The second College Football Playoff rankings of the season were released on Tuesday night and the University of Wisconsin was ranked eighth, one spot higher than in the initial poll the previous week.
A common viewpoint is that if the Badgers win the remaining games on their schedule on the way to winning the Big Ten they’ll finish as one of the top four teams when the final rankings are released. That very well may be true at the end of the day, but there is certainly no guarantee that the Badgers are promised a spot in the College Football Playoff if they’re 13-0 due to their strength of schedule.
Luckily for Wisconsin, things don’t matter right now, the only thing that matters is how the rankings look at the end of the season. Wisconsin might need some help to reach the top four even if they win all their games.
Let’s take a look at who Wisconsin fans should be closely watching and cheering for this weekend outside of the Badgers.
There are three games involving top 10 teams this weekend, No. 1 Georgia travels to No. 10 Auburn, No. 3 Notre Dame heads south to take on No. 7 Miami and No. 5 Oklahoma squares off with No. 6 TCU.
Let’s start with the matchup between Georgia and Auburn. The Bulldogs are 9-0 this year, and boast college football’s best win, a 20-19 victory over Notre Dame in South Bend. This weekend marks the biggest test since that September night in Indiana for UGA. Auburn is the highest ranked two-loss team in the country. Their losses have come to Clemson, who is No. 4, and LSU, who is currently ranked No. 24.
Wisconsin fans should be cheering for absolute chaos in the SEC, which would mean a two-loss champion. Auburn controls their own destiny despite having two losses. They need to win the remainder of their games to reach the SEC Championship, which would include wins over both Georgia this week and Alabama down the line in the Iron Bowl. If that happens the Tigers would then face Georgia in a rematch for the SEC Title. The winner of that game would have at least one loss, potentially two, and would eliminate the possibility of the SEC having two teams reach the semi-finals.
Moving a little further south, Miami is hosting Notre Dame in the biggest game between these two rivals since 1990. That was when No. 2 Miami lost in South Bend to No. 6 Notre Dame. The Irish are currently the highest ranked one-loss team. Their blemish is the loss to Georgia in September, but they do have wins over No. 11 USC, at No. 12 Michigan State, and No. 23 North Carolina State. Notre Dame has won all of those games by 20+ points, and all eight of their wins are by double-digits.
Miami, just like Wisconsin, is unbeaten this season, but hasn’t had a very strong schedule, either. The Hurricanes did get a quality win this past weekend, beating Virginia Tech 28-10 at home. That was enough for Miami to jump over Wisconsin in the rankings.
Badger fans should be cheering against Notre Dame the rest of the season, no matter who they’re playing. If Notre Dame continues to impress and wins out, they’ll likely make the semi-finals due to the strength of their wins. Notre Dame winning out would certainly eliminate one more Power 5 conference from the race. Badger fans aren’t alone in cheering against Notre Dame, as fans of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12 all should be hoping to see the Irish falter and open up another spot in the top four. The SEC is still cheering for Notre Dame, however because the stronger Notre Dame looks, the better chance they have of getting two teams in at the end of the year.
The final matchup of top 10 teams this week is between Oklahoma and TCU. The Sooners are coming off a big win on the road at Oklahoma State. They also hold one of the more impressive wins of the season, a blowout victory over Ohio State in Columbus. TCU, like Oklahoma, has a win in Stillwater against the Cowboys and a loss against Iowa State.
Badger fans don’t necessarily need to care about who wins this game. However, they should be hoping that after this week the two teams continue to win and face in the Big 12 Championship Game later this season. At that point, Wisconsin would become big fans of whichever team loses this weekend. That would create another two-loss Power 5 champion.
Out west, there isn’t a big game this weekend, but the Badgers should be cheering for Southern Cal to continue to win their way into the Pac-12 Championship Game against Washington. If the Trojans beat the Huskies in that game, it would create yet another two-loss Power 5 champion.
Another big game on the slate this weekend takes place in Columbus, Oh. The No. 13 Buckeyes play host to No. 12 Michigan State. The winner likely heads to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship to represent the Big Ten East. While neither team has an overly impressive resume right now, Wisconsin needs the winner of this game to look as good as possible between now and a potential matchup in December.
At the end of the day, none of this matters if Wisconsin drops a game. That would more than likely eliminate them. It also may not matter, as a perfect 13-0 season might be enough to get the Badgers into the College Football Playoff regardless.