Purdue. How hard of a test could it be?
It would be easy to fall into this line of thinking when considering the accomplishments of the No. 14 Badgers. A decisive win against now No. 12 Michigan, shutout wins on four separate occasions and a recent win over No. 19 Iowa. It’s even easier to toss the Boilermakers aside when considering the matchup awaiting the Badgers Nov. 30th in Minneapolis against the No. 11 Gophers.
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If this line of thinking doesn’t sound new, it’s because it isn’t. A long time ago, when the Badgers were undefeated and preparing to take on the Buckeyes in Columbus, they first had to get past a little team called Illinois. What did they do? They went into Champaign and laid a fat egg. Fans, myself included, had blinders on to the team that still stood in the way of the Badgers’ hopes to walk into Columbus as an undefeated, playoff-contending team.
I certainly can’t speak to the mindset of those players who were on the field, but I know for a fact that those who follow them did not see the Illinis as a legitimate threat given the momentum the Badgers had going into that game. Illinois has proved itself to be a scrappy team after capturing an incredible win against Michigan State that featured the Illinis outscoring the Spartans by a score of 27–3 in the final quarter.
Four straight wins have propelled Illinois to a bowl-eligible record of 6-4, undoubtedly drawing momentum from their historic win against the Badgers. I’m here to say Purdue will be out to capture the same exact momentum.
The stage is set just as it was earlier in the season. The Badgers have a massive game in less than two weeks that will determine their fate for the rest of the season. The team they face prior to this has a less than impressive record marred by losses to unranked teams.
On paper, the stage is set for another dominating performance by the Badgers. This is especially true when considering the damage done by Jonathan Taylor to the Boilermakers last year in their double overtime win. He managed to rush for an astounding 321 yards and score three touchdowns on just 33 total carries — yielding an average of 9.7 yards per carry, his highest of the season.
But ignoring the ability for an impassioned team to take down a top-ranked opponent is certainly not the best course of action. Purdue has only these last two games of the season to try and become bowl-eligible — it’s a safe bet that they’re going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at their last two remaining opponents.
No, I’m not sounding the alarm of a threatening Purdue team that lies in the near distance simply waiting for the right moment to strike. The Badgers have been remarkably good at getting the job done against teams they should undoubtedly defeat. Well, with one big exception in Illinois.
All I’m saying is, don’t count Purdue out yet. They have a lot to fight for as their season draws to a close. And you better believe they will walk into Camp Randall with a vendetta against the Badgers after they came into West Lafayette and escaped with a 47–44 victory.