FORT WAYNE – Its only the second week in October, but one of the biggest games of the season for the Big Ten Leaders Division will take place Saturday when Purdue meets Wisconsin.
Ohio State and Penn State are not eligible to represent the division at the Big Ten championship game. That leaves the Boilermakers and Badgers as two of the front runners.
It certainly would be a key win as far as the Leaders Division goes, Purdue coach Danny Hope said during his weekly teleconference Tuesday. Theres a lot of football to be played. Theres a lot of parity in the league. On any given Saturday, there are lots of surprises. Its tough to pick them right now, particularly in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin is 1-1 in conference play, Purdue is 0-1. Indiana and Illinois, the other two eligible teams for this season, are both 0-2.
I would hate to think that any one particular game makes or breaks a whole season, Hope said. If that were the case, really it would take away from your preparation and every team in the nation having a chance to be successful in the end. No one game should make or break a season, but this certainly is a game that could spring board our team and our program and put us in position to really do some great things as a team and program. So the magnitude of the game, the opportunity is huge.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema also reminded reporters there is a long way to go in the season.
Someone is trying to say this is the game that is going to decide it all? Its the furthest from the truth, Bielema said during the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. Your overall conference record is going to come into play, the record in the division. Theres a lot of football out there. There are six games out there on the schedule for us. Every one of them is in the Big Ten.
For Purdue, Saturday also represents a chance to bounce back after the disappointing 44-13 loss to Michigan.
I would be disappointed if we were so weak minded that we would let a loss linger and affect the potential of the outcome of our team in the season, Hope said. Well bounce back as a football team, I dont have any reservation about that part of it. We have to play better, thats for sure. We have to play better as a football team, and were capable of doing so, but were excited about the opportunity this weekend and thats where our focus is at.
Purdue couldnt stop Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who rushed for 235 yards. Now the Boilermakers will have to contend with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
The senior is ranked sixth in the conference in rushing, averaging 94.8 yards per game.
Hes a great player and someone that you have to wrap up and be physical when you tackle him because he can break tackles and make you miss, Hope said.