UW v. Purdue, matchup analysis

A close look at the Badgers and Boilermakers leading up to Saturday's game in Camp Randall.

Purdue offense versus Wisconsin defense

Purdue projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

QB Brandon Kirsch (Jr. 6-3, 208) MLB Mark Zalewski (Jr. 6-2, 228)
RB Jerod Void (Sr. 6-2, 212) WLB Dontez Sanders (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LT Mike Otto (Jr. 6-5, 292) RE Matt Shaughnessy (Fr. 6-6, 230)
LG Robbie Powell (So. 6-5, 283) RT Nick Hayden (So. 6-5, 302)
C Matt Turner (Sr. 6-3, 290) LT Mike Newkirk (Fr. 6-3, 250)
RG Jordan Grimes (So. 6-3, 313) LE Brandon Kelly (So. 6-4, 250)
RT Sean Sester (Fr. 6-8, 282) FS Roderick Rogers (Jr. 6-2, 181) 
TE Charles Davis (Sr. 6-6, 260) SS Joe Stellmacher (Jr. 6-1, 216)
WR Kyle Ingraham (Jr. 6-9, 228) CB Brett Bell (Sr. 6-0, 200)
WR Dorien Bryant (So. 5-10, 175) CB Jack Ikegwuonu (Fr. 6-0, 199)
WR Kevin Noel (Sr. 6-3, 203) CB Allen Langford (Fr. 5-11, 187)

Purdue's starting signal caller Saturday could very well be redshirt freshman Curtis Painter. He has thrown just 24 passes in his college career, completing only eight. He was 3-for-7 last week when he briefly replaced Brandon Kirsch in the lineup. But the Boilermakers had an open competition this week and Painter may very well get his first career start at Camp Randall.

Kirsch has thrown for 1,625 yards but has paired seven interceptions with just seven touchdowns, giving him one of the lowest pass efficiency ratings in the Big Ten. He has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, however. A good athlete, Kirsch has 179 rushing yards this year.

As always, Purdue has a good compliment of wide receivers. Dorien Bryant is the best with 58 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns. He will pose a tremendous challenge for Badger corners Jack Ikegwuonu, Allen Langford, Brett Bell and Levonne Rowan, all of whom are likely to see substantial playing time versus Purdue's spread offense.

At 6-foot-9 Kyle Ingraham has a size advantage on every defensive back in the country. Expect the Badgers to play press coverage on him in an effort to keep him from getting leverage down field. Ingraham has 379 receiving yards and 29 catches this year.

Andre Chattams had eight catches for 98 yards last week against Northwestern and has 14-152-1 this season. Kevin Noel has produced 9-97-0.

Badger fans remember Charles Davis of course. He is the tight end who injured Erasmus James' ankle when he rolled up on it last season. Davis is also probably the most complete tight end in the conference. He has 12 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown this year and will be a difficult matchup for the Badgers' linebackers and safeties.

Wisconsin's defense is struggling, to say the least, having allowed nearly 1,200 yards in its past two outings combined. The Badgers have been ravaged by injuries, especially on the defensive line. Junior starting defensive end Joe Monty may play Saturday, along with tackle Justin Ostrowski, who has missed all season with a knee injury. But they will not be full strength, so the Badgers will have to rely primarily on tackles Nick Hayden, Mike Newkirk and Gino Cruse and ends Matt Shaughnessy and Brandon Kelly. Freshman Travis Beckum should see his first playing time at end.

Starting defensive tackle Jason Chapman (ankle) and top reserve end Kurt Ware (ankle) are not expected to play.

"I'm pretty confident with both of them (Newkirk and Cruse)," defensive line coach John Palermo said, regarding his redshirt freshman defensive tackles. "I thought they both did a good job (versus Minnesota). We'll probably start Newkirk this week at one of the tackle positions and rotate Gino in there. And hopefully between Newkirk and Gino and Nick we can hold the fort."

The Badgers will probably flex between a four-man and a three-man front, often playing with five defensive backs to counter Purdue's spread.

The Boilermakers can run the ball effectively. Kory Sheets has 347 yards and six touchdowns rushing and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Starter Jerod Void has 294 yards and six touchdowns rushing and is averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

Purdue's largely young offensive line has allowed only three sacks this season, partly the result of the Boilers' quick-rhythm passing game. Senior center Matt Turner is one of the Big Ten's best.

Wisconsin offense versus Purdue defense

Purdue projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

MLB George Hall (Jr. 6-2, 250) QB John Stocco (Jr. 6-2, 197)
SLB Bobby Iwuchukwu (Sr. 6-2, 246) TB Brian Calhoun (Jr. 5-10, 203)
WLB Stanford Keglar (So. 6-2, 227) FB Chris Pressley (So. 6-0, 256)
DE Rob Ninkovich (Jr. 6-3, 251) LT Joe Thomas (Jr. 6-8, 303)
DT Brandon Villarreal (Sr. 6-2, 289) LG Matt Lawrence (Sr. 6-5, 295)
DT Brent Grover (Sr. 6-3, 303) C Donovan Raiola (Sr. 6-3, 294)
DE Ray Edwards (Jr. 6-6, 270) RG Jason Palermo (Sr. 6-3, 307)
SS Bernard Pollard (Jr. 6-2, 226) RT Kraig Urbik (Fr. 6-6, 317)
FS Brandon Whittington (Fr. 6-2, 198) TE Owen Daniels (Sr. 6-3, 250)
CB Zach Logan (Fr. 5-11, 174) WR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
CB Ray Williams (Sr. 6-2, 193) WR Jonathan Orr (Sr. 6-3, 190)

Yes, all things considered, Purdue was very good defensively in 2004. The Boilers were ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring defense (17.2 points allowed) and No. 14 in rushing defense (105.3 yards allowed per game). But the passing defense was a very real and pronounced liability, rated No. 89 in the nation. The Boilermakers success was built on its stingy front seven, which for the most part covered up for a secondary that was rather lacking.

This season the front seven is not hitting on all cylinders and the secondary has been atrocious. In part, blame injuries. One of the most important events in Purdue's season was the season-ending offseason injury to safety Torri Williams, a reserve last season who might have taken over at free safety this year. Williams was probably the Boilers' best cover man and has been sorely missed against the proficient passing attacks that have had their way with Purdue.

Then starting free safety Kyle Smith went down with an injury, along with cornerback Brian Hickman. Smith will hold for field goals and extra points this week, but still needs to recuperate further from a leg injury to get back into the secondary.

The result is a defensive backfield with a freshman cornerback, a senior corner who began the season playing wide receiver and a freshman free safety who was originally a wide receiver. The team's best player, wide receiver/kick returner Dorien Bryant, has also moonlighted at corner out of necessity.


Compounding matters is a front seven that has regressed. Again, injuries play a role but the team is also just not playing well.

Rob Ninkovich will get his first start this season at defensive end in place of either Ray Edwards or Anthony Spencer. Last season that trio was the best pass rushing combination in the Big Ten, with apologies to UW's end trio of Erasmus James, Jonathan Welsh and Jamal Cooper. The Boiler triumvirate had 23.5 sacks last year, but has five so far this season. Last year, Edwards was the second-best end in the league behind James, but this season he has just two sacks in six games. It is a statement that can echo across Purdue's lineup: these are the same players, they are very good and if they click this week, Wisconsin will have quite the game on its hands.

Linebacker Bobby Iwuchukwu started last week despite having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee two weeks previous. Reserve linebackers Cliff Avril and Dan Bick are also battling injuries. Expect to see outside linebacker Kyle Williams often. An aggressive hitter, Williams is fourth on the team with 27 tackles despite starting just one game.

The Boilers matchup poorly against Wisconsin. Brian Calhoun should have success running the football behind the Badger offensive line. Purdue could limit or even shutdown Calhoun if they completely load up the box against UW. But that will leave Purdue's corners at the mercy of receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr. Even if Purdue focuses on providing help in pass defense John Stocco should have plenty of options to play with, especially with a healthier Owen Daniels to attack the middle of the field with. Calhoun will be a tricky matchup in the passing game for the Boilers as well.

Wisconsin versus Purdue special teams

Purdue projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

PK/KO Ben Jones (Sr. 6-1, 213) PK/KO Taylor Mehlhaff (So. 5-11, 179)
P/H Dave Brytus (So. 6-4, 227)/Kyle Smith (Sr. 6-4, 216) P/H Ken DeBauche (So. 6-2, 219)
LS Brandon Villarreal (Sr. 6-2, 289) LS Steve Johnson (So. 6-3, 247)
PR Lance Melvin (Fr. 5-9, 193) PR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
KR Dorien Bryant (So. 5-10, 175) KR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)

Ken DeBauche ought to be the favorite for the Ray Guy Award. If he keeps playing with the consistency and excellence he has demonstrated so far this season, the Badgers should name their special teams player of the year award after him. Put DeBauche within 55 yards of the end zone and he is going to put the ball on the 2-yard line, have it spin up in the air and be downed by Zach Hampton. This much seems certain: death, taxes, and Ken DeBauche.

Wisconsin has been blessed with great special teams play this season, of which last week's dramatic game-winning punt block for a touchdown was simply the most acute example. Returner Brandon Williams might be the Big Ten's best this season and is consistently avoided by opposing teams. Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff has been excellent.

Purdue kicker Ben Jones made an 18-yard field goal to beat Wisconsin in Madison two years ago, but missed a 42-yarder that could have sent last season's game into overtime. He is 3 of 6 this year, with five of his six attempts, and all three of his made field goals, coming from 44 yards or further out.

Dorien Bryant has been excellent on kick returns, averaging 26.7 yards per attempt. Lance Melvin has been solid since taking over as the punt returner, with 9.9 yards per attempt on just eight tries.

The Boilers punt coverage has been excellent, allowing just 3.4 yards per return, leading to a 38.7-yard net-punting average.

Final thoughts

This has the look of a trap game for the Badgers. Purdue is talented enough to steal one in Camp Randall, but the Boilermakers' nightmare will extend at least another week.

BadgerNation.com prediction: Wisconsin 41, Purdue 27

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