Big Ten season halfway finished: How have the Badgers fared?

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Vince Biegel drags down a Maryland running back for a loss. Jim Oxley photograph

Key defensive players

While Wisconsin’s offense has been impressive, especially on the ground, the Badgers defense is simultaneously having a monster season. Wisconsin is giving up just 14.1 points per game, the third best mark in all of college football.

Plenty of Badgers are off to a strong start, but one stands above the rest as the leader of the defense.

Michael Caputo

Michael Caputo dives for the legs of Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown. Jim Oxley photograph

Redshirt junior safety Michael Caputo is having a monster season. He leads Wisconsin with 34 solo tackles and 57 total tackles, and has clearly been the emotional leader of this squad.

Caputo recently told Senior Writer Tom Dienart that while he has taken a leadership role, this defense is all about the collective 11 guys:

"“I take the role of leader. I try to motivate these guys, but a lot don’t need motivation any more. They have a lot of drive themselves. I am one of 11. I do my part within the scheme. I try to lead and communicate, playing the game I love.”"

Caputo has been used almost like a linebacker this season, often lining up in the box and making plays at the line of scrimmage.

Linebacking corps.

Derek Landisch drops a Maryland running back in the backfield. Jim Oxley photograph

Another highlight of Wisconsin’s defense this year has been the linebacking play.

The foursome of Derek Landisch, Joe Schobert, Marcus Trotter and Vince Biegel has combined for 95 solo tackles (151 total), 30 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 2 recovered fumbles.

They have been a wrecking crew against the run, giving up just 1,074 yards on the ground so far this year (102.9 per game). Opponents are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry against the Badgers.

Individually, senior Derek Landisch is putting on a clinic for the Badgers. He is second on the team in tackles, behind Caputo, with 43 (27 solo) and leads the team with 5 sacks.

*Stats courtesy