Breakdown & Prediction - Purdue

BadgerNation breaks down Wisconsin's matchup with Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday morning, specifically the way the Badgers have risen to one of the top defenses in the country, and offer our prediction.

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (3-6, 1-4 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 8 at 11:01 a.m. CT

Stadium –Ross-Ade Stadium (57,236/Grass)

Television –ESPNU (Adam Amin and John Congemi)

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

Series –Wisconsin leads 44-29-8 (Wisconsin leads 19-17-3 in West Lafayette)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 41-10, on September 21, 2013 in Madison

Series Notes

Wisconsin has won eight straight over Purdue, marking the longest win streak by either team in the history of the schools’ all-time series, which dates back to 1892.

The Badgers have won by an average margin of 24.1 points per game during their current win streak vs. Purdue.

Over the teams’ last six meetings, the Badgers have won by an average score of 39.3-9.5 — or 29.8 points per game.

Despite going winless in its first seven trips (0-5-2) to Ross-Ade Stadium from 1926-38, Wisconsin owns an all-time record of 17-15-2 (.529) on the Boilermakers’ current home field.

Wisconsin has won five straight games at Ross-Ade, dating back to a 28-21 win in a 1999 game that pitted the 10th-ranked Badgers against No.17 Purdue. UW’s last loss in West Lafayette was a 45-20 defeat in 1997.

Wisconsin continues the Boilermakers’ tough string of games, as the Badgers record combined with Minnesota, Michigan State and Nebraska, Purdue’s last three opponents, is 29-5 and 14-3 in Big Ten play.

Wisconsin Notes

A Maxwell Award semifinalist for the second-straight season, junior RB Melvin Gordon ranks No.2 nationally in rushing at 162.0 yards per game after running for at least 100 yards in each of his last six games Over those games, he’s averaging 186.3 yards per game, 8.0 yards per carry and has 17 touchdowns.

Since 2006, Wisconsin owns a record of 24-6 (.800) in the month of November, a record that includes wins over Purdue in 2010 and 2011

Wisconsin has held the ball for an average of 34:11, the fifth-best time of possession mark in the FBS. That ball control, combined with a nation-leading 37.9 percent of opponent drives ending as three-and-outs, has resulted in UW opponents averaging 58.8 plays per game, the lowest in the FBS.

Wisconsin has allowed just five red-zone touchdowns this season, the fewest of any team in the country. With an opponents’ red zone touchdown percentage of 38.5 percent, the Badgers rank fifth nationally. Louisville leads the country, allowing touchdowns on just 31.8 percent of opponents’ red zone trips.

The Badgers have rushed for 2,667 yards in their first eight games — 371 more than they had through eight games in 2013, when they set the single-season school record of 3,689 yards.

Purdue Notes

Austin Appleby has five rushing touchdowns, which is tied for 16th-most among FBS quarterbacks this season. Appleby also has distributed the football successfully, as his last five touchdown passes have all been to different receivers.

Purdue has now played five of the top 22 running backs in the country (yards per game), and still has the top two in the nation to go, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman.

True freshman linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and redshirt freshman linebacker Danny Ezechukwu have made a huge impact to the group, especially over the last three games, filling in for Sean Robinson and Joe Gilliam who both went down to season-ending knee injuries. Last week, Ezechukwu had a game- and career-high 12 tackles. Bentley was second on the team with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Ezechukwu has 22 tackles and a forced fumble over the last two weeks, while Bentley has 16 tackles and a fumble recovery in that span.

Two of Purdue’s losses are against teams ranked in the top eight in the most recent AP poll. Purdue’s six losses this season are against teams with a combined record of 40-11, including three against teams that currently rank in the top 15 in the country.

Purdue has rushed for 1,571 yards this season, compared with 805 yards on the ground all of last year. Without negative plays, Purdue has rushed for 1,787 yards this year. Purdue has rushed for 16 touchdowns this year, including 10 in the last four weeks, compared with six all of last year.

Breakdown

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen knew there was going to be some transition on the defensive side of the football. The Badgers had lost a ton of talent, including the entire front seven, and there was going to be a time for transition.

It hit Andersen after talking off the field two weeks ago following a 52-7 victory over Maryland, an offense that came in averaging 35.1 points and 402.3 yards per game, that he felt defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s unit had hit the turning point.

“I felt, ‘Hey, these guys are gaining momentum and really moving forward,’ and then that carried on to this week,” said Andersen.

That momentum was easy to see last weekend. Going against an offense with a hobbled quarterback and deficiencies on the offensive line and running back, Wisconsin registered its first conference road shutout since 1996 with a 37-0 pasting of Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights only had three of its drives advance into Wisconsin territory and never got inside the UW 25-yard line. It was the first time Rutgers was shutout since 2002 as the Badgers limited the Scarlet Knights to 139 offensive yards.

Based largely on its dominance in the last two outings, Wisconsin entered this week ranked 11th nationally in rushing defense (102.9 per game), third in passing defense (150.9) and first in total defense (253.8).

“The best thing about that defense is there are some very talented players on there and some very youthful players, but it's kind of the unsung hero if you will,” said Andersen. “One guy makes a play this week and another guy makes a play next week and there are a lot of guys stepping up and a lot of pieces to the puzzle. They got a chance to be special.”

Wisconsin’s opponents seem to agree. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood called the Badgers’ an “11 man defense” when asked what the strength of UW’s defense was. Purdue’s Darrell Hazell agreed and his team has played three top 25 defenses this year in Michigan State, Central Michigan and Nebraska.

“They have two marquee players, in my opinion, in (Derek Landisch and Michael Caputo) but the other guys are excellent players, too,” said Hazell. “They run so well to the ball, they’ve got a lot of energy. You watch them, they want to give you the illusion that they are bringing pressure. It might only be a four-man rush because they are dropping somebody out, but they give you the illusion all the time that they are bringing six or seven guys. I think that gives some offenses problems.”

The creation of Wisconsin’s defense is the brain child of Aranda, who develops the schemes and the different packages to allow some younger, raw, skill players to get in and make an impact.

When sophomore outside linebacker Vince Biegel heard Andersen was bringing Aranda with him from Utah State, Biegel heard a lot of good things about a defensive coordinator that liked to bring pressure from a 3-4 defensive concept.

“Coach Aranda was a soft spoken guy but when he talks you listen,” said Biegel. He’s a very knowledgeable guy on and off the field. He’s a guy we listen to when spoken to. He’s a man of short words but very important words.”

For the last two years, Biegel has been a part of aggressive play calling and what he calls “fun” blitzes. The flexibility in the 3-4 allows players to move around, become bigger playmakers and do more things to create problems for opposing offenses and flow to the football.

That in part has helped Wisconsin’s defense to allowed just 68 plays of 10-plus yards this season, the fewest of any FBS team.

Wisconsin might not have a standout player, but the Badgers have senior Warren Herring returning to dive depth on the defensive line, senior linebacker Marcus Trotter being an emotional presence on the field, Landisch and Caputo having All-Big Ten-type seasons and junior Darius Hillary emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the league after shutting down Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo.

“Anytime a coach is successful he's got some good players with him that buy into his system, and the beliefs of what the defense is trying it get done as a whole,” said Andersen. “Without that you’ve got zero chance as a coach, I don't care where you're at or who you're coaching. So these got some very talented young men who care.”

Despite the lofty national ranking, Biegel was honest in saying the group still carries a chip on its shoulder that was created in the offseason, as players heard that it would be Gordon and the offense that would have to score enough points to bail out the mistakes of the defense. With four games to go in the regular season, that hasn’t been the case in any game.

And while all the praise members of the unit received this week was nice, they were adamant there are a lot of tough challenges remaining this season, including trying to shut down a Purdue offense with two effective and quick tailbacks.

“The month of November is extremely important for us,” said Biegel. “That’s what everybody remembers; the month of November in football.”

Prediction

Gordon enters Saturday’s game averaging 9.87 yards per rushing attempt in his career against Purdue, including rushing for 147 yards on 16 carries (9.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers last season. Purdue, like Wisconsin’s last three opponents, have struggled stopping the run, probably the big reason the Badgers opened as a 15.5-point favorite.

Wisconsin has won 27 consecutive games kicking off at 11 a.m. (CT), dating back to 2009. Purdue is better than last year, but they still aren’t good enough to challenge Wisconsin.

Wisconsin 42, Purdue 17

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 7-1

Against the Spread: 4-3

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