When the 2008 USA Today preseason coaches poll was released, a senior-laden University of Wisconsin football team was ranked No. 12 in the nation.

That season didn't end well for the Badgers, who went 7-6 and nearly lost to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Cal Poly at home in the regular-season finale.

Two years later, UW finds itself in the same position: a roster filled with talent and seniors and a No. 12 ranking in the coaches poll.

The Badgers are one of four Big Ten Conference teams ranked among the top 15 in the poll, which was released Friday.

Defending national champion Alabama is ranked No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Florida, Texas and Boise State.

Iowa is ranked No. 10, while Penn State is No. 14. Michigan State and Northwestern were the Big Ten teams also to receive votes.

UW coach Bret Bielema referred to the 2008 season earlier this week at the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago when asked about the expectations placed on this year's team. He said he liked the fact that the 2010 team's seniors and most of his current coaching staff "all went through the scars" of that rocky campaign.

Perhaps that's why the Badgers aren't getting too giddy about starting the season so high in the polls.

"It's just a guestimation," UW senior safety Jay Valai said earlier this week after the Badgers were picked to finish third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Iowa. "That's not really anything I really care about.

"Two years ago, they had us as the (No. 12) team in the country, and we went 7-6 and struggled to beat Cal Poly. So what does that really mean, right?"

UW went 3-0 to start the 2008 season before losing its first four Big Ten games and finishing 3-5 in league play.

The Badgers needed three missed extra points to survive a 36-35 overtime victory over Cal Poly that made them bowl eligible, but the season ended with a 42-13 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

As a result, UW entered the 2009 season humbled — and unranked. But the Badgers bounced back with a 10-3 record — including a 20-14 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Champs Sports Bowl — and ended the season ranked No. 16 in the coaches poll.

The Badgers, who begin preseason training camp Monday at Camp Randall Stadium, are confident they can challenge for what would be the program's first Big Ten title since 1999.

"I believe in my team, my quarterback, my defense, my offensive line," Valai said. "We believe in who we have."

Alabama, which is led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, received 55 of 59 possible first place votes. The other four went to Ohio State, which went 11-2 last season and beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Virginia Tech, TCU, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa round out the top 10.

Bielema is one of six Big Ten coaches among the 59 voters in the coaches poll, which is part of the BCS formula used to determine its national champion.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

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