If there’s one constant of the college football offseason it’s lists. Everyone loves to rank something, and with a new era of the College Football Playoff coming some have taken to ranking teams who have a shot to make the inaugural event.
Wisconsin has been one of those teams heavily discussed, coming in No. 8 in the Fox Sports rankings released just a few days ago.
While it’s a nice honor to be thought of so highly, it got us thinking about what exactly would it take for Wisconsin to truly make a run at a national championship. So, here are the ingredients likely needed for UW to make a somewhat surprising appearance in the Rose Bowl (because any Pac-12 or Big Ten team in the tournament will play there).
1. Beat LSU and have the Tigers win out
It’s only one of the biggest nonconference (if not the biggest) games ever played by the Badgers. And having it end in a Badger win would be the ultimate start to Wisconsin making it to the first-ever College Football Playoff. However, a W is only one part of the equation. LSU not going on to lose another game the rest of the season would only bolster that win to start the season for the Badgers. Given the lack of amazing games being played by the Badgers (on paper at least) having that win would certainly help Wisconsin’s case come the end of the season.
2. Lose to LSU and Wisconsin wins out the rest of the season
We’ve long argued that winning or losing against LSU may not matter much, but there is one giant caveat to that — UW can’t go on and lose three or four games. That’s because Wisconsin needs all the help it can get in the strength of schedule area thanks to the Big Ten schedule. Without a shot at the likes of Michigan State, Penn State or Ohio State in the regular season, its on the Badgers to go 11-0 the rest of the season. That brings us to ingredient No. 3…
3. Iowa needs to be a Top 25 opponent
We were speaking of the Badgers strength of schedule before, and one of the biggest helps UW could get comes in the final three games against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. On paper the Huskers appear like a team with Top 25 staying power, but what would really help Wisconsin is for the next opponent to be a Top 25 team. If Wisconsin travels to Iowa City with the division locked up that doesn’t help UW very much in the strength of schedule area. However, if the trip to the IC is for the division crown it’s likely that Iowa comes in as a Top 25 team and therefor an extra feather in the Badgers cap towards making a good case as to why it deserves to be in the College Football Playoff (we now it just won’t be Barry Alvarez making that case).
4. Have at least two undefeated champions out of the ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12
What the hell do the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 have to do with Wisconsin making the College Football Playoff? Simply put, an undefeated champion from two of those conferences would prevent what many are already talking about — getting a second SEC school in to the CFP. It would certainly leave the SEC with less of an opportunity to point towards a second bid going to a one or two-loss team. Speaking of undefeated conference champions…
5. WINsconsin and Beat an undefeated opponent in the B1G Championship Game
The folks in charge of the selection process for the College Football Playoff have made it very clear that winning your conference will matter and weigh heavily on the decisions they will make as to who goes where. Wisconsin winning the Big Ten West with a 12-0 record is just half of the equation at the end of the season. It may still need an extra bit of help, and that help could come in the form of an equally undefeated Big Ten East champion. Whether it’s Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State doesn’t really matter — all three as undefeated opponents in the B1G Championship game would likely be the highest ranked opponent UW will play all season long. Be the winner of that matchup between undefeated teams and you bet the Badgers have the resume needed to be in the College Football Playoff.
While there isn’t a lot known here in July, if the Badgers hope to get to the College Football Playoff this would be a great blueprint to follow. The one thing we do know, Wisconsin’s path to the CFP isn’t only in its hands.
The reality is, Wisconsin needs help and a lot of it to pull this all off and get back to Pasadena for the fourth time in five years. So, get ready for what could be a wild year of rooting for teams you never thought you’d root for — because it may be exactly what the Badgers need to get their shot at a National Championship.