The Badgers’ success on the ground should continue when South Florida comes to Madison. The Bulls are only allowing 142 yards a game but that number includes a 315-yard performance by North Carolina 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 play an important role in helping the Badgers keep the momentum going as they prepare for South Florida.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Melvin Gordon RB (2): Gordon showed why he was a Heisman contender at the beginning of the season, making multiple highlight-reel runs against Bowling Green. Gordon should have success again as he goes up against a rush defense that has shown to struggle against teams that have the capability to run the football. With Wisconsin being a run-first team and wanting to use the run to set up the pass, Gordon should get plenty of carries early and often. Even though Gordon fumbled the football against Bowling Green, it shouldn’t become a concern for the electric Gordon, who had three runs of at least 40 yards against the Falcons.
2, Derek Landisch MLB (NR): There really isn’t much to be afraid of when it comes to South Florida’s passing game. Averaging 141.8 yards a contest, South Florida ranks 116th amongst FBS programs, one spot behind Wisconsin, but the one area where Landisch will have to be ready is to slow down the Bulls’ rushing attack. Freshman Marlon Mack has rushed for 502 yards on the season, ninth best in the country. The Badgers have been stout against the run this year, giving up 91 yards a game, because Landisch has developed into one of the team’s best pass rushers. Landisch led the way last week recording 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, both career highs for the senior. If Landisch can continue playing at the level he’s at, USF will be forced to throw the football.
3, Tanner McEvoy QB (1): Although McEvoy may have taken a step back against Bowling Green, he still did make some nice plays through the air. McEvoy still needs to improve his downfield throws and accuracy to limit his multiple overthrows of his intended targets. Head coach Gary Andersen mentioned he hopes the deep strikes become a part of the Wisconsin offense, which won’t start happening consistently until McEvoy improves.
If McEvoy can consistently show in practice this week that he’s capable of throwing the deep ball, look for Wisconsin to try and strike on a big play against USF. As important as being able to stretch the field, McEvoy cannot turn it over as he has thrown at least one interception each game. The Bulls have collected four interceptions on the year and have registered an interception in three of their four games.
4, Joe Schobert OLB (3): Schobert should be right with Landisch in stopping the running attack of South Florida. As many plays as Landisch made on Saturday, Schobert has been the more consistent linebacker, leading the team with five tackles for loss. With the Bulls handing it off to Mack an averaging of 22.25 carries a game, Schobert, like Landisch, should have a chance to slow Mack down. Schobert has been good in pass coverage (two pass breakups), which comes from his background of starting as a safety at Wisconsin. Schobert could get another chance at making plays in pass coverage considering USF quarterback Mike White is averaging only 6.3 yards a pass.
5, Michael Caputo S (5): Regardless of what kind of offense Wisconsin faces, Caputo seems to have success. The team’s leading tackler, Caputo has helped slow down the run game and been solid in pass coverage. Although that may not be common among college football teams to have their safety leading the team in tackles, Caputo lines up all over the field and has also done a good job of making sure he doesn’t give up the big play. Regardless of what the play the Bulls call Caputo should find himself somewhere around the football.
6, Sam Arneson TE (NR): Arneson has put together two solid weeks at the tight end position and has become the next go-to receiving target behind Alex Erickson. Averaging 19.4 yards per catch, Arneson has done a good job of bailing out McEvoy on high passes that have been thrown to him. Arneson has been able to use his frame to his advantage and has been very good going over the middle, which has helped him the offense on third down plays.
7, Dan Voltz C (NR): The quarterback-center exchange needs to get fixed between him and McEvoy, who said post game it is one of the most fundamental things in football. UW has suffered three such flubs this season, including two against Bowling Green. In addition to Voltz and McEvoy needing to get their snaps fixed, the sophomore lineman will also have to continue to help open the running lanes and hold up in pass protection.
Others to Note
Running Back Corey Clement: With Gordon wanting to try and bounce runs to the outside, Clement should be able to wear down the defenders up the middle. Clement has also shown that he can be relied on in the passing game, with four receptions on the year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig got Clement more involved on third downs going forward, using his physical running style to try and move the chains.
Wide Receiver Alex Erickson: Erickson may not be needed to catch the ball as much if the running game can have success, but it’ll be imperative to be an effective pass blocker. Erickson is still developing as a player and his chemistry with McEvoy. If Andersen wants to be able to hit the deep ball more then he has currently, Erickson may be his best option, even though he is not the quickest. He knows how to get open and would be able to catch the football if thrown to him.
Nose Guard Arthur Goldberg: Goldberg has stepped in nicely for the injured Warren Herring and has done a good job, registering nine tackles on the year and one quarterback hit. He has done a good job of holding up at the point, which has allowed the linebackers to make plays. Goldberg will have to continue to do so in order for Landisch and Schobert can shoot the gaps and slow down Mack.
Right Tackle Rob Havenstein: Havenstein helped open holes for Gordon on the right side, but likely is more concerned that he in part gave up the lone sack in the game. UW’s running game should once again run toward the right side of the offensive line where Havenstein can create running lanes.