The most recent college football rankings were released on Tuesday night. The good news for the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) is that they are the highest-ranked (#7) two-loss team in the country. The bad news is the Badgers are a two-loss team. The playoffs are a long shot for the Badgers, but all hope is not lost. Here’s how the Badgers could sneak in:
#1 – Win the rest of their games. This is the most obvious part of the process. The Badgers travel to West Lafayette this Saturday to play the Purdue Boilermakers (3-7, 1-6). UW wraps up the regular season at Camp Randall Stadium the following Saturday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3, 4-3). The Badgers should dispatch of the Boilermakers with little trouble, but the Gophers are another story. In addition to being a solid team, the Gophers are desperate to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003. Should the Badgers retain the Axe they will advance to the Big Ten Championship Game. Speaking of that…
#2 – Michigan must win the Big Ten East. The #3 Wolverines (9-1, 6-1) need to defeat the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1) in the final game of the regular season in order to win their division. If this happens the Buckeyes will have two losses. Furthermore, if the Badgers beat the Wolverines in the B1G Championship Game then all three of those teams will have at least two losses. In this scenario it would be difficult for the playoff committee to rank Ohio State and Michigan over Big Ten Champion Wisconsin.
#3 – Clemson, Louisville, and Washington all must lose one more game. The #6 Washington Huskies (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) are the best candidate to lose another game. They end their regular season at the #22 Washington State Cougars (8-2, 7-0) in the frequently competitive Apple Cup. Should they win that game they’ll advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game against a top-13 opponent.
On the other side of the country, either the #4 Clemson Tigers (9-1, 6-1 ACC) or the #5 Louisville Cardinals (9-1, 7-1) will advance to the ACC Title game, but unfortunately they are in the same division so won’t play each other again. This means both Clemson and Louisville could finish their season with one loss, effectively stymying UW from the playoffs. But if you’re looking for hope, Clemson has been walking the tightrope all season, so another loss is not out of the question. In addition, Louisville plays at the Houston Cougars (8-2, 5-2 AAC) this Thursday night in what will be one of the biggest games in Cougars history. Houston opened their season by defeating the #9 Oklahoma Sooners, so Louisville should be on high alert.
Keep in mind that all even if all of these things happen the Badgers could still miss the playoffs. In that case the Badgers would likely end up in the Rose Bowl, and I don’t think anybody would complain about that.
Coming into this season I hoped the Badgers would win seven games and compete every week. Regardless of how this season ends, it’s amazing that in mid-November the playoffs are an actual possibility.