Front Seven - Purdue

The conference title is still a possibly, but No.19 Wisconsin hasn't done itself any favors the past two weeks with late breakdowns and struggling to find rhythm. Even with a 33-29 loss in Columbus, there were still seven players that made a big enough contribution to earn a spot in the Badger Nation Front Seven.

MADISON — Two heartbreaking losses later, No.19 Wisconsin has gone from having all the answers to having a lot of questions. Why are special teams, particularly the punt unit, continuing to fail by allowing two nearly identical blocks that led to touchdowns? Why is a secondary full of upperclassmen having assignment and miscommunication issues? Why is an offense with such a talented quarterback seemingly not using him with designed runs or plays?

If this was 2010, the Rose Bowl would be gone with two losses, but the Badgers know there is a path to Indianapolis and Pasadena, a path that required Wisconsin to win out and get at least one loss from Ohio State and Penn State.

Get to Indianapolis, a lot of those questions will evaporate.

"They know it's out there, people are going to talk to them about it," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "For us, to get where we need to be, we need to take care of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ... and take care of Saturday."

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 (2) —One of the few bright spots from Saturday's loss, Wilson did it again, leading a Wisconsin offense that had been stymied through three quarters back from the brink with two late touchdown passes to put the team in position to win. Wilson didn't turn the ball over – a key helping UW come back – and threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 32-straight games, four short of the NCAA record, and has 19 passing touchdowns on the season, which is tied for second-most in program history. The record is 21 set by John Stocco in 2005. Odds are he'll break that as soon as this weekend, as Wilson is having a special season.

2, Mike Taylor, LB (NR) – Taylor had been off my rankings for the last few weeks after turning in missed assignments and tackles. He redeemed himself in a big way against the Buckeyes with a career- high 22 tackles, including 2.5 TFLs. The 22 tackles are the most by a Badgers player since Bob Adamov had 23 against Purdue on Oct. 10, 1998. What really gives him some credit is Taylor, one of the quieter people on the team, was one of the vocal speakers in the locker room after the game. Let's see if it translates Saturday.

3, Montee Ball, RB (2) —Not a great day for Ball, but not a bad one either. Few people rush for 100 yards against Ohio State, especially in Columbus, but Ball came close with 85 yards on 17 carries and two scores, meaning Ball has scored twice in every game this season. Ball's 40-yard run in the fourth quarter set up the Badgers first touchdown, but that was the only run he had over 14 yards. Ball has scored at least one TD in each of the last 14 games. He has 36 total touchdowns over that span.

4, Jared Abbrederis, WR (6) – Whether it's him simply taking his game to another level or getting opportunities because of so much attention paid to Nick Toon, Abbrederis set a career high with 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns and tied a career high with six receptions. It's the second 100-yard game this season for Abbrederis as he had 101 against South Dakota on Sept. 24 and again, he scored the late touchdown to bring Wisconsin all the way back. He's one of the best receivers in the conference, and he isn't even on scholarship yet.

5, Chris Borland, LB (4) — Registering 13 tackles for the third straight game, Borland showed the Buckeyes what they missed out on by not recruiting him. The sophomore from Kettering was a ball hawk as usual.

6, Kevin Claxton, LB (NR) - Claxton posted a career-high 10 tackles and added a career-high 2.5 TFLs. Claxton played well in space and gave OSU quarterback Braxton Miller a big challenge in the open field. With Taylor (22), Chris Borland (13) and Claxton (10), Wisconsin had three players reach double-digit tackles in the same game for the first time since Mark Zalewski (14), Joe Stellmacher (12) and Jonathan Casillas (12) against Bowling Green on Sept. 2, 2006.

7,Aaron Henry, FS, (4) –The best player in Wisconsin's secondary, Henry had 9 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack against Ohio State. He also was the only secondary player willing to talk to the media after the game and tried his best to breakdown the faults of the defense, even though the final play wasn't technically his responsibility.

Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!

For more Badger sports news, notes and discussion, especially on game day, follow Badger Nation on Twitter @TheBadgerNation


Badger Nation Top Stories