No. 25 Purdue tries to build momentum against Wisconsin

Wisconsin (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at No. 25 Purdue (4-2, 2-1), Saturday at 3 p.m. EDT (Big Ten Network).

Line: Wisconsin by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Wisconsin leads 50-29-8.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

If the Badgers want to get back in the West Division mix, it must begin with a road win this weekend. Three division teams, including Purdue, have one league loss. With all three still on the schedule, the Badgers certainly have a chance. The Boilermakers have played well defensively all season. If they can beat traditionally strong Wisconsin after last week’s stunning upset at No. 2 Iowa, even the doubters must reassess Purdue’s status.

KEY MATCHUP

Boilermakers WR David Bell vs. Wisconsin CBs Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams. Anybody who didn’t see the mismatches Bell creates before his 11-catch, 240-yard day last week understands now. There’s little doubt the Badgers will make slowing down the athletic 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior a focal point. The question is whether they can.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wisconsin: RBs Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen. Mellusi, the transfer from Clemson, has three 100-yard games this season but Allen has emerged as the more physical runner with back-to-back 100-yard games in the Badgers last two wins. Together, they could be quite a force against Purdue’s vastly improved defense.

Purdue: QBs Aidan O’Connell, Jack Plummer and Austin Burton. Coach Jeff Brohm figured out how to use these three effectively last week. The question is whether the Boilermakers can make it work against future opponents without the element of surprise.

FACTS & FIGURES

Wisconsin is ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense, No. 3 against the run and has given up only two touchdowns and 14 points in its last two games, including a shutout against Illinois. … The Badgers have won 14 straight in this series and haven’t started worse than 2-2 in league play since going 0-4 in 2008. … Wisconsin has lost eight straight against ranked opponents with the last win coming against Minnesota in 2019. … Badgers QB Graham Mertz has thrown seven interceptions and two TD passes this season. … Wisconsin has only two interceptions and four takeaways this season, both league lows. … Bell has four 100-yard games this season and has 17 receptions for 360 yards in his last two games. … Purdue hasn’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003 and hasn’t beaten the Badgers at home since 1997, the late Joe Tiller’s first season as coach. … The Boilermakers have allowed nine touchdowns this season, second-fewest among Big Ten teams. … Purdue DE George Karlaftis has four sacks through six games.

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