The Purdue game could possibly be a trap game if the Badgers can't move on or if they are looking a week ahead to Ohio State. But if they have a good week of practice, they should come out strong against a Purdue team they are clearly better than.
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 had his ups and downs against Arizona State and looked good helping the Badgers comeback in the game to give them a chance to win it. With the way the game ended, it's curious to see where Stave is mentally coming in to the Purdue game. Stave has to come out strong and get into a rhythm early to try and gain some confidence. Stave was sacked once but he felt some pressure throughout Saturday's game, but did a decent job of getting the ball out and avoiding the big sack.
2, Chris Borland ILB (5): As one of the leaders of the team Borland has to make sure this week's practices are crisp. Borland was flying around the field to finish the game with 10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. He had help up front but Borland has to try and do the same so quarterback Rob Henry doesn't get settled in the pocket.
3, Melvin Gordon RB (2): Gordon was the best offensive player on the field on Saturday night. He only touched the football 15 times but was able to average 12.9 yards per carry. Gordon was able to find success on the perimeter - busting an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play in the second half. Gordon is most comfortable on the perimeter but was also able to gain some positive yards up the middle. The Badgers should try and get Gordon more involved in the passing game; he simply knows what to do when the football is in his hands. The one thing he needs to improve on is his pass blocking.
4, Sojourn Shelton CB (3): While he didn't give up any big plays in the passing game and broke up one pass, Shelton struggled with his coverage against Arizona State's receivers, flagged twice for pass interference and once for holding. Shelton is such a confident young player but his youth is an invited targeted for opposing teams to try and target him. The reason Shelton was flagged was because he wasn't disciplined with his hands at times. He needs to learn what he can and can't do, gain experience and not let this one game get him down.
5, Brendan Kelly OLB (NR): Kelly struggled at times matching up with the Sun Devils' speed on offense, as Kelly was exposed on the wheel route when he was matched up against the tailback. Kelly is going need some help because Purdue could try and take advantage of the mismatch. Kelly was able to provide some pressure but wasn't able to record a sack in the game.
6, Jared Abbrederis WR (7): Abbrederis finished with six catches for 87 yards and was able to do his job receiving and blocking. His long of 31 yards showed his experience. He saw the play was breaking down and helped Stave out by breaking off his route and coming back to make the reception. Abbrederis will need to have another good game to make sure the offense doesn't become one-dimensional.
7, Dallas Lewallen C (4): Lewallen put together a solid game and, most importantly, didn't have a botched snap. Lewallen did well in run and pass protection. With one game under his belt where he didn't make any mistakes it should only help his confidence at center. The key for Lewallen is not to take a step backward, as it seems like him and Stave worked out any problems they may have.
Others to Note
CB Peniel Jean: While Shelton had his struggles, Jean was able to step up and put together a nice game with two tackles and one pass break up. If Shelton gets tested again, Jean should be able to step in with ease.
TE Jacob Pedersen: Pedersen has to do a better job in the passing game. He finished the game with three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown, but one of his catches came from Borland on the fake punt. Last year against Purdue, Pedersen was able to find success catching four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Pedersen needs to find consistency to help balance the offense.
S Michael Caputo: Caputo probably put together his best game. Like Borland, Caputo was flying around the field and finished the game with 10 tackles and one pass break up. Caputo has really improved since last year and he is moving a lot better back at the safety spot. Dezmen Southward and him are forming a nice safety tandem.
RB James White: White struggled at times against Arizona State but he'll be counted on again in the run and passing game. Through three games, White is tied for second on the team with eight catches. White provides Stave with a nice security blanket if the receivers have trouble gaining separation.