As usual, the rankings are determined based on performance, expectations and need — a wonderfully vague definition of valuable, to justify about any selection.
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Last week's rankings in parentheses
1. J.J. Watt, DE (1) — Twice Saturday Watt went down with a contusion on his knee, and twice Saturday he was back in on the next play. He is the unquestioned leader of the defense, both by virtue of his play and vocal qualities. Although still without a sack — a curious, but hardly significant stat — Watt added three quarterback hits Saturday and got his hands on another pass, a stat he leads the team in.
2. Gabe Carimi, LT (2) — Of Jewish faith, Carimi played Saturday's game with only an IV for nourishment in honor of Yom Kippur.
3. Lance Kendricks, TE (4) — Finally. The most talented Badger on roster, Kendricks flashed the playmaking once again he showed off in last season's Champ Sports Bowl. He finished the game with seven catches, 131 yards and the team's lone passing touchdown. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst used Kendricks complementary with the running game to spring him free on play-action passes. Badger fans should beg to see that game plan duplicated.
4. Scott Tolzien, QB (6) — Ahh, yes. The Tolzien of 2009 has returned. The senior signal caller looked sharp through his reads, didn't turn the ball over and threw with accuracy. Tolzien connected the dots with Kendricks, and got freshman wide out Jared Abbrederis involved once again. A strong and needed showing with Big Ten play on the horizon.
5. John Clay, RB (3) — Another day, another 100 yards rushing for the bruising junior. Saturday's 123 yards made nine straight games cracking the century mark. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry, putting his season average at 6.2 yards a pop. Clay and James White formed a fantastic duo on the touchdown drive in the third quarter, forming the stereotypical "Thunder and Lightning" combo. Conditioning remains a concern, however, as Clay seems to be unreliable for reaching even 25 carries a game.
6. Jay Valai, SS (NR) — The senior safety may have made the play of the year, blocking the PAT near the end of the fourth and giving the Badgers a one point lead they would hold onto. He chipped in a tackle for a loss as well, and prevented yards after the catch with sure tackles in the secondary. Like Watt, his vocal leadership adds to a sometimes quiet defense.
7. Louis Nzegwu, DE (NR) — The bookend opposite Watt only led the team in tackles, picked up a sack on quarterback Steven Threet and added another tackle for a loss in the run game. With Chris Borland lost for the season with a reoccurring shoulder injury, it will be vital for another pass rusher to step up along side Watt.