What do you do when the 2021 college football season finally comes to an end? Look forward to 2022, of course!
Several publications came up with their way-too-early (or a variation on that theme) 2022 top-25 rankings.
Wisconsin did not finish ranked in the 2021 final Associated Press top-25 poll. As with any team in any given year, the Badgers are losing several key players heading into next season, including 3/4 of their secondary, a pair of stud inside linebackers and a couple of veteran wide receivers.
Of course, Braelon Allen will be back and presumably will be the starting running back the entire season this time.
How does 2022 bode for Wisconsin? Here’s what the early crystal balls say, but forgive them if they’re a bit cloudy. After all, it is only January.
Brett McMurphy, Action Network
Mitch Harper, KSL.com
No. 10. “Two of Wisconsin’s four losses in 2021 were against teams that appeared in the Top 5 of the final College Football Playoff rankings. Graham Mertz returns at quarterback and Braelon Allen looks poised to be the next great Badger running back.”
David Kenyon, Bleacher Report
No. 12. “Wisconsin and Clemson need to determine if Graham Mertz and DJ Uiagalelei, respectively, are the right options. Both are once-touted prospects who shined early in their careers, but they mostly struggled on defense-driven teams in 2021.”
Steven Lassan, Athon Sports
No. 12. “The Badgers opened the 2021 season with a 1-3 mark, yet rebounded with victories in eight out of their last nine games to finish 9-4 in ’21. A loss to Minnesota prevented Wisconsin from playing in the Big Ten title game, but coach Paul Chryst’s team could get revenge and return to the top of the West Division next fall. Rising star running back Braelon Allen powers the offense after recording 1,268 yards as a true freshman in ’21. For Wisconsin to climb in the rankings, quarterback Graham Mertz needs to take a big step forward after a sluggish season, and the receiving corps has to be restocked after the departures of Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor, along with tight end Jake Ferguson. The Badgers are likely to be a work in progress on offense early in the year, but the team can lean on a standout defense to contend in the West. This unit paced the Big Ten in both fewest yards per play (4.1) and scoring defense (16.2) in ‘21. Each level of this unit lost a key piece from last year, including linebackers Leo Chenal and Noah Burks and cornerback Faion Hicks. The schedule currently features crossover games against Michigan State and Ohio State, along with a road date at Iowa next fall.”
Pat Forde, SI.com
No. 17. “The Badgers tend to reload defensively instead of rebuild, and running back Braelon Allen is a star in the making. But they need QB Graham Mertz to make a lot of progress if they want to return to winning the Big Ten West after two years of watching someone else from that division go to Indianapolis.”
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com
No. 19. “The Badgers righted themselves nicely after a 1-3 start to win seven in a row. The offense must become more consistent under Graham Mertz, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The emergence of running back Braelon Allen (1,200 yards) should take some of the pressure off.”
Stewart Mandel, The Athletic
No. 19. “Freshman Braelon Allen (1,268 yards) emerged as the Badgers’ next great running back, and Chez Mellusi (815 yards) will return from injury. But WR Chimere Dike could be the lone experienced receiver. Last season’s No. 1 defense loses All-American LB Leo Chenal and seven other starters. Nose tackle Keeanu Benton and OLB Nick Herbig lead the returnees. Cornerbacks Alexander Smith and Dean Engram have experience.”
Nick Bromberg and Sam Cooper, Yahoo Sports
No. 21. “Can Graham Mertz take a step forward? Mertz was very good as a freshman and not good at all as a sophomore. But the Wisconsin offense will be a lot like it always is with another star rusher in the making in Braelon Allen. And until proven otherwise, there’s no reason to think that Wisconsin’s defense won’t hold opponents under 20 points per game for a fourth consecutive season.”
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com
No. 24. “The Badgers recovered from a 1-3 start to produce a nine-win campaign, which ended with a 20-13 victory against Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. To compete in the Big Ten West in 2022, they're going to have to rebuild a defense that led the FBS in total defense (239.1 yards) and run defense (64.8 yards). Leading tacklers Chenal and Sanborn are moving on, along with four starters in the secondary. Quarterback Graham Mertz needs to play better, and he'll have to do without his three top pass-catchers from 2021: Davis, Ferguson and Pryor. Two starters will have to be replaced up front on offense, along with offensive line coach Joe Rudolph, who left for Virginia Tech. The Badgers will play Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Iowa on the road in 2022.”
Bill Bender, Sporting News and R.J. Young, FOX Sports
AVERAGE RANKING: 18