If Wisconsin wins out, it’s clear Badgers are headed for College Football Playoff

When the initial College Football Playoff top 25 rankings were released two weeks ago, undefeated Wisconsin came in at No. 9 behind six one-loss teams. At the time, there were legitimate concerns about whether the Badgers might win out and still be left out of the four-team playoff.

But, as is the case most Novembers, chaos has engulfed the college football world. And while teams have faltered around Wisconsin, the Badgers are still standing firmly in the playoff chase. The latest CFP rankings released Tuesday night placed Wisconsin at No. 5, just one spot out of the playoffs. And there is little question now that an undefeated Wisconsin team will be included.

The four teams ranked ahead of Wisconsin are Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Oklahoma. For the Badgers, an obvious path into the playoffs has emerged. Wisconsin must defeat Michigan, which is ranked No. 24 in the latest CFP poll, Minnesota and the Big Ten East winner in the conference championship game to move to 13-0. Miami and Clemson are headed for a showdown in the ACC championship game that will eliminate one of those teams from playoff contention. At the very worst, an unbeaten Wisconsin team would reach the playoffs as the No. 4 seed.

Last week, Wisconsin moved up from No. 9 to No. 8 in the CFP rankings following losses by Big Ten foes Ohio State and Penn State. Undefeated Miami leapfrogged Wisconsin from No. 10 to No. 7 after it defeated Virginia Tech 28-10.

This time around, Wisconsin’s jump was the result of losses by three teams ranked ahead of the Badgers. No. 1 Georgia lost 40-17 to No. 10 Auburn, No. 3 Notre Dame lost 41-8 to No. 7 Miami and No. 6 TCU lost 38-20 to No. 5 Oklahoma.

Wisconsin proved it could beat a high-caliber team when it smashed No. 20 Iowa 38-14 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. Wisconsin’s defense held Iowa to a measly 66 yards of total offense and demonstrated it has one of the best defenses in the nation. The Badgers improved to 10-0 for the first time in school history.

The game did little to enhance Wisconsin’s overall strength of schedule, which had been the biggest criticism about the Badgers’ hot start. According to the Sagarin Ratings, Wisconsin’s schedule strength improved slightly from No. 68 to No. 63 in the country.

But the victory against Iowa did do wonders to change the perception about how good Wisconsin is this season. One week earlier, Iowa crushed Ohio State 55-24 in a game that saw Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley throw for 226 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. Against Wisconsin, he threw for 41 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception. Wisconsin can continue to impress the committee by beating a nationally ranked Michigan team this week.

No unbeaten Power 5 conference team has missed the playoffs in the brief three-year history of the CFP. Based on what has transpired the past two weeks, it’s clear an undefeated Wisconsin team won’t be the first to hold such a dubious distinction.


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