5 to Watch: Wisconsin Defense

BadgerNation.com presents five players on defense that Michigan State fans should keep an eye on when the teams square off on Saturday afternoon.

Note: BadgerNation.com publisher Benjamin Worgull offers five key players to watch for Spartans fans as Michigan State travels to Wisconsin for a Saturday afternoon battle.

#1 – MLB: Chris Borland (6-3, 252 Jr.)
Like Max Bullough, Borland is the heart and soul of Wisconsin's defense, and one of the best linebackers in the conference. In his last five games, Borland has averaged 9.0 tackles and recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Borland is tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 4.0 sacks, a tie for fifth with 8.0 tackles for loss, and ninth with 66 total tackles.

Borland also has a knack for the football, as he forced a school-record 12 in his career.

#2 – CB: Devin Smith (5-11, 186 Sr.)
Missing both games last season against Michigan State, Devin Smith has been the shutdown cornerback Wisconsin was hoping he would be last season, as a broken foot in week two cost him his initial senior season. After Wisconsin's three linebackers, Smith has the most tackles on the team with 37. He leads the team with two interceptions, including one last Saturday on an athletic play. Secondary play was UW's downfall in East Lansing last season, so Smith's play will be vital.

#3 – WLB: Mike Taylor (6-2, 224 Sr.)
Curiously left off the Butkus semifinal list, Taylor has put up staggering numbers for Wisconsin this season. A year after leading the conference in tackles (150), Taylor leads the team in tackles (84) and tackles for loss (10). Taylor ranks third in Big Ten play with his average of 11.0 tackles per game. He is one of five conference players averaging double-digit tackles in league play.

#4 – DE: David Gilbert (6-4, 250 Jr.)
Another player that missed both Michigan State games last season, Gilbert has been the defensive line's most active contributor. He leads the line with 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He's a passionate player, and got into a little hot water when he insulted Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez's throwing motion before the team's meeting in Lincoln. Gilbert was benched for the first series and while he still forced a Martinez fumble, the Cornhuskers QB was on fire in the second half and torched UW's defense. Since then, Gilbert has let his play do the talking.

#5 – DE: Brendan Kelly (6-6, 258 Sr.)
Wisconsin's defensive line has been at its best when the Badgers have multiple pass rushers (O'Brien Schofield-J.J. Watt in 2009 and Watt-Gilbert in 2010). The tandem of Gilbert and Kelly isn't quite up to that level, but both, like many players on UW's experienced defense, has played better over the last three weeks, limiting the opposing to 13.7 points per game. In his last three games, Kelly has five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and one recovered fumble.

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