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WHO HAS THE EDGE
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WHO HAS THE EDGE

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When the Badgers have the ball

Braelon Allen became the first Badgers freshman to post consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Jonathan Taylor in 2017. If he continues producing as he has, it won’t be the last time Allen’s freshman season is compared to Taylor’s breakout campaign. Without a consistent passing game, the Badgers have asked Allen and junior Chez Mellusi to carry the load, and they’ll likely need to this week against Purdue. The Boilermakers are seventh in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 124.6 yards per contest, including a 175-yard performance by Illinois. They did hold Iowa to 76 yards on 30 carries last week.

The University of Wisconsin freshman speaks to the media Saturday night after rushing 16 times for 108 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers defeated the Army Black Knights 20-14 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Blocking defensive end George Karlaftis will be a whole-offense operation. The tackles clearly must play better after Army’s Andre Carter got pressure and tallied a strip-sack early last week. But those edge blockers will need some help in the way of chip blocks and slide protections. Quarterback Graham Mertz also will have to avoid holding the ball too long and eat a sack without fumbling if it comes down to it.

Tight end Jake Ferguson had four catches in the first half last week, and Purdue has had mixed results against tight ends this season. The Boilermakers held Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer to one catch for 5 yards, but Iowa’s Sam LaPorta have five catches for 61 yards.

After not being targeted last week, perhaps UW receiver Chimere Dike can provide a spark to the Badgers’ offense.

Edge: Slightly Purdue

When Purdue has the ball

The Purdue offense will have to prepare for the man and pressure schemes that UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has utilized against passing offenses this season after seeing almost exclusively zone coverages last week at Iowa.

Wide receiver David Bell deservedly gets the lion’s share of the attention as he leads the conference in receiving yards per game (135.8) and catches per game (7.6). But the Boilermakers have other weapons in receiver Milton Wright and tight end Payne Durham that can pick apart defenses if they’re not covered properly. Purdue’s rushing attack has been pedestrian at best since Zander Horvath was injured in the Connecticut game, averaging 64.5 yards on 29.5 carries over the past four games. The Boilermakers may not even try to run much against UW’s front, which ranks third in the FBS at 64.3 yards allowed per game despite facing a triple-option offense last week.

The University of Wisconsin senior speaks to the media Saturday night after the Badgers defeated the Army Black Knights 20-14 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

This will be a test for the Badgers’ front seven to get pressure on quarterback Aidan O’Connell quickly. He gets the ball out of his hands quickly and operates from the shotgun, but if outside linebackers Nick Herbig and Noah Burks can get around the edge as quickly as they have at times this season, O’Connell’s not very mobile.

Edge: Slightly Wisconsin

Special teams

The Badgers lost kick returner Devin Chandler to the transfer portal this week, taking away a speedy weapon from the UW special teams. Purdue and UW are the bottom two teams in the Big Ten in terms of kick returns.

Purdue ranks 13th in the conference in net punting, so a stop in Purdue territory by the defense could lead to advantageous field position for the offense. Purdue kicker Mitchell Fineran is 10 of 12 kicking field goals this season, with both his misses coming between 30-39 yards.

Edge: Slightly Wisconsin

Trends

UW’s 14-game win streak over the Boilermakers is the program’s longest active win streak over any opponent and tied for the third-longest win streak in school history over an opponent. UW notched 17 victories over Marquette from 1944 to 1960. The streak against Purdue is tied for the program’s longest ever against a Big Ten opponent with the streak against Minnesota from 2004-17.

Purdue earned its first ranking in the AP Top 25 poll since 2007 this week. Coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers are looking to snap an eight-game skid against ranked teams that dates back to the 2019 season.

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