When: Sat.; Oct. 17 (noon ET)
Where: Madison, WI; Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
Line: Wisconsin -24
1 Burning Question: Can Wisconsin Finally Blow An Opponent Out?
There is no doubt the Badgers have done some good work on the defensive side of the football this season. It allowed an average of 1.0 points per game to opponents not named Alabama in the non-conference season. However, the offense didn’t come along for the party, and the Badgers are ranked 83rd nationally in scoring offense (26.7).
UW has failed to score more than 28 points in each of the last four weeks after a 58-0 thrashing of woefully bad Miami (OH). Many fans have felt the Badgers should have done more against Troy and Hawaii, and they are right.
How can the Badgers offense get it going? It would help if UW doesn’t have to have the sixth different starting offensive line (center Dan Voltz could be scratch). It would also help if the Dare Ogunbowale that showed up in the second half against Nebraska could show up once again against Purdue.
2 Key Stats
— 9: That is the number of consecutive wins the Badgers currently have in this series. The Badgers history as a football program isn’t great, but this is a historical series they have dominated. UW leads 45-29-8 overall, but have one nine straight in this series and haven’t lost to the Boilermakers since a 2003 loss in Madison.
— 110.5: That is the amount of passing yards allowed by the Boilermakers defense. Purdue’s defense comes in to this matchup giving up the third-fewest yards through the air in the Big Ten. It will go up against a Badger offense that put up 322 yards on the arm of Joel Stave last weekend against Nebraska. Something will have to give in this matchup, and if it’s Purdue they are in serious trouble and vice versa given UW’s struggles running the football.
3 Key Players
Markell Jones, RB (Purdue): He is easily the best player on the field when the Boilermakers have the football. Just how good though? Jones is third in the nation amongst freshman, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He also has 412 total yards, which is good enough for 10th in the B1G, and his five touchdowns are currently tied with now backup quarterback Austin Appleby for the team lead.
Joe Schobert, OLB (Wisconsin): All this outside linebacker has done is lead the nation in tackles for loss (13.5), while ranking second nationally in sacks (9.0) and forced fumbles (4). He is just one sack and one forced fumble away from the national lead in both of those categories. This guy is a must-stop for Purdue and a must have as the Badgers continue to work in two freshmen at inside linebacker.
David Blough, QB (Purdue): There is little doubt that a lot is going against Purdue winning this game, and a matchup against the likes of Schobert and fellow Badgers’ outside linebacker Vince Biegel has to have Blough shaking a bit. So does the fact that he looked like a freshman for the first time in his career last weekend. He needs to be the David Blough that showed up big late against Michigan State and not the one that worked over last weekend. If he can’t, Purdue doesn’t have much of a shot in this contest.
4 Bold Prognostications
— Dare Ogunbowale goes for over 150 yards: The second half of last week felt like the lightbulb finally went off between the Badgers offensive line and Ogunbowale. It led to him reaching a career-high 117 yards rushing on a career-high 18 carries as well. Purdue’s rush defense is laughable, and as long as Ogunbowale gets going early it could be a long day for the Boilermakers.
— Vince Biegel gets more sacks than Joe Schobert: Coming in to the season, Biegel was the bigger name nationally between the two Wisconsin outside linebackers. However, it’s the senior stealing the show from the junior so far this season. Schobert has 13.0 tackles for loss to Biegel’s 7.5 and he’s got 9.0 sacks to Biegel’s 3.0 as well. Look for this to be the game where Biegel climbs closer to his teammate on the sack total for the season and beat him out in a game.
— Wisconsin Challenges its largest margin of victory: UW’s largest margin of victory in this matchup was its 62-17 victory in 2011 at Camp Randall. Purdue’s biggest nightmare of a road trip is no doubt to Madison, and after last week’s performance this could be all sorts of bad news for the Boilermakers.
— Darrell Hazell pulls David Blough at halftime: Look, playing musical quarterbacks hasn’t worked out so well for Hazell so far, but this is one of the best defenses Blough is going to face. He’ll learn a harsh lesson, and Hazell is trying to find himself a winning way. He can’t afford to stick with a long-term project if he’s getting beat up, and UW’s defense will do just that in the first half, while Blough gets pulled at the half.
5 Staff Predictions (overall season record; record against the spread)
Andy: Wisconsin 42-17 (56-13 overall; 30-38 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 34-10 (58-11 overall; 38-29 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 42-6 (51-18 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 35-17 (56-13 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 27-13 (10-4 overall; 4-9 ATS) *joined in Week 5
Chryst excited by Graham Mertz’s future with Badgers
No recruit has ever been as hyped as quarterback Graham Mertz has been in Wisconsin Badgers history.
Normally that would lead to coaches tempering their words and expectations. Given head coach Paul Chryst’s history of exactly that, it was a bit surprising to hear him speak with excitement about what Mertz may bring to the table in Madison.
So far, Chryst has been very impressed with how Mertz is handling everything on and off the field.
“Yeah, Graham has got a great personality,” said Chryst at Big Ten media day on Friday. “I think he’s done a nice job of — he came in the spring, and getting to know our teammates, and I think he’s handling — there’s a lot of buzz and talk about him, and I think he’s handled it well, and I think the team has handled it, as well.”
What has impressed the head coach most about his freshman quarterback? Chryst says it is how he is handling everything that has been thrown at him since he entered school in January.
“They’re experiencing a lot for the first time, going to school and being away from home, and there’s obviously a ton of football with it, and I think all three have handled it, and Graham has handled it well, and I’m excited for those three, Graham in particular, that went through spring and then you have summer and now they’ll be able to go into fall camp and it’s not all new to them,” said Chryst.
“But I’ve been impressed with how Graham has handled himself, and I think he’s — again, cares a lot about teammates and is a good teammate himself, a good person, and I think that’s a great place to start.”
Perhaps the most telling statement from Chryst during his time at the podium on Friday, was the one where he actually used the words “excitement” and “Graham” in the same sentence.
“And certainly we’re excited, really excited about Graham,” Chryst said to the media. “He’s early in on the process, and so I like the group that we have. I’m thankful that we’ve got Jack coming back that’s played in games, and certainly looking forward to fall camp and seeing the growth and development of all of them.”
Does that mean Mertz is the immediate savior of the Badgers offense? No.
But, unlike years past, Chryst is at least willing to go out on a limb and live in the excitement of what could happen in the future.
This type of talk should only serve to continue to spark the speculation and the spotlight on the quarterback position in Madison in the next few weeks.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers quarterbacks in 2019
Believe it or not, the start of the Wisconsin Badgers fall camp is right around the corner and we’re hitting the home stretch of our preview season as well.
No position has had more of the spotlight and taken up more of our conversation than what is happening at quarterback. After watching the QB play go from ok to disaster in 2018, it is back to the drawing board in many ways.
With Alex Hornibrook off to Florida State for his final season and the highest rated quarterback recruit in Badgers history on campus, this offseason has been full of intrigue.
But, what will the 2019 season look like for the most critical position on this offense? Let’s take a look at exactly that.
Best Case Scenario
The Badgers find out they hit the jackpot with Graham Mertz and he’s spent the time between spring and fall ball getting up to speed on the offense. Mertz immediately shows this is his job and the coaching staff sees it quickly as well.
Either that or Jack Coan comes in and commands the position and the offense with accuracy and an ability to hit the deep ball. The offense gels around him and heading in to the opener at South Florida, Coan is the man behind center by a wide margin.
Yes, there are two best-case scenarios at play. But, that’s because Wisconsin’s coaching staff would really love for someone to flat-out win the starting job early on in fall camp. Will that happen? That’s the million dollar question and don’t count out Chase Wolf from this competition either. He came on strong as spring went along and his abilities give the Badgers offense some different wrinkles that could be intriguing.
No matter whom wins the battle in fall camp, the best case scenario is that that person wins the battle early, the offense can focus on installing around that quarterback and said quarterback shows why he won the job with quality play during the season.
Worst Case Scenario
If we go in to week three of fall camp and there is no winner to the quarterback job, I’m not so confident in this group. Yes, it’s the job of everyone to compete at a high level, but the coaching staff not being able to separate between the bunch isn’t good news.
My worst-case scenario would be no winner coming out of fall camp, we see quarterbacks splitting time in the fall and this offense stalling out in the pass game once again.
Musical chairs at quarterback never seems to work at Wisconsin and that especially played out last season with Coan clearly thrown to the wolves before he was ready to make a full impact after Hornibrook’s injury.
As long as the Badgers can avoid having to play multiple quarterbacks because none of them have wrestled the position for themselves, UW’s offense should be in a better position in 2019 than it was in 2018.
Most Likely to Happen
As much as the fans want to see Graham Mertz come in and be this game-changing quarterback out of the gate, the most likely scenario is that Mertz gets some game action in the non-conference games and Jack Coan is your regular starter.
I can foresee the scenario playing out much like Coan’s true freshman season. The only difference being that Mertz won’t have to give up his redshirt to play in a single game.
It seems like the most likely to happen scenario is that Coan is your starter for the year with Mertz as the man getting the early season reps behind him and then Chase Wolf being the other option to get reps during conference play.
Let’s not forget that Coan is the only quarterback on this roster that has seen more than a complete mop-up duty. Danny Vanden Boom could be an option too, but it seems like Wolf and Mertz passed him up in the spring competition.
As much as Mertz is the future, coaches are paid to win games now and that likely means playing it safe with Coan.
Former Badger Rose Lavelle scores in World Cup final
Now the rest of the sporting world knows what Wisconsin Badgers fans already knew — Rose Lavelle is amazing.
After a stellar career as a Badger, Lavelle has become one of the key components to the United States women’s national team. That was on full display in the Women’s World Cup final agains the Netherlands on Sunday.
Following a penalty kick goal from Megan Rapinoe, it was Lavelle that put the final nail in the coffin. She took near midfield in Dutch territory and walked all the way up unbothered and slotted home a powerful and signature left-footed strike to make it 2-0 in the 69th minute.
It was her 10th career national team goal and the third of this tournament after scoring twice in the 13-0 route of Thailand in the opener to this World Cup.
Lavelle would be given the Bronze Ball following the game, as the third-best player in the entire tournament. Teammate Megan Rapinoe would be given the Golden Ball as the best player, to go along with her Golden Boot for the most goals scored in the competition.
The USWNT have joined Germany as the only teams to repeat as Women’s World Cup champions and Lavelle had a major hand from the start to the finish.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019
We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.
Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.
What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.
Best Case Scenario
Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.
Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.
No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.
It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.
Worst Case Scenario
What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?
Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.
Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.
The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.
Most Likely to Happen
The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.
I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.
Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.
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