The Wisconsin football team sputtered to one of the most uninspiring, sluggish first halves this season, than still blew out Purdue 34-13 when the Badgers turned on the jets in the final two quarters.
Let's put it this way, if the Front Seven had to pick the best seven players on the field no matter the team, the rankings would probably still end up all Badgers.
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) — Of Watt's four tackles, 2.5 of them went for a loss. He picked up another sack on what can be defined as simply a pure-effort rush. At this point in the season, Watt has out-played Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn and Ryan Kerrigan in each match-up with the supposed top defensive ends in the conference. It isn't difficult to make a case for Watt has the conferences top D-lineman.
2. Gabe Carimi, LT (2) — With Kerrigan lining up against him for much of the day, Carimi won his battle for the third straight week against All-Big Ten competition. Kerrigan finished with three tackles — none for a loss — and was swallowed up by Carimi's superior reach on the few shots he was given to tee off on the passer.
3. Mike Taylor, OLB (NR) — Be it the bye week or inferior competition, Taylor shined Saturday like he hasn't since last season, putting together what is probably the finest game of his career. The stat line looks nice — one sack, two tackles for a loss, an interception and a probable forced fumble — but it was the way he moved around that was inspiring to see. He is down to just the one knee brace at this point. Against three straight spread offense teams, his athleticism will be vital to the Badgers success.
4. Antonio Fenelus, CB (NR) — Another fine game in what is turning into the best season for a UW cornerback since Allen Langford left Madison. With another interception and a fumble recovery, Fenelus leads the team with four total takeaways on the year, in passes defensed with eight and is third on UW with 45 tackles. He doesn't get beat deep and makes the tackles in front of him.
5. Montee Ball, RB (7) — Ball's resurgence continues to be one of the feel good stories on the year for this Wisconsin team. Just two games after not appearing against Ohio State, Ball finished with a career high 127 yards and two touchdowns all at a tidy 6.0 yards per clip average. His 31-yard TD scamper was a perfect use of setting up his 320-pound pulling offensive lineman, making one cut and finishing the run with power. His second touchdown showed an awareness to cut the run back he didn't show at the beginning of the season.
6. Scott Tolzien, QB (3) — When Tolzien threw his interception during the first drive of the game, a debate ensued in the press box whether he underthrew tight end Jacob Pedersen or overthrew receiver Isaac Anderson. No matter the mistake, it is very bad when the route you were throwing to isn't even clear. His completion percentage was good as usual — 13-for-19 for 130 yards — but several of the balls were superlative catches by his receivers. Tolzien just looked off. The play-fake touchdown to Jared Abbrederis was perfectly executed.
7. Nick Toon, WR (NR) — This is how Toon needs to make an impact on games. He is hard to bring down, making him an effective weapon on bubble screens and quick swing passes. He is fearless over the middle on deep crossing routes and has the athleticism to adjust to balls as was evidenced with his Sports Center Top Ten 20- yard grab. He is also becoming the best blocking wide receiver on the team.