Three weeks ago, this was a certain loss. An absolute lock. Now, more and more of us are drinking the kool-aid. More importantly, it sounds like the players are, too, and are truly believing salvaging this season is possible -- even likely. Let's make no mistake here -- Wisconsin is a good football team and a good football program. They tend to be bigger, thicker (and uglier) than our boys. But enough about the female Badger fans. (I kid, I kid.)
As we've discussed, if you want to target a 6-win season, it come down to winning three of the last four games. If you assume home vs. MSU and on the road at IU are your best bets for wins (which I'm not convinced of because I think MSU is better than Wis OR Mich), then it means you have to split these next two weeks. And, also as discussed, Purdue hasn't won in Ann Arbor in 40+ years. So, is this a must win? I guess not, but it would sure make this team feel confident heading to Ann Arbor against a limping Michigan squad next weekend.
Do I think it can be won? Absolutely. It will take controlling the trenches, as per usual -- but against one of the biggest challenges in that aspect yet -- and it will take a turnover-free game by the offense and special teams. We've seen the past couple of weeks what this team can do if turnovers (mmmmm, turnovers...) are limited or eliminated. The defense is playing very well and the offense looks confident. And after two weeks ago, we know this team can beat teams as an underdog -- finally. Last week, Purdue won back-to-back games for the first time in two years. This weekend, another two-year streak ends -- the last Purdue football road victory was September 22, 2007 @ Minnesota. That's far too long.
It will be a tough game to win for Purdue this weekend. Camp Randall should be hopping, and it's been 4 years since they played there last. Yes, Wisconsin is coming off two straight losses, but they're to effectively two top-ten teams. I give the Boilers about a 1 in 4 shot to win. I was giving them about 1 in 12 against Ohio State though and they shocked me in that one. This wouldn't be quite so shocking, given how the defense has been playing lately, but I still need to see more consistency from the offense before I buy back in.
I don't have a gut feeling about this one honestly...so I'll go with my head.
Purdue has played some big, strong teams this season, but none are as big up front on offense as the Badgers. Plus, they're a pretty athletic offensive line. Purdue will win or lose the game in this theater: Can Neal, Kerrigan & Co. continue to exert their will on Wisconsin? Can they stop Clay & Co. without being beaten to a bloody stump? I think it's a tall order. Teams like Wisconsin wear you down...and without big play capability, it might be tough to get the win.
We did see Elliott complete a a semi-long pass last week, so I have hope...Plus, I see Keith Smith getting back to over 100 yards receiving this game as he and Valentin should show well in Madison. But, it's going to take a home run or two, either running or passing to beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall.
I think our Boilers will fight valiantly, make it interesting, but lose a close one- the mistake-free football will not last, in my opinion, as I see a turnover or two playing a key role in this one.
If it wasn't for the wind, I'd think Wiggs might be enough to eek out a win, but the wind will play a part in the outcome.
While I'm by no means a Wisky fan, I love this tradition:
My favorite Purdue memory is Meat dancing a while ago because he felt so comfortable...hopefully, Mike Neal is feeling it between the third and fourth.
Where the Wabash spreads its valley, Filled with joy our voices raise.
From the skies in swelling echoes Come the cheers that tell the tale,
Of your vict'ries and your heroes, Hail Purdue! We sing all hail!
Hail, hail to old Purdue! All hail to our old gold and black!
Hail, hail to old Purdue! Our friendship may she never lack,
Ever grateful ever true, Thus we raise our song anew,
Of the days we've spent with you, All hail our own Purdue.