It didn’t take long for Wisconsin to lose its credibility, did it? As soon as the football soared through the uprights in Champaign and lifted Illinois to a surprising 24-23 upset win, the Badgers’ College Football Playoff hopes were trampled by the stampede of Illini fans storming the Memorial Stadium field.

Forget the 6-0 start, the four shutout games and the Heisman Trophy candidate in the backfield. Ignore blowout wins over perennial B1G powers Michigan and Michigan State, none of it matters now that Wisconsin has dropped a game to Illinois.

Wisconsin had its chance and blew it. That’s actually a mindset some people adopted after James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal ended Paul Chryst’s perfect season.

Sorry, but I’m not interested in subscribing to that attitude. At least not yet, after one loss.

There’s no need to sugarcoat it, Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois was bad. The Badgers have been dismantling teams far better than Lovie Smith’s Illini all season long. Saying it was the biggest upset of the year through eight weeks is no exaggeration. Heck, saying Wisconsin has an uphill battle to reach the College Football Playoff is fair.

Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

But completely eliminated from the four-team field? No, no, no. As much as some would like to point to the final score of Saturday’s contest as the hard evidence that Wisconsin doesn’t belong in the conversation at the end of the season, it’s just not the case.

Wisconsin still has more than enough meat left on its schedule to make its case to be included in one of those two semifinal games when the season comes to an end in December. Three ranked opponents still remain on the schedule and the Badgers still control their own destiny in the B1G West.

Just for reference, here are some of the signature wins as well as the significant games Wisconsin has left over the next month:

  • #19 Michinan (W, 35-14)
  • Michigan State (W, 38-0)
  • at #3 Ohio State (?)
  • #20 Iowa (?)
  • at Nebraska (?)
  • at #17 Minnesota (?)
  • *B1G Championship Game

Win out, and Wisconsin would finish the regular season 11-1 with wins over four ranked opponents and claim the West title. That sets up a B1G Championship Game against either Ohio State or Penn State (barring some serious wizardry in the last month), giving the Badgers a chance to add a fifth ranked win to its resumé.

Doesn’t seem so bad after all, does it? And, by the way, if Illinois is able to rip off three more wins this season (Purdue, Rutgers and Northwestern are still on the schedule), the Illini are bowl eligible. That doesn’t excuse Wisconsin’s loss, but it does move it up from the “terrible” category into just “bad.”

Right now, it’s not quite as doom and gloom for the Badgers as some would have you believe. Yes, they probably do need to win the remaining five games and the B1G title to have a serious shot at the College Football Playoff — no teams has made it in with two losses in five years — but remember how dominant this team was through six weeks? Play that way, and the Badgers can compete with anyone.

Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake, part of the reason some have dismissed Wisconsin from the Playoff conversation is because, unfortunately, it’s Wisconsin. And while Chryst has had this well-oiled machine operating at a high level for the last five seasons, the narrative still exists that the Badgers are only good because they reside in the B1G West and have a poor non-conference schedule.

If this was Alabama, Ohio State, LSU or Oklahoma, there would be more conversation about how it still had a shot at playing for a national championship rather than why it doesn’t deserve a bid into the four-team field. A week ago, Georgia lost to South Carolina (3-4) under similar circumstances and most still believe the Bulldogs are still a threat for a College Football Playoff spot.

That’s also true, by the way.

Maybe Wisconsin’s College Football Playoff hopes took a hit on Saturday. But, just like any loss for any team, the margin for error becomes razor thin for the rest of the season. Eliminating the Badgers from the picture after just one ding is a bit premature, though.

Let’s see how this thing plays out first. Wisconsin may still have a strong case at the end of the season. If Chryst figures out a way to beat Ohio State on the road, the Badgers will have a strong case at the end of the week.