The Purdue Boilermakers hit the road this week for their biggest test in Big Ten play to date. Sure, they have already played Michigan, but now the Boilermakers are on the road to play Wisconsin, a team that presents a physical challenge on offense with a powerful running game and a defense that never seems to get the credit it deserves.
For Jeff Brohm, the opportunity to measure his program up against the top team in the Big Ten West is a terrific opportunity no matter what the result, but don’t expect these Boilermakers to simply roll over and lay out the red carpet for Wisconsin. This Purdue team is significantly improved from previous years and is playing with a renewed sense of confidence. But how much can that carry them on the road this week against a Wisconsin team with the look of a true Big Ten, and possibly a College Football Playoff, contender?
Purdue at Wisconsin
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Wisconsin -16.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Feed Jonathan Taylor against Boilermakers defense
Purdue comes into this week’s matchup in Big Ten play with the conference’s 11th-ranked rushing defense. The Boilermakers just gave up 227 yards on the ground to Minnesota, and running is what makes Wisconsin move. Taylor, a freshman, leads all running backs in the Big Ten with 153.4 rushing yards per game and nine touchdowns. He should be in for a big afternoon against Purdue.
2. Wisconsin nearly leading Big Ten in sacks recorded
Purdue may be making some moves to improve the offense as a whole, but it may take some time to have an offensive line ready to slow down Wisconsin’s pass rush. The Badgers are second in the Big Ten in total sacks recorded (17.0; tied with Penn State and trailing only Michigan and Ohio State with 18.0 each). Look for Grant Dooley and the Badgers to feast against Purdue, who has allowed the second-most sacks in the Big Ten (17.0; only Northwestern has allowed more with 19.0).
3. Purdue getting it done in the red zone
One area of significant improvement for Purdue this season has been the productivity inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Boilermakers are taking care of business once inside the 20-yard line with a Big Ten-leading red zone scoring percentage (95.0) and the second-best red zone touchdown percentage (70.0; Northwestern leads with 78.95). Just one red zone trip has failed to score points this season. But this week will be the stingiest test yet, with Wisconsin owning one of the top red zone defenses in the Big Ten.
You have to love what Jeff Brohm is doing with Purdue right now, and the chances to get to a postseason bowl game is still a realistic goal for the first time in a while. However, this is not a matchup that gives them much of a chance. Wisconsin is bigger, faster, stronger, and deeper in just about every aspect of this game. Purdue is capable of holding their own and keeping this one respectable, but the Badgers should manage to power their way to a win to keep the goal of an undefeated regular season in play.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 17
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.