Indiana stays at 12 in CFP rankings: Dreams of moving up hinge on beating Wisconsin
A win over Maryland didn’t move the needle for Indiana in Tuesday’s release of the College Football Playoff rankings.
A win over Wisconsin on Saturday, however, most definitely would.
The problem for the Hoosiers, though, is that they’re headed into Madison as a two-touchdown underdog and doing so without star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Backup Jack Tuttle, who has thrown only 16 passes in his season-and-a-half in Bloomington, completing 11 for 65 yards, will make his first career start. Penix is out for the rest of the season after tearing an ACL on a scramble late in the win over Maryland, ending his season early for the third straight year.
The Hoosiers’ 27-11 win over the Terrapins didn’t do much to persuade CFP voters to move them up the rankings. Instead, 5-1 Indiana stayed in the same No. 12 spot that it was in the week before. Northwestern, which was 8th last week, fell back to 14th with its loss at Michigan State, while Iowa State, which was a spot behind IU last week, jumped up to No. 9 after its victory Friday over Texas.
Perhaps it’s akin to IU drawing a Royal Flush, but the Hoosiers do have a chance to be deeper into the conversation on the final College Football Playoff rankings release on Dec. 20. A win over the Badgers, who are No. 16 in the latest rankings even though they’ve played only three games, would be a start.
It’d give the Hoosiers’ a marquee victory, which their résumé lacks as of now. Indiana’s five victories have come against opponents with a combined record of 9-18. IU’s best game — call it a marquee loss — came against CFP No. 4 Ohio State, when the Hoosiers rallied back from down 28 to within a touchdown, with the ball, in the waning minutes. It was an impressive showing that most certainly got national attention.
But it wasn’t a win.
After Wisconsin, Indiana will get floundering Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket in Memorial Stadium, then likely another quality opponent either in the Big Ten Championship Game (if OSU hasn’t reached the Big Ten-mandated six games) or in the “second-place” game. Either way, the Hoosiers are likely to get a quality opponent, perhaps Iowa, Northwestern or a rematch vs. UW.
With three wins, the Hoosiers’ résumé could look a lot better in three weeks than it does now.
But would a sweep get the Hoosiers in the Playoff? No, probably not. Indiana is behind four other one-loss teams in the CFP standings right now and three two-loss teams. Of the longshots, those who sit outside the top-six (Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Florida), perhaps 8-0 Cincinnati (at No. 7) or 7-2 Iowa State (at 9) might have the best chance at sliding into the top four.
But it’s nice for Hoosiers fans to dream. At the very least, IU could get itself into the top 8 and secure a position in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
A potential run starts in Madison on Saturday. The Hoosiers will have to be much better than they were in their win over Maryland, when IU had a ho-hum first half — Penix and the passing game were off kilter even before his knee injury — before finding enough offense to pull away in the second.
We’ll know a lot more about who the Hoosiers are by Saturday evening.