Badgers Predicted Third

The media attending today's Big Ten Luncheon in Chicago has picked the Badgers to finish third in the conference this season.

Wisconsin was chosen to finish third in the 2003 Big Ten football race behind Ohio State and Michigan by media that cover the league, the conference announced Wednesday from its 32nd Annual Big Ten Football Media Days and Luncheon.

Badger head coach Barry Alvarez, starting his 14th season at Wisconsin, is being joined by senior quarterback Jim Sorgi and senior linebacker Jeff Mack at the two-day event.

More than 1,500 fans will attend the league's Kickoff Luncheon on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Wisconsin, of course, returns 18 starters (including special teams) from last year's Alamo Bowl winner. Included among that group are standout tailback Anthony Davis, receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr, Mack, defensive back Jim Leonhard and defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne. Senior receiver Lee Evans will enter his final year looking to regain his record-breaking form after knee surgery kept him out of last season.

The Badgers open the 2003 campaign at West Virginia on Aug. 30. The home opener is Sept. 6 against Akron.

Here is the official release from the Big Ten office:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that Ohio State has been chosen as the pre-season football favorite in a vote by media members attending the Conference's media day. The Big Ten announces only the top three teams in its pre-season poll.

The Buckeyes claimed the Big Ten's first national championship since 1997 with a perfect 14-0 record in the 2002 campaign, including a thrilling double-overtime victory over defending national champion Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State's first national crown since 1970 was preceded by its 29th Big Ten title, as OSU shared the Conference championship with Iowa after posting an unblemished League mark for the first time since 1979. Jim Tressel, the 2002 National Coach of the Year, returns 18 starters this season, including all 11 regulars on the offensive side of the ball.

Finishing second in the media poll was Michigan, which placed third behind Ohio State and Iowa in 2002, its sixth straight top-three finish in the Big Ten. Lloyd Carr's teams have won five of six bowl games over that time period, including a defeat of Florida in the Outback Bowl last season. The Wolverines return 15 starters in 2003, including seven on offense and six on defense.

Wisconsin was picked for third place in the pre-season poll, as the Badgers welcome back 18 starters from last season, including nine on the defensive side of the ball. Head Coach Barry Alvarez enters his 14th year in the League, the longest Big Ten tenure of any current coach, after improving to 7-1 in bowl games at UW with a victory in the 2002 Alamo Bowl.

Garnering individual awards as voted by the attending media were Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, named the Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year, and Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson, who was selected the Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year.

Clarett, a 6-0, 230-pound sophomore from Youngstown, Ohio, was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten honoree last season after shattering the Ohio State freshman records in rushing yards and touchdowns. He ranked second in the League in scoring with 18 touchdowns and rated fourth in the League in both rushing yards (1,237, 112.5 per game) and all-purpose yards (1,341, 121.9 per game) per outing.

Jackson enters his third year as a starter in Ann Arbor after earning All-America and First-Team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore. The 6-1, 189-pounder from Sharon, Pennsylvania, set the Michigan single-season (18) and single-game (6) records for pass breakups in 2002 and has totaled 98 tackles and six interceptions in his first two years in the League.

The 108th season of Big Ten football kicks off on August 30 with 10 of the 11 League teams taking the field for non-conference action.

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