Wisconsin ranked No. 12 in initial AP poll

Wisconsin’s football program has won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons — a feat never before accomplished in school history.

Apparently, Associated Press pollsters have taken notice of coach Bret Bielema and the Badgers. Wisconsin is ranked No. 12 in this year’s Associated Press preseason poll, released Saturday.

The Badgers are coming off an 11-3 campaign in which they captured their second consecutive Big Ten title and advanced to the Rose Bowl, where they dropped a 45-38 shootout to Oregon.

Wisconsin, which has appeared in a bowl game in 10 straight seasons, entered last September ranked 11th in the AP poll and finished the season ranked 10th nationally.

USC tops this year’s AP preseason poll at No. 1, followed closely by SEC rivals Alabama and LSU at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Oklahoma is ranked fourth, followed by Oregon (No. 5). Rounding out the top 10, Georgia is ranked No. 6, followed by Florida State and Michigan. South Carolina checked in at No. 9, and fellow SEC program Arkansas followed at No. 10. Big 12 newcomer West Virginia is the last team ranked ahead of Wisconsin, at No. 11.  

Michigan received one first-place vote in the preseason poll. The Big Ten added Michigan State (No. 13), Nebraska (No. 17) and Ohio State (No. 18) and has a total of five teams ranked in the initial poll for 2012.

Wisconsin scored 40-plus points in nine games a year ago, and will once again be led in 2012 by prolific tailback Montee Ball, who is coming off a season in which he tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record with 39 touchdowns.