WIAC News Release (Tuesday, August 8) --
Winner of 10 of the last 12 conference titles, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is the favorite to secure the 2017 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) football championship, based on a preseason poll conducted by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
UW-Whitewater owns a league-best 35 first-place finishes and has compiled a 161-11 record over the last 12 seasons. The Warhawks enter the 2017 campaign ranked third nationally in Street & Smith’s College Football preview and the D3football.com Preseason Poll, while landing 15th in Lindy’s Sports Division III Top 25. Ten starters are back on offense, including junior quarterback Cole Wilber, senior wide receiver Marcus Hudson and junior running back Drew Patterson. Wilber posted 135 consecutive pass attempts without an interception a year ago - the sixth-longest streak in program history. Hudson led the team with 52 receptions and 843 receiving yards, while tying for high honors with four touchdown receptions. Patterson ranked 10th in NCAA Division III with 19 total touchdowns and led the league 114 points. Junior offensive lineman Nate Trewyn was selected to the D3football.com Preseason All-America Second Team.
The defense returns three starters, including senior linebacker Matt Seitz, who ranked second on the team with 64 tackles.
UW-Whitewater is followed in the conference predictions by: UW-Oshkosh; UW-Platteville; UW-Stevens Point; UW-La Crosse; UW-River Falls; UW-Stout; and UW-Eau Claire.
UW-Oshkosh welcomes back 39 letterwinners from last year’s squad that made the program’s first-ever appearance in the Stagg Bowl (NCAA Division III title game). The Titans - ranked fourth in the D3football.com Preseason Poll, fifth by Street & Smith’s and 14th by Lindy’s Sports - return senior quarterback Brett Kasper, who was selected the league’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2015. Last season, he completed 202-of-334 passes for 2,589 yards and 19 touchdowns. Also back is senior running back Dylan Hecker, who owns the program record with 45 rushing touchdowns and topped the WIAC with 1,142 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns a year ago. UW-Oshkosh’s 24 victories in the last two seasons are the most in program archives.
UW-Platteville - ranked 15th in the D3football.com Preseason Poll and 18th by Street & Smith’s - made the program’s second postseason appearance in 2016. Junior running back Sean Studer had a team-best 664 rushing yards a year ago. The Pioneers have won at least seven games each of the last six seasons, including a program-best 10 in 2013.
UW-Stevens Point senior wide receiver Christian Almonte had a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Albion College (Mich.) on Sept. 10, 2016.
UW-La Crosse senior quarterback Tarek Yaeggi led the conference with 302.7 passing yards and 321.8 total yards per contest in 2016. He also established single-season school records with 218 completions, 2,724 passing yards and 2,896 total offense yards.
UW-River Falls has posted back-to-back four-win seasons – their best stretch since the 2000 and 2001 campaigns. Senior running back Michael Diggins led the Falcons with 536 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and 11 total touchdowns last year.
UW-Stout junior kicker Drew Pearson earned a spot on the D3football.com Preseason All-America First Team. A year ago, he was selected the WIAC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year and earned a spot on the D3football.com All-America First Team and American Football Coaches Association All-America Second Team.
UW-Eau Claire junior quarterback JT DenHartog completed 121-of-224 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago, while leading the Blugolds with 266 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
The 2016 season featured three conference teams earning bids into the NCAA Division III Championship for the first time in history, with UW-Oshkosh advancing to the Stagg Bowl and UW-Whitewater to the quarterfinals. UW-Platteville suffered a last-second defeat in the first round. UW-Oshkosh’s appearance in the Stagg Bowl marked the 10th time in the last 12 seasons the WIAC has been represented in the national title game.
2017 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors
1. UW-Whitewater 12-1 overall, 7-0 WIAC
2. UW-Oshkosh 13-2, 6-1
3. UW-Platteville 8-3, 5-2
4. UW-Stevens Point 6-4, 3-4
5. UW-La Crosse 5-5, 2-5
6. UW-River Falls 4-6, 3-4
7. UW-Stout 3-7, 1-6
8. UW-Eau Claire 2-8, 1-6