Wisconsin has a tradition of developing quality players at several positions, but linebacker isn't one of them. Only two former Badger linebackers -- Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy -- are currently on NFL rosters, and I think Casillas' emergence as a quality player for the New Orleans Saints surprised more than a few Badger fans. I'm not suggesting linebacker has been a position of weakness for the Badgers, but it's been a long time since it's been a position of strength.
That is, until this season.
Chris Borland and Mike Taylor have been remarkable in leading Wisconsin's defense this year. Borland leads the Big Ten in tackles with 71 and Taylor is tied for third with 64. To put that in context, the Badgers haven't had a player finish in the top ten in the conference in tackles since Joe Stellmacher finished 10th in 2005. I know tackles aren't an incredibly important stat in today's game, but anyone who has watched the Wisconsin defense for even a series could tell you how active those two are.
The fact that Borland is able to play linebacker, let alone at such a high level, is a testament to how hard he worked to overcome two major shoulder injuries. Taylor, who has started for the Badgers since midway through his redshirt freshman season, seems to get better every game.
Ohio State runs the ball a ton, so the Badgers need Borland, Taylor and Wisconsin's other linebackers to play well Saturday. I don't know about you, but I like their chances.
The Badgers should be relatively healthy for the trip to Columbus.
Inconsistency on special teams has hurt the Badgers in recent years, and it certainly did against Michigan State last week. They'll need to rebound against the Buckeyes.
As Louis wrote yesterday, Montee Ball has been a stud for the Badgers in 2011. Some were worried about wear and tear after Ball dropped 20 pounds during the offseason, but neither Bret Bielema nor Ball himself seem too concerned.
Jeff Potrykus and the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises did a video preview of Saturday's game.
The situation Wisconsin is in this week is oddly similar to that of the Buckeyes last season after their loss at Camp Randall.
Here's your weekly list of predictions for Saturday's game.
The votes of respect are a departure from Wisconsin's usual preseason treatment.
Ohio State received all 24 first-place votes in that poll.