1, Joel Stave. 2, Keeping the game close early on. 3, The secondary's growth. 4, Hitting a timely field goal. 5, Converting 3rd down passes to the tight ends and tailbacks.
The Badgers did not need Stave to carry the team to victory against Arizona State. The rushing game could provide enough points. Rather it is up to Stave to limit errors, manage the clock and keep the offense in a good rhythm.
Regrettably Stave was inconsistent in his approach to game management, the secondary is still growing its skill set, the timely field goal was lacking and third down conversion was poor for UW at 8 of 17. Additionally, Stave had a notable miss to tight end Jacob Pedersen that would have given UW significant momentum. The defense did keep the game close and solid play against a talented ASU squad and that set up one of the more bizarre finishes one is likely to encounter.
On to Purdue.
The Boilermakers aren't a very good team and first year coach Darrell Hazell has his work cut out for him. Purdue gave up 21 fourth quarter points in an ugly home loss to Notre Dame. Purdue's only victory on the year has come against Indiana State; a six point home victory.
The Five Keys to Victory
1, The Badgers offensive tackles vs. Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell (#99)
Russell is the leading tackler on the defensive line and had 8.5 TFLs in 2012 (It is worth noting that most of Purdue's leading tacklers are in the secondary, seldom a good sign). If the Badgers tackles Tyler Marz on the left and Rob Havenstein on the right can successfully block Russell at the edge, the Badger should have an explosive ground game on Saturday. As mentioned before, it is past time to make Melvin Gordon the feature back. While it is true that Notre Dame was held to 91 yards rushing against PU (300 passing), Notre Dame is 97th in the nation in rushing. In Purdue's first game of the season Cincinnati ran for 200 yards in victory.
In addition to re-establishing the strength of the team, a solid rushing game will also let Stave settle into a more comfortable role as a game manager. The Badgers began the game against ASU by passing the ball from inside their own 20. A key to victory over Purdue is rushing the ball early and often. Blocking Ryan Russell is Key No.1 for achieving this.
2, Stave the game manager
Purdue is decidedly a lesser team than the Badgers and with the game at Camp Randall it can only be given away, not lost. Stave needs to assess risk and reward better, convert the opportunistic third down and become the game manager. He might need to be a play maker to beat Ohio State, but not Purdue.
3, Defensive Swarm
Purdue is 116th in the nation in rushing the ball. Lead tailback Akeem Hunt is averaging only three yards per carry, poor for college football. The mismatch that ASU found against Badgers defender Brendan Kelly won't be available. As a consequence of these factors, Purdue will be facing many third and longs against a solid Badger defense. They were only 7 of 16 against Notre Dame, 4 of 16 against Indiana State and 3 of 12 against Cincinnati when attempting to convert on third down. Expect lots of good field position and a few turnovers. Dezmen Southward has been very opportunistic in turnovers so far in 2013; expect one more Saturday.
4, Opening Field Position for Purdue
One way to give away a game is to set up Purdue with a short field for a significant number of drives. Punting, kick coverage and ball protection will stop any Purdue hopes dead in its tracks. If you can't run the ball and can't convert on third down, you won't be able to sustain long drive. This could easily be another Badgers shut out.
Purdue can throw the ball a little. Rob Henry has completed 58.6 percent of his passes, but with three interceptions versus three touchdowns. Last week both Shelton and Hillary experience some life lessons in yellow. Yellow flags. If Shelton and Hillary can limit those by keeping the ball and offensive player in front of them it will be a sure sign of growth and indicate a change to beat Ohio State.
Prediction: I did not list the need to "put ASU behind them." It is a terrible cliché and I don't believe for one second that this Badgers team is incapable on concentrating on the game before them. Wisconsin 42, Purdue 3.