MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers have seen the Purdue Boilermakers rather a lot over the last few seasons. The two teams have met in seven of the last nine seasons, but this time around both teams will look a little different.
Both the Badgers and the Boilermakers are breaking in new head coaches this season in Gary Andersen and Darrell Hazell, who moved up to the Big Ten after their predecessors left for Arkansas and got a pink slip, respectively.
And what's more, both teams are going through big makeovers on one side of the ball. The Badgers are shifting to a 3-4 defense after playing a 4-3 for years under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema. And even though the Boilermakers have historically employed high-flying spread offenses, they're making a radical shift of their own to a pro-style offense.
"They're a totally different team," senior safety Dezmen Southward said Wednesday. "Their guys are a lot better. You see them on a lot of fly sweeps and things coming across your face, there's a little more deception. Overall I think they've improved- they've got guys popping out on film, and that's something that's going to be a challenge for us."
But despite what Southward and the Badgers say, the Boilermakers have struggled as a whole this season. They're averaging just 2.66 yards per carry as a team, despite making a significant commitment to the running game in their new offense. Their featured running back, Akeem Hunt, has 125 rushing yards this season on 41 carries, which averages out to just 3.05 yards per carry.
That's far from great, but every new scheme has to start somewhere. And apart from getting in to their Big Ten season, the Badgers seemed excited to take on a pro-style offense instead of the spread and hurry-up attacks they've seen so far this season.
"I'm really fired up about [it]," senior nose tackle Beau Allen said. "This is the first pro-style offense that we're going to play, and their offense is really similar to ours. I think they've got some great running backs. They're pretty shifty. They've been looking pretty good, and I thought they came out strong last week against Notre Dame."
Allen said Purdue's offense is similar to Wisconsin's offense, in that they both try to establish the run and attack defenses downfield with play-action passes. Allen said the Badgers get an added benefit in that Purdue just played Notre Dame, which also runs a 3-4 defense, in addition to their existing familiarity with a pro-style system.
"It's stuff that we're all comfortable with that we've seen since camp," Allen said. "It's kind of a nose guard's game, I guess. It'll be nice to have some inside plays."
"I think that's what Big Ten football is all about, but that's just one nose guard's opinion that wants to play pro-style teams. It's like riding a bike, you just get right back in to it- dust off some calls that we haven't used since fall camp."
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