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Lucas at Large: Preseason publications based on beat writers' best guesses


Wisconsin has the fourth-best game day atmosphere behind Alabama, Notre Dame and Florida. Lindy's Sports College Football Preview says so.

Gary Andersen was the third-best coaching hire this past off-season, behind Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino and South Florida's Willie Taggart. Athlon Sports Big Ten Preview says so.

Andersen was also the new hire that inspired the third-most confidence behind Oregon's Mark Helfrich and the aforementioned Taggart. The Sporting News' College Football Preview says so.

Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen is the second-best tight end in the country. Lindy's says so.

Wisconsin's Dave Aranda is one of the top new coordinators. Athlon says so.

Wisconsin-Ohio State is one of the Games of the Week, if not the Year. TSN says so.

You get the idea. Everybody has a say in the 2013 preseason college football magazines.

But the beat writers who cover the teams and players have less of a say than you think.

Jeff Potrykus and Tom Mulhern cover the Badgers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, respectively. Both are respected, experienced reporters; among the best.

Potrykus wrote the Wisconsin preview and an accompanying feature on Andersen for Athlon Sports. Mulhern wrote the UW preview for Lindy's. Last year, he also filed a Montee Ball feature.

But neither has any input on the preseason Top 25, All-America and all-conference teams, player ratings, position rankings and league predictions that appear in each of these magazines.

It's standard operating procedure. As a whole, the contributing writers, like Potrykus and Mulhern, don't have a voice beyond their team preview and any sidebar or feature.

Among other things, they are responsible for a team's depth chart, which can be problematic because of deadlines. Potrykus had an April 1 deadline. The UW had only six spring practices by then.

"I joked about this with Mulhern,'' said Potrykus, who has been covering the Badgers since the mid-'90s for the Journal Sentinel. "The worst part was the depth chart they wanted, especially with a new staff at Wisconsin. I might as well have pulled names out of a hat. I'm not joking.

"All kidding aside, that's literally how difficult it was to try and put together a depth chart. It's mostly guesswork, which is frustrating because you can't give their readers -- who buy that publication -- nearly as accurate of a picture as you would like.''

Mulhern had a little more flexibility with his late April deadline.

"I was helped by the fact that I could wait until the end of spring practice,'' said Mulhern, who has covered UW football since the late '90s for the State Journal. "But even with that, they had no official depth chart put out by Wisconsin. This year it made it more difficult with the coaching change and a little more stuff up in the air.

"It really is guesswork. You're trying to project things -- four or five months down the road -- and there are really not a lot of concrete answers that time of the year (March-April). I appreciated having the entire spring, but it didn't make it that much easier.''

All of the preseason magazines have regional covers. Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis are on the cover of the Athlon Sports Big Ten Preview.

Borland shares The Sporting News cover with Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. UW tailback James White and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner are on the Lindy's cover.

In Lindy's player ratings, Gardner is listed as the No. 17 quarterback. Ohio State's Braxton Miller is No. 2 -- behind Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel -- while Martinez is No. 13. No other Big Ten QB is rated.

White was curiously not rated among Lindy's top 25 running backs. Melvin Gordon is No. 20 and comes with this disclaimer, "Gordon or tag-teamer James White? Gordon will be the breakout star.''

Ohio State's Carlos Hyde (No. 7), Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (No. 10) and Northwestern's Venric Mark (No. 11) were all rated above Gordon. But what about White's omission?

"Just based on returning numbers (2,571 career rushing yards), he's got to be in the Top 25,'' Potrykus said. "I honestly think he's going to have his best year because I think they're going to throw to him whether he's lining up as a receiver or coming out of the backfield.''

On the Top 25 snub, Mulhern cited how White has often languished in the shadows of others and noted, "That kind of plays into the way his career has gone, going back to high school when he was kind of the overlooked guy with Giovani Bernard (at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)."

Bernard was the 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year at North Carolina and a second-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals. Mulhern suggested that White has thrived when he has not been viewed as the quote-unquote featured back. "I think he kind of likes that role,'' he added.

Lindy's has Pedersen listed as a second-team All-American behind Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Athlon and TSN have Borland tabbed as a third-team All-American.

Wisconsin is No. 19 in Athlon's preseason Top 25; No. 24 in TSN; and No. 26 in Lindy's. Potrykus and Mulhern have Ohio State atop the Big Ten overall, followed by Michigan and the Badgers.

The Sept. 28 Leaders Division showdown between the Badgers and the Buckeyes in Columbus in prime time should be special, but it will share the day with LSU at Georgia.

Which is fitting since Wisconsin and LSU may be sharing the field in the near future.