Tomorrow is the start of a new season. A short five game season that will determine the Badgers post-season fate. The Badgers need to put the past, and two ugly losses, behind them and focus on the task at hand. Purdue, on the other hand, comes in with momentum. Getting ahead early will be a big confidence booster for Wisconsin and could change a squeaker into a blowout.
2, Holdin' Bolden
While Mike Taylor may only be the fourth most-famous Taylor in Badger athletics (behind Kam, Jordan, and "I'm gonna steal yo" Diamond Taylor) he was definitely a big part of the Wisconsin run defense. Case in point, the Badgers didn't look the same after stopping the Iowa backs at will before the injury. Chris Borland has been an animal all year, but it's time to step it up to the next level. He needs to show that teams will still have trouble running on the Badgers. Ralph Bolden already has 720 yards on the season and is a more than adequate test for the UW linebacker corps.
3, Calling all kickers!
Apparently Philip Welch's kicking woes have been the result of a groin injury. I buy it for two reasons. First, groin injuries are nagging and while they don't necessarily take you out of the game all the time, they can limit you without noticeable pain. Second, with all the tackling he's had to do, I'm surprised he isn't hurt worse. In any case, Coach Bielema says resting during the bye week has done wonders for him, so hopefully he can get back to the 2008 version of himself (probably the only player who would want to).
4, Don't let Billy, err Joey Elliot dance
While Billy did his dancing on the stage, Joey does his in the pocket. Second only to Boldin on the team in rushing yards, Elliot has proven he can use his feet to create yards. What's more dangerous, however, is his ability to get outside and throw on the run. If you recall, Iowa's first touchdown against the Badgers two weeks ago was on a busted play in which Ricky Stanzi got flushed out of the pocket. He promptly let a 24-yard pass fly to Tony Moeaki in the back of the endzone. Wisconsin would be advised to make sure they get to Elliot before he can escape and to keep coverage tight through the whistle.
5, Oh Henry!
Aaron Henry has had his share of ups and downs. During the two week preparation, the coaches got together with Henry and had a little film session. We'll see firsthand if it worked this week as Henry draws a big test in Purdue receiver Keith Smith. Accounting for 771 of Joey Elliot's 2,022 passing yards, Smith is definitely the go to guy. Northern Illinois was the only team to keep the big play threat from a reception for over 20 yards and a yards-per-catch of less than 10. The result? They walked out of Ross-Aid Stadium with a win. Aaron Henry will have his share of plays to make, and they could determine the game.
Last week I finally picked wrong. I underestimated Iowa. Purdue is another candidate for underestimation. Call me crazy, but I still think the Badgers will take this in a manner similar to the Michigan State game. The score might end close on a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter, but the Badgers are able to run all over the ninth ranked run defense in the Big Ten (just ahead of Minnesota for reference) and pull out the win.
Wisconsin 34, Purdue 27