Wisconsin likely to land outside of top 4

Wisconsin is ranked No. 4 in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Top 25 polls. The Badgers are one of five unbeaten teams remaining in the FBS, and they have won their games by an average of 22.1 points.

And yet few, if any, pundits believe the Badgers will find themselves in the top four when the initial College Football Playoff rankings are revealed Tuesday night. Wisconsin’s lack of schedule strength, coupled with its unimpressive offensive performances in recent weeks, means the Badgers will have work remaining in order to climb past other top teams.

College Football Playoff projections: Wisconsin

So, where will Wisconsin be ranked? The Badgers could wind up anywhere from No. 5 all the way down to No. 10. Our Land of 10 CFP projection lists Wisconsin at No. 8 behind Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Penn State. Five of those teams have one loss.

The biggest issue for Wisconsin is that it has not played a nationally ranked opponent and doesn’t have one remaining on its regular-season schedule. According to the Sagarin Ratings, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule ranks No. 69 in the country. Wisconsin has one victory against a top-30 team (No. 30 Northwestern). Meanwhile, Clemson has four wins against top-30 teams, while Notre Dame and Penn State have three and Georgia and Oklahoma have two. Ohio State secured one of the most significant wins of the season with its 39-38 victory last Saturday against Penn State.

That lack of schedule strength might be less significant if Wisconsin had looked dominant from start to finish in each game. But Wisconsin has struggled to put away lesser Big Ten opponents. Wisconsin defeated Purdue 17-9 at home and didn’t score in the second half. Last Saturday, Wisconsin beat Illinois 24-10 and scored just one touchdown after halftime. The Boilermakers and Illini are a combined 1-9 in conference games this season.

Still, Wisconsin has established itself as the best team in the Big Ten West and can officially wrap up a spot in the league championship game soon. With a potential matchup in that game against either Ohio State or Penn State — two teams that could be ranked ahead of Wisconsin on Tuesday — the Badgers will be able to prove they deserve a playoff spot.

Wisconsin’s players have regularly shared that they aren’t paying attention to their national ranking. Many Badgers also had no intention of watching the playoff show, choosing instead to focus all their energy on their upcoming road game against Indiana.

“I know that if we do our job, we’ll be able to reach our goals,” Badgers inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “I think that each week we have to focus on that week because that’s when focus gets lost and bad things happen.”

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