Once the preseason award watch lists start coming out, you know college football and crisp, fall air are just around the corner. Per usual, the Wisconsin Badgers have a handful of players representing the team, most notably sophomore running back Braelon Allen.
Allen was named to the Maxwell Award, given out to the top player in the nation, watch list and he is joined by a “who’s who” of college football stars. Players like Alabama LB Will Anderson, Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and USC QB Caleb Williams dot the list this season. Finalists last year included Alabama QB Bryce Young (winner), Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett.
An Alabama player has won the award three out of the last four years, with only LSU’s Joe Burrow breaking up the Tide’s dominance. The last time a Big Ten player won the award was Penn State RB Larry Johnson in 2002 and the last time a Wisconsin player won the award was the legendary Ron Dayne in 1999.
Speaking of Wisconsin running backs, both Allen and Chez Mellusi were named to the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the best tailback in the country, watch list for 2022. Walker, interestingly enough, won the Maxwell Award in 1947 at SMU.
Please forgive me if I missed one, but as far as my feeble brain can tell, these are the teams, besides Wisconsin, that have two players on the watch list: Appalachian State, UCF, UTEP, Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Northern Illinois, Texas and Georgia Tech.
The Badgers have historically been dominant in winning this award. Jonathan Taylor won it in back-to-back seasons (2018 and 2019), Melvin Gordon won it in 2014, Montee Ball won it in 2012 and Dayne took it home during his record-setting 1999 season. MSU’s Walker III won the award last year and Allen and Mellusi will be looking to keep it in the conference again this year.
Another position that Wisconsin routinely produces studs at is the offensive line. Junior center Joe Tippmann is nominated for the Rimmington Award, given out to the best center in the country. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is the reigning winner, and deservedly so as he was dominant last year in the middle of the Hawkeyes’ line.
The Big Ten has five other nominees for this trophy, including Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz, who may be one of the favorites to win. The Badgers last, and only, time winning this award was in 2019 when Tyler Biadasz took home the hardware.