It won't be an easy game for the Badgers since the Gamecocks present many different challenges. Wisconsin will have to be able to strike a balance on offense and the Badgers' defense will need to come better prepared then they did against Penn State.
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 against South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.
Last game's Rankings in Parentheses
1, Joel Stave QB (3): Coach Gary Andersen said it bluntly during his press conference: in order for the Badgers to be dangerous on offense they need Stave to play well. When Stave is in a rhythm it opens up the entire offense. It allows for en effective running game and for Stave to make easy completions. Stave may not get a lot of chances to throw the football deep due to the talent along the Gamecocks' defensive line. When he does, he'll have to connect, something he has failed to do in the Badgers' last two games. If Stave can't get into a rhythm on offense, the Badgers will become one-dimensional and will cause a lot of three and outs.
2, Tyler Marz LT (NR): Marz will draw the tough assignment in trying to contain Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney will be the most athletic defensive end Marz will see all season. Clowney's numbers aren't as strong as last season, but his 35 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and three sacks is still eye opening. If Marz struggles against Clowney, Wisconsin will have to find a way to adjust.
3, Chris Borland ILB (2): Borland could have his hands full against South Carolina, needing to slow down Mike Davis (1,000-plus yards on the season) and keep contain of quarterback Connor Shaw, who scrambled for 511 yards. Both pose different threats, but Davis is a big bruising back who won't go down easily. If Borland can disrupt South Carolina's ground attack, Wisconsin should be able to slow down the pass. Even if they can get after Shaw, it's unlikely that he'll make a mistake because he's only thrown one interception on the year.
4, Jared Abbrederis WR (4): Abbrederis was able to go over 1,000 yards receiving against Penn State and he'll have to play well to make sure the Badgers can stay balanced on offense. Stave has struggled with accuracy the last two games, meaning Abbrederis is going to have to make adjustments to the ball while it's in the air if that continues. With the talent along the Gamecocks' defensive line, Abbrederis will most likely run intermediate routes. Once Abbrederis catches the football, he'll need to be able to get up field and try and make a defender miss.
5, Michael Caputo S (NR): Caputo missed the Penn State game due to a concussion and it was evident that the Wisconsin defense suffered without him. Caputo's expected return to the lineup will certainly be a lift (second on the team with 62 tackles) and he will be key in assisting Borland to slow down Shaw. Caputo has been used in a variety of ways this year and that shouldn't change against South Carolina. It wouldn't surprise me if Caputo played closer to the line on running situations to slow down Davis.
6, James White RB (1): The Badgers' offensive line is going to have to try and get a good push and consistently win the battle in the trenches to allow White to get going. South Carolina is giving up 142.2 rushing yards a game. White is going to have to be patient and hit the hole when he can to create plays for himself. White hasn't been involved as much in the passing game as he was during the middle of the season. I would expect for that to change to try and get White into open space to see if he can pick up yards after the catch.
7, Sojourn Shelton CB (5): After such a poor performance by the secondary against Penn State, Shelton and the rest of the corners look for a bounce back game. Shelton will be able to match up the best with the Gamecock receivers, should be able to keep up with them athletically and prevent any big plays from happening. Shelton won't get a lot of chances to get an interception but he needs to be able to try and deflect passes, or make it difficult for the receivers. If there's a lack of pass rush by the front seven, it could make for Shelton and the rest of the secondary to have a tougher test.
Others to Note
NT Beau Allen: In order for Borland and the rest of the linebackers to make plays, Allen is going to have to take on his blockers to let Borland keep contain of Shaw and Davis. Allen wasn't able to consistently get a good push against Penn State, which hurt the Badgers and it allowed Christian Hackenberg to sit back and wait for one of his receivers to get open. The defense can't let that happen again or South Carolina will be able to consistently march downfield.
TE Jacob Pedersen: Pedersen has become a reliable third-down target for Stave, showing that he can adjust and make a tough catch if he needs to. Pedersen, who is second on the team in receptions and receiving yards, is going to have to provide a target for Stave to help keep the chains moving. Wisconsin can't afford a lot of three and outs against South Carolina.
RB Melvin Gordon: Gordon should have the speed to be able to bounce runs to the outside. In order for him to do that, he's going to have to be able to first show he can run it up the middle. Gordon has slowly shown that he can be effective running between the tackles, and he has a chance to make South Carolina's linebackers miss and break a big play if he gets into open space.
LG: Ryan Groy: Groy is going to have to keep Stave upright along with giving him time to locate the open receiver. If the Badgers decide to run it toward the left side, Groy and Marz are going to have to win their battles to allow Gordon and White to gain positive yards and possibly hit the big play.