It’s still too early to judge Purdue’s potential under Jeff Brohm, especially this season.

But statistically, it is worth noting that the Boilermakers have so far shown considerable progress on both offense and defense. Purdue (3-2, 1-1) is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 29.6 points, which is a full five points better than last season. And defensively, they’ve climbed from the cellar in scoring defense to middle of the pack, allowing just 20.8 points per game. Last season Purdue was surrendering 38.2 points per outing.

So how will all that translate when Brohm takes his team on the road to Wisconsin for what will be Purdue’s biggest test since the season opener against Louisville in Indianapolis.

“They’re very talented and play very hard,” Brohm said of the Badgers. “You can tell it on video. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

He has to feel good about where this game falls on the schedule. Purdue overcame four turnovers in the first half last week and then dominated the fourth quarter to claim a 31-17 victory over Minnesota.

Seeing his team finish strong just two weeks after squandering a halftime lead in a 28-10 loss to Michigan was another step forward, he said.

“We are definitely going to continue to work on ball security, take care of the ball, preaching it, talking about it,” said Brohm. “But I still want our guys to play aggressive and try to make plays. There’s a fine line but we will work hard at it again.”

Junior quarterback David Blough has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for almost 700 yards, but he only has seven touchdown passes with four interceptions. He has split time with sophomore Elijah Sindelar, who has six TD passes with two picks but completed just 55 percent of his passes.

Brohm said he plans to continue to use both players.

“They want to be the guy but they understand it’s all about winning, so they have been outstanding to this point in (sharing the job) and that’s been a big reason why we’ve been able to do what we’ve done at that position.” “… Both guys are good teammates and they want to win.”

The defense has that same aggressive mindset.

“We do try to play an attacking style of defense and try to take away the run and make a team beat us throwing the football,” said Brohm. “You know, load the box as much as we can, to make a team earn every touchdown they get.”

That may be the most interesting storyline this week because of Wisconsin’s success running the football. The Badgers have the nation’s 16th best rushing attack, averaging 256.7 yards per game.

“They like to play power football and they are going to come downhill at you,” said Brohm. “It would help if we could find a way to get a lead and maybe not make them do everything they want, but it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be tough.

“We are just going to have to hang in there. We are going to have to stop some of the things, even they do well, but they are a power-running football team.”

Chryst has a lot of respect for what Brohm has done.

“You see a team that’s got a lot of talent, playing at a high level, playing confident,” said Chryst, whose Badgers haven’t scored fewer than 31 points in any game this season. “It is truly an offensive system, where everything complements each other … I think they do a good job of making you defend the whole field.”

Wisconsin is averaging 40.2 points per game while allowing an average of only 14.2 points.

 IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Rutgers at Illinois, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

Michigan at Indiana, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

Northwestern at Maryland, Saturday 3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at Wisconsin, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CT, BTN

Ohio State at Nebraska, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FS1

Micigan State at Minnesota, Saturday 7 p.m., BTN

FAB FIVE

  1. Penn State (6-0, 3-0): Last Week – W, at Northwestern, 31-7. The Impact – Trace McSorley set school record with 15 straight completions, Nittany Lions are on a collective roll and James Franklin’s squad now has bye week to prep for Michigan.
  2. Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0): Last Week – W, at Nebraska, 38-17. The Impact – Badgers overpowered Cornhuskers with 353 yards rushing – 7.2 yards per carry – with Jonathan Taylor averaging a first down every time he got the ball with 249 yards on 25 carries.
  3. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0): Last Week – W, Maryland, 62-14. The Impact – Buckeyes will get to enjoy another blowout and bye week before having anticipated showdown against Penn State.
  4. Michigan State (4-1, 2-0): Last Week – W, at Michigan, 14-10. The Impact – Despite being shutout in second half, Mark Dantonio’s squad held on for eighth win in 10 years against rival Wolverines, and did it at the Big House.
  5. Michigan (4-1, 1-1): Last Week – L, Michigan State, 14-10. The Impact – Last week’s loss to Spartans further exposed Jim Harbaugh’s bunch, who may be most suspect of one-loss power 5 teams.

 THE PACK

6. Iowa (4-2, 1-2): Last Week – W, Illinois, 45-16. The Impact – Six months after suffering torn ACL, safety Brandon Snyder’s 89-yard interception return helped Hawkeyes regain stride with blowout win over Illini. Iowa also converted two more turnovers into another 10 points.

7. Purdue (3-2, 1-1): Last Week – W, Minnesota, 31-17. The Impact – In matching last season’s W total, Boilermakers have avoided back-to-back losses. That shouldn’t change after consecutive road trips since Rutgers is part of that mix.

8. Maryland (3-2, 1-1): Last Week – L, at Ohio State, 62-14. The Impact – Cycling through two more QBs, offensive woes continued for Terps, who were held to 16 yards passing and 66 total by Buckeyes. That’s 1.2 yards per play.

9. Indiana (3-2, 0-2): Last Week – W, Charleston Southern, 27-0. The Impact – Peyton Ramsey secures job with 356 yards passing, but he could claim a legacy with half that if it’s enough to beat Wolverines.  

10. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2): Last Week – L, Maryland, 31-24. The Impact – Gophers converted 3 of 4 fourth downs but just 5 of 17 third downs and paid price with just a field goal to show for second half.

11. Nebraska (3-3, 2-1):Last Week – l, Wisconsin, 38-17. The Impact – After losing to Buckeyes this week, Huskers get a bye week to regroup for task of winning three of final five games to become bowl eligible. It won’t be easy, but its doable.

THE UNPROVEN

12. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, Penn State, 31-7. The Impact – The hits keep coming for Clayton Thorson, who has been sacked a dozen times in last two weeks.

13. Illinois (2-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, at Iowa, 45-16. The Impact – Getting first start, Jeff George Jr. passed for 246 yards but no touchdowns with three interceptions.

14. Rutgers (1-4, 0-2): Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Let’s not downplay fact that Chris Ash and his Scarlet Knights could be headed toward a second consecutive winless season in the Big Ten.

BEARD’S PICKS

(All times Central; projected winners in bold caps)

Rutgers at ILLINOIS, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, BTN

MICHIGAN at Indiana, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

NORTHWESTERN at Maryland, Saturday 3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

Purdue at WISCONSIN, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN

OHIO STATE at Nebraska, Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FS1

MICHIGAN STATE at Minnesota, Saturday 7 p.m., BTN

Last Week: 5-2

Overall:  40-12

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

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