During this undefeated 2017 season, the Wisconsin Badgers and their fans sometimes have felt they weren’t given the national attention or respect they deserved. They certainly seem to be getting their due now.
Heading into the Big Ten Championship game Saturday against No. 8 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin entered the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, eight Badgers offensive players were named to All-Big Ten teams, joining their 12 defensive teammates who’d been honored the day before. Wisconsin’s 20 all-conference selections were tied with the Buckeyes for the most in the league.
And on Thursday, Paul Chryst is expected to be voted the Big Ten Coach of the Year for leading the Badgers (12-0, 9-0) to the conference title game in Indianapolis, where a victory will almost assuredly put them in the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State is currently favored by 6.5 points, but the Badgers have been overcoming odds, adversity and doubts all season. And while the last time the two teams met in the Big Ten Championship game – a 59-0 demolition by the Buckeyes – wasn’t pretty for Wisconsin, this week’s recognitions indicate the Badgers have the talent to compete with Ohio State.
Running back Jonathan Taylor, who’s third in the nation in rushing yards with 1,806 and is in the running for the Big Ten's Offensive Player and Freshman of the Year Awards, was a unanimous all-conference first-team selection. Also unanimous on the first team, as voted by coaches and media, were a pair of offensive linemen, tackle Michael Deiter and guard Beau Benzschawel. Tight end Troy Fumagalli, who leads Wisconsin in receptions with 38 and has 471 yards and four touchdowns, was named to the first team by coaches and second team by the media.
Right tackle David Edwards was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten choice, while coaches and media also agreed on center Tyler Biadasz as a third-teamer. Wide receiver Quintez Cephus (30 catches for 501 yards and six touchdowns) and quarterback Alex Hornibrook (2,157 yards and 21 scores on 63.9 percent passing) were both honorable mentions.
Wisconsin – which ranked first in the nation in total defense and rushing defense, second in scoring defense and second in pass defense – had three All-Big Ten first-teamers among its 12 defensive honorees. Going by the Badgers’ depth chart, their entire starting defense, plus an additional player, made all-conference.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards, considered the leader of the swarming, suffocating unit, was a consensus choice, along with defensive back Nick Nelson. Named to the first team by the coaches was defensive back D’Cota Dixon, who was voted a third-teamer by the media.
Defensive lineman Alec James was a unanimous pick for the All-Big Ten second team, and the coaches also chose defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and linebacker Garret Dooley as second-teamers; the media had Sheehy and Dooley on the third team. The coaches considered defensive back Derrick Tindal all-conference third team, while the media had him as an honorable mention.
The following players were consensus honorable mention selections: Ryan Connelly, Joe Ferguson, Leaon Jacobs, Natrell Jamerson, Olive Sagapolu.
Badgers placekicker Rafael Gaglianone was a unanimous second-team all-Big Ten special teams player.
On Thursday, the conference will announce its individual awards, with Chryst, Taylor, Deiter and Benzschawel among those in consideration.
Wisconsin faces Ohio State in Indianapolis on Saturday at 7 p.m. (FOX).
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.