Path To The College Football Playoff: Wisconsin Badgers
What does Wisconsin have to do to get to the College Football Playoff?
What’s Wisconsin’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
It would’ve been an interesting argument if Wisconsin had hung on to beat Penn State to win the Big Ten championship.
Would the Badgers have been worthy of a spot in the College Football Playoff?
Maybe, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened, considering Ohio State only had one loss, won in Madison, and Wisconsin had two losses. But with wins over LSU, Iowa, Nebraska, and if the Badgers had beaten the Nittany Lions, the CFP committee would’ve had a tough call to make.
But just to be in the discussion was good enough considering how nasty the schedule looked before the start of the season.
LSU, at Michigan State, at Michigan, Ohio State at Iowa, Nebraska, at Northwestern – and that was just up until November 5th. It seemed like a wildly unfair slate, but the Badgers still came close to pulling off something special.
With an easier schedule this time around, and a loaded team returning, what’s Wisconsin’s path to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Make Sure The Skill Spots Are Settled
The rest of the Badgers are fine, but Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are done from the backfield, there’s still not a dangerous No. 1 receiver to make anyone worry, and Alex Hornibrook has to prove he can be the quarterback to lead the way for a full season and stay healthy.
The trio of great running backs – Bradrick Shaw, Chris James, Taiwan Deal – behind another outstanding line, Hornibrook has a huge upside, and Troy Fumagalli is one of the best tight ends in the country, but the O worked just well enough last season, and now it has to be even better to take that one extra step to be in the College Football Playoff mix.
Fortunately, there’s time to figure it out over the first part of the season.
Step Two: Slam Dunk The First Two Games, And Survive Provo
Utah State and Florida Atlantic will be interesting, considering the Aggies will be desperate to come back from a down year, and the Owls will be getting the Lane Kiffin era off the ground. But the Badgers should roll through those two, and then they have to survive a dangerous date at BYU.
They’re far better than the Cougars, but they play at a whole other level at home in the elevation. Unlike last year when they had to start out the season against LSU, they have it easier – but they went 3-0.
Go 3-0 again, and they get a week off to get ready for the Big Ten slate.
Step Three: Win The First Two Big Ten Games, And West Might Be Over
Iowa is good, but the Hawkeyes have to play Ohio State, Penn State, and go to Michigan State, and have to go on the road to Northwestern, Nebraska, and Wisconsin – they’re not winning the East.
If the Badgers can beat Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, and then take care of Nebraska on the road, it’s relatively smooth sailing for a while with Purdue, Maryland, at Illinois and at Indiana coming up next. Nah, Wisconsin isn’t Alabama or Florida State talent-wise, but with this schedule, starting out 8-0 isn’t asking for the world.
Step Four: Win Those Last Two Home Games
If the Badgers are 8-0, they can lose one of their last three games and be just fine in the College Football Playoff chase, especially if that one is to Michigan. Lose to Iowa, and there still might be some pressure with a trip to Minnesota to close things out – or vice versa, since losing to the Gophers might be a problem in the West race.
The Nebraska game will be a fight, but get through November unscathed, and it’s on to Indianapolis again with another shot at the Big Ten title. But the Badgers have to be at least 11-1. As we know now, two losses and a conference championship probably doesn’t get it done.
Step Five: Actually Win The Big Ten Title
Two times in the last three seasons, Wisconsin has gone to the Big Ten Championship with a distant, if-things-break-right shot at getting into the College Football Playoff. What happened?
In 2014, Ohio State applied the type of 59-0 atomic wedgie that requires pliers and a blow torch to fix. Last year, Penn State figured out in the second half that the Wisconsin secondary was short/relatively untested, and everything fell apart – and the bruising Bucky O couldn’t convert a key 4th-and-short play – in a 38-31 Nittany Lion win.
This year – unlike last season – the Badgers get to avoid Ohio State in the regular season, along with what should be an improved Michigan State. They miss Penn State, too, but the Nittany Lions have a brutal schedule and probably aren’t making the return trip to Indy. And again, the Michigan game is at home.
Whatever comes out of the East, though, will be better than whatever comes out of the West, even if it’s an 11-1 Wisconsin.
So … What Are The Chances Wisconsin Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
Extremely good, considering the shot at getting to the Big Ten Championship is terrific. Get to Indy, and there should be a puncher’s chance at the title, even if it’s against a fantastic Ohio State squad or a reloaded Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State.
It’s not going to be as easy as it looks for a program that almost never makes anything look like a breeze, but if the Badgers can beat BYU, they’ll likely be favored in every game, even the road date at Nebraska and against Michigan.
12-1 with a Big Ten championship gets them in, and probably sends them to Pasadena – one of the two College Football Playoff sites, along with New Orleans. 13-0 makes them a mortal lock, and 11-2 with a Big Ten title means Pasadena, too – but for the actual Rose Bowl.