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Wisconsin Badgers vs Purdue Boilermakers: 2018 football preview

A pair of Big Ten West teams—both out of contention to make it to Indianapolis for the conference championship game—go head-to-head at Ross-Ade Stadium this Saturday when the Wisconsin Badgers visit the Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue (5-5, 4-3 Big Ten) has beaten two ranked teams this season in Boston College and Ohio State yet also also lost to Eastern Michigan and Minnesota in disappointing fashion.

The Boilermakers will celebrate Senior Day this upcoming weekend, but the big name on offense is true freshman phenom wide receiver Rondale Moore, who already has 82 receptions this season.

To help us break down Purdue is our friend Travis Miller from Hammer and Rails.

With Bobby Petrino being fired at Louisville and all eyes on Jeff Brohm, what is the feeling about the future of the current Purdue head coach and him staying in West Lafayette?

We’re all over the place. We’re analyzing every little vocal tic in press conferences and arguing with Louisville fans online. There is a large contingent of Louisville fans that think it is a done deal and that Louisville is obviously a better job, but I tend to think it is a lateral move at best with where he has grown Purdue to and where Louisville has fallen.

I honestly have no idea what will happen. I can understand him going to Louisville if that is what he really wants, but I can also understand him staying. It’s not like Louisville is THAT far away in terms of home. He is already owning the recruiting battles there. Purdue is paying him well and has given him the tools he needs with the new football facility we have and improvements planned at Ross-Ade Stadium. We can likely match Louisville in a lot of ways, so it probably comes down to how badly he wants to go home. Only he knows that.

Purdue destroyed Ohio State and defeated Boston College at home, but also lost to Eastern Michigan and Minnesota this season. What has been the key (or have been the keys) to the team playing well, but also what’s hampered it from being more consistent outside of a 5-5 record?

Against Eastern Michigan pretty much everything went wrong including rainy weather. We had turnovers, missed kicks, dumb penalties, everything, Minnesota was a lot more like the Michigan State game in that we never got anything going offensively. It seems like David Blough needs to get a score on his first drive or two to really get in a rhythm. When that happens, things go much better.

We just never really seemed into it at Minnesota, whether it was the cold weather, poor execution, or just the dreaded bad game. It was really the first time under Brohm we looked unprepared and it was even more shocking that it came against a Minnesota team that was awful a week earlier at Minnesota. They came ready to play and we did not. It really might have been that simple.

We always ask about injuries. Who’s out, who’s returning, who’s not 100 percent, and how could that impact the game?

We have had pretty good injury luck this year, but left tackle Grant Hermanns has been out the last two games with a knee injury and is out at least the last two games of the regular season. He has been solid when he has been able to play, but I believe he had to have his knee scoped and it was hte same one where he tore the ACL last year against Rutgers. He’ll be replaced by Eric Swingler, a senior that is a former walk-on, but has plenty of starting experience. Defensively Jacob Thieneman, a former walk-on who has emerged as a team captain and solid safety, is out with a shoulder injury. He is being replaced by his brother Brennan, another walk-on who has emerged as a solid contributor. Cornerback Simeon Smiley will also play.

Other than that we’re pretty good. Brohm is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to injuries. Rondale Moore was a game time decision against Michigan State with I think a hamstring issue and he limped off last week, but eventually returned. He may not be 100 percent but that is pure speculation on my part. Backup QB Elijah Sindelar, who started the first two games, was injured in practice before Missouri and has not played since. He famously tore his ACL last year and played the final two games and bowl game on it. The practice injury was a rib injury, but Blough has played well enough since that he has not been needed. It should be noted that Nick Sipe got the garbage time reps last week at Minnesota, just in case something happens to Blough. Sipe is a redshirt freshman that has done mostly handoffs in garbage time at Illinois and Minnesota, but he did complete his first career pass last week.

When looking at the stats, Rondale Moore is the name in the passing game (82 receptions). What has made the true freshman so valuable? Who else will Wisconsin need to watch out for this Saturday on the offensive side of the ball?

Moore is just shifty with speed to burn. Against Boston College and Ohio State, he turned both games with plays where he should have tackled, but shook off a hit with his tremendous lower body strength and took off. He is deadly in space and can break tackles, but Michigan State, Iowa, and Minnesota may have figured him out a bit. They kind of played a zone on him where they kept two to three guys around him at all times and didn’t let him escape.

As for other guys, running back D.J. Knox never got going last week and that was puzzling. He should have had a monster day against a lousy Minnesota run defense but we never even tried to establish the run in the first half. Purdue’s other outside receivers in Isaac Zico and Terry Wright have both had big games this year too. When they get involved it opens up more things for Moore and vice versa.

Defensively, Markus Bailey is a prominent name and rightfully so. How has this defense looked this season and who has made significant impacts on all three levels of the unit?

The run defense has been pretty good for the most part. It has generally held its own against some good backs like A.J. Dillon. It is good at swarm tackling and not allowing big runs. It’s not great, but it not nearly as bad as it was under Darrell Hazell and Danny Hope where anyone with a pulse could go for 200 yards.

The pass defense has left a lot to be desired, however. It is one of the worst in the country. Part of it comes from facing very good passing teams like Missouri and Ohio State. The defensive line has been incapable of generating any pass rush on its own. It only has five sacks on the year, which is the same number our top safety has. That safety (Jacob Thieneman) is also out with a shoulder injury and his brother Brennan is starting in his place. The defensive line will be much better next year with some very big recruits coming in, but this year it has struggled.

Where do you think Purdue has an advantage over Wisconsin on both sides of the ball, but also vice versa where the Badgers could make their presence felt?

Again, the defensive line has been an issue. It’s good against the run but can’t get any sort of pass rush. That puts our secondary on an island, especially when we blitz in order to get pressure. Quarterbacks at times have been able to pick us apart, so if Jack Coan is ever going to get going, it will be in this game. I am also very concerned that our ground game didn’t do much last week against a bad Minnesota run defense. We need more from it this week. Period.

I do like that Purdue is playing at home, where it has been pretty good since the Eastern Michigan game. Even in the loss to Missouri, the offense was deadly. We shredded Boston College and Ohio State and moved the ball well vs. Iowa. If Blough gets in a rhythm early, he has played well.

Finally, if you guys are without Alex Hornibrook, I like our chances a lot better. I can see us selling out to stop Taylor and daring Coan to beat us through the air. He seems unlikely to be able to do it based on the last two weeks.

Soooooo, which Purdue team shows up on Saturday, and what’s your prediction?

I honestly don’t know. I felt a lot better about this game before we played so poorly at Minnesota. We were just flat out awful against the Gophers. I could swear that Hazell had escaped U.S. Bank Stadium (he is the Vikings receivers’ coach) and came back to coach. It was that bad. I really want to get this game before going to Indiana because clinching bowl eligibility, especially after an 0-3 start, would be huge in rebuilding the program. I don’t want to leave it up to a rivalry game on the road.

I don’t think we’ll be as bad as we were last week. How much better remains to be seen. Brohm’s teams have been at least competitive in every game except last week. I think the emotion of playing at home will help, and if we see Coan, it might be enough to end the losing streak to the Badgers. If we see Hornibrook, I will be concerned because he can carve us up.

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