Sep 17, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Nick Herbig (19) reacts following a sack during the second quarter against the New Mexico State Aggies at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Purdue Boilermakers: What to watch for

The Wisconsin Badgers (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) will host the Purdue Boilermakers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon.

Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Michigan State Spartans, Wisconsin is looking to turn it around and continue to fight for a spot in a bowl game.

Here are some items to watch for in Saturday’s Big Ten showdown.

Can the Wisconsin Badgers shut down Purdue’s passing attack?

Purdue comes into this game with a high-level passing offense. The Boilermakers are averaging the 17th most passing yards in the country, with 312 yards per game.

Quarterback Aiden O’Connell has excelled through the air this season. The senior quarterback has posted 1,950 yards through the air this season, the 15th most in the country. Additionally, he’s thrown for 14 touchdowns with five interceptions. O’Connell was named the co-Big Ten Player of the Week last week and will head into Saturday looking to continue his impressive performances.

The Badgers will get one of their starting corners back in action with Cedrick Dort returning from injury. However, their most dynamic defender in the secondary, Hunter Wohler, is still listed as out.

Wisconsin needs a big performance from their secondary after a tough game against Michigan State. How the defense responds will be a key item to watch on Saturday.

Will the Wisconsin Badgers air it out against a subpar Boilermakers secondary?

The Boilermakers have been excellent in the passing game this season. However, the pass defense isn’t at the same level.

On the season, Purdue has allowed an average of 274 yards per game. That marks them as the 103rd pass defense in the country. Last week against Nebraska, the Boilermakers’ secondary allowed Casey Thompson to throw for 354 yards. The poor pass defense is something the Badgers could take advantage of.

Wisconsin struggled to move the ball through the air last weekend, with Graham Mertz throwing for just 131 yards. If the Badgers are looking to get down the field, attacking through the air may reap some benefits. Mertz has found a solid connection with wide receiver Chimere Dike in the past few weeks. If Mertz can find his favorite target early and often, the Badgers may be able to come away with a victory.

After a below-average performance last weekend, the Badgers’ passing game will be an item to watch for.

Will Isaac Guerendo have a more significant role?

Guerendo has seen limited action in 2022 in the backfield. The senior running back has logged 23 carries for 94 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Guerendo has primarily served as the Badgers’ kick returner. He’s done well in that role, notching 371 yards on 15 return opportunities. However, after the injury to Chez Mellusi, he’s now listed as the second running back on the depth chart.

Braelon Allen carried the workload for the running backs last week against Michigan State. Guerendo logged just two carries for two yards in the matchup. Against Purdue, will we see Guerendo take on a larger role in the backfield?

While Guerendo has been a reliable option on special teams, he could be helpful to the rushing attack with Allen as a tandem. Keep an eye on Guerendo on Saturday and if he will get more rushing opportunities.

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