MADISON, Wis. When people reflect on Wisconsin's marvelous 2011 football season years from now, any number of fond memories are sure to rattle through the mind. Consider Russell Wilson's one-year showcase at quarterback or Montee Ball's run to a Heisman Trophy finalist as once-in-a-generation individual performances. Take an inaugural Big Ten championship victory and a Rose Bowl appearance as significant team achievements in a season that saw school-record-breaking offensive numbers. What people aren't likely to remember fondly, however, is anything the Badgers' defense accomplished. Much like the case of a hockey goalie, fans and pundits don't often recall the hundreds of saves during the season. Instead, they snivel at the few major gaffes that can be counted on one hand. Specifically, Wisconsin's defense will forever be held responsible for allowing a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass to Michigan State that crushed the Badgers' national title hopes. A last-minute secondary blunder that resulted in a touchdown pass for Ohio State one week later only added to fans' misery. So did surrendering six touchdowns to Oregon in a 45-38 Rose Bowl loss. Those three moments will stick in the craw for years, overshadowing an otherwise brilliant season. And whether it's fair or not, the 2011 Badgers defense will be remembered as the liability to a spectacular offense that averaged a school-record 44.1 points per game the sixth-best mark in the nation.But with the offense facing transition under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and new quarterback Danny O'Brien, don't be surprised to see a role reversal in 2012. Wisconsin's defense with all 11 projected starters as upperclassmen should serve as the team's steadying force in a quest for a third straight Big Ten title.Let's start on the defensive line, where projected starters Brendan Kelly, Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer each played in all 14 games last season. Allen was second on the team in sacks with four, while Kelly contributed three and two forced fumbles. Defensive end David Gilbert is expected back after missing most of last season with a broken foot. In just four games, he registered three sacks and could serve as the primary playmaker the Badgers lacked last year.At linebacker, Mike Taylor and Chris Borland ranked 1-2 in the Big Ten in total tackles last season. The duo combined to make an astounding 293 tackles. Ethan Armstrong, who is expected to be the Badgers' third linebacker, played in 12 games a year ago.Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding last year's team was inconsistency in the secondary. But Wisconsin shouldn't have the same issues in 2012.Senior Devin Smith could be the shutdown cornerback the Badgers desperately needed last season. Smith played in just two games, which forced Marcus Cromartie into the starting cornerback role. After taking his lumps a year ago, Cromartie now returns with starting experience alongside Smith.Dezmen Southward and Shelton Johnson will serve as Wisconsin's two safeties. Johnson tied for the team lead with four interceptions a year ago and was fourth in total tackles with 54. The athletically gifted Southward played in 13 games a year ago with 35 total tackles and two forced fumbles.Despite two monumental last-minute gaffes and a clunker against Oregon, Wisconsin's defense wasn't all that bad last season. The Badgers surrendered 19.1 points per game, which ranked No. 13 in scoring defense nationally. Wisconsin also ranked fourth in the country in passing defense, allowing 163.6 yards per game.Given Wisconsin's experience defensively, those numbers should improve. So should the rushing defense, which allowed 152.8 yards per game and ranked 60th. No, the offense might not be as prolific, but the defense could carry Wisconsin in its toughest conference games against Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State. If so, expect to see the Badgers vying for a Big Ten title yet again.Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.