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Purdue Opponent Preview: Wisconsin

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Purdue enters Year Two of the Ryan Walters era looking for growth following a 4-8 debut campaign. The Boilermakers will again face one of the nation’s most demanding schedules, a daunting proposition as they hope to return to postseason play.

Throughout the summer, will preview each of Purdue’s 2024 opponents. Today, we take a look at the Wisconsin Badgers with the help of Jake Kocorowski from the Wisconsin State Journal.

The overview:

Wisconsin, like Purdue, hopes to improve in Year Two under its current coaching staff. Losses to Indiana and Northwestern held back the Badgers, who went 7-6 in Fickell’s debut 2023 campaign. Wisconsin undoubtedly hoped for better after the aggressive move to fire Paul Chryst early in the 2022 season.

The new-look offense brought mixed results to Madison, as Wisconsin struggled to score in several of its losses. The Badgers averaged just 23.5 points in 2023. With many key transfer additions, the Badgers hope to take a step forward as an offensive unit in 2024.

Name to know: offense

WR Will Pauling – Pauling transferred to Wisconsin from Cincinnati during the 2023 offseason and emerged as the Badgers’ major target in the passing game. He finished second in the Big Ten in receptions (74) and third in receiving yards (837) within OC Phil Longo’s Air Raid passing scheme. The 5-10, 190-pound slot receiver ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash earlier this summer, according to Wisconsin’s director of strength and conditioning Brady Collins. He’s also pound-for-pound one of the strongest players on the team.

Wisconsin also has redshirt freshman slot receiver Trech Kekahuna behind Pauling, who could give opposing defenses fits.

Name to know: defense

S Hunter Wohler – The senior was tied for second in the conference in tackles last season (120) and also had 5 ½ tackles for loss and two interceptions on way to All-Big Ten honors (second-team by media, third-team by coaches). He’s regarded as one of the leaders of the team and is part of a deep secondary that includes all-conference cornerback Ricardo Hallman, who recorded a league-best seven interceptions in 2023.

Biggest question:

There are several questions for Wisconsin that need to be answered after last season, but the overarching question is what improvements will be seen from Year 1 to Year 2 under Fickell? Wisconsin’s offense only scored 23.5 points per game last season, though key injuries at quarterback and running back hampered potential success. The unit looked more comfortable and polished within the Air Raid passing scheme during spring practices, and the offensive line looked more improved in the run game.

Wisconsin’s defense didn’t dominate against the run in 2023 as in previous seasons, so can that front seven – with some much-needed transfer help and another year under the returning players’ belts – reestablish that? The Badgers also need to put more pressure on quarterbacks, an area that showed improvement in the spring.

Key Newcomer

You gotta start with quarterback and Miami (Fla.) transfer Tyler Van Dyke. Van Dyke and redshirt sophomore Braedyn Locke received first-team reps with the offense during the spring, and Van Dyke looked to be a step ahead of Locke by the end of those 15 practices. If he fends off Locke for the starting job, Van Dyke has all the abilities you want from a quarterback within this offensive scheme and can make the throws you need. He also showed more comfortability running the ball as spring practices progressed. Longo’s used quarterbacks in the rushing attacks previously.

Defensively, keep an eye on inside linebacker Jaheim Thomas or two other transfer outside linebackers – John Pius (William & Mary) and Leon Lowery Jr. (Syracuse) – who all showed an ability to get in the backfield during the spring.

Early outlook on Purdue vs. Wisconsin

Purdue fans know the history all too well. Since an overtime win at Camp Randall Stadium in 2003, Purdue has lost 17 consecutive meetings with Wisconsin. While 2004 and 2018 nearly went Purdue’s way, most Wisconsin wins have come easily and comfortably. Trips to Madison always seem challenging, as the Badgers enjoy a strong home-field advantage. If Wisconsin takes the step forward that it hopes to, a road upset seems unlikely. If not, anything can happen, especially if Wisconsin’s offense struggles again.

2024 expectations

This is the tough one. Wisconsin looks to be a better team than last season, but will it show in the record book? The schedule’s substantially harder in 2024 with home games against Alabama, Penn State, and there also are game at USC, Iowa and Nebraska this season. There are a bunch of toss-ups games on the schedule, as well. Can the Badgers close? It could be a 7-5 or 8-4 record on paper right now, but it could also swing by a couple wins or losses depending on injuries and other factors that pop up during the season, both for Wisconsin and its opponents.

2024 Purdue football schedule

Aug. 31Indiana State, Noon ET, BTN
Sept. 7OFF
Sept. 14Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Sept. 21at Oregon State, 8:30 p.m. ET, CW
Sept. 28Nebraska
Oct. 5at Wisconsin
Oct. 12at Illinois
Oct. 18Oregon, 8 p.m. ET, FOX (Friday)
Oct. 26OFF
Nov. 2Northwestern
Nov. 9at Ohio State
Nov. 16Penn State
Nov. 22at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, FOX (Friday)
Nov. 30at Indiana

Previous previews: Indiana State | Notre Dame | Oregon State | Nebraska

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