An annual tradition of every college football preseason is digging into Phil Steele’s guides and rankings.
In this season’s edition of Steele’s Top 40 poll, the Badgers fall near the middle of the pack, but lead all Big Ten West squads. Leading the way for the Big Ten are a pair of preseason top-five teams in Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines will look to recreate the magic of a 2021 College Football Playoff run, while the Buckeyes will look to get back on track spurred by a comeback win at the Rose Bowl.
Here is a complete look at Steele’s preseason poll, and what he had to say about Wisconsin:
No. 40: Fresno State
Fresno State’s Jake Haener passes against the UConn Huskies on Saturday, August 28, 2021.
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No. 39: App State
Dec 4, 2021; Lafayette, LA, USA; Appalachian State running back Camerun Peoples (6) runs the ball during the second quarter of the Sun Belt Conference championship game. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
No. 38: Kansas State
Jul 14, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Kansas State Wildcats helmet logo during the Big 12 Media Day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
No. 37: Minnesota
Dec 28, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
No. 36: Arkansas
Sep 25, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; A view of an Arkansas Razorbacks football helmet as the Razorbacks celebrate the win over the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
No. 35: Kentucky
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) throws during a NCAA college football game in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
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No. 34: Houston
Dec 28, 2021; Birmingham, Alabama, USA; Houston Cougars running back Alton McCaskill (22) carries the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the second half of the 2021 Birmingham Bowl at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
No. 33: Louisville
Jul 20, 2022; Charlotte, NC, USA; Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham speaks to the media during ACC Media Days at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
No. 32: Florida
Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier tells how proud he is of his team after Blue beat Orange 34-0 as the Florida Gators scrimmaged themselves during the annual Orange and Blue spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2022
No. 31: Boise State
Nov 26, 2021; Carson, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs cornerback Dallas Branch (12) defends against Boise State Broncos wide receiver Davis Koetter (17) in the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. San Diego State defeated Boise State 27-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
No. 30: Ole Miss
Nov 6, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA;Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin talks with a referee after a call during the second half against the Liberty Flames at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
No. 29: Air Force
Dec 28, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Air Force Falcons quarterback Haaziq Daniels (4) holds up the MVP trophy after the Falcons defeat the Louisville Cardinals in the 2021 First Responder Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
No. 28: UCLA
Nov 27, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs for 17 yards and a first down against the California Golden Bears in the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
No. 27: Tennessee
Sep 22, 2018; Knoxville, TN, USA; The 102,455 sign which is the seating capacity in Neyland Stadium and the Power T logo on the south entrance at Neyland Stadium at a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Florida Gators. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
No. 26: BYU
Sep 15, 2018; Madison, WI, USA; A BYU Cougars helmet sits on the sidelines during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
No. 25: Cincinnati
Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks onto the field after Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9), left, fumbled in the fourth quarter during an NCAA football game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bearcats won, 28-20.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane At Cincinnati Bearcats Nov 6
No. 24: Wake Forest
Nov 6, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Miles Fox (11) and Rondell Bothroyd (40) and linebacker Ryan Smenda Jr. (5) react after sacking North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) (not pictured) in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
No. 23: Michigan State
Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) celebrates after a victory against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the 2021 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
No. 22: Penn State
Jan 1, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) looks to throw during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the 2022 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
No. 21: UAB
UAB’s Jermaine Brown, Jr. runs to score a touchdown during the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl December 18, 2021.
No. 20: Iowa
Oct 30, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Nick Herbig (19) strips the ball away from Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
No. 19: Wisconsin
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst celebrates his team’s victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Dec. 30, 2017. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
“A favorite for the Big Ten West, the Badgers return one of college football’s best defenses and a young prodigy in Braelon Allen running the ball, but Graham Mertz still hasn’t proven himself as a starting quarterback.”
No. 18: Texas
Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) carries a ball during warmups before the Texas versus Oklahoma State football game at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
No. 17: UCF
UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) throws in the fourth quarter of a college football game against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer-Imagn Content Services, LLC
No. 16: USC
Mar 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC football head coach Lincoln Riley attends the USC Trojans and the Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball game at Galen Center. The Wildcats won 91-71. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
during the college football game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.
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No. 14: Baylor
Nov 6, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) throws during the second half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
No. 13: NC State
Nov 13, 2021; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; A North Carolina State Wolfpack helmet seen on the sideline during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports
No. 12: Miami
Jan 22, 2022; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mario Cristobal reacts while hyping up the crowd during the second half between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
No. 11: Pittsburgh
during a football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Panthers in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
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No. 10: Oregon
Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks players fans pose for a photo as they celebrate following a 26-16 victory against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
No. 9: Texas A&M
Nov 20, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back Amari Daniels (4) runs the ball for a touchdown fourth quarter against the Prairie View Am Panthers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
No. 8: Oklahoma
First-year OU football coach Brent Venables works with his team during Thursday’s practice in Norman.
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No. 7: Notre Dame
Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Chris Tyree (25) returns a kick for a touchdown during the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
No. 6: Utah
Apr 23, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on during the second half of the Utah Spring Football Game at Rice–Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
No. 5: Michigan
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh following the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Michigan won 42-27.
Ohio State Buckeyes At Michigan Wolverines
No. 4: Clemson
Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) and teammates celebrate their win after the game at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday, November 27, 2021. Clemson won 30-0.
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No. 3: Georgia
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart during the the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022.
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No. 2: Ohio State
Apr 17, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud (7) during the annual spring game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1: Alabama
Nov 13, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches the Crimson Tide warm up before playing New Mexico State at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports