The Wisconsin Badgers have a shockingly plausible path to the College Football playoffs. The Badgers find themselves #6 in the most recent college football playoff rankings, an improvement from #7 last week. In fact, the Badgers could be a top-4 (and thus playoff team) when the subsequent rankings are released next Tuesday. How could this happen? I’m happy you asked! Here is Wisconsin’s entirely possible path to playoffs:
- Beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday. The Badgers enter this game as 14 point favorites, and this is a game they really should win. Wisconsin has the fifth-best scoring defense in the country and Minnesota has the 52nd ranked scoring offense in the county. On top of that, it’s at Camp Randall on senior day. However – and this a big “however” – it is a rivalry game and the Wisconsin offense is shaky enough to make Badger fans nervous. Paul Bunyan’s Axe should continue to reside in Madison, but that’s far from given.
- #23 Washington State needs to beat #5 Washington in the Apple Cup. You know what’s great about college football? Rivalries. The NFL does not come close to matching college football in the department of intense rivalries. The Apple Cup is Exhibit 12,497. The Washington State Cougars are having a fine season under Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense and can score on anyone. That’s concerning enough for the Washington Huskies, but there is more to worry about. The Huskies must travel to Pullman to play a Cougars team that would like nothing more than to eliminate the West Coast UW from the playoffs. I highly recommend making time to watch this game on Friday.
- #2 Ohio State and #3 Michigan need to play to a result other than a tie. The good news about the Buckeyes hosting the Wolverines is that one of the teams has to lose. Ties are not possible in college football, so I’m not overly concerned about the Big Game ending in a draw. Assuming the Badgers win they should jump the loser of this game, whom will also have two losses. That said, it’s probably better for Ohio State to win because they are ranked higher than Michigan. Also, the added bonus of an Ohio State victory is that the Badgers would likely play the #7 Penn State Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Championship Game. Of course, it would be almost impossible to keep the Badgers out of the playoffs if they beat Ohio State or Michigan in the Championship game. The point is: whether Ohio State or Michigan wins, Wisconsin benefits.
- The South Carolina Gamecocks upset the #4 Clemson Tigers. This is another one of those rivalry games where anything can happen. The Gamecocks are having a forgettable season, but if they beat the Tigers you better believe there will be celebratory couch burnings in Columbia. Though this is unlikely – Clemson is favored by 24 points and playing at home- the Tigers need to be on alert. The good news is that the Badgers don’t need this happen to crack to top-4. However, a Clemson loss would essentially create a “win the Big Ten and you’re in” scenario for UW.
If all three of these four things happen the Badgers will likely find themselves no lower than #4 next Tuesday night. Of course, that’s assuming they beat the Golden Gophers in the most important Axe game in Wisconsin history. Like most Badgers fans, I’m prepared to be incredibly anxious for three hours this Saturday.