Midseason report: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

WISCONSIN (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten)
Wisconsin got the start it wanted by routing its first two opponents and escaping Fresno State with a huge road win. But Big Ten play has brought big problems for the Badgers and coach Bret Bielema, who faces adversity for the first time in his brief head-coaching career after three consecutive losses. After inexplicably blowing a 19-point halftime lead at Michigan, Wisconsin has seen its dominance in home night games disappear with losses to Ohio State and Penn State, the latter in embarrassing fashion. Quarterback play and injuries have been major concerns for Bielema, and the Badgers are getting outscored 64-13 after halftime during the losing streak.

Offensive MVP: There are not many options here, but redshirt freshman running back John Clay has elevated hope for 2009 with some impressive play. Playing behind starter P.J. Hill, Clay averages 6.2 yards a carry and has scored four touchdowns. Though he could have been used more in losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Clay is earning more playing time each week and affirming himself as the team's back of the future.

Defensive MVP: All three starting linebackers have had their moments, though senior DeAndre Levy owns the lone truly dominant performance of the season. Levy earned National Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording four tackles for loss an interception in Wisconsin's win at Fresno State. The senior co-captain leads the team in tackles for loss (6) and ranks second in overall stops (35). Fellow linebackers Jaevery McFadden and Jonathan Casillas also deserve to be recognized.

What's next: The Top 10 ranking is gone and so are hopes of a BCS run, but Wisconsin can still reach a decent bowl game with a strong finish. Signs are pointing to a quarterback switch this week, as Dustin Sherer likely will replace Allan Evridge at Iowa. Limiting mistakes from that position and generating a better passing attack will be paramount down the stretch. The defense must play better in the fourth quarter and limit damage against spread-offense teams like Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.