Badgers open at No. 9 in AP poll
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Wisconsin will enter the 2017 college football season with expectations—from outside the program—not seen in a decade.
The Badgers on Monday were ranked No. 9 in The Associated Press preseason poll. That came after UW was ranked No. 10 in the Amway coaches poll earlier this month.
“We have a really good senior class,” UW coach Paul Chryst said recently, “a lot of guys that have played in a lot of big games...
“But I think together we've just got to make sure we keep our focus where it should be.”
The last time UW opened the season as a consensus top-10 team was 2007, Bret Bielema's second season as head coach.
Coming off a 12-1 season, UW opened at No. 7 in both polls and won its first five games in '07. The Badgers were ranked No. 5 when they traveled to Illinois but fell from the unbeaten ranks with a 31-26 loss.
UW went on to finish 5-3 in the Big Ten and 9-4 overall.
The Badgers ended the '07 season with a 21-17 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, and they finished 21st in the coaches poll and No. 24 in The AP poll.
Four Big Ten teams were ranked in The AP top 25 on Monday.
Ohio State led the way at No. 2, followed by defending league champion Penn State at No. 6, UW and Michigan at No. 11.
UW finished No. 9 in both polls last season after defeating previously unbeaten Western Michigan, 24-16, in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-3.
The Badgers' three losses came by seven points apiece–at Michigan, at home against Ohio State and in the Big Ten title game against Penn State.
UW built an early 28-7 lead in the Big Ten title game but eventually fell, 38-31.
“We're never going to replay that game again,” Chryst said recently. “You hope to learn from all your experiences–coaches, players. But you never take one game from last year–I don't care what the opponent is or what the situation is–and just say we're going to replay that.
“It was a good football game. They made more plays than we did.”
UW is not scheduled to face either Ohio State or Penn State during the regular season but Michigan visits Madison on Nov. 18.
The Badgers open the season, and their quest to make a run at the College Football Playoff, on Sept. 1 against visiting Utah State.
“I think that all your experiences you want to learn from,” Chryst said of the '16 season. “And we try to spend time with the players talking about what can we learn from, be it the close losses, the close wins, anything that you go through.
“And I think that I like this team and this group. And we've got a lot of guys that have played in a number of big games and won a lot of them and have lost some of them.
“And they do a good job, I think, of sharing that with the other kids, of how you approach it. And I think the biggest thing we've got to do is give ourselves the best chance each week, because we know every game is a great opportunity.”