Wisconsin carries a seven game winning streak into Saturday's match-up, having outscored Minnesota by an average margin of 39-25. It's a rivalry that's personal, especially since players don't cross state lines very often when it comes to recruiting.
This season, Wisconsin's roster has 59 players from within the state and just five players from the state of Minnesota. On the contrary, Minnesota has 45 players from its state and 14 from Wisconsin. Expect next week to have a lot of Wisconsin natives on the Front Seven, seeing as this is the most important game of the year.
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, Montee Ball, RB (3) — Asked on the Big Ten teleconference on the success of Ball, coach Bret Bielema said Ball could have five or 10 more touchdowns than his current total of 24, but the Badgers aren't in the habit of padding stats. It might be a good thing because if Ball had 34 scores, there is no way he's coming back to UW next year. Ball regained his form against Purdue, rushing for a career-high 223 yards and three scores, tying the school record and putting him two scores away from tying the conference touchdown record. Even so, it might be hard to keep him. "I think he could be really good next year," Bielema said. "I've just got to convince him of it. I'd like to have him here." Good luck, Bret.
2, Russell Wilson, QB (1) — RussellMania continues ticking along, throwing for 205 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 76 yards and another score. That performance gives Wisconsin a touchdown pass in 33 straight games and in just nine games, Wilson tied the school record with 21 touchdown passes. For the season, Wilson has 15 touchdowns, one interception and a pass efficiency of 212.1. It's too bad about the bumps in the road, because those numbers are certainly Heisman worthy.
3, Chris Borland, LB (5) — Named the conference defensive player of the week, Borland recorded a team-high 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass, knocked down another, saved a kitten from a tree, beat Superman in an arm wrestling competition and solved the debt crisis. Ho hum for another lazy Saturday for the sophomore.
4, Mike Taylor, LB (2) – Taylor's total tackles decreased by 13 from the week before (slacker), but more important than his nine tackles was his interception off a Marcus Cromartie deflection that helped swing the tide in the favor of Wisconsin. Taylor and Borland are playing at a high level, which should get people really excited for next year.
5, Jared Abbrederis, WR (4) – Abbrederis was one of the crowd as far as the receivers go – one of nine receivers that caught a pass – but he caught his fifth touchdown in the last five games. Where Abbrederis is really becoming dangerous in the return game, as he returned one punt for 25 yards and a kickoff for 35 yards. It's come to the point where every time he catches a kick, he is a threat to return it.
6, James White, RB (NR) – It's good to see the sophomore running back get a boost of confidence after Ball has owned the end zone this season. With the game in hand, White became the horse, rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns and leading the team with four catches.
7, Jeff Duckworth, WR, (NR) –Speaking of confidence boosts, Duckworth's 78 yards was a career high as was his 66-yard catch-and-run that set up Wisconsin's second touchdown. Duckworth has battled nicks and bumps throughout his career, but has finally been playing healthy. With UW still looking for a third receiver, Duckworth took a good step forward.
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