No.19 Badgers square off with Boilermakers in Madison
Madison, WI – The free-falling Wisconsin Badgers seek an end game skein, when they welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to Madison for a Big Ten showdown at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers won their first six games of the 2011 season and were very much in the national title discussion. However, with back-to-back last second losses at Michigan State (37-31) and at Ohio State (33-29), Bret Bielema's squad has fallen to 19th in the nation. With the setbacks, Wisconsin is 2-2 in league play, tied for second in the Leaders Division, two games behind Penn State (5-0) in the loss column.
The Boilermakers are one of the team tied with Wisconsin in the division, but Danny Hope's squad is just 4-4 on the year. Purdue is playing its third straight top-25 foe, knocking off Illinois two weeks ago (21-14) before falling at Michigan last weekend (36-14).
This series has been pretty one-sided, with Wisconsin holding a 42-14 advantage in a relationship that began all the way back in 1892. The Badgers have won the last five meetings.
The Boilermakers aren't an offensive juggernaut, but they do possess balance on that side of the football. The ground game is certainly a strength at 181.8 yards per game, but it isn't done by a workhorse back. Instead, tailbacks Ralph Bolden (420 yards, three TDs) and Akeem Shavers (328 yards, five TDs) headline a group of capable runners.
Quarterback Caleb TerBush has had his ups and downs under center. He has completed 62.2 percent of his throws, but for just 1,283 yards and nine TDs.
Much like the offense, Purdue's defense has also shown glimpses of great play, combined with less than stellar performances. The team is yielding 22.0 ppg this year, with a weakness against the run (169.5 ypg).
Veteran linebacker Joe Holland leads the way with 64 total tackles. Nose guard Kawann Short (40 tackles) is disruptive in the middle of the line, leading the team in both TFLs (11.5) and sacks (3.5).
The Boilermakers will need to shore things up defensively this weekend, as Wisconsin has the ability to move the chains both on the ground (231.8 ypg) and through the air (258.8 ypg). A dynamic offense is headlined by one of the nation's most dynamic players in quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson has made a dangerous offense lethal, and is playing at an All-American level, completing 71.3 percent of his passes, for 2,033 yards and 19 TDs, with an additional three touchdowns on the ground.
He is a nice complement in a rushing game that is spearheaded by Montee Ball (853 yards, 18 TDs). James White (474 yards, four TDs) is another option in the backfield.
The Badgers haven't closed the door on their last two opponents, but the defensive numbers on the year are still impressive. Wisconsin is giving up just 16.0 ppg on the season, holding opponents under 300 yards of total offense (295.5 ypg). The pass defense has been particularly good at just 156.0 ypg.
Defensive coordinator Chris Ash knows his defense is better than it has shown in the last two games.
"I'm frustrated that we had opportunities to win two games on the road against quality opponents and we pretty much gave it to them for whatever reason. We know that we're good enough to win those games. We know that we're good enough to be in those situations and make plays."
Linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland are the most active defenders, leading the charge with 86 and 84 tackles, respectively. Taylor has recorded seven TFLs, one sack, one INT and two forced fumbles. Borland leads the team in TFLs (10.5). Taylor is coming off a monster game in which he recorded a career-high 22 tackles against Ohio State.