Badgers football vs. Purdue: Who has the edge?

2012-10-12T20:00:00Z Badgers football vs. Purdue: Who has the edge?TOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL

The UW offense most people expected showed up last week vs. Illinois, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter of the 31-14 win. Now, the Badgers must find a way to keep it going against a strong Purdue front four anchored by disruptive DT Kawann Short. The Badgers' offensive line wore down the Illini and RB Montee Ball rushed for 97 yards in the final quarter. "We were kind of imposing our will, that's what you want to try and do the entire game," sophomore RG Kyle Costigan said. Costigan missed that game with a knee injury but is expected to play today. LG Ryan Groy struggled with the new concepts taught by previous offensive line coach Mike Markuson but has been better in the four games since Bart Miller took over as line coach. How Costigan and Groy — with help from C Travis Frederick — fare against Short and junior DT Bruce Gaston will be a key area today. Purdue's defense didn't put up much of a fight in a 44-13 loss to Michigan last week, allowing 304 rushing yards against the read-option. The Boilermakers allowed 439 passing yards against Marshall's spread the week before and are eager to face a traditional offense. Purdue's CB tandem of junior Ricardo Allen and senior Josh Johnson has accounted for two of the Boilermakers' three pick-6s. EDGE: PURDUE

SPECIAL TEAMS

The struggles by UW kickers ended, for the time being, last week when Kyle French hit a clutch 41-yard field goal to give the Badgers a 10-7 third-quarter lead. P Drew Meyer has been dynamite, averaging 44.8 yards over the past three games. Of his 16 punts over that span, seven were inside the 20 and six were 50-plus yards. Purdue's kickers, freshman Paul Griggs and redshirt freshman Sam McCarney, have combined to make all four field-goal attempts but missed four PATs. Purdue P Cody Webster is third in the Big Ten (43.3) and Raheem Mostert (23.6) is a threat as a kickoff returner. EDGE: UW

COACHING

This could be the telling season in the four-year tenure of Purdue coach Danny Hope (19-23). He has a veteran team, and the Leaders Division is as wide open as it will ever be with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the postseason. This could be Purdue's best shot for years to make it to the Big Ten title game, but the blowout loss to Michigan was alarming. UW coach Bret Bielema (64-21) has dominated Purdue, going 4-0, with an average margin of victory of 31 points. EDGE: UW

INTANGIBLES

A battle for third place never held such significance, but that's the way it is in the Leaders, with the winner having the inside track on the Big Ten title game. With four of its next five games on the road, Purdue might not be able to recover from a loss. UW's problem? It can't win a close road game. The Badgers have lost four straight true road games decided by one score. EDGE: PURDUE

WHEN THE BOILERMAKERS HAVE THE BALL

Purdue fans were not happy with coach Danny Hope's decision to stick with fifth-year senior QB Caleb TerBush, who is completing 63.8 percent of his passes and has thrown eight TDs and five interceptions. Sixth-year senior Robert Marve is an incredible story; he suffered a third ACL tear against Notre Dame on Sept. 8 but returned to play two series last week. Marve has a big arm and has completed 71.9 percent of his throws, with four TDs and two INTs. Hope said his decision came down to TerBush being able to get the offense in the right plays and protections at the line of scrimmage. But Marve is expected to get a chance and could provide a spark for the home crowd. The return of RB Ralph Bolden, last season's leading rusher, should be a lift. He hasn't played since suffering a knee injury in the final regular-season game last year. The Badgers got a big game from LBs Chris Borland, Mike Taylor and Ethan Armstrong vs. Illinois; each had at least 10 tackles. The pass rush produced four sacks, and CB Devin Smith had the team's first interception. EGDE: UW

PREDICTION

It's a risk picking the Badgers in a close road game, but the defense is getting healthy and the offense is feeling the best it has about itself all season. UW 28, Purdue 24

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