The Front Seven - Northwestern

With 105 players on the roster, there are plenty of key components and players that will be important to Wisconsin's success? Who is going to be important this week? Badger Nation takes a look at the front seven.

MADISON — The demons of 2008 have been exorcised. Ohio State conquered for the first time in head coach Bret Bielema's tenure. A top-25 team defeated on the road.

All the Wisconsin football team has left to do is take care of business at home against a Northwestern team missing its best offensive player.

And these are the top seven players who helped the Badgers to their best season since 2000.

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) — With Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson looking unstoppable in the second half, it took yet another excellent performance from Watt to slow down the Wolverine attack. Twice in the game Watt anticipated quick passes from Robinson and got his hands on the ball, picking off the second one and driving the proverbial dagger into Michigan's comeback attempt. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award will come down to Watt and Purdue's defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, with the question of team impact vs. pure stats at the heart of it.

2. Gabe Carimi, LT (2) — The future first round NFL pick just keeps getting better. He has been healthy all season and whenever the Badgers need a big pickup they run behind Carimi. Case in point, when the game was still in doubt Saturday, UW went behind Carimi on a third-and-one and for the touchdown on the game's first scoring drive. He has been an absolute rock this season.

3. Montee Ball, RB (3) — Remember when John Clay made P.J. Hill irrelevant with his emergence? Yeah ... Ball has performed as well as Clay and perhaps better since the junior back went down with an injury. Ball has run better with each passing game and is breaking tackles at a stronger rate than Clay was. Ball's 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter was one of the best runs any Wisconsin back has put together this season.

4. Aaron Henry, FS (6) — The way Henry has grown into the position is stunning. He is playing with a confidence and a reckless abandon on jarring tackles. He flew into Robinson like a heat seeking missile to hold him to no gain and force a punt in the third quarter. Henry led the team in tackles and has made several touchdown saving stops in the past few weeks. His leadership next season will be invaluable.

5. Scott Tolzien, QB (5) — With the running attack loading the box and opposing defenses minds Tolzien is getting all kinds of single coverage and taking advantage of it. It is hard to remember with 29 straight called running plays in the second half, but the Badgers actually started the game passing at Michigan. Tolzien completed the first 13 passes he attempted and now leads the nation in completion percentage. He is a weapon in his own right.

6. James White, RB (4) — Who doesn't love a good Thunder and Lightning cliché? Ball and Clay have done the job softening up the defenses well this season and White has perfected the role at finishing them off with a burst of speed. He made one sharp cut and was gone for a 61-yard touchdown Saturday and ripped off several other double-digit gains with ankle-breaking cuts. His speed as the No. 2 back is invaluable for the Badgers superlative rushing attack.

7. John Moffitt, LG (NR) — It is hard to quantify leadership. But if you can, the future NFL player has it in spades. Moffitt is the team's spokesman and has helped set the tone for the unparalleled focus and intensity Wisconsin plays with. As he says in the huddle before each running play, "Let's Roll."


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