It will take more then just the Front Seven for the Badgers to emerge victorious. But it is a place to start.
As usual, the rankings are determined based on performance, expectations and need — a wonderfully vague definition of valuable to justify just about any selection.
Please vent debates and disagreements on the premium board.
Last week's rankings in parentheses
1, J.J. Watt, DE (1) — Far and away the Badgers most valuable player, Watt was at it again against Minnesota. He sacked Adam Weber once and picked up another tackle for a loss along the way Saturday, and UW will need more of the same against Ohio State. With fellow defensive ends Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert flashing but failing to rush the passer consistently, Watt will have to put together a superlative performance stopping OSU's Terrelle Pryor.
2, James White, RB (2) — And the man crush builds. White put up over 100 yards, ran for two touchdowns and even de-cleated a Gopher in pass protection. The exclamation point for the game was stamped in the fourth quarter, however, when White pulled out a juke that left Camp Randall gasping as the freshman came within one-yard of a touchdown. The Badgers found their balance between White and John Clay last weekend; a mixture they must repeat come Saturday.
3, Mike Taylor, LB (NR) — What knee injury? Taylor showed the rust was gone against the Gophers, finishing second on the team with seven tackles, including three for a loss. His presence will be needed once again in the run game, but as the team's fastest linebacker, the job of keeping Pryor contained will likely fall on him as well.
4, Scott Tolzien, QB (6) — The Badger quarterback is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes this season, but most importantly, boasts a 7-to-2 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio. Tolzien hasn't turned the ball over since week 2 this season. With two pick-sixes tossed towards Ohio State last season, continuing with this trend will be key.
5, Lance Kendricks, TE (3) — Which Lance Kendricks will show up? The one who has put up three outstanding receiving games or the one who was held under 20 yards at Michigan State. A weapon has a blocker — he knocked down to Minnesota defenders on Clay's first touchdown run — and as a receiver, Kendricks could provide the game-breaking play UW lacked at Ohio State last season.
6, Gabe Carimi, LT (5) — Tolzien was sacked six times last year in Columbus. If OSU comes close to those numbers again, the Badgers will see their second loss of the season. Carimi was dealing with a shoulder issue at the time, and with all starters returning from last year's squad, the line should be better prepared to handle the challenges of Ohio State's excellent defensive line.
7, John Clay, RB (7) — If Clay could ever use a break out game on the season, this would be it. He and White formed a fantastic duo against Minnesota, after a down game from Clay at Michigan State. He ran with more power — though the one time he danced around a defender instead of going through him, he was pulled for the rest of the series — and churned out positive yards on every carry. He only rushed for 59 yards on 20 carries (3.0 yards per carry) last season. Let's see if he learned from the experience.