When the University of Wisconsin football team (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) fell to Illinois and The Ohio State University in back-to-back games in October, every Badger fan assumed any hope of making it to the College Football Playoff was over.
I’m here to tell you that hope still exists, no matter how unlikely it is.
FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Badgers just a 7% chance of making the CFP. In order to get into the playoff, the Badgers need a lot — and I mean a lot — to go right in the conference championship games happening this weekend.
As I tweeted Sunday night, the Badgers need at least four of the five major conference championships to go one way or another in order for them to have any chance at making it to the CFP.
Without further ado, here are the definitive importance rankings for each conference championship game affecting the Badgers this weekend, which are calculated using personal analysis with FiveThirtyEight as support.
1. Wisconsin vs. The Ohio State University (Big Ten)
Obviously, the most important game this weekend is Wisconsin’s battle with OSU. If Wisconsin loses to the Buckeyes, their CFP hopes go down the drain and they’ll likely have to resort to a different New Year’s Six Bowl, hopefully the Rose Bowl.
But, if the Badgers manage to somehow upset the Buckeyes, their odds of making the playoff immediately increase. If they win, FiveThirtyEight gives them a 31% chance to make the CFP. With that in mind, it is also important that the Badgers win handily instead of on a last-second score, as the committee will give a blowout win more weight, especially when it comes against a 12-0 OSU team who hasn’t won by less than 11 points all season.
2. Utah vs. Oregon (Pac-12)
The Utah Utes’ (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) battle with the Oregon Ducks (10-2, 8-1) Friday night is crucial to the Badgers’ playoff hopes. According to FiveThirtyEight, Wisconsin’s odds fall to 4% if Utah wins, but they increase to 11% if Oregon wins.
Utah’s season has been impressive to say the least, with their only loss of the season coming to University of Southern California by a touchdown. Oregon was upset by Arizona State just two weeks ago, virtually eliminating them from CFP contention and giving Badger fans a reason to cheer for the Ducks come Friday evening.
3. Clemson vs. UVA (ACC)
The Clemson Tigers (12-0, 8-0 ACC) will look to stay undefeated against the Virginia Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2) Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game. If the Cavs win, Wisconsin’s odds increase to 15%, but they’ll stay at 7% if Clemson wins.
While a loss by the Tigers would still leave them with a better record than the Badgers, they’ve received criticism all season long for having almost no quality opponents. A Tiger loss paired with a blowout Badger win might just be enough to vault Wisconsin over Clemson in next week’s rankings.
4. LSU vs. Georgia (SEC)
Like OSU, LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC) is all but guaranteed a spot in the CFP, currently sitting at No. 2 in the rankings. They’ll take on the Georgia Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1) in the SEC Championship Game Saturday afternoon.
Badger fans should be cheering for LSU in this one, as a Bulldog win would likely allow both the Tigers and the Bulldogs to make the playoff, eliminating a spot for a bubble team like the Badgers. If LSU wins, the Bulldogs would be eliminated from the CFP, opening up an opportunity for Wisconsin.
5. Baylor vs Oklahoma (Big 12)
Unlike the four previously mentioned games, this matchup doesn’t matter quite as much. That’s because no matter who wins, the winner will likely make the playoff if a spot opens up.
With that in mind, Badger fans should be hoping for a shootout, as a high-offensive game might show the CFP selection committee that neither team has a strong enough defense to contend for the national title. In the end, though, a win by Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) would give the Badgers a slightly higher chance to make the CFP (8% with Baylor win, 7% with OU win), as they could potentially hop over the No. 7 Bears with, again, a blowout win against OSU.
If all five (or at the very least, the first four) of the above matchups play out in Wisconsin’s favor, FiveThirtyEight gives Wisconsin an 86% chance to make the playoff, something that has eluded the Badgers despite knocking at the door for several years.