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Chryst making sure Badgers don’t buy in to outside expecations

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Paul Chryst is all about actions speaking louder than words, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that outside expectations mean nothing to the Wisconsin Badgers head coach. 

“There’s a lot of storylines, but nothing’s happened yet,” he said, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “You have to go out and earn it. That’s why the season is fun.”

Wisconsin comes in to this season with plenty of hype. UW’s offensive line was just featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the same organization ranked the Badgers No. 3 in the country and the coaches poll (if you’re still in to caring about that meaningless poll) has UW ranked No. 6. 

Some may ask what the secret to not buying in to the hype is, but Wisconsin has figured it out before and it involves one word — opportunity. 

“That’s why I said earlier it’s a journey, and you want to enjoy that journey with your players and you want them to maximize that opportunity. … 

“I feel pretty fortunate with our team. They should know that nothing matters what’s being said outside. It’s what you do with your opportunity.”

In fall camp, opportunity comes in the form of getting the opportunity to compete for your spot. Nothing will be handed to anyone on the Badgers roster, even the returning All-Americans. 

A former U.S. Army high school All-American is in the biggest battle of fall camp, as sophomore Cole Van Lanen has to earn his opportunity at starting. Standing in his way is 

Over at cornerback, Wisconsin is giving every opportunity possible to a host of young and inexperienced players at the position. If ever there was a model of how opportunity matters most, it is that wide open position. 

Most assumed it would be the “veteran” of the group, Dontye Carriere-Williams and Madison Cone getting the starting nods given their experience. However, in fall camp we’ve seen more of Faion Hicks, Deron Harrell and Caesar Williams than the two expected starters. 

Opportunity has knocked and perhaps the coaching staff needs more evaluation time for the really young cornerbacks, but more often than not it seems as if the young players are stepping up to the opportunities given to them internally. 

That’s just the way Chryst likes it though. Keeping his players focused on the small things also means keeping their minds away from the outside expectations. 

Yet, with the Badgers coming off of an Orange Bowl victory and a 13-1 season, expectations have never been higher for UW from the outside. 

Wisconsin hasn’t ranked this high in preseason since the 2000 season, when the Badgers were No. 4 in both polls heading in to the season. It didn’t work out well, in large part due to the ShoeBox scandal that engulfed the football and basketball programs. 

That type of off-field situation has been rare in the program since, so don’t expect that to happen this time around. 

But, looking at this season alone, getting the preseason publicity can be seen as good news. UW enters the season with a massive amount of national respect, and that’s been a rarity in the past.

Starting off the season on the tip of the tongues of most inside college football is never a bad thing — especially if you are still there at the end of the season too. 

We’ll see if the Badgers can live up to the hype on the field — which has been the message of Chryst and Co. so far in fall camp. 

“I like our group,” Chryst said. “But we’ve still got a lot of growing to do in that group. What I like about them is that they’re wanting to learn, they’re wanting to grow and they’re challenging themselves.”

But, at least Chryst knows that his formula works and isn’t varying from a script that got this program exactly where it wants to be today. 

Steady as she goes is Chryst’s motto, and you can bet he’ll do everything he can to make sure his team takes this season in stride — come hell or high water. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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