Badgers edge closer to playoff as Irish, Dawgs tumble

This is why I don’t get too wrapped up in debates about the top four teams in November.

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Last week, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson looked like a quartet that could keep Wisconsin—even a 13-0 Big Ten champion Wisconsin!—out of the College Football Playoff. I felt it necessary to say that, even though I knew it would never go down that way.

Then again, who knew it would go down this way—Georgia and Notre Dame getting absolutely drilled by Auburn and Miami.

So now what?

My beloved Badgers still wouldn’t be in this week’s final four. If I had a vote, it would be:

1, Alabama (10-0), 2, Miami (9-0), 3, Clemson (9-1), 4, Oklahoma (9-1).

The Badgers, despite the first 10-0 start in school history, would be fifth.

Before the phone lines start lighting up from Beloit to Menasha, know this.

The committee might even have the Badgers sixth behind Georgia. Doesn’t matter. Either Georgia loses in the SEC championship game. Or it beats the Alabama-Auburn winner and bumps them from the playoff. The SEC only gets one seat at the table now.

In addition, Clemson and Miami have a date in the ACC championship game. And the Badgers, if they take care of business against Michigan and whoever emerges in the I-got-it-you-take-it Big Ten East (most likely Ohio State), will secure a berth in the playoff.

There’s no doubt about it.

I will be interested to see, however, what the committee does with Auburn (8-2), Georgia (9-1) and Ohio State (8-2), which would come next in my book, if I had a book.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Sorry, USC (9-2). Tough deal, Notre Dame (8-2).

Now, having said all of that, if the Badgers beat Michigan and Ohio State, they are a very deserving 13-0.

I’m not all that confident that they’ll get there—not after Hornibrook’s two pick-sixes against offensively challenged Iowa and not after seeing Georgia and Notre Dame have their expectations shredded.

On the other hand, let’s give the Badgers credit for showing up every week and taking care of business. Get down on BYU for having an off-year, and rip the Big Ten schedule-maker for not giving Wisconsin a tougher schedule.

I did not study philosophy or metaphysics when I was in Madison. But I know this: The Badgers can only beat teams they play.


I’m not going to rule out a two-loss Auburn or a two-loss Ohio State sneaking into the College Football Playoff. And you shouldn’t, either.

For the record, though, no two-loss team has made the cut. Will this be the year?

The first three CFP fields:

2014: Alabama (12-0), Oregon (12-1), Florida State (12-0), Ohio State (12-1).

2015: Clemson (13-0), Alabama (12-1), Michigan State (12-1), Oklahoma (11-1).

2016: Alabama (13-0), Clemson (12-1), Ohio State (11-1), Washington (12-1).


If Michigan beats Ohio State, there’s a chance the Big Ten East could end up with four 7-2 teams.

Who goes to the Big Ten championship game in that case?

Ohio State.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head records among the four. The Buckeyes and Spartans would be 2-1. The Nittany Lions (1-2) and Wolverines (1-2) would be eliminated.

Ohio State then gets the nod based on its 48-3 win over Michigan State.

(I hope I read those tiebreaker rules right. Unlike the commissioner, I am not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV.)


Wisconsin locked up its fifth appearance in the seven-year history of the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers have lost their last two (to Penn State and Ohio State) since winning their first two (against Michigan State and Nebraska). Trying to remember. . . who were the Legends and who were the Leaders?

1, Wisconsin (1 last week): Good thumping of Iowa, combined with carnage in the College Football Playoff poll, ends question about whether Badgers will receive a slot if they win out.

2, Ohio State (3): Nothing will erase the debacle in Iowa City. But the Buckeyes got back on the horse nicely against Michigan State. And they’re lurking, just in case playoff mayhem continues.

3, Penn State (2): Hmm. If Michigan shocks Ohio State, we’ll have to pull out the tiebreaker manual to see who gets shotgun alongside Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. And, sorry, Nittanys, it’s Ohio State.

4, Northwestern (4): Five-game winning streak. Didn’t even need overtime vs. Purdue. Minnesota and Illinois left for a 7-0 finish and a quality bowl. Life is good in Evanston after that 2-3 start.

5, Michigan State (5): Ouch. To think that we thought Michigan State was ready to be competitive against Ohio State. Sorry, Sparty. You’re too young. But wait till next year.

6, Michigan (6): Heavens to Khaki Pants! Guess who’s lurking? And playing well enough to give the impression that Ohio State won’t just waltz out of the Big House with a win. This week’s trip to Camp Randall looks more interesting, too.

7, Iowa (7): All 14 points came on a pair of pick-sixes in 38-14 loss at Wisconsin? After putting up 55 on Ohio State? What’s up with that? Is this any way for Kirk Ferentz’ offensive-coordinator-son, Brian, to ascend to the Hawkeye throne?

8, Rutgers (9): At 4-6, with a trip to Indiana and a home game against Michigan State left, holy bowl trip! It’s possible. Wouldn’t that be a treat for the oft-ridiculed Scarlet Knights, who will never be mistaken for super-heroes?

9, Minnesota (12): Channeled their inner juggernaut in 54-21 pounding of Nebraska. One more win to become bowl-eligible. With Northwestern and Wisconsin still to go, will need to over-achieve. But we’ll see.

10, Purdue (10): A trip to Iowa and the Old Oaken Bucket game vs. Indiana left. Need both to go bowling. Iowa City not promising. Depends on which Hawkeyes show up.

11, Maryland (11): Michigan State and Penn State left? Battereed Terps will always have Indiana and Minnesota.

12, Indiana (13): Strike up the band! Break out the Champaign! The Hoosiers are off the schneid.

13, Nebraska (8): A 54-21 loss to the Gophers? . . . ``Nebraska: We put the Alabama in Minnesota.’’

14, Illinois (14): Off to the Horseshoe to play the Buckeyes, who just whomped on Michigan State 48-3. What’s the record for biggest betting line in Big Ten history? And please, keep the sharp objects out of Lovie Smith’s reach.[/membership]