After dispatching Nebraska 11 days ago, Wisconsin improved its regular-season winning streak to 12 games, its longest streak since winning 13-straight during Bret Bielema's first two seasons. The Badgers have won each of their last nine regular-season games by at least 20 points (average margin of victory of 38.0 points).
The Badgers lead the Big Ten in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Wisconsin and Stanford are the only two teams in the country to rank among the top 10 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. UW is the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense.
Against the Cornhuskers, both the offense and the defense shined in primetime. Wisconsin's 48 points were the most scored against Nebraska since Oklahoma defeated the Cornhuskers, 62-28 on Nov. 1, 2008. Defensively, Wisconsin limited Nebraska to 17 points and just 159 yards rushing. In their other five games this season, the Huskers are averaging 41.0 points and 264.4 rushing yards per game.
Needless to say, the Badgers have got a wealth of confidence to hang their hat on. It will always separate the players from the pretenders, which we attempt to do each week in the Front Seven.
The rankings for the Front Seven 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, as it wasn't easy narrowing the last down to seven.
Last week's rankings in parentheses
1, Russell Wilson, QB (1) —Welcome to Russell Mania. In his first true test of the season, Wilson's numbers were average (14-for-20), but his results were spectacular. He threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the last 2 minutes, 3 seconds of the first half, and rushing for an additional 32 yards and a score. He avoided pocket pressure, broke defenders' ankles and vaulted right to the top of many people's Heisman ballot.
2, Montee Ball, RB (4) — Shame on us for dipping Ball in the rankings. If it wasn't for Wilson, Ball would be right up there in the Heisman conversation. Ball ran a career-high 30 times against Nebraska and racked up the yards, rushing for 151 (100 of which came in the second half) and four touchdowns. It was his third career four-TD game. He was the first Big Ten player to rush for four TDs vs. an AP Top-10 team since Ron Dayne did it in 1999 Rose Bowl vs. UCLA.
3, Nick Toon, WR (2) —Wisconsin is 10-0 in games when Toon scores a touchdown, catching at least one TD pass in four straight games. Toon's six TD receptions this year are a career high, and his 46-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half was the dagger. Toon ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game and needs just eight yards to match his receiving yardage total of last season. Odds are that it'll happen Saturday.
4, Mike Taylor, LB (7) – Taylor has been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice this season and leads the Badgers and ranks fourth in the conference with 44 tackles. He had 14 tackles, a TFL and an interception in the win over Nebraska and has continued to play at a high, healthy level.
5, Jared Abbrederis, WR (3) –Abbrederis had every right to fold after his fumble at the end of a stellar 21-yard punt return gave the Huskers the momentum and the opening score. That's not his style though and the sophomore responded with five catches for 95 yards and a score. His 36-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty, stretching out to bring in the catch and rolling over the goal line to give UW a lead it wouldn't lose.
6, Dezmen Southward, SS, (NR) – With Shelton Johnson out with a calf injury, Southward got his first career start on his 21st birthday. Other than a couple minor miscues, Southward set a career-high with 7 tackles and also broke up a pass and forced a fumble. Bielema said Southward is one of the fastest players on the team and A. Henry said he is the most athletic. Sounds like the Badgers have got a good player in the secondary.
7, Aaron Henry, FS (NR) — Challenged by his head coach to make an impact, Henry responded at the end of the first half with an 11-yard interception that led to a UW score. Henry hasn't put up ‘wow' numbers this year, but his 21 tackles are third-best on the team and his five tackles and one pass breakup were big against the Huskers.
Others to Note
LB Chris Borland – The sophomore linebacker just keeps ticking, registering eight tackles and a half TFL, adding to his team best 5.5 tackles.
CB Antonio Fenelus– It's obvious Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez is new to the Big Ten. If he was a veteran, he never would have tried to challenge Fenelus while moving on the run. Fenelus intercepted Martinez on the first play of the second half, and that led to another UW touchdown.
DE Brendan Kelly – With David Gilbert out up to six weeks with an ankle injury, the Badgers needed Kelly to be a force in his first career start. He did just that with four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, showing how good he can play when he's healthy.
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