Wisconsin’s football program has checked in at No. 14 in the preseason Amway Coaches Top-25 Poll, released Thursday morning. And if you believe preseason polls are indicative of how teams will perform in the regular season, then the Badgers appear to have a fairly manageable schedule.
Only two of Wisconsin’s 12 regular-season opponents — LSU and Nebraska — are ranked in the top 25. The Tigers are No. 13, while the Cornhuskers are No. 22. Fellow Big Ten West foe Iowa fell into the "others receiving votes" category at No. 33, while Minnesota and Northwestern also received votes.
Badgers coach Gary Andersen was adamant in his defense this week at the Big Ten media days that Wisconsin had not gotten lucky with a seemingly easy schedule.
"First of all, I think the schedule is challenging," Andersen said. "People can say whatever they want about this or that, but we have a great schedule that’s highly competitive, and we’re playing very good teams out of our schedule. LSU is LSU, one of the best in the country — year in, year out. Bowling Green is picked to take their conference and was a great team last year. Then we get into the Big Ten.
"There are no easy Big Ten games. Anybody who thinks there is is sadly mistaken, and I’ll debate that with you as much as you want to debate it because you better strap it on and be ready every week in the Big Ten."
In total, four Big Ten teams broke into the top-25: Ohio State (6), Michigan State (8), Wisconsin and Nebraska. By comparison, the SEC had five teams in the top 13 and seven teams total in the poll.
Of course, preseason polls have shown their faults over the years. Last year’s coaches poll, for example, excluded Auburn, which went on to play for the national championship following a 3-9 season.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has begun the season unranked in the coaches poll three times since 2002 and gone on to finish in the top-25. Similarly, the Badgers have opened the season in the top 25 in 2012 (No. 12), 2008 (No. 12), 2003 (No. 20) and 2002 (No. 23), only to finish the year unranked. Below is a look at how Wisconsin has fared in the coaches poll, both preseason and postseason, since 2002: