The Badgers were able to slow down a potent BYU offense last week in holding the Cougars to 370 yards, a good portion of which came in the fourth quarter with the final score practically decided. As it is every week, it will be key for the Badgers' offense to sustain drives in order to keep the Badgers' defense fresh.
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): The Hoosiers' pass defense is allowing 301.7 yards a game and Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was able to carve up the Hoosiers' secondary for 450 yards. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig may call for the pass early in the game to try and get Stave into a rhythm. Last week Stave had some poor throws and if any receiver can get behind the Hoosier secondary, Stave will have to throw a well-placed football.
2, Chris Borland ILB (NR): Not surprising but Borland didn't miss a beat against BYU with 13 tackles, two sacks, half of a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. Borland was an important piece in helping slow down the Cougars' offense and once again will be key in slowing down the Hoosiers. If the Badgers' defensive line can win their battle in the trenches, it will allow Borland to make plays in the backfield. Borland will have to try and make sure not to let Stephen Houston bust any long runs; Houston rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns against the Illini. If Borland and the rest of the defense can slow down Houston, the Badgers could force plenty of short drives.
3, James White RB (2): With Melvin Gordon struggling by his standards the past two games, White has been quite productive with 478 rushing yards over the last four games. White has shown patience and a good burst over the last four games and should continue to have success against the Hoosiers, who are giving up 217.4 yards a game. Look for White to be involved in the passing game, as he has shown that he can get upfield and make plays.
4, Jared Abbrederis WR (NR): Abbrederis should find success against a leaky Hoosiers secondary assuming Indiana wasn't able to fix their problems this past week. Although Abbrederis should have the height advantage over the Hoosiers cornerbacks, Abbrederis did drop a couple of footballs last week; an unusual sight from the fifth-year senior.
5, Dezmen Southward S (NR): Besides playing safety against the Cougars, Southward was also responsible in trying to help slow down Cougars receiver Cody Hoffman. Southward may be called once again to try and help cover the 6-3 Cody Latimer. If he is, he'll have to do a much better job. Hoffman was able to consistently beat Southward off the line of scrimmage on Saturday and Southward can't continue to give up big plays.
6, Jacob Pedersen TE (5): After getting off to a slow start this season, Pedersen has finally started to play the way many thought he would. Pedersen has been able to take some pressure off of Abbrederis and been able to help out Stave to balance out the offense and the passing game. Pedersen has been a big target on third-and-long situations, as Stave has started to target Pedersen to help move the chains.
7, Melvin Gordon RB (7): Gordon is still running the football well despite failing to rush for 100 yards over the last two games. Gordon would like nothing more to end that streak and help continue to bust big plays with his running mate White, and this maybe the week where Gordon breaks through. Gordon didn't get many jet sweeps and was forced to gain his yards up the middle over the past two weeks with teams starting to key in on the play. If Gordon can pick up some tough yards, he should be able to eventually bust a long one.
Others to Note
Safety Michael Caputo: Caputo could be the Badgers second-best player on defense behind Borland. He continues to make plays for the defense and has been a big assist in helping the young corners. Caputo was able to consistently creep in the backfield to help slow down the BYU running game, and should have a similar role this coming week.
DE Pat Muldoon: Muldoon may not have had as a great of a stat line as he did against Iowa, but he still did his job effectively. He was able to engage blockers, which allowed his teammates to make plays. If Muldoon can consistently win his battle in the trenches along with supplying pressure on the quarterback, he'll have a big impact on the game.
LT Tyler Marz: In order for Stave to get into a rhythm early, Marz is going to have to do a good job of protecting Stave's blindside. Marz will be lined up against John Laihinen, who has 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss.
C Dan Voltz: With Dallas Lewallen likely not, Voltz will get the start at center for the third time this season. Voltz played well up until his poor snap in the second half. Voltz struggled with snapping the ball during fall practices and needs to continue to work on his timing with Stave.