Front Seven - Arizona State

Conor O'Neill (Fleming/13)

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 Arizona State.

It's hard to say Wisconsin hasn't looked good through two weeks of the nonconference season, but it's hard to know how good this team really is when they haven't faced any tough competition. That will certainly change this week when they travel to Tempe to take on Arizona State.

This game will serve as a good measuring stick for this Wisconsin football team after not really being challenged offensively or defensively. Simply put, we'll know where the Badgers stand as a team after this game.

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 came out much better against Tennessee Tech then he did against UMass with his one blemish being his second-quarter interception. He came back strong by completing his next 13 passes and conducting a perfect two-minute drill where he went 10-10 on the drive. Although Stave played better, he has to try and avoid making mistakes, especially on the road. Both of his interceptions this season shouldn't have been thrown because both were going into double coverage. Stave has to read plays better and know when to look off his intended target. The Sun Devils could bring the pressure on Saturday and Stave is going to have to be prepared to get the football out quickly so he doesn't make mistakes.

2, Melvin Gordon RB (NR): Gordon has had some electrifying runs through the first two games and will be called upon to try and make big plays against Arizona State. Gordon definitely has the big play capability but he's going to have to try and stay patient against Arizona State. He won't be able to consistently break off long runs like he has the first two weeks. If he takes what is given to him throughout the game he should be able to bust one against the Devils.

3, Sojourn Shelton CB (3): With Shelton being a true freshman at cornerback, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly will test the young cornerback early in the game. Shelton doesn't lack confidence in his game and can't get down on himself if he gets beat for a big play. Shelton will have to be prepared for the physical play because both of Arizona State starting wide receivers are over six feet. If Shelton can shut down his target, his confidence should only grow entering Big Ten play.

4, Dallas Lewallen C (3): Lewallen had another bad snap at center but remained in the game. Like last week the fumble center exchange didn't result in a turnover, but Wisconsin is playing with fire. Besides that one mistake Lewallen played well and did a good job of making the right calls and helped keep Stave upright.

5, Chris Borland ILB (4): Borland put together another solid game with five tackles and had a half tackle for loss. If Beau Allen and the rest of the defensive line can do their job by taking on blockers, it will allow Borland to make plays in the backfield. Borland hasn't been tested that much but he'll be ready for Arizona State's offense and he'll have to make sure the rest of the defense is ready.

6, Jacob Pedersen TE (5): Pedersen played much better against Tennessee Tech, was able to get open and finished the game with three catches for 54 yards. He was a reliable target for Stave and he'll have to provide that again. The Sun Devils will try and take away Abbrederis, meaning Pedersen will have to help the passing game out. If Pedersen can't contribute, the offense may become one-dimensional.

7, Jared Abbrederis WR (NR): Abbrederis is going to get pressured and he's going to have to try and find ways to get past his defender. Abbrederis clearly is Stave's favorite target so far through two games and he will be targeted. Even though Abbrederis is going to get double-teamed he always seems to come up with big plays. Against a defense like the Sun Devils, another receiver is going to have to try and take pressure off of Abbrederis.

Others to Note

K Kyle French: French missed one of his five extra point attempts and has been battling with consistency for the last two seasons. French's problems seem to be more mental, as his kicks in practice have been consistent. The Arizona State game may come down to a field goal and Wisconsin will need a big kicker sooner or later.

RB James White: Like Gordon, White will be relied upon to try and help open up the passing game. He saw his workload increase against Tennessee Tech to get him prepared for the game against Arizona State. While he wasn't able to break any long runs, White was very effective with his carries. If the receivers struggle against Arizona State, White will become important in the passing game.

CB Darius Hillary: Hillary has played well over the first two games and will get a challenge Saturday. Hillary may not be tested as much as Shelton but he's going to have to be ready when the ball comes to his side of the field. If he can shut down his side of the field and not give up any big plays should only help the secondary confidence.

ILB Conor O'Neill: O'Neill was flying around the field on Saturday during his first career start and finished the game with a team high nine tackles and 1.5 TFLs. Even if Derek Landisch does return this week from his injury, O'Neill should see plenty of the field the way he played against Tennessee Tech, as he was effective and will certainly be needed to help stop the Sun Devils' offense.

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