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Purdue offers Badgers D its biggest test of the season

The Wisconsin Badgers defense faces its stiffest challenge when Purdue come to Camp Randall.

No, that headline isn’t a misplaced April Fools joke. Purdue of 2017 is not the Purdue of the Darrell Hazell era in almost every aspect of the game.

As the Wisconsin Badgers get ready for a visit by the Purdue Boilermakers, they are going to be facing a much more confident and competent team than they’ve seen in the past few years.

With the hire of Jeff Brohm as the Boilermakers head coach, things have turned around quickly for the program out of West Lafayette, Ind. — especially on the offensive side of the football.

Here’s a look at Purdue’s offensive production in the Hazell era:

Purdue’s offense also struggled with consistency, as it threw a combined 74 touchdown passes to a whopping 70 interceptions in that same time span. So, while some of the raw numbers suggest offenses that weren’t too bad towards the end of the Hazell era, this team lacked the consistency to get things done on the scoreboard.

That hasn’t happened this season. Purdue is averaging 29.6 points per game so far in 2017, the highest average in the last five years and best mark since 2012’s 28.7 points per game.

Brohm’s offense is also responding in other areas. Purdue is averaging a healthy 265.2 yards passing (third in the Big Ten) and already has its best touchdown-to-interception ratio in a log time at 13-to-6.

Perhaps the least talked about aspect of Purdue’s offensive rise has been its quick rise in the run game. The Boilermakers are averaging 136.2 yards per game on the ground. While that is 12th in the Big Ten, it is 40 yards better per game than last season overnight.

The run game also has two game over 200 yards rushing as a team — against Ohio and Missouri — and put up 132 and a touchdown against Minnesota’s stout run defense last weekend.

This isn’t to suggest the Purdue offense is perfect, because that’s far from the case as well. It’s two quarterback system has had mixed results to date, with

But, given the horrific offenses the Badgers have seen so far this season, this is going to be a tell-tale game for the Badgers defense.

Let’s remember, this was a group that gave up 271 yards passing to a sometimes struggling Huskers defense. Purdue has only thrown for under 272 yards in just one game so far this season, and that came against Michigan two weeks ago.

Therein lies the biggest hope for the Badgers, as they compare well to the Wolverines defense in almost all regards this season. UW is allowing just 14.2 points per game, sits tops in the Big Ten in rushing defense (81.4 yards per game), and allows 194.2 yards per game through the air.

Wisconsin’s odds against the pass game seem pretty good. Sure, they give up the 5th most yards in the league, but UW’s eight interceptions on the season put them second in the conference (and just one behind Penn State, who still has a game on the Badgers).

The advanced stats are also tellings, as Purdue is the highest rated S&P+ team Wisconsin has faced to date at No. 52.

It all adds up to a Purdue team that certainly is worlds better than it was under Hazell and that should make for an interesting challenge for Wisconsin’s defense.

*all stats courtesy unless otherwise noted. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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