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September 20, 2013

All-Out Blitz: Purdue





Welcome to BadgerBlitz.com's "All-Out Blitz,", where you'll find everything that you need to know about the Badgers' next opponent. The Badgers (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will need to recover from their heartbreaking loss to Arizona State quickly, because they start Big Ten play a week earlier this year.

The Purdue Boilermakers (1-2, 0-0) are coming in to town after a strong showing against Notre Dame, and they'll be looking to end a seven-game losing streak to the Badgers this weekend.

In the meantime, here's what you need to know about Purdue:

Head coach: Darrell Hazell (1st season @ Purdue), 1-2
Purdue All-Time Record: 593-517-48 (.533)
2013 Record: 1-2 (0-0 Big Ten)
Ranking: NA (AP), NA (Coaches Poll)
All-Time record against Wisconsin: 29-43-8

Did you read this?

Walking the Beat: Purdue

Season outlook

This is a rebuilding year for Purdue- plain and simple. The next few years might be "rebuilding" years for the Boilermakers as well, because new head coach Darrell Hazell is looking to re-make the program in his own image.

Schematically the Boilermakers are making the switch to a pro-style offense instead of their more traditional spread attack, and from a big-picture standpoint the Boilermakers are trying to cut down on some of the mental mistakes and build a more physical team in general.

We'll see how it works out for Hazell in a few years, but to be sure this is not the same Purdue team you might have gotten used to seeing over the last few seasons.

This year

I mentioned that Purdue is making a pretty big schematic shift on offense, but that doesn't quite do it justice. Unlike the Badgers, who were uniquely well equipped to run a 3-4 defense for a team that had recruited to the 4-3 for so many years, Purdue is not exactly set up to run a pro-style offense.

For one thing, Rob Henry is not exactly what I would call an ideal pro-style quarterback. For a player who's been around for a while, Henry has a relatively small sample size of statistics to look at: he has just nine games in his career where he's attempted more than 10 passes. But even still his career completion percentage sits at just 55.2 percent, which is a little low for a quarterback in an offense that wants to use a lot of short, high-percentage passes.

To his credit, he's coming off one of the best games of his career- he completed 25-of-40 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame. We'll see if that means that Purdue has turned a corner in their new offense, or just a one-game spurt of productivity. He's also a rushing threat, but the Boilermakers aren't looking to use him in that role quite as often anymore. It's a bonus, but not a focal point of their offense.

The real trouble for Purdue on offense comes at running back. They have two pretty talented options that the Badgers will have to focus on in Akeem Hunt and Dalyn Dawkins. Hunt is the primary back, but he's off to a bit of a disappointing start so far this season. Hunt has 29 rushes for 103 yards over three games so far, which averages out to about 3.6 yards per carry. To put it lightly, that's not very good for the featured back on a run-first team.

What's interesting is that Hunt averaged 8.29 yards per carry over the first 75 touches of his career. It could be that Hunt over performed his true skill level in a sample that's that small, but as of now the Boilermakers are looking for more out of their running back spot. Dawkins will also get some touches- he has 61 yards over 15 carries, and both players are threats to catch passes out of the backfield as well.

In the passing game, the Boilermakers just lost a major playmaker for the rest of the season. Tight end Gabe Holmes was the team's leading pass-catcher heading in to the Notre Dame game, which he missed with a wrist injury and has subsequently been ruled out for the season. In an offense that relies so heavily on the tight end, that's a big blow.

Other than that, the Boilermakers are really young at the wide receiver position. The top three players on their depth chart- Shane Mikesky, B.J. Knauf and Deangelo Yancey have 17 career receptions combined, including this season. That's a pretty raw group, to say the least.

On defense the Boilermakers actually return a few experienced players. Eight starters are back from last season's unit- the problem is that Purdue's defense was far from great last season. The Boilermakers allowed 4.73 yards per carry last year, and just over 31 points per game.

Of their returning starters defensive tackle Bruce Gaston probably has the most professional potential- he had 5.5 tackles for loss last year, and the Boilermakers will need a good game from him if they want to stop Wisconsin's rushing attack.

Matchup to watch: Wisconsin's rushing attack vs. Purdue's front seven

This is a pretty unimaginative "matchup," but it's true- it's the most important one for this game. The Boilermakers haven't been able to match Wisconsin's physicality on offense over the last few seasons, and that's a big part of why they've been blown out of each of their last few games with the Badgers.

The Badgers have a strong running game once again with Melvin Gordon and James White, and any turnaround by the Boilermakers will have to start with some better play against Wisconsin's ground game.

The pick: Wisconsin 35 Purdue 10

Even if the Boilermakers have improved enough on defense to keep Wisconsin's running game in check, and I don't think that they're at that point, they'd still need to be able to score to beat the Badgers. Their offense has limped around for the first three weeks of the season, and I don't think they'll be able to score much on a solid Wisconsin defense.

That's the price of making such a significant schematic switch- there might be a few rough games early on as the personnel begins to fit the scheme. Obviously it's a Big Ten game and anything can happen, but I would be surprised to say the least if the Boilermakers ended their losing streak to the Badgers this season.

The point after:

The Purdue Boilermakers have lost seven straight games to the Badgers, with their last win coming in 2003 in Camp Randall Stadium.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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