Five Keys to Victory: Purdue

First place in the Big Ten Leaders Division is on the line Saturday at Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium when the Boilermakers host Wisconsin. Badger Nation looks at the five keys to victory.

Reviewing our Keys verse the Illini. Badger Nation predicted a 28-14 UW victory (actual score was 31-14) with Nathan Scheelhaase's running, turnovers, big plays to Abbrederis and a bad Illini team as the outstanding features. We'll call that a successful preview.

For Purdue the stakes and circumstances are much different.

1, Third down efficiency for Purdue

Against its two major conference opponents in 2012 (Michigan and Notre Dame), Purdue has been subpar when trying to convert third downs, going 6 for 27. This stat has many other key points for the game intertwined with it. Purdue is also not a strong rushing squad, gaining 56 yards against Michigan at home, and 90 yards at Notre Dame. This means, should UW find itself able to stop the run, Purdue will be forced into many long third down pass attempts.

2, UW Secondary

Devin Smith picked off a pass against the Illini, Shelton Johnson played most of the game against the Illini after having missed time with a broken bone in his arm and Dezmen Southward has been showing small signs of improvement as the season as gone on. This leaves Marcus Cromartie, the No.2 cornerback, who has had opponents throw the ball to his area of defensive responsibility all season. Can UW get him enough help with nickel back Darius Hillary? Can Cromartie make one or two key plays in big third down situations?

3, UW Defensive Ends

Wisconsin's defensive tackles will be good enough against Purdue, the question is: Can UW defensive ends disrupt the Purdue passing game? David Gilbert has grown throughout his junior year, Pat Muldoon returned to action and both Konrad Zagzebski and Tyler Dippel made plays against Illinois. If this group can pressure Purdue QB Caleb Terbush (63 percent completion rate and a 130 QB rating for 2012) it will make the difference. If they fall just short of disrupting TerBush's rhythm UW will be in for a long day.

4, UW Offensive Line

After gaining some momentum in the second half against Illinois, the Badgers offensive line will be asked to adjust once again as Kyle Costigan returns to the lineup after a fairly serious injury against Nebraska. The Badgers were efficient enough to get Montee Ball over 100 yards versus the Illini. Additionally pass protection has been solid all year. If they can build on recent success and pick up Purdue blitzes, Wisconsin QB Joel Stave will have a chance to be efficient on most occasions and find Jared Abbrederis at least once.

5, Thunderstorms

Storms are possible, according to the forecast. Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium still have a natural grass surface that in recent years hasn't handled wet conditions well. If ball handling and footing are in question this usually does not favor a passing team.

Fearless Prediction

So far in 2012, Badger Nation is 5-1 and fairly close to the scores. This week we see a pick'em type game. A big fourth quarter break – reminiscent of Scott Starks' touchdown return of a Kyle Orton fumble – would be more than enough to seal the deal. Barring that, the straight up and down facts lean in Purdue's favor. UW's defensive ends have not been disruptive enough and one Badgers cornerback is all too often a liability. UW will score as the running game builds momentum. But it won't be enough as Purdue wins, 28-21.

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