What's or who's been the biggest surprise for the Badgers defense this season?
Drew Hamm: There have been a number of pleasant surprises for the nation's number two ranked scoring defense, hell there's one right there, but for me the biggest surprise has been how big of a ball-hawk redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy, former starting quarterback, turned into. I get it Tanner, everyone wants to be quarterback because that's who gets all the chicks, but you've got a future at safety, man. McEvoy, at 6'6, is a physical anomaly at the position with his height and athleticism and is going to make some enterprising NFL team (probably the Patriots which is already making me furious) with a late round pick to burn very happy. Four picks, four passes defended, one fumble recovery and one sack? This dude is danged everywhere. The fact that he also comes in and plays offense is just an added bonus, like not having someone sit next to you on an airplane. Sooooo luxurious.
Kevin O'Connell: The biggest surprise for me has been the play of the secondary. Coming into the year we expected the back half of the defense to be a strength, but I did not see them being this dominant week in and week out. The Badgers have allowed the second fewest touchdown passes (5) in the country trailing only Michigan and Northwestern and have allowed the 14th fewest yards per game through the air. Granted the Badgers don't play in the pass-heavy Big 12, and the quarterbacks they have faced haven't exactly been world beaters, but like Drew mentioned, McEvoy has been huge for the Badgers -- and cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary have been solid all season long. Couple the secondary with pass rushers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert and it's easy to see why this defense has found so much success this season.
Curt Hogg: Can we put fire emojis in a post? Is that a thing? Because the whole defense deserves all the fire emojis. The biggest surprise, I'd have to say, is the play at middle linebacker. First Leon Jacobs goes down, and we're all sad. Then true freshman Chris Orr steps up and plays like a grown man. Then he gets hurt and redshirt sophomore and former walk-on Jack Cichy slides over from outside linebacker and doesn't miss a beat. Inside linebacker was the one main question mark around this defense coming into the season, and it's no longer much of a question mark.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, what's been the biggest disappointment through 10 games?
Drew: Not shutting out Troy? I don't know, man. The Badgers defense has been excellent all year and I think what the offense is doing to them is a jailable offense. The cornerbacks need to learn to turn around and look for the ball when it's in the air, but when your defense is fourth in the nation in yards allowed and second in points allowed you should probably just shut up and enjoy the ride. #PayArandaPlease
Kevin: There is not a whole lot to be disappointed about considering the defense has allowed seven points or fewer in half of their games thus far. I guess the way they got shredded on the ground against Alabama didn't look good, especially on national television, but it was against Heisman candidate Derrick Henry and an elite Bama offensive line. Besides that, the defense has been pretty much flawless all year and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda should get significant consideration for some open head coaching jobs this offseason.
Curt: Well, they didn't exactly play great against Alabama. So that? Or Leon Jacobs' season getting cut short because of injury? Shelton has dropped a few interceptions? The real reason I wanted to do the defense roundtable is because they've been amazing this season. It's hard to find a whole lot to criticize.
Who's the defensive MVP?
Drew: Boring pick, because I'm bored by people who do their jobs amazingly I guess, but Schobert, who is fourth in the nation in sacks, is the defensive MVP. Honestly, he could have not played a down this season, and he still would have been my defensive MVP based on this video alone.
Kevin: I want to go against the grain and pick someone else, but the MVP has to go to Schobert. He has been a force all year, his draft stock has risen significantly, and he should at least be a semi-finalist for a couple of national awards.
Curt: Joe Schobert is really good at football. That performance against Iowa singlehandedly might have won him this award.
The last two games of the season (if the Badgers don't make it to Indy), what do you expect out of Dave Aranda's defense?
Drew: Let's be very clear about this, the Badgers are not going to the Big Ten Championship game. This is dumb Iowa's season and the sooner we accept that the sooner we can move on and forget that this year ever happened. Now, who the hell does Wisconsin even play in their last two games?
*looks at last two games of schedule*
Gross. Northwestern is pretty good, I guess? Their quarterback situation is bad though and the game isn't in the house of horrors that is Ryan Field, so Wisconsin should win. Ending the season at Minnesota in what will probably be #DILLYBARWEATHER could be scary, but Minnesota is *trash emoji times one million* and the defense should smother the Gophers anemic offense. Sure they've been feisty since Jerry Kill retired, but they also lost to Nebraska and in case you hadn't heard, Nebraska is the new Purdue. Anyways, this is a long-winded way of saying the defense should end the season on a high note with two more victories and then a dumb bowl game in Florida that I have to wake up too early to start drinking for.
Kevin: Thankfully the Badgers finish up the season with two very winnable games. Minnesota has one of the worst offenses in the country (ranked 112th in points per game) and the Badgers could be in a good position to post their third shutout of the season against the Golden Gophers. Northwestern also struggles on offense, granted their defense is also elite but the Badgers have been great at home all year and I expect the defense to shut down the Wildcats all game. It's a shame the offense couldn't muster up anything during the Iowa game because this defense is as good as it gets and I would have loved to see them get another crack at Ohio State in Indy.
Curt: If Wisconsin's offense even thinks about showing up to either of these last two games, it will be two Badgers victories. Northwestern is last in the Big Ten in offensive yards. LAST. IN A CONFERENCE THAT HAS PURDUE AND MARYLAND. LAST. And Minnesota's quarterback is Mitch Leidner, so there isn't a whole ton of a threat there, either. If either team puts up 20 points on the Badgers, I would be surprised.