UW-Oshkosh is predicted to repeat as a second-place finisher in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) football standings, according to a preseason poll conducted by the league's eight head coaches and sports information directors.
Defending champion UW-Whitewater (12-1, 7-0 WIAC) was picked to secure the 2017 conference title ahead of UW-Oshkosh (13-2, 6-1), third-place UW-Platteville (8-3, 5-2) and fourth-place UW-Stevens Point (6-4, 3-4). UW-Whitewater has captured 10 of the last 12 WIAC championships, with the other two titles going to UW-Oshkosh in 2012 and 2015.
Rounding out this year's projections were fifth-place UW-La Crosse (5-5, 2-5 WIAC), sixth-place UW-River Falls (4-6, 3-4), seventh-place UW-Stout (3-7, 1-6) and eighth-place UW-Eau Claire (2-8, 1-6).
UW-Oshkosh welcomes back 38 of its 66 lettermen from last year's team that won four postseason contests before losing a 10-7 decision to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the title game of the NCAA Division III Championship. The Titans' other loss during the 2016 season was a 17-14 road setback to UW-Whitewater.
UW-Oshkosh, which has won 24 of its last 28 games, enters the 2017 season ranked fourth in the NCAA by D3football.com. The Titans return nine offensive starters, including senior running back Dylan Hecker, who received All-WIAC first team honors after rushing for 1,142 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. Junior tight end Cody Moon is back after earning an All-WIAC second team award a year ago. Moon caught 11 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown in 2016.
UW-Oshkosh also returns senior quarterback Brett Kasper, who was selected the WIAC's Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2015. Last season, Kasper earned all-conference honorable mention recognition after completing 202-of-334 passes for 2,589 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Defensively, junior cornerback AJ Plewa is UW-Oshkosh's lone returning starter. Plewa collected All-WIAC second team accolades in 2016 after totaling 39 tackles, four pass interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Punter Turner Geisthardt and placekicker Eli Wettstein, both juniors, return to the Titans after acquiring All-WIAC second team honors in 2016. Geisthardt averaged 40.4 yards on 55 punts last season, while Wettstein scored 111 points by converting 63 of 68 extra-point and 16 of 22 field goal attempts. Wettstein was also selected to the All-West Region Third Team by D3football.com in 2016.
Junior wide receiver Dom Todarello is another standout performer back for UW-Oshkosh on the special teams. He earned All-WIAC first team accolades in 2016 after averaging returns of 20.8 yards on kickoffs and 14.2 yards on punts.
UW-Whitewater, which has compiled a 161-11 record over the past 12 seasons, enters the 2017 season ranked third in the country by D3football.com. The Warhawks return 68 letterwinners, including 10 starters on offense and three on defense, from last year's team that lost a 31-14 decision to John Carroll University (Ohio) in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship.
UW-Platteville, ranked 15th in the nation by D3football.com, brings back 10 starters on defense and four on offense from last year's squad that lost a 32-31 result to Saint John's University (Minn.) in the opening round of the NCAA Championship. The Pioneers have won at least seven games during each of the past six seasons.
UW-Oshkosh's opens its 123rd season at John Carroll University (12-2 record in 2016) on Sept. 2. The Titans defeated the Blue Streaks twice in 2016, 33-14 in the season opener and 10-3 during the semifinal round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
UW-Oshkosh will also host UW-Whitewater on Sept. 30 and visit UW-Platteville on Oct. 14.
Head coach Pat Cerroni leads the Titans for his 11th season. Cerroni owns a 77-34 coaching record at UW-Oshkosh, including a 51-11 mark over the past five seasons.
The Titans begin practice for their 2017 season on Sunday (Aug. 13).