Boilermakers offense v. Badgers defense
|Purdue projected starters||Wisconsin projected starters|
|QB Kyle Orton (Jr. 6-4, 223)||DE Darius Jones (Jr. 6-3, 268)|
|WR J. Standeford (Sr. 6-4, 206)||DT Anttaj Hawthorne (Jr. 6-3, 300)|
|WR T. Stubblefield (Jr. 6-1, 172)||DT Jason Jefferson (Jr. 6-3, 307)|
|WR Ray Williams (So. 6-2, 188)||DE Jonathan Welsh (Jr. 6-4, 228)|
|RB Brandon Jones (So. 5-11, 231)||LB Kareem Timbers (Jr. 6-3, 209)|
|LT Mike Otto (Fr. 6-5, 299)||LB Jeff Mack (Sr. 6-0, 244)|
|LG Matt Turner (So. 6-3, 288)||LB Alex Lewis (Sr. 6-1, 237)|
|C Nick Hardwick (Sr. 6-4, 282)||CB Scott Starks (Jr. 5-10, 168)|
|RG Tyler Moore (Jr. 6-7, 285)||SS Ryan Aiello (Sr. 6-1, 196)|
|RT Kelly Butler (Jr. 6-8, 320)||FS Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)|
|TE Charles Davis (So. 6-6, 265)||CB Levonne Rowan (So. 6-1, 178)|
Purdue: RB Jerod Void (So. 6-2, 213), RB Jerome Brooks (Fr. 5-11, 175), WR Anthony Chambers (Sr. 6-1, 203), WR Kyle Ingraham (Fr. 6-9, 213), FB Patrick Schaub (Sr. 6-0, 228), WR Jamaal Wilson (Sr. 6-3, 200)
Wisconsin: LB LaMarr Watkins (So. 6-1, 216), DE Joe Monty (Fr. 6-2, 246), DT/DE Nick Cochart (Sr. 6-1, 267), DT Kalvin Barrett (Jr. 6-2, 316), LB Chris Catalano (Jr. 6-1, 206), LB Elliot Goode (So. 6-2, 240), LB Kyle McCorison (Sr. 6-0, 242), DT Lyle Maiava (So. 6-2, 294).
When the Boilermakers have the ball…
Expect a little bit of everything. Purdue will look to establish the line of scrimmage with the running game early and often. The Boilermakers' three running backs have each claimed 100-yard days and are approaching 1,000 yards combined. The Badgers run defense, meanwhile, has been very stout in three Big Ten games, allowing just 59.3 yards per contest. Wisconsin's defensive line has steadily improved and is playing at its highest level of the season. Purdue's offensive line, meanwhile, is probably the best the Badgers have faced this year. The Boilermakers have allowed just seven sacks all season. The matchup to watch is Purdue's redshirt freshman left tackle, Mike Otto, versus Wisconsin defensive end Jonathan Welsh, who normally plays on the right side and has established himself as a presence on the edge in his first season as a starter.
Purdue will, of course, still throw the ball. In a league stocked with high-caliber quarterbacks, Kyle Orton has been the most impressive so far (aside from John Navarre's fourth quarter against Minnesota), completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,210 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Orton has also picked up 115 yards on the ground.
Few receivers in the country can match the production and skill of Wisconsin's Lee Evans. Purdue, however, has two whose production matches up favorably with the Badger star. Senior John Standeford will likely exit Lafayette as the Big Ten's all-time leading receiver and by the time junior Taylor Stubblefield is done, he will not be far behind. Combined, the duo has caught 405 passes for 5,131 yards. This season Standeford has 28 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns, while Stubblefield has tallied 38, 346 and two, respectively. Orton will spread the ball to his backs, tight ends and other receivers, but the headline acts have caught 58 percent of Purdue's receptions.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin's corners have also played very well in recent weeks and safety Jim Leonhard just keeps making plays. The Badgers depth may be tested, Saturday. Though not as often as in the past, Purdue will spread the field with four and five receiver sets, something Wisconsin has struggled to defend. In recent meetings with Purdue, the Badgers have fluctuated from year-to-year between primarily defending the spread with a nickel or dime defense or sticking with the base defense (while perhaps playing a defensive back or two at a linebacker position). The Badgers thrived playing press-man coverage against Ohio State's receivers last week. Purdue's use of motion, movement and tremendous personnel variety, though, could limit this tactic.
Badgers offense v. Boilermakers defense
|Wisconsin projected starters||Purdue projected starters|
|QB Jim Sorgi (Sr. 6-5, 190)||DE Shaun Phillips (Sr. 6-3, 255)|
|TB Anthony Davis (Jr. 5-8, 191)||DT Craig Terrill (Sr. 6-3, 287)|
|FB Matt Bernstein (So. 6-2, 273)||DT Brent Grover (So. 6-4, 280)|
|WR Lee Evans (Sr. 5-11, 202)||DE Kevin Nesfield (Sr. 6-3, 255)|
|WR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||LB Landon Johnson (Sr. 6-2, 225)|
|LT Morgan Davis (Jr. 6-5, 326)||LB Niko Koutouvides (Sr. 6-3, 241)|
|LG Dan Buenning (Jr. 6-4, 298)||LB Gilbert Gardner (Sr. 6-2, 233)|
|C Donovan Raiola (So. 6-3, 290)||CB Jacques Reeves (Sr. 6-1, 194)|
|RG J. Clinkscale (Jr. 6-3, 308)||SS Bernard Pollard (Fr. 6-2, 212)|
|RT Mike Lorenz (So. 6-5, 313)||FS Stuart Schweigert (Sr. 6-3, 217)|
|TE Tony Paciotti (Jr. 6-4, 263)||CB Antwaun Rogers (Jr. 6-2, 168)|
Wisconsin: TB Dwayne Smith (So. 5-11, 225), TB Booker Stanley (Fr. 5-10, 207), WR/TE Owen Daniels (So. 6-3, 213), WR Jonathan Orr (So. 6-3, 190), WR Darrin Charles (Jr. 6-6, 210), TE Jason Pociask (So. 6-3, 250), WR Ernest Mason (Fr. 5-11, 180), WR Brandon White (So. 6-3, 182), OT/TE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 280).
Purdue: DT Brandon Villarreal (So. 6-2, 285), SS Deaunte Ferrell (Sr. 5-11, 200), LB George Hall (Fr. 6-2, 237), DE Vedran Dzolovic (Sr. 6-3, 262), LB Jon Goldsberry (Jr. 6-3, 249), FS Kyle Smith (So. 6-4, 215).
When the Badgers have the ball…
The constant question remains will Anthony Davis play? Davis will almost certainly suit up and warm up Saturday morning, but whether or not he plays, and continues to play throughout the game, is anyone's guess. Booker Stanley and Dwayne Smith have proven they can carry the load, but Davis is the type of special player that can make a difference in a game that will be as hard fought as this one.
Wisconsin's offense has developed a balance of sorts. The team is going to run the ball more often it throws, but with Lee Evans and Brandon Williams making big play after big play, the team is averaging almost as many passing yards (193.9) per game as rushing yards (210.9) despite running the ball 68.5 percent of the time. Sure, the Badgers are going to pound the football, but teams have to remain honest because of the potential for game-changing plays from the passing game.
For the second consecutive week the Badgers face one of the best defenses in the country. Purdue is allowing fewer points and fewer yards per game than any team in the Big Ten. Defensive tackle Craig Terrill and end Shaun Phillips anchor a stout front four that does not receive the publicity of Ohio State's, but may be just as good. Of the duo's 35 tackles, 15.5 have been for loss, including 8.5 sacks. Terrill, of course, blocked the field goal in overtime that resulted in a Purdue victory the last time these teams met.
Purdue compliments that strength up front with plenty of size and speed in the back seven. Linebackers Niko Koutouvides, Landon Johnson and Gilbert Gardner are the best group in the Big Ten and free safety Stuart Schweigert is the best defensive player the Badgers have faced all season (with apologies to West Virginia linebacker Grant Wiley). The rest of the secondary does not exactly slouch. Corners Antwaun Rogers and Jacques Reeves have 58 tackles and 14 pass breakups between them. They have good size (Rogers is 6-2, Reeves 6-1) and plenty of speed. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is also an impressive player. Evans and Williams have proven throughout this season that when they need to get open, they will. This could be their biggest challenge yet.
Special Teams matchup
|Wisconsin specialists||Purdue specialists|
|P R.J. Morse (Jr. 6-1, 246)||Brent Slaton (Sr. 6-3, 204)|
|PK Mike Allen (Jr. 6-2, 186)||Ben Jones (So. 6-0, 213)|
|KO Scott Campbell (Sr. 6-0, 245)||Jones|
|KR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||Jerome Brooks (Fr. 5-11, 175)|
|PR Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)||Anthony Chambers (Sr. 6-1, 203)|
|LS Matt Katula (Jr. 6-6, 282)||Brandon Villarreal (So. 6-2, 285)|
|H Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203)||Kyle Smith (So. 6-4, 215)|
The special teams show matches two of the best punt returners in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard and Purdue's Anthony Chambers both have the ability to take a punt the distance. Meanwhile, each team's punt coverage units have played well recently.
In a game that looks set to come down to the wire, the kickers could play a starring role. The Badgers' Mike Allen and Boilermaker Ben Jones each have the ability to win games late. Slaton, though, has a slight edge here.
Though it played very well last week, Wisconsin's kick coverage team is a huge key. Jerome Brooks is a very good return man. Wisconsin can ill-afford a breakdown Saturday.
The last three meetings between these two teams have been classics and this should be no different. Both teams head into this Big Ten bout playing exceptionally well in all three phases.
Like last week, Wisconsin's high powered offense will be able to move the ball against an extremely good defense, perhaps with even more success. The difference in this game, however, may be that Purdue's offense is playing far better than Ohio State's was.
Then there is the close-game factor. Wisconsin has been in close contests just about every week and has shown its mettle time and again. The Boilermakers had the top-rated offense and defense in the Big Ten last season, but still finished 4-4 because they could not pull out games in the end. A big part of that equation was turnovers, a category where Purdue has enjoyed a complete turnaround (plus nine this year). The team lost a tight opener with Bowling Green but rebounded in a close game with Wake Forest and appears to have the kinks figured out.
These are two very talented teams in an extremely big game, one of what will prove to be many conference title bouts this season for each team. In this one, though, Purdue has a slight edge in the end.
Prediction: Purdue 23, Wisconsin 21