Badgers, Big Ten's last hope, surrounded. By whipped football teams.

There’s a series of commercials for a Big Ten Network show, Sports Lite, in which coaches act playfully standoffish with host Mike Hall.

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In his spot, Urban Meyer stands there saying, ``No,’’ to every question Hall asks.

That’s kind of what happened during Meyer’s 3-1/2-minute post-mortem after his Buckeyes had been pummeled and abused by Iowa 55-24.

``No’’ and ``I don’t know’’ were among the answers.

Only so much can be blamed on the pink visitors' locker room.

No, I didn’t see this coming, either. Not from an Iowa that failed to score 20 points against four of its first five Big Ten opponents, the exception being hapless Illinois, and that doesn’t really count.

One thing I do know: On one crazy Saturday afternoon, the Big Ten’s playoff candidates went from three to one.

And don’t rule out None.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Not only do the Buckeyes now have two losses. Penn State, which lost to Michigan 27-24 after a 3-1/2-hour lightning delay, also went down—a week after losing that thriller/heart-breaker at Ohio State.

Here’s what two losses mean:

In the first three years of the College Football Playoff, the four semi-finalists have lined up this way: One unbeaten team, and three one-loss teams. Each and every year.

Two-loss teams need not apply. Most famously, two-loss Penn State was left out a year ago even though it won the Big Ten, and even though it beat Ohio State, which did get into the playoff.

Here’s the scary part for the Big Ten: While its last great hope, Wisconsin, is unbeaten, it still will need to get past either the Buckeyes or the Spartans or whoever else decides to emerge as the champion of the suddenly soiled Big Ten East.

Oh, and by the way, the Badgers play host to the ferocious Hawkeyes this week and improving Michigan the week after that.

Even a 13-0 Wisconsin faces an uphill battle. That’s especially true because it now lacks the opportunity for a quality win against a one-loss Ohio State.

The Badgers, who were No. 9 in the first CFP poll, could rise to No. 7 this week as Ohio State and Penn State are flushed from the top 10. But it’s more likely that No. 10 Miami, which scored a big win vs. Virginia Tech, will jump ahead of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the current top four, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson are looking very solid. And Big 12 standard-bearers Oklahoma and TCU are lurking ahead of Wisconsin in case anyone slips.

That leaves the Badgers at No. 8, if you’re keeping score in Appleton or Sheboygan.

Notre Dame could slip into two-loss oblivion with its trip to Miami this week. But whoever wins in South Florida will greatly enhance its CFP credentials.

In other words, the Big Ten’s path to the College Football Playoff is now littered with debris.

Until Saturday, I would not have believed there was a scenario in which the Big Ten could be denied a playoff berth.

Now I’m trying to figure out what the Big Ten’s playoff path would be.

A 13-0 Wisconsin would have a case. But it will require some carnage around the nation.


I still think the Ten East is among the best divisions in the nation. But only if you include what Rutgers is doing.

1, Wisconsin (3 last week): Ho hum. 9-0. And no pressure but, it’s Badgers or Bust for the College Football Playoff. Even if everybody busts out laughing at your schedule.

2, Penn State (2): That was a bad deal, sitting around a visitor’s locker room for 3-1/2 hours. Who knew there were lightning delays in Michigan in November? But the Nittany Lions, who went 1-2 against the Michigan/Ohio State/Michigan State juggernaut, certainly knew this wouldn’t be easy.

3, Ohio State (1): Wow. . . You know that Buckeye fan who dresses up like he’s a clown on holiday at Mardi Gras? I keep wondering what his trip back to Ohio was like. At least Urban Meyer has seven zeroes to show for his pain and suffering.

4, Northwestern (4): After tough 31-24 win at Nebraska, the Cats are the first team in college-football history to win three straight games in overtime. A 9-3 record attainable for the Wildcats, who started 2-3. At least there’s one feel-good story in the bumpety-bump Big Ten.

5, Michigan State (5): Sparty’s reward for slogging past Penn State on a slippery Saturday in East Lansing? A trip to the Horseshoe to play the crushed Buckeyes. That ought to be interesting, but not for the reasons we originally thought.

6, Michigan (6): Did Jig on Gophers to keep Little Brown Jug. Young Wolverines have been saying, `Wait till next year,’’ for a while. We just didn’t know the rest of the Big Ten would join in with backup vocals.

7, Iowa (7): Whenever the Hawkeyes do this—absolutely outkick their coverage against a seemingly invincible visitor at Nile Kinnick Stadium—I don’t know whether to salute them. Or wonder why they don’t play this way more often. In other words, what are we to expect at Wisconsin this week?

8, Nebraska (8): We can all agree that Mike Riley is a nice guy and a good coach. But the Cornhuskers have lost three straight at home for the first time since 1957—when Riley was 4. Cornhusker Nation is pretty done with the Life of Riley. Nice guy or not, good coach or not, this isn’t working out.

9, Rutgers (9): Read my lips: The Scarlet Knights have won three out of four. That’ll teach the Terrapins to shrug off thoughts that Maryland-Rutgers is a budding rivalry.

10, Purdue (10): Nothing like a visit from the Big Ten Welcome Wagon, aka Illinois, to cure the misery of a three-game losing streak.

11, Maryland (11): Yeah, they blew a fourth-quarter lead in Piscataway. But they were down to their fourth-string quarterback. Seriously, Maryland and Rutgers are headed in the right direction. Unlike many of their Big Ten East brothers.

12, Minnesota (13): So things got chippy in the Rodent Bowl between the Gophers and Wolverines? Say this for P.J. Fleck’s crew. Even in a 33-10 loss, they didn’t go down without a fight.

13, Indiana (12): Basketball is here. Yippee!

14, Illinois (14): Illini fans were looking forward to basketball season, too. Then they had to go play a game—and lost 80-67 to Eastern Illinois in what can only be called an exhibition.[/membership]