Report: Wisconsin expected to head to Orange Bowl

MADISON – Wisconsin’s playoff hopes were dashed on Saturday night with their 27-21 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. The loss knocked the Badgers to No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings of the season.

The Big Ten was left out of the College Football Playoff as Ohio State finished as the first team out, at No. 5.

The playoff matchups are set as No. 1 Clemson will take on No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and No. 2 Oklahoma will take on No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Both games will take place on New Year’s Day.

As for Wisconsin, they’re expected to head to the Orange Bowl on December 30 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, per Brett McMurphy.

The University of Miami is the expected opponent for the Badgers. The Hurricanes finished the season 10-2 after their 38-3 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship on Saturday night.

Zone Power Rankings: Week 12

MADISON – The college football regular season comes to a close this weekend with the exception of the Army-Navy game on December 9. Things are starting to sort themselves out as far as the playoff race goes.

The College Football Playoff Committee will release a new ranking this week and next before the selection on December 3.

Here are the power rankings following week 12 as voted on by myself, Ebo Thoreson, and Zach Heilprin.

1. Alabama (30 points) – The Crimson Tide have all but clinched their spot in the semi-finals as they can mathematically have no more than one loss entering bowl season. They’ve been impressive as they have fought through injuries as of the past couple of weeks. Alabama squares off with Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend in what will certainly be the toughest test to date for both teams.

2. Miami (27 points) – Miami had a predictably slow start against Virginia this past weekend at home. They trailed early on in their first non-primetime game in two weeks. The ‘Canes were able to turn it on late, scoring the final 30 points of the game to win 44-28. They close out the regular season on the road against Pitt before taking on Clemson in the ACC Championship game on December 2.

3. Oklahoma (22 points, TIE) – The Sooners had a blowout win Kansas this weekend in what was their easiest game of the season. The Jayhawks are one of the worst Power-5 programs in the country at the moment and this was an expected result. The news out of this game was that star quarterback Baker Mayfield will be benched for Oklahoma’s regular season finale against West Virginia due to his controversial conduct on the sidelines during the 41-3 win over Kansas. After taking on West Virginia they’ll play in the first Big 12’s first championship game since the 2010 season, likely against TCU.

3. Clemson (22 points, TIE) – The Tigers loss against Syracuse is still one of the worst among teams still alive for the playoffs. Despite that, their body of work has the chance to be one of the best in the country. Depending on how things shake out this weekend, they could have wins over six eight-win programs heading into bowl season. They close out the regular season with South Carolina before taking on Miami for the ACC Championship.

5. Wisconsin (19 points) – The Badgers continue doing the only thing they can to impress the committee. They’ve now won all 11 games they’ve played this season after beating Michigan at home 24-10 on Saturday. The formula for Wisconsin has been to feel a team out in the first half and then impose their will in the second half. It’s worked to date, and likely will against Minnesota this weekend. They’ll take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game in two weeks, and a slow start against the Buckeyes would likely be very costly.

6. Auburn (15 points) – The Tigers have a golden opportunity to become the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff. Winning out would almost certainly place them in the semi-finals. The kicker? They need to beat Alabama and Georgia, again, in successive weeks in order to do so.

7. Georgia (12 points) – The Bulldogs losing to Auburn obviously ruined their perfect season, but it didn’t eliminate them. They close the regular season with Georgia Tech before heading to Atlanta to take on the winner of the Alabama-Auburn game. If they can defeat either of those teams in the SEC Championship, they’ll head to the semi-finals as long as they don’t slip up against Georgia Tech.

8. Notre Dame (eight points) – Notre Dame beat Navy this past weekend in a relatively boring game. Watching triple-option attacks are typically boring in today’s day and age. The Midshipmen led Notre Dame to only three possessions in the second half. They scored on four of their six possessions in the game and that’s all it took. They close out their regular season on the road against Stanford. While a win there likely isn’t enough to put them back into playoff contention, it would cap off a very nice season for an Irish team that finished 4-8 a year ago.

9. Ohio State (seven points) – The Buckeyes destroyed lowly Illinois this past weekend in the final home game for quarterback J.T. Barrett and the rest of that senior class. Ohio State takes on Michigan this weekend in The Game and is locked into the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin in two weeks. They’re still alive for the playoffs, but their 31-point loss at Iowa is probably the worst loss by any contender this season.

10. Penn State (two points) – The Nittany Lions took care of business against Nebraska this weekend by dropping 56 points on the Cornhuskers. The downside is that they allowed 44 to the Nebraska offense. Running back Saquon Barkley broke out of his slump, finishing with well over 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Penn State is effectively out of the playoff race and will close out the regular season against Maryland this weekend.

Others receiving votes: TCU

Zone Power Rankings: Week 11

MADISON – The picture for the College Football Playoff cleared up a little bit on Saturday for Wisconsin. Not only did the Badgers get their first win against a ranked opponent this season, but multiple teams ahead of them fell in blowout losses.

Georgia, Notre Dame, and TCU were all blown out on the road this weekend, granted all were opposed by ranked teams.

Georgia went on the road and dropped to Auburn 40-17, Notre Dame was throttled 41-8 by the Hurricanes in Miami, and TCU lost to Oklahoma 38-20. While all three did lose, they lost to teams.

The playoff committee is made up of 13 members who vote each week on the teams that will be finding themselves playing in the semi-finals. Our committee works the same way, except it is only three members. The teams have been voted on by myself, Zach Heilprin, and Ebo Thoreson.

The point system works the same way as the AP Top 25 does, but scaled to 10 teams instead of 25. For example, a first-place vote garners 10 points, and a tenth-place vote is worth one point.

Following the results of week 11, here is our Zone Top 10.

1. Alabama (29 points, two first place votes) – The Crimson Tide went through the first part of their season in a rather ho-hum way. They looked impressive, but didn’t play a difficult schedule to say the least. Over the past two weeks they’ve defeated ranked opponents in LSU and Mississippi State on the road. The game against Mississippi State was closer than Nick Saban and company would’ve liked, but a win on the road in the SEC can be tough to come by.

2. Miami, FL. (28 points, one first place vote) – The Hurricanes, much like Alabama didn’t have any noteworthy wins until last week when they beat Virginia Tech. Most recently, the ‘Canes welcomed No. 3 Notre Dame to Miami and took them to the woodshed. The blowout was one of the most impressive victories of the season.

3. Oklahoma (23 points) – Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield very well may have the Heisman Trophy locked up with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Sooners won their last challenge of the regular season by defeating TCU, and have looked tremendous offensively in back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and TCU. Their schedule lightens up this upcoming weekend when they take on Kansas.

4. Clemson (21 points) – The Tigers were locked in a battle with Florida State in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Typically, that would be a sentence many would expect to read, however that wasn’t the case with the year that the Seminoles have had this season. The Tigers still boast wins over Auburn and Virginia Tech, but that loss against Syracuse looks worse every week. The did clinch their side of the ACC and will have the chance to square off with Miami in the ACC Championship Game, likely deciding a berth in the College Football Playoffs.

5. Wisconsin (21 points) – The Badgers played their best game of the season defensively against Iowa last weekend at Camp Randall. Wisconsin only allowed 66 yards of total offense to the Hawkeyes and forced three turnovers on the afternoon. Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor continues to impress, rushing for over 150 yards for the fifth time this season. Wisconsin does need to do a better job taking care of the ball, as quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw three interceptions and Taylor lost a fumble.

6. Auburn (15 points) – Auburn earned one of the more impressive victories of the season by defeating Georgia at home this past weekend. The Tigers were able to upset a team that had been dominant all-season long. They’ve got two losses, but if they can beat Alabama in the final week of the season to earn a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship they could be playing for a berth in the CFP. They would be the first two-loss team to make it.

7. Georgia (12 points) – Georgia has been one of, if not the best team in the country for the entire season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday as Auburn soundly beat them at Jordan Hare Stadium. This might be a bit of an overreaction, as winning out and defeating either Alabama or Auburn to win the SEC Championship would be enough to get them in the semi-finals.

8. Notre Dame (seven points) – Like Georgia, Notre Dame has been largely dominant all-season long. The Fighting Irish were unprepared heading into Miami for their primetime matchup with the Hurricanes. The loss does knock them out of the playoff race in all likelihood, but they still have some very impressive wins this season that shouldn’t be thrown out due to one bad night.

9. Ohio State (five points) – A week after getting destroyed on the road at Iowa, the Buckeyes were back on the winning side of a blowout, defeating Michigan State. While that win was impressive, looking past a 31-point loss against an unranked team should be a difficult thing for the committee to look past should the Buckeyes win the Big Ten.

10. Southern Cal (four points) – The Trojans have been quietly putting together impressive wins since they lost by 35 in South Bend during October. This team is in the drivers’ seat to win the Pac-12 and find themselves in a New Years’ Six Bowl. It’s likely that the playoffs are out of the question for not only the Trojans, but the rest of the Pac-12 at this point, however.

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State.

Zone CFB Power Rankings: Week 10

MADISON — With the race for the four spots in the College Football Playoff heating up, here at The Zone we thought it would be a good idea to put together our top 10 on a weekly basis moving forward. The playoff committee is made up of 13 members who vote each week on the teams that will be finding themselves playing in the semi-finals. Our committee works the same way, except it is only three members. The teams have been voted on by myself, Zach Heilprin, and Ebo Thoreson.

The point system works the same way as the AP Top 25 does, but scaled to 10 teams instead of 25. For example, a first-place vote garners 10 points, and a tenth-place vote is worth one point.

1. Georgia (30 points) 9-0
Georgia still has arguably the best win of anyone in the country by beating Notre Dame in South Bend earlier this year. Thanks to that they’ve got the best resume. They get a slight edge over Alabama on the strength of that win.

2. Alabama (27 points) 9-0
The Crimson Tide have had a relatively weak schedule to this point, with the meat of it starting with their victory over LSU this week. If they continue to play like they are the rest of the regular season they will top Georgia, but I’m not ready to put them at number one quite yet.

3. Notre Dame (22 points) 8-1
The Fighting Irish got another win in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Since losing to Georgia they’ve won every game by double-digits and that includes wins of 20+ over Michigan State, Southern Cal, and North Carolina State. Their game this week has the biggest playoff implications, as they head to Miami to take on the Hurricanes.

4. Clemson (20 points) 8-1
The Tigers beat a very good North Carolina State team this week on the road. Adding that win to their already impressive victories over Auburn and Virginia Tech looks great, but it’s hard to get over the loss to Syracuse.

5. Oklahoma (19 points) 8-1
The Sooners didn’t play much defense but beat a very good Oklahoma State team yesterday afternoon. On the other hand, their win over Ohio State looks a little bit weaker due to Iowa thrashing the Buckeyes this week.

6. (tie) Miami (14 points) 8-0  
Miami finally got a win over a quality opponent this week after knocking off Virginia Tech this week. They’ll be tested this upcoming weekend as Notre Dame comes to town for a de facto elimination game.

7. (tie) Wisconsin (14 points) 9-0
The Badgers earned some style points by beating Indiana 45-17 this week, and they needed them. Their playoff chances may have taken a hit with Ohio State’s loss, however. Wisconsin needed a potential Big Ten Championship game win over the Buckeyes to look as good as possible.

8. Texas Christian (10 points) 8-1
The Horned Frogs won again this weekend over Texas. Things get bigger for them this week as they play travel to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners. Those two teams are the last hope for the Big 12 to reach the playoff.

9. Washington (five points) 8-1
No one is talking about the Huskies since their loss to Arizona State a few weeks back, but they could make some noise with matchups against Stanford, Washington State, and potentially USC in the Pac-12 Championship. They’re a real dark horse to make the playoffs.

10. Auburn (four points) 7-2
The Tigers are the SEC team that no one is talking about. Their road to the playoff is a real muddy one having already lost twice, but they’ll get a shot at Georgia this upcoming weekend before taking on Alabama in the Iron Bowl in two weeks. If they somehow win both of those and the SEC Championship, we could have our first two loss playoff team.

Badgers not focused on their ranking

MADISON — The first edition of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s top 25 is set to be released on Tuesday evening, and the Wisconsin Badgers don’t seem to care an ounce. The Badgers are currently unbeaten, having won all eight of their games this fall. That does not guarantee them anything in the committee’s eyes, however.

Wisconsin has been chastised nationally, and rightfully so, for having a relatively weak schedule this season. The Badgers have yet to play a team ranked in the top 25 by either the Associated Press or Coaches Poll. They lack a signature win on their resume and that’s not something that can realistically change until they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship in December.

Until then, they’re keeping their eyes on the week to week grind of the season, and not paying any attention to where anyone has them slotted right now.

“I definitely won’t see it, I will ignore it,” offensive lineman Michael Deiter said of the rankings release special on ESPN Tuesday night. “It’s not like it’s a conscious thing to make sure that I don’t see it, it’s just not something that right now I’m worried about. We have Indiana this week. I know that’s a plain answer but that’s the way you stay successful.”

Deiter is correct in this thinking. Often times when things go wrong for teams the problem can be traced back to reading their own press clippings. The Badgers are trying their best to make sure that they don’t fall victim to that.

“I think that we have a group of guys that are not really going to get caught up in all the playoff noise and stuff like that. It’s not time yet, we have Indiana,” Deiter said.

He added that the time to worry about the playoff picture would be after the Big Ten Championship game in December, the only time the rankings actually matter.

What matters for the Badgers is continuing to win every game on their schedule, even if the majority of them are against lesser opponents.

Saying that the rankings are ignored can be easy to do, following through with that can be more difficult. It’s human nature to check what others think of you. It’s very difficult to not care, especially as a competitive athlete. This team truly believes they’re blocking out the outside noise.

“Yesterday I saw one of the basketball players on campus and he asked me what we were ranked,” defensive end Alec James said. “I told him I didn’t know. I remembered seeing it early in the morning but it’s not something that I pay attention to.”

“I think it’s something more for you guys,” linebacker T.J. Edwards told the media Monday. “Around here we’re just focused on what’s going on next week. All we can think about is Indiana, to be honest with you.”

It’s safe to say that Edwards won’t be watching at 6PM (CT) Tuesday to find out where the Badgers are placed by the committee.

“I didn’t even know there was a show, to be honest with you. I thought it was just something that kind of came out.”

Losing not an option for Badgers’ playoff hopes

MADISON | Winning football games, at any level is not an easy task. If it were, the college football landscape would see far more unbeaten squads than the eight unblemished teams currently in the FBS. Wisconsin beat Maryland 38-13 Saturday afternoon, making them 7-0 for the first time since the 2004 season.

What Wisconsin has done through their first seven games deserves to be recognized, even if they were supposed to win all of their games thus far. The Badgers have played a schedule in which they should be unbeaten through their first seven games. While it would be great to see them tested more frequently, that’s not the case this season.

That being said, in today’s college football world upsets happen frequently. This year alone, Clemson, Washington, Washington State, Louisiana State, and so many more have suffered upsets they deemed unthinkable to teams that were far inferior to them in terms of talent. That type of slip up hasn’t happened to the Badgers, and they deserve credit for that.

Their win over Maryland Saturday afternoon was another case of the Badgers taking care of business as they have every time they’ve stepped on the field this fall. They haven’t always been overly impressive in their wins, but they haven’t needed to be, and that’s not something that is going to change.

Wisconsin’s goal, while it won’t be uttered publicly by any player or coach at this moment in time, should be to make the College Football Playoff. If they continue to win, they’ll find themselves there no matter how they look doing it.

With that being said, there is no room for error for the Badgers. The positive to playing a relatively light schedule is that every game should be a win, the downside to that is if there is a loss on the schedule, the dreams of finishing in the top four almost completely vanish.

The playoff committee certainly won’t keep an unbeaten champion of the Big Ten out of the top four in December. They absolutely would keep a one-loss Wisconsin out of it, and they would be just in doing so.

Wisconsin cannot afford to lose any games simply because they do not possess the opportunity to secure a signature win before the Big Ten Championship game. In that game, which the Badgers are a near lock to make, they’ll likely face either Ohio State or Penn State. A win over either of those programs would solidify Wisconsin as a team that belongs in the playoff, especially if no one has knocked them off to date. If they previously have a loss, they might not be attractive enough to the committee to take over a one loss team with a better resume from the SEC, Pac-12, ACC, or Big 12. Especially if one of the other teams in consideration played a more challenging regular season slate.

It doesn’t matter how Wisconsin looks while winning. They don’t need to accumulate style points. Wins are the only thing Wisconsin needs to accumulate, 13 of them to be exact. If they do, they’ll find themselves playing in a semi-final game on January 1, 2018 in either Pasadena, CA or New Orleans, LA. If they find themselves with less than 13 wins on December 6 they’ll be watching someone else play in the semi-finals.

Wisconsin 8th in first College Football Playoff rankings

MADISON, Wis. — As the Wisconsin football team prepares for a road trip to Northwestern, the first set of College Football Playoff rankings were released with Wisconsin coming in at No. 8.

Michigan (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 6), and Nebraska (No. 10) also topped the list. The full playoff field is below:

  1. Alabama 8-0
  2. Clemson 8-0
  3. Michigan 8-0
  4. Texas A&M 7-1
  5. Washington 8-0
  6. Ohio State 7-1
  7. Louisville 7-1
  8. Wisconsin 6-2
  9. Auburn 6-2
  10. Nebraska 7-1
  11. Florida 6-1
  12. Penn State 6-2
  13. LSU 5-2
  14. Oklahoma 6-2
  15. Colorado 6-2
  16. Utah 7-2
  17. Baylor 6-1
  18. Oklahoma State 6-2
  19. Virginia Tech 6-2
  20. West Virginia 6-1
  21. North Carolina 6-2
  22. Florida State 5-3
  23. Western Michigan 8-0
  24. Boise State 7-1
  25. Washington State 6-2