With the second College Football Playoff Poll in the books, the University of Wisconsin football team’s pathway to the 2016 playoff is as clear as it has ever been.
The College Football Playoff Selection Committee listed Wisconsin as the No. 7 spot in Tuesday’s night poll. The Badgers inched forward by a single spot after being labeled No. 8 in last week’s rankings.
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Thanks to yet another dominating performance by the Badger defense, Wisconsin defeated Northwestern University 21-7 on the road in a place the Badgers haven’t won since 1999. The win over the Wildcats gave Wisconsin its fourth conference victory and lifted the Badgers to a 7-2 overall record.
While the minor advance in the polls is nothing to overlook, Wisconsin’s biggest gain from last weekend may have come from Columbus, Ohio. No. 5 Ohio State University handed then-No. 6 University of Nebraska its worst loss as a ranked team in program history, but more importantly for the Badgers, Nebraska’s second conference loss of the season.
Nebraska’s stumble was the critical first step toward Wisconsin’s shot at a playoff appearance becoming a reality. If Wisconsin and Nebraska were to end the season with tied conference records, Wisconsin would still claim the Big Ten West title via advantage in head-to-head matchup after UW defeated the Cornhuskers 23-17 in Madison earlier this year.
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Saturday’s results across the conference pushed Wisconsin into a tie for first place in the Big Ten West with border rival University of Minnesota (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten).
If the Badgers win out against Purdue University (3-6, 1-5), University of Illinois (3-6, 2-4) and border rival University of Minnesota (7-2, 4-2), Wisconsin would earn a Big Ten title birth as champions of the Big Ten West.
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With the ways that both Ohio State and No. 3 University of Michigan have performed lately, a redemption win over either team in the Big Ten championship game would give Wisconsin a solid chance at the top 4 come the CFP committee’s final selection on Dec. 4.
While steps two and three are much easier said than done, the Badgers now officially control their own destiny.