All the scenarios and potential paths to the College Football Playoff that have dominated the news cycle the past few weeks are meaningless now for Wisconsin. At this point, the Badgers’ playoff formula has never been clearer: Win Saturday, and Wisconsin is in.
Wisconsin jumped one spot, from No. 5 to No. 4 in the latest CFP rankings, which were revealed Tuesday night. It marks the first time all season the Badgers have earned a coveted spot in the top 4. By reaching that elite status, it also means there is no conceivable way Wisconsin could fall below No. 4 if it can defeat No. 8 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Losses by previous No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Miami opened the door for Wisconsin to rise. The new No. 1 is Clemson, followed by No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 Oklahoma. Alabama is No. 5, while Georgia is No. 6. Regardless of what occurs in the other conference championship games, Wisconsin needs only to take care of its business. The Badgers are the lone remaining undefeated Power 5 conference team, and no unbeaten Power 5 team has missed the playoffs yet.
Ohio State opened as a 6 1/2-point favorite against Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes also have an opportunity to reach the playoff with a convincing victory against the undefeated Badgers. The game will represent Wisconsin’s most difficult task of the season, but the Badgers have known for weeks they would have to win the league title game to have a legitimate playoff chance.
One of the initial concerns for Wisconsin was that the SEC would potentially earn two of the four playoff spots and take away the Badgers’ opportunity. But Alabama lost 26-14 to Auburn, which dropped the Crimson Tide outside the top 4. Auburn will meet No. 6 Georgia in the SEC title game, and the winner figures to earn the playoff berth.
Clemson will play No. 7 Miami in the ACC Championship Game. Although Miami lost to Pitt on Saturday, the Hurricanes still could earn a playoff spot with a victory, but both ACC title game representatives will not. Oklahoma plays No. 11 TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game.
But at this stage, none of the other scenarios matter. After 12 straight wins, Wisconsin can reach new heights and clinch a playoff spot with the biggest and most important win remaining.
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