USATSI_18807568

Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) talks to the media as part of Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022.

What do college football watch lists really mean? Probably not much. Scores of players are named to these lists every offseason.

It’s certainly nice to see a player from your school mentioned but in terms of upcoming season results, it portends nothing.

That being said, these watch lists give an indication of perhaps a national consensus on how good – or not-so-good – are certain players.

Here’s a roll call on this year’s Wisconsin Badgers on those watch lists:

BRAELON ALLEN

Doak Walker (running back)

Maxwell (all-around player)

Walter Camp (player of the year)

Skinny: After a stellar freshman year, the Allen hype machine is in full overdrive. Of course, it’s here we’ll mention he was an afterthought in Wisconsin’s running back room entering the 2021 season and was on nary a watch list.

KEEANU BENTON

Bronco Nagurski (defensive player/FWAA)

Outland (interior lineman)

Skinny: After a second-team All-Big Ten selection (coaches) last year, Benton seems to be a player ready to make a big jump in 2022, partly due to talent, partly due to being one of the few returning players on defense. Generally speaking linemen don’t pile up stats in the Badgers’ 3-4 defense, but Benton will still be a name heard often this season.

NICK HERBIG

Bednarik (defensive player/Maxwell Club)

Bronco Nagurski (defensive player/FWAA)

Skinny: Perhaps no one epitomizes the folly of preseason watch lists than Herbig, who is good enough for two organizations to consider him as a potential top defensive player of the upcoming season but he’s not one of the 51 selected for the watch list of the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker. Should we not watch Herbig in 2022? Maybe just with one eye open and the other closed.

CHEZ MELLUSI

Doak Walker (running back)

Skinny: Will Mellusi win the Doak Walker? We’re laying long odds against it. But, hey, Wisconsin runs the ball and if something happens to Allen, he’ll be the Badgers’ running back. If nothing else, we appreciate the longstanding narrative at play here.

JOE TIPPMANN

Outland (interior lineman)

Rimington (center)

Skinny: Speaking of narratives … is there any which has been used longer than a Badgers offensive lineman must be good because he’s big and, well, at Wisconsin? Apparently, not a lot is thought of this year’s Wisconsin line – yet – with Tippmann a notable exception. Making this list as a junior and after just one full season – we’ll call that a good sign. Now about those tackles and guards …

ANDY VUJNOVICH

Ray Guy (punter)

Skinny: No one likes seeing the punter taking the field, of course, but it’s bound to happen and might as well have one fun to watch. Vujnovich set Wisconsin’s single-season punting average record last season (46.4) and should take over the top spot on the career list as well (he’s 21 punts short of qualifying). A worthy watch list member!

NOTHING TO WATCH HERE, WE GUESS

There were a number of watch lists which included no Wisconsin players: Biletnikoff (wide receiver), the above-mentioned Butkus, Davey O’Brien (quarterback), John Mackey (tight end), Lou Groza (kicker) and Thorpe (secondary)

The last time Wisconsin didn’t have a tight end on the Mackey Award watch list was 2016 despite Troy Fumagalli named honorable mention All-Big Ten the previous year. In 2016, Fumagalli ended up leading the Badgers in receptions with 47 and finishing second in receiving yards with 580 while being named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and third team by the media. In 2017, Fumagalli was a Mackey Award semifinalist.

It’s been even longer since the Badgers had someone on the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Alex Erickson was tabbed in 2015, a year after he led Wisconsin with 55 catches and 772 yards. He then proceeded to have 77 catches and 978 yards in 2015 – more than double anyone else on the team.

That same year was the last time a Wisconsin kicker was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list when Rafael Gaglianone on it as a sophomore. Interestingly, Gaglianone was with the Badgers through 2018 but was never tabbed to that watch list again.

Finally, there’s the Davey O’Brien. Last year, Graham Mertz was on the watch list. This year, he is not. If nothing else speaks to the potential or latency of Wisconsin’s 2022 season, this is it. You can win without a good quarterback, but a team can’t go too far without one.

Watch list or not, all eyes will certainly be on Mertz in 2022.