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I Still Can’t Believe Wisconsin Is #19 In The Preseason AP Poll for College Football

How well do we really know this team?

Maryland v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

I know it’s been a few days since the AP Top 25 was released for college football’s upcoming season, but I remain in disbelief of one specific aspect.

We of course have to have the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama in the top 10 and these are indisputable. I’ve seen some issue taken with Washington being ranked as highly as they are, but they ought to look pretty similar to last year’s 11-2 outfit.

On the other hand, there’s #19 Wisconsin.

All offseason, Wisconsin has been the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten West. The following are indeed true:

  1. Wisconsin hired a coach with a hell of a track record in Luke Fickell and brought in surprising levels of talent in the transfer portal
  2. The Big Ten West has no clear favorite, so the AP stylebook dictates that in that situation, you default to Wisconsin.

The future does indeed look bright for Wisconsin if you look at everything that’s happened in the offseason!


How often does a team fire a coach, bring in a new coach, radically change everything about their identity on both sides of the ball overnight and then rip off a 10+ win season?

It cannot be true that Tanner Mordecai will match his production at SMU AND Braelon Allen will have a season reminiscent of Jonathan Taylor or 2014 Melvin Gordon. These things literally cannot both be true because the offensive styles that produced those results are almost diametrically opposed. I for one believe that the Badgers will transition to Air Raid. Mordecai has only ever played in the shotgun in Air Raid-based systems, at least in college. The vaunted Wisconsin offensive line, however, has been doing the Paul Chryst offense for their entire careers. Maybe they’re a well-oiled machine by November, but it would be unprecedented for them to start out firing on all cylinders against top-level competition.

Braelon Allen is going to be doing a lot more chip blocking and catching checkdowns than he’s been doing in years past. His hype has been built around the mythos of the Prototypical Wisconsin Running Back that carries the rock 30 times a game and picks up the first down between the tackles on 3rd and 4. He showed enough versatility that he will probably transition to his new role just fine, but the hype around his theoretical level of production is borderline fanfiction.

Mike Tressel said the defense is going to run a 2-3-6 as their base look.

Congratulations! You can counter your own offense in scrimmages! This will also work pretty well against Purdue. There are, however, several teams in Wisconsin’s division that like to run variations of the old-fashioned Power. Even if we’re not talking about stylistic matchups here, this is still a new defensive scheme! My assumption would be that the OLB’s are edge rushers and not true linebackers, so it’s really more of a 4-1-6, but however you interpret it:

  • it’s not as stout against the run as what Wisconsin ran under Aranda and Leonhard
  • it is different enough from what they used to run to expect the kind of growing pains teams tend to have in Year 1 of a new defense.

I could be wrong! This could be the most successful one-year transition of all time! What I’m not wrong about is the following: although by the nature of a preseason poll nobody has proven it yet, Wisconsin is less proven than any team in the preseason top 25.*

*Except Oklahoma, which, yikes