers' defense to continue playing at a high level and UW to take control of the Leaders Division race.

Wisconsin 30, Purdue 21

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 5-1

Against the Spread: 4-1

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