Where does Wisconsin stand in B1G West and Playoff consideration?
This weekend’s matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers is the first B1G game to be canceled. Since the conference started so late and left no margin for error, the game will not be made up.
The cancellation was caused by a COVID-19 breakout of 12 people within the Badgers’ program, with six players and six coaches including head coach Paul Chryst. Wisconsin reached the threshold that requires the team to stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days.
We have paused team activities.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 28, 2020
So where does this leave Wisconsin as far as its season aspirations? The hype around the Badgers reached significant heights following their performance Friday, a 45-7 win over Illinois in which redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz proved he is likely to be a star.
So can Wisconsin still win the B1G? It’s tough to look to the future to see what it will look like, but what about the College Football Playoff?
Let’s dive in to see what’s next for the Badgers.
Since this was highly likely to occur during the B1G season and probably will happen again, the conference set up rules and regulations for how to determine the division champions.
According to the B1G rules, a team must play at least six games to be considered for participation in the conference championship game. However, if the average number of conference games played by all teams falls below six, with the average rounded up/down at .50 (e.g. 6.50 or greater would round up to 7, 6.49 or less would round down to 6), then teams must play no fewer than two fewer conference games than the average number of conference games played by all teams (four games played if the conference average is six) to be considered.
There are a number of tiebreaker scenarios you can find here, but as it relates to Wisconsin, the Badgers remain in relatively good shape to win the B1G West assuming they get six games in. From an on-the-field standpoint, Wisconsin eliminates the potential for an upset loss to Nebraska and should remain the favorite to win the division. Iowa and Minnesota were expected to be Wisconsin’s top challengers in the West, but both lost on Saturday. Games against the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers are now that much more important.
According to the tiebreakers in an unbalanced schedule, if two or more teams have the same number of conference losses but a different number of conference wins, head-to-head results will take precedence over winning percentage, as long as the two or more teams meet the minimum number of games.
The biggest issue might just be how many regular-season games Wisconsin is able to get in. Only this weekend’s game against Nebraska has been canceled so far, but since the Badgers need to pause for at least seven days, it’s likely the next time they can return to practice is Nov. 4 prior to their home game against Purdue. It’s certainly possible that that game does not get played, meaning Wisconsin would have zero margin for error over the final five weeks of the regular season to hit the minimum six-game mark to be eligible for the B1G title. Remember, not only do the Badgers need to hit the requirements to keep playing, but their opponents do, too.
College Football Playoff
This certainly does not help Wisconsin’s potential bid for the College Football Playoff, but it should not be looked at as an impossible task. Obviously, the Badgers need to win out to even have a shot. They need to go undefeated in the regular season, with however many games they’re able to play, and get into the conference title game. If Wisconsin wins out and takes down what likely will be Ohio State in Indianapolis, the Badgers absolutely have a case and should be lobbying hard for a spot in the Playoff.
If their season went on as normal and Wisconsin pulled off an incredible year to go 9-0 with a conference title, the Badgers should be in without much of a discussion. The Badgers don’t have the brand power of some of the elite teams, but would the committee punish Wisconsin just because they didn’t play Nebraska? The Cornhuskers aren’t a very good program; they’ve finished below .500 three years in a row and lost their past seven matchups in this series. The Badgers opened as double-digit favorites and remained favored when it appeared they’d need to use their fourth-string quarterback.
Hopefully, Wisconsin can get healthy and everybody stays as safe as possible so that the Badgers can take the field sooner rather than later. If they can and they find a way to run the table, it’s a nightmare scenario for the committee to figure out who makes the College Football Playoff.