Wisconsin's Playoff scenario: Resume play Nov. 14, keep playing, don't lose
Well, the margin for error is completely gone for Wisconsin if it wants to pursue the loftiest goal in college football.
Obviously, step one would be to get the program and its dynamic new starting quarterback, Graham Mertz, healthy and back on the field. Whether that’s even possible is anyone’s guess, but if it is, the race to the CFP would become a sprint rather than the usual marathon for the Badgers.
Things should be much clearer for Badgers fans by this time next week, when Wisconsin will either announce a resumption of play or a third straight Covid-19 cancelation.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin announced that Saturday’s scheduled game against Purdue will not happen, and the program will continue to pause team activities after shutting down operations on Oct. 28.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 3, 2020
While this certainly is bad news for Wisconsin, the Badgers hopes for the College Football Playoff have not been dashed just yet.
To put it simply, here is the best-case scenario for the Badgers: Wisconsin must win all of its games and beat an undefeated Ohio State in the B1G title game. If the Badgers finish the regular season 6-0 and then take down the Buckeyes, it’s almost certain they’d be in the Playoff. After all, the Badgers (1-0) are No. 10 right now.
Will Wisconsin play enough games?
The biggest issue facing the Badgers might just be getting to the required number of games to be eligible for the B1G title game. Wisconsin obviously has zero chance at Playoff consideration if it fails to make the conference championship.
Having already canceled games against Nebraska and Purdue, the Badgers need to play their remaining 5 games to be a part of the conference championship. According to the rules set by the B1G prior to the start of the season, teams must play at least 6 games to be eligible to play in the conference title game — unless the average number of games played per team league-wide drops significantly.
The Badgers’ next game is scheduled for Nov. 14, and they will need to play 5 consecutive weekends to be eligible. Wisconsin is going to be walking on a tightrope the rest of the season, because not only does it need to be healthy, it must rely on all of its opponents to be healthy enough to compete as well.
Who should Badgers fans root for?
Wisconsin could do everything in its power to make a case for a Playoff spot, but theoretically still lose out. The Badgers don’t have the brand name of an Ohio State or Alabama, so they could use some help even if they go ahead and win every game on their schedule.
So who should Wisconsin be rooting for moving forward?
First off, Badgers fans should be cheering against Nebraska and Purdue the rest of the way. Wisconsin canceled games against both teams, and it would be easier for the committee to assume the Badgers would’ve won those games if both teams struggle the rest of the way. Wisconsin for sure needs Purdue to lose because as it stands now, the Boilermakers are 2-0 and would have one more game than the Badgers.
Additionally in the B1G, Wisconsin should cheer for Ohio State to win every game so a potential Badgers’ victory in the conference title game would be even more impressive.
Another item to consider is what’s happening in the ACC starting on Saturday. If Notre Dame and Clemson split their regular season and a potential conference title matchup, that’s worst-case scenario for Wisconsin because that very likely could mean two 1-loss ACC teams will enter the College Football Playoff. Badgers fans should be cheering for whoever wins Saturday’s game to win the conference.
From the SEC, it’s very likely only one team gets in, especially if it’s Alabama finishing the year undefeated.
The Big 12 isn’t too much of a threat to Wisconsin if it does what it needs to do, but it would make the path clearer if Oklahoma State takes one more loss, which it likely will with not a whole lot of easy wins in the conference.
If the Badgers finish 7-0, beating an undefeated Ohio State in the B1G title game, I think every other program is irrelevant to the conversation, including the top Group of 5 team, Cincinnati, and whoever finishes on top in the Pac-12. The Bearcats would have an argument, but it would be hard to leave out an undefeated Power 5 champ coming off a win over Ohio State.