Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.
Today’s team: No. 13 Wisconsin
Best-case scenario: Lacking star power, Wisconsin continues to dominate on defense while taking advantage of the generosity shown by whoever left Ohio State and Penn State off the Badgers’ schedule.
Worst-case scenario: Last year, Wisconsin ranked 67th in scoring and 89th in total offense. If QB Alex Hornibrook isn’t ready for prime time and the Badgers can’t replace their leading rusher, that offense may just get worse.
The key game: Nov. 25, at Minnesota. Of the first nine games on the schedule, only three will be against teams that posted a winning record last year. Iowa (8-5), Michigan (10-3) and Minnesota (9-4), however, await before the Big Ten’s championship game. Wisconsin has beaten Minnesota 13 straight times, so now would be a bad time for that streak to end.
INSIDE THE BADGERS
Coach: Paul Chryst (third year, 21-6; 40-25 overall)
2016: 11-3, 7-2 in the Big Ten (beat Western Michigan 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
Goodbye: LB T.J. Watt (Steelers, 1st round), OT Ryan Ramczyk (Saints, 1st), RB Corey Clement (Eagles, undrafted free agent)
Spring cleaning: The selections of Watt and Ramczyk gave Wisconsin two first-round picks for the first time since 2011, when J.J. Watt was one of the drafted Badgers. … Lake Travis receiver Cade Green was a member of Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class. … Junior cornerback Nick Nelson is eligible to play after he sat out last year following two seasons and 21 pass breakups at Hawaii.
Passing: Alex Hornibrook, 106-181-1,262, 9/7
Rushing: Bradrick Shaw, 88-457-5 (3rd)
Receiving: TE Troy Fumagalli, 47-580-2 (1st); WR Jazz Peavy, 43-635-5 (2nd)
Tackles: ILB T.J. Edwards, 89 (1st)
Sacks: OLB Garret Dooley, 3.5 (t-3rd); DE Alec James, 3.5 (t-3rd)
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (2)
Offense: G Beau Benzschawel (2nd team), TE Troy Fumagalli (2nd)
He’s back: Hornibrook threw for 1,262 yards and nine touchdowns last year while splitting snaps with Bart Houston. He also was intercepted seven times.
Coming home: Jim Leonhard replaced new Cal coach Justin Wilcox as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in February. Both Leonhard and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph played at Wisconsin. Chryst and tight end coach Mickey Turner also are ex-Badgers.
Defense Junior tight end Zander Neuville scored the only touchdown of Wisconsin’s spring game. The defense-highlighted scrimmage shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise, though. The Badgers ranked third against the run last year (98.8 YPG), and 30th against the pass (202.6 YPG).
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 1||Utah State|
|Sept. 9||Florida Atlantic|
|Sept. 16||at BYU|
|Sept. 30||Northwestern*||W, 21-7|
|Oct. 7||at Nebraska*||W, 23-17|
|Oct. 14||Purdue*||W, 49-20|
|Oct. 28||at Illinois*||W, 48-3|
|Nov. 4||at Indiana*|
|Nov. 11||Iowa*||W, 17-9|
|Nov. 18||Michigan*||L, 14-7|
|Nov. 25||at Minnesota||W, 31-17|
|* Big Ten game|
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKING||BOWL GAME|
|TOTAL||49-10 (30-11)||3-2 in bowls|
|2012||8-6 (4-4)||12th/NR||L Rose|
|2013||9-4 (6-2)||23rd/22nd||L Capital One|
|2014||11-3 (7-1)||14th/18th||W Outback|
|2015||10-3 (6-2)||20th/21st||W Holiday|
|2016||11-3 (7-2)||NR/9th||W Cotton|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS
Scoring: 67th (28.4 ppg)
Points allowed: 4th (15.6 ppg)
Passing: 104th (179.1 ypg)
Rushing: 39th (203.1 ypg)
Total off.: 89th (382.1 ypg)
Total def.: 7th (301.4 ypg)
OUR TOP 25 SO FAR
No. 25: Boise State
No. 24: Oregon
No. 23: Tennessee
No. 22: Texas
No. 21: Kansas State
No. 20: Miami
No. 19: West Virginia
No. 18: South Florida
No. 17: Florida
No. 16: Stanford
No. 15: Louisville
No. 14: Georgia
No. 13: Wisconsin
No. 12: Coming Tuesday. Want a hint? One of this school’s traditions is the handing down of the No. 18 jersey that symbolizes on- and off-field success. This players tradition started in 2003.
Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)
SEC (14-Georgia, 17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)
ACC (15-Louisville, 20-Miami)
Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)
AAC (18-South Florida)
Big Ten (13-Wisconsin)
Mountain West (25-Boise State)