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
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY IIUpdated
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.