Pollsters snubbing Badgers?
They’re the only Football Bowl Subdivision team that’s undefeated and outside the AP Top 25. The Badgers have squeezed into the No. 25 spot in USA Today’s coaches’ poll, but they’re 26th in the AP ratings.
That suits Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema just fine. He would rather the Badgers gain respect than lose it with an inflated ranking.
“Our team likes to work,” Bielema said Monday. “Our team is a team that likes to gain respect rather than lose respect. Because of that, they
really don’t care what comes their way.”
John Clay ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 win at Minnesota on Saturday. Even when the Badgers were 4-0, Clay wouldn’t say whether he believes Wisconsin should be ranked.
“I’m not going to say anything except that we just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Clay said. “People are going to see what kind of play we have, and if it’s up to them to give us our rank, more power to them, but if not, we’re just going to keep playing our ball.”
The fact that Wisconsin isn’t ranked is also an indictment on voters’ thinking of the Big Ten.
The Badgers (5-0, 2-0) play No. 9 Ohio State (4-1, 2-0) for first place in the conference on Saturday, and only Iowa at No. 12 and Penn State at No. 14 are ranked.
Wisconsin is next in line to join the AP poll, finishing 43 votes behind No. 25 South Carolina.
Still, Bielema was a little surprised after Saturday’s victory when he was asked whether Wisconsin was a Big Ten title contender.
“It kind of took me back because we just won a game. We won the Axe,” Bielema said. “I knew what I was going to say, but I hadn’t prepped my players on what to say. I like to give them ideas, but I don’t send out media notes on what to say, not say.”
The rankings have hurt Wisconsin under Bielema in the past, most notably two years ago.
The Badgers started 5-0 and were ranked fifth in the country before losing in consecutive weeks at Illinois and Penn State. Wisconsin also lost to Ohio State and finished 9-4.
Bielema was pleased with what he read on Sunday.
“Every player (said), ’We’re just going to work. We’re going to show up. We’re going to do what we do and move forward,”’ the coach said.
With Clay, the Badgers keep moving forward.
Clay was the conference’s offensive player of the week and is the leading rusher in the Big Ten. He’s gone over 100 yards three times in the last five games and is averaging 116.4 yards despite not being a starter.
“It is fun to watch him run,” wide receiver Nick Toon said. “He is a great running back, a big guy (that’s) hard to tackle. I don’t think defenses like to tackle him.”