INDIANAPOLIS — The University of Wisconsin football team will bounce back after a disappointing 2020 season, according to media members who cover the Big Ten Conference.
Of the 34 reporters to vote in the Cleveland.com preseason Big Ten poll, 29 picked the Badgers to win the Big Ten West and to reach the conference championship game.
However, 28 of those 29 voters believe UW will lose that league title game to Ohio State.
The preseason poll asked voters to rank the teams in each division and pick the conference title winner, and to vote on the top offensive and defensive players in the league.
Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave was the top offensive vote-getter, with 11 first-place votes. Olave had 729 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in seven games last season. Twelve players received a first-place vote, including Badgers redshirt sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz. Mertz tied for seventh place in the poll.
Northwestern redshirt sophomore safety Brandon Joseph was tabbed the league’s top defensive player entering the season, earning 11 first-place votes. Joseph had six interceptions and eight passes defended last year and helped the Wildcats win the West division.
UW senior linebacker Jack Sanborn — who will be one of the Badgers’ representatives at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis this week — tied for seventh in the defensive player poll.
Former Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez will stay busy in retirement.
Big Ten Conference commissioner Kevin Warren announced Thursday that Alvarez will be a special adviser to the conference for football. Warren made Alvarez’s position official during his opening remarks at Big Ten football media days.
Alvarez’s last day as UW’s athletic director was June 30, ending a 30-plus year run at the university that was split between being the football coach and the athletic director.
Warren said that Alvarez’s role will include working on possible expansion of the conference and the College Football Playoff, working with media and bowl partners, health and safety issues, scheduling issues and other projects.
“(Alvarez) epitomizes success, integrity, hard work, creativity, and intelligence in the Big Ten Conference,” Warren said. “I trust Barry Alvarez implicitly. I have known him since my time as a student at the University of Notre Dame, he was the defensive coordinator. He means everything to this conference.”
Alvarez is the winningest football coach in Badgers history (119-74-4) and led the football program to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl wins. He coached Ron Dayne during his Heisman Trophy season, marking just the second Heisman winner in UW history. Alvarez was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
- Jack Sanborn’s preseason award list continued to grow Thursday as he was named a Big Ten Conference’s preseason honoree.
Sanborn, a senior inside linebacker for the Badgers, was among the five players picked from the Big Ten West for preseason honors. A media panel, including a reporter from the State Journal, selected five players from each division to be recognized.
A third-team all-conference selection a year ago, Sanborn is entering his third season as a regular starter for the Badgers. He was named to the Bednarik Award watchlist earlier this week, an early candidate for the award given to the country’s best defensive player. Sanborn led the Badgers in tackles (52) last season.