Nearly a week before the season begins, preseason analytic rankings predict two Big Ten teams as top playoff contenders. Both of those teams are not located in Ann Arbor.
According to Bill Connelly’s College Football Playoff predictions, Ohio State and Wisconsin are two of the top three primary contenders for the College Football Playoff this year, as they have two of the best chances to end the season with one or fewer losses.
In his College Football Playoff predictions, Connelly mentions the usual suspects from this summer – Ohio State, USC and Alabama – but takes a turn by labeling Wisconsin as the team with the best shot of making the playoff this season.
When it comes to the playoff, there’s no debate the Power 5 team with the best record and a high strength of schedule get priority over others teams. Connelly illustrates the chances of the top 15 teams to finish with one or fewer losses. As mentioned before, two Big Ten teams reside in the top five of that list.
- Alabama: 61
- Ohio State: 41
- Wisconsin: 33
- USC: 28
- Oklahoma: 23
While it is arguable those other teams, Ohio State included, have a better team than Wisconsin does, there’s no arguing the Badgers’ favorable schedule in 2017.
Connelly writes about Wisconsin:
“Wisconsin’s schedule was brutal in 2016, featuring four of the top eight teams in FBS, per S&P+. This time around, not so much. No. 10 Michigan is the only projected top-30 opponent. With the Badgers looking as sturdy as ever … and projected 11th overall, the result is a very high projected win total.”
Wisconsin is also helped by the Big Ten West, which doesn’t feature any other teams in any top 25 rankings. In the Big Ten East, Ohio State will play the likes of Michigan (who has a 12 percent chance of one or fewer losses) and Penn State, both who are ranked within the top 15 of the AP Poll.
This is also considering the Badgers and Buckeyes would play each other, should they both win their respective conferences and make the Big Ten championship game.
The Badgers do have the looming game against Michigan, as according to Connelly’s S&P+ analytic rankings Wisconsin and the Wolverines are very evenly matched teams. Michigan is ranked at No. 10 and Wisconsin is ranked at No. 11 in the S&P+ rankings.
Ohio State still stands large atop the Big Ten, due in part to its many returning players from a team which made the playoff last January. However, the fact still remains, while Ohio State will have to earn a second-straight appearance in the College Football Playoff, Wisconsin has one of the easiest roads to the playoff with a favorable schedule and a plethora of experienced players.
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