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Junior fullback Alec Ingold landed just outside our Top 25 Badgers for 2017.

Wisconsin football players who just missed our Top 25 for 2017, another kickoff time announced and more

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Just missed it … but they’re still critical

We’ll be starting our list of the Top 25 Badgers for 2017 on Monday, but for Wisconsin to be at its best this fall, the Badgers will need serious contributions from those who missed the cut, as well. So here is what amounts to an honorable mention of sorts for those guys who fell just outside the list.

Fullbacks Alec Ingold and Austin Ramesh

Diverse and talented players, Alec Ingold and Austin Ramesh — like many Wisconsin fullbacks — don’t get the credit they deserve for the role they play (including from us, apparently). Both will be vital for the Badgers running game to prosper, and Ingold has shown the ability to be a factor in the passing game when called on.

Defensive end Alec James

The senior had 3.5 sacks a season ago, showing some of the promise that former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda talked about early in Alec James’ career. More of a weapon in Wisconsin’s nickel package, the Brookfield, Wis., native should be a prominent figure in a variety of roles along a loaded defensive line in 2017.

Tight ends Kyle Penniston and Zander Neuville

Senior Troy Fumagalli will get the headlines, but Kyle Penniston and Zander Neuville figure to see the field quite a bit, as well. A sophomore, Penniston has become a more complete player, giving the Badgers someone who can play on all three downs. Neuville, now in his second year at the position after moving over from defensive line, was called the best athlete of the group by Fumagalli.

Center Tyler Biadasz

After a really good spring, Tyler Biadasz may end up starting at center if the coaching staff feels good enough about his progress. That would allow junior Michael Deiter to play guard or left tackle, another move that still is being determined. The expectations for Biadasz, a redshirt freshman, have grown immensely since he first stepped on campus.

Guard Jon Dietzen

When healthy, Jon Dietzen is probably Wisconsin’s left guard of choice. He has had trouble staying on the field — though he played through injuries down the stretch last year and started the final seven games. The redshirt sophomore missed all of spring ball while recovering from offseason surgery. He should be good to go for fall camp.

Lane Kiffin’s coming … but will fans bring the noise?

Camp Randall Stadium has a reputation for being a tough place to play — a well-deserved rep after 100 years. Games against Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa, along with big-time nonconference tilts and night games, rarely disappoint. But the energy level typically dips when a cupcake comes to town and it’s an early kickoff time. And that’s exactly the environment — or lack thereof — everyone can expect when Florida Atlantic comes to town on Sept. 9 for a game that was announced on Tuesday as an 11 a.m. kickoff.

A lot of factors play into the lack of energy in the building for these types of games, though the biggest is clearly the opponent. Wisconsin hasn’t lost a nonconference home game since 2003, and the Owls are unlikely to change that. They are in the midst of a transition under new coach Lane Kiffin — which brings excitement for the folks in Boca Raton, Fla., but will lead home fans to sell their tickets and for the student section to fill up even slower than usual. And that’s fine for the Badgers. The crowds later in the year when the Hawkeyes and Wolverines visit will make up for it.

Outside shot

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook released its latest odds for the favorites to win the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship on Tuesday. While Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are featured among the top 8, the Badgers aren’t that far down the list, coming in at 40-1, tied for the 15th-best odds in the country.

The most interesting thing about Wisconsin’s odds isn’t the number. It’s the difference between the Badgers and the rest of the Big Ten West. The next-closest team is Nebraska at 100-1, while Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa are at 300-1. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Wisconsin is the overwhelming favorite to win its third division title in four years.

Honors from PFF

For a decade, former Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas has been regarded as one of the best in the game. That recognition continued Tuesday as Pro Football Focus, a website that analyzes every play, player and game weekly, revealed Nos. 21-30 in its ranking of the top 50 players in the league. The Cleveland Browns veteran came in at No. 27.

Thomas is among the best linemen to play in Madison, and he’s gone on to be one of the Badgers’ best pros, as well. He seems like a strong candidate to become the third Wisconsin alum to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As good as the other two players — Mike Webster and Elroy Hirsch — were, Thomas plays one of the toughest positions in an era when he faces some of the best athletes every down.

All of this is to say that by the time he finally hangs up his cleats, Thomas might need to be referred to as the greatest Wisconsin player to suit up in the NFL. How the rest of defensive end J.J. Watt’s career with the Houston Texans plays out could change that, but the longevity and sustained level of play by Thomas is remarkable. The fact he’s done it on one of the worst franchises in the NFL makes it that much more impressive.

Catching up

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