The Badgers have not fared well so far on the road this season, but will have a chance to redeem themselves if they can play a consistent four quarter game.
It will be important that Wisconsin starts fast and takes out what could be an anxious and ornery crowd. If they can start fast, they can't let their foot off the gas pedal until the clock reads zero, which the Badgers have shown the tendency to do at times this season. If the Boilers give the Badgers opportunities in the game, Wisconsin has to be able to take advantage of them.
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week, and need. It was not easy determining who would be important in helping the Badgers to a victory on Saturday.
Last Week's Rankings in Parentheses
1, Joel Stave, QB (1) - Stave has remained steady so far through his first three starts. There are still plenty of things for him to work on, and one of those things is telegraphing his passes. At times, Stave will stare down his intended receiver, which makes it easy for the defense to know where he's throwing the football. He needs to try and correct that issue. Even though he has had trouble in that area, Stave does make the smart play when it's there. It does seem that he plays with a short memory as well, which is good to see from a quarterback. Stave is going to have to have a good game on Saturday if the Badgers are going to have any success.
2, Jared Abbrederis, WR (2) - Abbrederis is putting together a nice run, becoming the first UW receiver since Lee Evans to have three straight 100-yard receiving games. The other great thing about Abbrederis play so far this season is that he's making the life for Stave easier. There is nothing more reassuring for a young quarterback when he has a reliable receiver and that is exactly what Abbrederis has provided. Stave hasn't always provided Abbrederis with the perfect passes but the junior has been able to bail out his quarterback. Each week it's exciting to see whether or not Abbrederis can keep his play up and every week he does. It'll be fun to see what the junior receiver can do for the Badgers this weekend against Purdue.
3, Montee Ball, RB (4) - Ball finally got into a rhythm offensively on Saturday in the fourth quarter, returning to form and finishing the game out for the Badgers. Ball will have to start the game the same way he finished it against Purdue's strong defensive line. If Ball can have success early and often, Wisconsin will be able to try different things on the offensive side of the football. But if it takes Ball a while to get going on offense, the defense may have to keep them in the game until the offense can get something going. It was also good to see Ball have his touches limited against the Illini to only 19 carries in the game. Ball should be averaging around 25 touches a game. Hopefully he'll continue to see that many touches in a game.
4, Mike Taylor, LB (5) - For the second game in a row, Taylor led the team in tackles with 12 and had a 1.5 tackles for loss. Taylor has been getting help from a defensive line that has been collapsing the pocket, which has allowed Taylor and his linebacker mates to do their jobs. Taylor has been putting together a strong season so far and once again should be able to put together a solid game against the Boilers.
5, Ricky Wagner, OT (NR) - The Boilermakers have a talented defensive line that is led by Kawann Short's. If the Badgers are going to establish a run game, it's going to start up front. The offensive line has improved since the firing of Mike Markuson but at times the line still has struggled to get a push to convert third-and-short situations. If that's going to change, Wagner will have to be able to lead the rest of his line, motivate them to have a good week in practice and eliminate foolish penalties.
6, Devin Smith, CB (6) - Smith was able to record the team's first interception of the season and the fourth of his career. Smith has had his fair share of up and downs this season, flipping between solid and average games. If Smith can find consistency for the rest of the season, he can help the secondary finish up the season strong.
7, Ethan Armstrong, LB (NR) -Armstrong doesn't get enough credit for his play with fans wanting to focus on what Chris Borland and Taylor do. Armstrong quietly goes about his business and has 41 tackles on the year, which is good for third on the team. Armstrong is an intelligent football player and he's able to find himself in the right place at the right time. Against Illinois, Armstrong had 10 tackles and one pass break up in the game, and once again will go about his business in preparing for the Boilermakers' offense.
Others to Note
Tailback James White - When the Badgers' offense was struggling in the first half to establish anything on offense, White was able to spark the offense in a huge way by taking a screen pass 62 yards to tie the game. White was named offensive MVP of the game for the Badgers, which was well deserved. White again should see plenty of touches against Purdue and if he can get to the edge consistently, he can help the offense open it up.
Strong Safety Shelton Johnson - Johnson made his return last week against Illinois and looked pretty good despite his layoff. With another week of practice you can expect Johnson to shake off some more rust, although it may take him another week or two to get back to where he was before his injury. When he gets back to full strength he could become the ball hawking safety the Badgers need.
Receiver Jordan Fredrick - Plain and simple somebody opposite of Abbrederis is going to have to step up. Fredrick has shown flashes but hasn't done it consistently enough. Abbrederis may struggle during one of the Badgers games and if none of the receivers step up, the offense will ultimately become one-dimensional and will struggle. You can definitely tell Fredrick has talent but he's going to have to take that next step soon.
Punter Drew Meyer -Meyer has just been terrific so far this year with having the difficult responsibility of trying to replace Brad Nortman. The game against Purdue may be a low scoring slug it out type of game. If that's the case, it will be important for Meyer to punt the ball well and be able to pin the Boilers into bad field position. So far this year Meyer hasn't given any doubt on why he can't do that.
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