Badger Bits: Wisconsin ranked No. 24 in Sporting News preseason Top 25

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Four Big Ten teams made an appearance in the early rankings, so let's talk about it.

The Sporting News has been around since 1886, initially as a magazine (remember those?) largely devoted to baseball. Its latest iteration, after 124 years as a weekly print issue, is an entirely digital operation that still has some top writers (Matt Hayes is their college football guy, for one) worth reading, even if they are slideshow-prone.

So we'll still happily take note of their 2013 preseason college football top 25, which lists Wisconsin 24th, behind three other Big Ten teams. I'd argue the ranking is pretty fair, considering both the new coaching staff coming in and the amount of returning talent on both sides of the ball. Their brief capsule focuses on Gary Andersen:

Bret Bielema left Madison and gave new coach Gary Andersen a loaded roster ready to win now. Every new coach should be so fortunate. Bonus for Wisconsin: Andersen was an overlooked jewel of a coach at Utah State and as Kyle Whittingham's top assistant at Utah. His style and philosophy will fit perfectly with the Badgers.

Not surprisingly, Alabama is No. 1 -- you'll surely see some variation of "It's the Crimson Tide and Everyone Else" on the cover of a bunch of preseason magazines this summer. Somewhat surprisingly considering how high it is in other places, Ohio State is No. 5. Hayes cites a likely improved conference and the "pressure to perform" now that the burden of sanctions has been lifted. Whatever that means.

Ohio State is the only Big Ten team in the top 10, with Michigan coming next at No. 13. Good point by Hayes -- with Denard Robinson gone and Devin Gardner taking the job by storm, we should now see the full extent of offensive coordinator Al Borges' multiple offense. Andrew took a stab at ranking all the Big Ten playcallers late last week, placing Borges third -- and also drawing the ire of Corn Nation with a fifth-place slot for Nebraska's Tim Beck. The Huskers are No. 21 in the Sporting News' rankings, and Hayes is pretty sure about one thing: "We can safely say the Huskers are good for four losses."

That rounds out the Big Ten finalists, and it leaves us with two somewhat glaring omissions -- again, only considering what we've seen from a variety of other publications. The first is Michigan State, which has been placed as high as No. 14 by other preseason pollsters (that was SI.com's Andy Staples). The Spartans return seven players from last year's fourth-ranked defense, and many people are counting on the offense to improve from last year's miserable unit -- although stud running back Le'Veon Bell is now gone. The D seems pretty hard to argue against; it must be varying opinions on the offensive potential that hold them back. Back in April, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach also left MSU unranked.

The other omission is the darling of the Big Ten offseason, Northwestern. Staples had the Wildcats 21st, while Schlabach pegged them 24th. Phil Steele has Northwestern 20th (and also Michigan State unranked). Northwestern returns eight players on offense and seven on defense, and Pat Fitzgerald is apparently comfortable enough with the dual-quaterback tandem of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. On defense, the Wildcats are insanely athletic, led by defensive end Tyler Scott. People have also justifably been raving over Northwestern's burgeoning recruiting efforts, and while they obviously don't have a ton of bearing on this year, you'd naturally expect some of that momentum to trickle into various preseason rankings.

LINKS:

Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin has a fantastic look at the history of baseball at Wisconsin. Painful as it is to be the only Big Ten team without a varsity program, the numbers show we shouldn't keep our fingers crossed for a return.

Mike Eaves and the men's hockey program added another recruit yesterday, this one hailing from the Chicago Mission AAA team.

B1G News: Michigan's offensive line bought a pig and named it Dr. Hamlet III. No, really.

Hey, look who SB Nation/Football Study Hall's Bill Connelly is up to his in his stellar team-by-team preview series: None other than the true hogs of Arkansas.

More Bret Bielema news, because we had to: he had some Bielestupid things to say about the Big Ten's universally held thoughts about the SEC, because he apparently thinks for the whole conference:

"In the Big Ten, we disliked the SEC because of the success they had."

Right. That "I can tell you this: We at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC-in any way, shape or form" quote never really counted. /eyeroll

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