As if Wisconsin fans didn’t know it already, Thursday validated just how tough of a road the Badgers will face in 2016.
With the release of the USA Today Coaches poll, the Badgers will face five teams ranked in the top 15 --- all by October 22.
“Our kids are excited about (the schedule),” head coach Paul Chryst said last week at Big Ten Media Days. “I think as coaches we are. When you go into the season, you always think the schedule is going to be tough. It doesn’t feel different that way, but it’s a heck of a challenge. I do believe with big challenges come great opportunities.”
Wisconsin’s 12 game schedule features 10 teams that plays in bowl games last season, including the first nine. Opening the season against No.6 LSU at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field Sept. 3, the Badgers open conference season at No.11 Michigan State and No.8 Michigan before its lone bye week.
UW’s conference home opener is against No.5 Ohio State (the first meeting between the two schools in Madison since 2012) before UW travels to No.15 Iowa Oct.22.
Although the Badgers went 10-3 last season, helped by a defense that ranked No.1 in the country in scoring defense, and return over a dozen starters, Wisconsin’s 82 votes did not crack the top 25.
Wisconsin is 3-4 against ranked opponents the last two seasons, including 0-2 last year.
The Coaches poll is made up 64 coaches across the division 1 landscape. Chryst is one of the voters this season, along with former UW coach Bret Bielema (Arkansas), former UW defensive coordinator Chris Ash (Rutgers) and former UW-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold (Buffalo).
Defending national champion Alabama was picked first by voters, getting 55 of the 64 first-place votes. Clemson – last year’s runner-up to the Crimson Tide – was ranked second and picked up seven first-place votes. No.4 Florida State and No.10 Tennessee received the other two first-place votes.
The complete poll can be found here