Wisconsin continues to methodically beat its opponents to remain undefeated this season. And the longer the Badgers can hang on to that unblemished mark, the more it becomes a realistic possibility they can make the College Football Playoff as other teams cannibalize each other.
Still, based on where Wisconsin stood last week in the initial CFP Top 25 poll — and where the Badgers are likely to be this week — the team has a long way to go.
Wisconsin came in at No. 9 in the CFP poll last week, behind six one-loss teams. When the second CFP poll is released Tuesday night, expect to see the Badgers at either No. 7 or No. 8.
The top five teams in the initial CFP poll last week all won their games. No. 1 Georgia defeated South Carolina 24-10, No. 2 Alabama handled LSU 24-10, No. 3 Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 48-37, No. 4 Clemson held on for a 38-31 victory against No. 20 North Carolina State and No. 5 Oklahoma won a wild 62-52 shootout against No. 11 Oklahoma State.
The two Big Ten teams that were ranked ahead of Wisconsin each lost. And while that will help the Badgers rise in the CFP poll this week, it actually could hurt them in the long run when Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten Championship Game. No. 6 Ohio State lost 55-24 at Iowa, and No. 7 Penn State lost 27-24 at No. 24 Michigan State. Wisconsin could play Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State in the league championship game, but each of those teams already has two losses.
Wisconsin pulled away for a 45-17 victory against Indiana on Saturday in a game that did little to enhance the Badgers’ schedule strength. Indiana dropped to 0-6 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin found itself trailing 10-0 in the first half before finding more offensive cohesion.
According to the Sagarin Ratings, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule ranks No. 68. However, Wisconsin plays two teams currently ranked in the Sagarin top 20 over the next two weeks: No. 18 Iowa and No. 20 Michigan. Victories in those two games could help to sway the 13-person playoff committee that the Badgers are worthy of inclusion.
Wisconsin presumably will need at least a few higher-ranked opponents to lose in order for the Badgers to gain ground. No. 8 TCU defeated Texas 24-7 and likely will remain ahead of Wisconsin. No. 10 Miami defeated No. 13 Virginia Tech 28-10 and could leapfrog the Badgers this week. Regardless, there are two huge games this Saturday with playoff implications that will affect the Badgers.
TCU and Oklahoma play each other this week, as do Notre Dame and Miami. The losers of those games could drop out of the playoff chase.
There are a multitude of scenarios that could play out. For now, all the Badgers can control is that they keep winning to stay in the hunt.
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