And there's no question that it's going to be a challenge for both teams. No.15 Wisconsin and its 44.8 points per game offense, tops in the Big Ten and fifth best in the country, will host No.21 Penn State and its 13.0 points per game scoring defense, tops in the country and third in the country. Whichever team doesn't break will head to Indianapolis as the Leaders representative in the Big Ten championship game, meaning there is plenty on the line in the regular season finale.
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 (1) — It's official, Ball has his own Heisman Twitter account, so you know he has arrived on the national stage. Ball is a long shot to win college football's top prize but there should be little debate on the country's best running back. Just looking at the numbers, Ball has scored 30 touchdowns, which is more than 19 teams have scored the whole season, and his 224 rushing yards in the victory over Illinois was a career high, as he carried the team on his back. If Ball wants some hardware and national recognition, Saturday's primetime matchup is the perfect forum for him to shine.
2, Antonio Fenelus, CB (7B) – As I said last week, Fenelus is a shoe in for an All-Big Ten honor. After seeing his performance Saturday against A.J. Jenkins, he might be in the conversation for conference's defensive player of the year. Fenelus held Jenkins – who caught 76 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns entering the game – to only one catch when he was matched up against him. Not only did Jenkins finish with season lows in catches (4), yards (33) and no scores, Fenelus made a diving interception by undercutting his route and another pass breakup on an attempted pass in his direction that resulted in an interception. Bielema says he hasn't had a cornerback playing better in his tenure than Fenelus, and I tend to agree with him.
3, Aaron Henry, FS (NR) – What was more important for Wisconsin – Henry's interception on the Fenelus pass breakup with the score being 21-17 Wisconsin or his tackle on a reverse play that could have gone for a touchdown and made the score 28-24 with 10 minutes left? Probably the latter because of the amount of effort and discipline Henry needed to make that kind of athletic play. Throw in his nine tackles, the senior was a stud in the secondary.
4, Chris Borland, LB (6) — The conference's defensive player of the week and for good reason, Borland led the team and set a new career high with 16 tackles – giving him six double-digit tackle performances this season – but it was his play at the start of the second half that changed the momentum. With Illinois getting the ball first, Borland put his hat right on the ball against Darius Millines, forcing a fumble that UW recovered at the Illinois 30. Twelve plays later, UW was in the end zone and never looked back.
5, Russell Wilson, QB (2) — The lowest spot on the Front Seven all season for Wilson, but it's justified because he simply wasn't needed to throw the ball with the running game being so effective in the second half and the environment not conducive for throwing the football. Still, Wilson extended his touchdown passing streak to 35 straight games and made two vital third-down completions to move the chains on UW's 7 minute, 30 second drive to end the game.
6, Travis Frederick, OL (NR) – Everyone's favorite lineman, Frederick is on the list because of his ability to switch positions midstream and enhance the quality of the offense. After Ryan Groy struggled on consecutive plays, offensive line Bob Bostad flipped Frederick from left guard to center and inserted Groy at LG. The result was Frederick leading a 44-yard and 39-yard scoring drive to put the game away in the second half. Frederick will be a great NFL prospect because of his ability to switch positions and his intelligence on the football field.
7A, Mike Taylor, LB (3) – Finishing his second consecutive game with 13 tackles, Taylor is not only in line for All-Big Ten honors, but has set himself up for a nice senior year where more than a fair share of NFL scouts will come through to give him a look. He's proven that he's quick to the ball, assignment sound and, most importantly, that his injuries are behind him. When Taylor is healthy, he plays at a high, high level.
7B, Nick Toon, WR, (4) – Thought about dropping Toon off the list but he really was a one man shot in the passing game for Wisconsin. Of the Badgers' 10 completions for 90 yards, Toon has six of them for 67 yards. His timing with Wilson on sideline routes is impeccable and his stock continues to rise down the stretch. We'll see what he can do against an elite defense before we truly crown him before we name him one of the bests.
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