Five of the top 10 teams in last week’s College Football Playoff Poll, including three of the top five, suffered defeats last weekend, throwing the status quo into complete disarray.
No. 2 Clemson University lost 43-42 to University of Pittsburgh on a last-second field goal. No. 3 University of Michigan suffered a similar fate, falling on the road at unranked University of Iowa 14-13 when the Hawkeyes pushed through with a field goal as time expired. No. 4 University of Washington looked uninspired against No. 20 University of Southern California at home during its 26-13 defeat.
So when the University of Wisconsin football team learns of its fate in the freshest state of CFP rankings come Tuesday night, UW will be one of the few teams to survive last weekend, following its 48-3 demolition of the University of Illinois Saturday.
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Still, the happenings across college football Saturday served as a tough reminder for the Badgers to never take an opponent lightly — a sentiment that will have to be embodied throughout the final two weeks of the regular season against Purdue University and the University of Minnesota if Wisconsin wants to clinch the Big Ten West title and earn a berth to the conference championship game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.
“You have to take every opponent seriously,” redshirt junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “These guys are getting recruited to play football too.”
Players on any team, regardless of record, can turn it on any given Saturday and give even the best teams in the country a run for their money, Watt said. Plus, upsets happen all the time.
“You have to know that it’s happened, and it’s going to continue to happen,” Watt said. “So you just have to really block everything out and try not to listen to all the noise, stick to your basics and just handle business.”
The mentality of keeping laser focus on the task at hands come straight from the top in UW head coach Paul Chryst, Watt said. Chryst said Monday it’s important for his team do just that.
Chryst added getting right into the game film of the next opponent sets the tone for the week.
“I think it helps us be in the moment,” Chryst said. “I think that you have to be.”
Chryst also said there’s recent history (i.e. last weekend) of the danger of overlooking an opponent. This week, he joked, the coaching staff will have a dictionary lesson with the players on the word “assume”.
For senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton, he uses the team’s motto of “Win The Day” to stay in the present. He said the approach has come with experience and maturity, and Shelton knows the team’s bid to the College Football Playoff won’t happen this week or next week, but the opportunity can be lost in any given game — just like what may have happened to Michigan, Clemson or Washington.
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“You gotta just worry about yourself and stay in your lane, and that’s what we’re doing as a team,” Shelton said. “It’s crazy to see what happened this past weekend and I don’t think we want to put ourselves in that position.
“This week is Purdue week. This is all we can worry about,” Shelton said.
For the second consecutive week, UW released a shorter and more promising injury report. Sophomore nose tackle Olive Sagapolu is still out with a right arm injury. Chryst said Sagapolu is “ramping up” his workouts but was unsure of when he would return.
Zack Baun, Jacob Maxwell and Austin Ramesh were all listed as questionable.
Watt battled a sore left shoulder for a couple weeks, but last week played without a brace and said he experienced no pain.
“Overall, I feel really good,” Watt said. “I’m in-season healthy.”
Junior cornerback Natrell Jamerson returned against Illinois after missing two months. Shelton said Jamerson was effective on Saturday, noting Jamerson’s pass break-up that was almost an interception on his first play back.
“He hasn’t dropped off,” Shelton said. “He had a solid game on Saturday. It’s pretty cool to have him back, to have his charisma back in this group.”