With the Big Ten West title out of reach, Wisconsin is in an unfamiliar situation. The Badgers have been to the Big Ten Championship game three times in the last four years. And when they weren’t, they were in the race until the bitter end.
Now Coach Paul Chryst will have to find a way to motivate his team against Purdue and Minnesota despite not having much to play for. Wisconsin is sitting at 6-4 overall so a bowl game is already coming. The difference could be in the quality of that bowl contest. The likely destinations are the RedBox Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl or Holiday Bowl. The Holiday Bowl, on paper at least, is the best of the bunch, but Wisconsin has been there recently and the bowl will try and get somebody else if possible.
And the Badgers may not be in a position to deserve a spot in the Holiday Bowl anyway if they cannot beat Purdue and Minnesota. The Boilermakers will provide an interesting test on Saturday. Purdue looked absolutely terrible in snowy Minneapolis last weekend. Just a week after beating Iowa 38-36, the Boilermakers lost to the Golden Gophers 41-10. It was an epic offensive collapse for a team that dropped 49 points on Ohio State.
Wisconsin’s defense will not allow Purdue to score that many points, but if Purdue’s offense gets back on track behind quarterback David Blough and superstar freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore, this could turn into a very tight contest. Despite the disappointment in Madison, the Badgers have done a good job of beating the teams they should beat. It is usually not in spectacular fashion, but Wisconsin has taken care of business against the mid-level teams in the Big Ten. That has usually been thanks to the consistent running of Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor will have more on his plate this week if quarterback Alex Hornibrook is out again. And that will likely be the case. Jack Coan has seen major action in two games this year, the losses to Northwestern and Penn State. Last week against the Nittany Lions he went just 9-of-20 for 60 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Against the Penn State defense that can be excused, but it will be interesting to see how Coan can do against a defense like Purdue. If the numbers do not improve, Wisconsin will be backing their way into a not so exciting bowl game.