When Wisconsin lost to BYU last Saturday, the conversation among the Cream City Central crew turned quickly towards the College Football Playoffs. Would this kind of loss immediately disqualify the Badgers, or is there still hope for a special season? While chances just got real slim, I disagree that Badger fans should give up hope on making the Playoffs just yet.
Looking back at the past four years, only three out of sixteen teams entered the CFP undefeated: FSU (2014), Clemson (2015), and Alabama (2016). That means during that span of time, the majority of teams who ended the season ranked in the top four had a loss on their resume. One team in particular could provide a model to the Playoffs for this season’s Badger team.
Badger fans remember (though likely want to forget) how the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes crushed Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship before cruising to National Champion status. What may have been forgotten is the one loss the Buckeyes carried into the CFP that year. After starting the season with a win, Ohio State lost to a Virginia Tech team that would finish the season at 7-6. While the loss seemed to put on limit on their season, the Buckeyes still made it to the Playoffs by doing two important things. First, they went undefeated the rest of the season. Second, they looked good winning the Big Ten Championship.
Going forward, Wisconsin will need to do the same if they want to make the CFP this season. Yes, it is extremely difficult to go undefeated and win the conference, but it can be done. Everyone – players and coaches – will need to step up their game and do better going forward. If this team can learn from their mistakes – and keep from making new ones – then ten straight wins is certainly possible. Remember, while this Badger team disappointed against BYU, but it still boasts a Heisman candidate as well as potential All-Americans on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin started the season ranked number four for a reason. They have the talent to return to that spot.
Going forward, the Badgers mostly control their own destiny. However, they will still need a little help from other teams. That shouldn’t be too hard though. Remember, only three teams have ever entered the CFP undefeated. No season in the past four years has featured multiple undefeated teams, so there’s little chance that the other four Power Five conferences will all feature an undefeated champion. At least one other champion will have a blemish on their resume, and a one-loss Wisconsin team could be tough to beat out for a CFP spot.
This may all come crashing down in less than a week, but for now, there’s still hope. Even if just a little.