Front Seven - Illinois

Badger Nation's popular feature - the Front Seven - is back, ranking the top seven players based on performance, expectations and need for this week's game at Illinois.

Wisconsin came out sharp on defense and opposed its will against a talented Northwestern offense by limiting the Wildcats offense to 3.8 yards per play. The Badgers brought a variety of pressures to cause confusion and it worked to perfection.

Although Wisconsin started off slow on offense, Wisconsin still managed to put together one of its best performances of the year. Now the key is to carry over the performance to the game at Illinois.

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 an up-and-down first half throwing two interceptions but had a nice throw to Jared Abbrederis for a touchdown. On Stave's two passes that were picked off he was staring down his intended target the entire time. This is something Stave needs to work on because it makes an inviting play for the defense. When Abbrederis went down with his injury it forced Stave to get the football to his other receivers. Stave did well distributing the football around completing it to eight other players. Hopefully that game will pay off and Stave will have more confidence that his other receivers will make plays in the passing game and take pressure off of Abbrederis. Stave has played fine on the road but he's 1-4 in his career with his only win coming against Purdue.

2, Sojourn Shelton CB (4): Shelton was able to pick off his third pass of the year but he should still see plenty of football coming in his direction. Illinois ranks 29th overall in the country averaging 281.4 yards a game. Darius Hillary and Peniel Jean are both solid corners but Shelton gives himself a chance to make a play on the football. Shelton is second on the team in break ups with three and first in pass deflections with six. Shelton still makes mistakes at times but does a good job of correcting his mistakes during the game. In order for Shelton to have a chance to make plays, he will need help up front with the defensive line and linebackers rushing the quarterback and trying to force Nathan Scheelhaase into a mistake.

3, Melvin Gordon RB (NR): Gordon was impressive against Northwestern and will have a chance to reel off some big plays against an Illinois defense giving up 195.4 yards per game. Like always the Badgers will try and set up the jet sweep to try and bust a big play. If they can get a big play it should keep the Illinois defense on their toes.

4, Chris Borland ILB (2): Borland has been playing really well the last two games, once again leading the team with ten tackles against Northwestern. Borland also had a sack, tackle for loss and a pass break up. Borland will once again have to make plays and keep the Illinois offense on the ropes. Scheelhaase has the capability of running if the play breaks down. Like the last two games keeping contain and tackling will be important.

5, Jared Abbrederis WR (5): Even though he had to leave the game early it seemed like Abbrederis was poised to have another big game. He was able to get behind the Northwestern defenders and Andy Ludwig was looking to get Abbrederis his touches to help the offense flow. If Abbrederis is cleared to play on Saturday, look for Stave and Ludwig to get him some easy touches.

6, Dezmen Southward S (NR): With Illinois wanting to pass the football, the Badgers coaches may use Southward at nickel back or as the fourth corner at times. Southward played better against Northwestern and didn't give up any big plays that cost the Badgers. With Southward having the possibility of lining up all over the field he'll have to make sure he is sound in his decisions and reads.

7, Beau Allen NT (NR): In order for the defense to keep the Illinois offense in check it will be important that Allen and the rest of the defensive line get a push to allow the linebackers a chance to make plays. Even though Allen and his linemates will take up space they'll still need to generate some pressure when the linebackers drop back into coverage. Allen was able to record his second sack of the year in the fourth quarter. If Allen can continue win the battle in the trenches he'll be able to make plays for himself and others late in the game.

Others to Note

Punter Drew Meyer: One of the reason why the Badgers defense had so much success against the Wildcats offense was when Meyer punted all four of his punts landed inside the 20. If Meyer can duplicate those results against Illinois it will limit what Illinois can do on offense.

RB James White: White rushed for over 100 yards against Northwestern and he'll be a good complement to Gordon in the run game. If Abbrederis can't play or is limited, look for White to be involved in the passing game. White's second on the team with 18 catches.

OLB Brendan Kelly: Coming into the game against Northwestern it was a concern on how Kelly would do in the passing game. Prior to kickoff he was working on dropping back into coverage and did well during the game breaking up one pass. The coaches did a good job of utilizing him and rotating him in and out of the game. Kelly could be used in a similar fashion and he could make a greater impact.

TE Jacob Pedersen: Pedersen has been a disappointment so far this season but became a reliable target for Stave when Abbrederis went down. Pedersen needs to be more efficient in the passing game because he's better then he has shown this year.

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