Wisconsin Football: How the Badgers can make the Playoffs

In the third and most recent edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, the Wisconsin Badgers held on to the No. 7 spot, despite three teams in front of them losing.

Former No. 2 Clemson Tigers lost at home to an unranked Pittsburgh Panthers team, the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines lost a one-point thriller at Iowa, and the No. 4 Washington Huskies were dismantled at home by a very talented USC Trojans team.

Despite this, the Badgers’ two losses kept them from jumping any of the losing teams, as all of them were experiencing their first defeat of the year. Although the Badgers were unable to move up in the rankings, those losses in front of them did nothing but help the Badgers moving forward.

With that being said, there are two regular season games remaining for the Badgers, and we all know (and if you did not, now you do) that if Wisconsin wins out in their final two games, they will be going to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship with a trip to the Rose Bowl and possibly the College Football Playoffs (CFP) on the line.

CFP Rankings Top Ten:

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes
  3. Michigan Wolverines
  4. Clemson Tigers
  5. Louisville Cardinals
  6. Washington Huskies
  7. Wisconsin Badgers
  8. Penn State Nittany Lions
  9. Oklahoma Sooners
  10. Colorado Buffaloes

Wisconsin will visit West Lafayette this Saturday to take on Purdue before hosting their arch rival Minnesota Golden Gophers on Senior Night in Madison. All the Badgers can do at this point is keep winning, and hope for a little bit of help.

Here’s what Wisconsin fans need to hope, pray, and cheer for moving forward, starting with the teams currently ranked in front of them.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Record: 10-0
  • Remaning schedule: vs. Chattanooga, vs. No. 15 Auburn

OK, there really aren’t any Playoff implications surrounding the Badgers and Alabama, unless the Crimson Tide somehow fall to both Chattanooga AND Auburn at home. While the former of that equation is more than highly unlikely, if the Tide were to lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, they would probably still maintain the number one ranking at the time being and at the least a Playoff spot.

The only way Alabama would be even considered falling out of the top four is if they lose two of their last three games, which come on…that is not happening.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Record: 9-1
  • Remaining Schedule: at Michigan State, vs. No. 3 Michigan

Here is where the CFP committee is going to have all the issues in the world. Hypothetically, the Buckeyes could win out over Michigan State and Michigan and finish the year 11-1, but because of their tiebreaker with Penn State, they could do so and still fail to make the conference championship game.

So, we could potentially have a 10-2 Wisconsin team playing a 10-2 Penn State team in the Big Ten Championship, with a 10-2 Michigan team sitting outside of it that beat BOTH the Badgers and the Nittany Lions, and an 11-1 Buckeyes team ranked higher than all three but not in the Big Ten Championship game.

Hey, Michigan State and Michigan can you just do us a favor and beat them so we do not have to worry about this?

3. Michigan Wolverines

  • Record: 9-1
  • Remaning schedule: vs. Indiana, at No. 2 Ohio State

Believe it or not, Michigan winning their final game(s) would not be the worst thing for Wisconsin. Certainly if the Hoosiers can pull off the upset in Ann Arbor that would be great, but this conversation is strictly talking about the Ohio State matchup.

While I am sure Badgers fans might be quick to saying they would rather face Penn State in the Big Ten Championship, think about this for a second:

The biggest predicament the CFP committee faces is whether or not they will take a two-loss conference champion over a one-loss team that did not make the conference championship game. If Michigan goes into Columbus and wins, then Ohio State is still out of the conference championship game AND they have two losses, so it becomes a moot point.

With this scenario, the Badgers are now 10-2, already ranked above a 10-2 Penn State team and with a conference championship victory would likely be picked over 10-2 Ohio State and 10-2 Michigan (pending they defeat the Wolverines in Indy).

The Badgers held the Wolverines to their second point total of the season in a 14-7 road loss to Michigan back in early October.

Clemson Tigers

  • Record: 9-1
  • Remaning schedule: at Wake Forest, vs. South Carolina

In order for Wisconsin to pass Clemson, the Tigers must fall in one of their final two regular season games against unranked opponents. While it was not expected the Badgers would jump over the Tigers this week, another loss to a lesser foe would surely drop Clemson more than just two spots.

If the Tigers win out, they would be in the ACC championship game against either Virginia Tech or North Carolina- good teams, but not the prestige of the top dogs on the other side of the conference. I like my chances of the Badgers being selected to the Playoffs over the Tigers if both teams have two losses at the end of the year.

5. Louisville Cardinals

  • Record: 9-1
  • Remaning schedule: at Houston, vs. Kentucky

The Cardinals also face the same issue Ohio State does: Win out and possibly not compete in the conference tournament.

Louisville has concluded their ACC schedule this year, finishing 7-1 in the league with their only loss coming to Clemson, which is why they sit right behind them in the polls. Louisville will be praying for a Wake Forest victory this weekend over the Tigers, but if Clemson pulls out the win,  Louisville could be finding themselves being weighed against two-loss conference champions at the end of the season.

With that being said, it would be real nice if Houston upset the Cardinals Thursday night and ended the madness a little bit early.

6. Washington Huskies

  • Record: 9-1
  • Remaning schedule: vs. Arizona State, at No. 22 Washington State

If there was a team everyone thought the Badgers would jump this week, it was the Washington Huskies. The Huskies have just one top 25 win this season and were pretty much dominated at home last week to a three-loss USC team.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the Huskies and Badgers win out. With this week’s rankings result, it is likely the committee would go with a one-loss Washington team over a two-loss Wisconsin squad despite having a weaker resume.

Washington will still need to beat their arch rival Washington State, who has won eight straight, on the road and then either beat Colorado, USC, or Utah in the PAC 12 championship game for this to all happen.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Record: 8-2
  • Remaning schedule: at Rutgers, vs. Michigan State

In case you wanted to know a little bit about the team chasing the Badgers in the polls, the Nittany Lions currently sit as the second highest two-loss team behind Wisconsin. Penn State probably has the easiest schedule of top ten teams remaining and will be wishing for a Ohio State win over Michigan to punch their ticket to Indy.

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