The University of Wisconsin football team will bounce back after a disappointing 2020 season, according to media members who cover the Big Ten Conference.
Of the 34 reporters to vote in the Cleveland.com preseason Big Ten poll, 29 picked the Badgers to win the Big Ten West and to reach the conference championship game. However, 28 of those 29 voters believe UW will lose that league title game to Ohio State.
The preseason poll asked voters to rank the teams in each division and pick the conference title winner, and to vote on the top offensive and defensive players in the league.
Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave was the top offensive vote-getter, with 11 first-place votes. Olave had 729 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in seven games last season. Twelve players received a first-place vote, including Badgers redshirt sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz. Mertz tied for seventh place in the poll.
Northwestern redshirt sophomore safety Brandon Joseph was tabbed the league’s top defensive player entering the season, earning 11 first-place votes. Joseph had six interceptions and eight passes defended last year and helped the Wildcats win the West division. UW senior linebacker Jack Sanborn — who will be one of the Badgers’ representatives at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis this week — tied for seventh in the defensive player poll.
The results of the coach of the year poll will be announced Thursday.
Here are the full results of the Cleveland.com poll:
Big Ten West
1. Wisconsin (29 first-place votes) 233 points
2. Iowa (5) 202
3. Northwestern 160
4. Gophers 146
5. Nebraska 91.5
6. Purdue 72.5
7. Illinois 47
Big Ten East
1. Ohio State (34 first-place votes) 238
2. Penn State 192
3. Indiana 169
4. Michigan 144
5. Maryland 79
6. Rutgers 77.5
7. Michigan State 52.5
Big Ten Championship Game
Ohio State over Wisconsin (28)
Ohio State over Iowa (5)
Wisconsin over Ohio State (1)
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
1. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (11 first-place votes) 58 points
2. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Indiana (8) 44.5
3. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Gophers (4) 36
4. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (1) 13
5. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (1) 12
6. David Bell, WR, Purdue (1) 10
7 (tie). C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (2) 6
7 (tie). Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (1) 6
7 (tie). Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin (1) 6
10. Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa (1) 5
11. Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana (1) 4
12. Tanner Morgan, QB, Gophers (1) 3.5
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
1. Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern (11 first-place votes) 49 points
2. George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue (8) 33
3. Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State (5) 30.5
4. Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana (6) 28
5. Olakunle Fatukasi, LB, Rutgers (3) 18
6. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan 11
7 (tie). Jack Sanborn, LB, Wisconsin 7
7 (tie). Tiawan Mullen, CB, Indiana (1) 7
9. Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State 3.5
10 (tie). Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State 3
10 (tie). Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State 3
12 (tie). Boye Mafe, DE, Gophers 2
12 (tie). Chris Bergin, LB, Northwestern 2
12 (tie). Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska 2
12 (tie). Jake Hansen, LB, Illinois 2
16 (tie). JoJo Domann, S/LB, Nebraska 1
16 (tie). Tyshon Fogg, LB, Rutgers 1
16 (tie). Owen Carney, LB, Illinois 1
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.