The Badgers are banged up all over the roster, losing former Front Seven fixtures James White and Lance Kendricks early in the game to Iowa. Several days later, it still remains supremely impressive that UW scored 31 points without those two against the Big Ten's top defense.
Still, the questionable availability of the two offensive stars has opened up some room for other players to enter the Front Seven.
As usual, the rankings are determined based on performance, expectations and need — a wonderfully vague definition of valuable to justify just about any selection.
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Last week's rankings in parentheses
1. J.J. Watt, DE (1) — In a one point margin of victory, Watt blocked a PAT attempt that proved to be decisive in the win. Even on something as routine as field goal block, he gives 100 percent. His motor and intensity are unmatched. He also recorded the Badgers only sack and picked up another tackle for a loss. With NFL scouts at the past two games, UW fans can only hope Watt's stock doesn't rise so high that he declares a year early for Sunday football.
2. Gabe Carimi, LT (2) — Already having faced and won his match-up with Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, Carimi exorcised his demons from last season in the match-up with Adrian Clayborn. A non-stop defensive end in the mold of Watt, Carimi neutralized Clayborn in the passing game and won his fair share of battle in the run game. After the sterling performance, Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline said Carimi was a lock to be at least a late-first round pick the in the NFL Draft.
3. Scott Tolzien, QB (7) — Faced with the most critical drive of the game, maybe the season, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst put the ball in Tolzien's hands six times, including with an empty-backfield on fourth-and-four. Tolzien completed 20 of 26 passes without his two most dangerous receivers in Nick Toon and Kendricks. He hit a season-high 10 receivers in the passing game. The only blemish came on a near-disastrous interception in the fourth quarter, but the defense was able to hold to rectify the mistake.
4. John Clay, RB (4) — For the second week in a row, Clay went up against one of the top two run defenses in conference play, and for the second week in a row Clay got the better of them. The numbers weren't superlative — 91 yards on 24 rushes — but the two rushing touchdowns prove what a threat he is in the red zone and the fourth-and-one conversion made head coach Bret Bielema's trust pay off.
5. Blake Sorensen, LB (5) — An undersized linebacker, Sorensen has gotten to where he is in the UW program through a combination of versatility and relentless play. He has taken it to another level with the absence of Chris Borland and Mike Taylor nursing a sore knee. At this point, Sorensen in the best UW has at the linebacker position. He led the team in tackles for the second straight game and helped hold a dangerous running attack to 118 total yards.
6. John Moffitt, LG (NR) — It has always seemed superfluous to put Moffitt on the Front Seven along with Carimi, but the senior captain's play the past few weeks all but demands it. With the Badgers trailing by three and within chip-shot field goal range, Bielema chose to run the ball on the left side between his two senior lineman. They delivered, and the result was a touchdown and huge momentum swing.
7. Montee Ball, RB (NR) — Welcome back mister Ball. Relegated to third-string status, Ball didn't even play against Ohio State as the backfield of James White and Clay had proved to be sufficient. With White injuring his knee, however, someone had to spell Clay and Ball held up his end of the deal magnificently. He led the team in receptions and score the winning touchdown on a powerful eight-yard run. Even if White can't come back for Purdue, the running game should continue to dominate.