The USA TODAY Sports AFCA football coaches poll was released today, and the Wisconsin football team is right where they should be. The Badgers find themselves ranked 15th heading into the 2021 season.
Some might argue that the Badgers are ranked too low, or at least some teams ahead of them are ranked too high. Badger Wire writer and Locked on Badgers co-host Ben Kenney is one of those people.
His argument is that the Badgers are ranked too low and Notre Dame is ranked too high. He thinks Notre Dame should be closer to 10 or 11 and the Badgers right behind them at 12.
I think he makes a great point. You could argue that the Wisconsin football team has a lot of big pieces returning, so 15 may be a bit of a slight towards the Badgers. However, if you play devil’s advocate, you could argue that the offense struggled mightily last year after the first two games of the season. The coaches may not have a ton of faith or confidence in this Wisconsin team right now.
The Badgers will need to come out and prove that they deserve to be ranked higher. This is nothing new, however, for the Wisconsin football program. They consistently come into season flying under the radar.
In the past 20 years (going back to the 2001 preseason), the Badgers have appeared in the top 10 of the preseason rankings just three times: 2007 (7th), 2017 (9th), and 2018 (4th). In the past 20 years, their average preseason rank is 15.31, so right where they are right now heading into 2021. And in those past 20 years, the Badgers ended their season higher than they started 10 times. So 50% of the time they are more successful than the preseason polls predict.
I’m optimistic about this season. The offense is bringing a lot of pieces back and Mertz will have a more normal season to get into a rhythm. The running back situation, in my opinion, is much stronger than it was last year. And the defense is going to be a top 10 unit in the NCAA again this year. I think when it is all said and done, we’ll agree that 15 was probably a little low for the Badgers to start the season, but that’s the great thing about college football. You just never know.
So let’s fly under the radar and climb the polls just like we always do.