As the University of Wisconsin begins their season along with the rest of the Big Ten on Oct. 24, they will enter the AP poll for the first time since January, when they finished the 2019 season ranked no. 11 after a loss to the University of Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Currently, the AP poll is comprised of the usual suspects — programs like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State. With Wisconsin entering the fray at no. 19, just behind Oklahoma and right in front of LSU, the poll is shaken up a bit in terms of conference representation compared to the usual SEC dominance in the top 10.
ACC teams such as Miami and Pittsburgh who have already played three games apiece could, in a few weeks’ time, potentially be 6-0 and jockeying with a 1-0 Wisconsin team in the rankings. How will the writers of the AP poll vote in that situation?
Strength of schedule is another important factor to take into account, as there is no home field advantage this season for any team. Wisconsin is scheduled to play eight games against a relatively weak schedule — or at least it appears weak for now. If the Badgers finish with a record of 7-1, how will that compare to a team out of the ACC or SEC that finishes 10-2 or 9-3 against a stronger schedule?
Wisconsin’s ranking likely will not change dramatically in the next few weeks, barring any major upsets that could send the Badgers skyrocketing up the polls, such as losses by SEC teams like Texas A&M and Mississippi State who are ahead of them in the top 25.
Wisconsin’s entrance into the rankings, along with fellow Big Ten teams Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, will surely frustrate fans of teams from conferences like the SEC, ACC and Big 12, who could be penalized for unduly for losses. Obviously, teams that lose will fall further in the rankings than they normally would because there are teams that haven’t yet played any games and therefore don’t have any losses.
Because upsets occur fairly frequently in college football, Wisconsin could easily move up the rankings if things go in their favor and some top 10 teams lose a game or two early on.
From now until Oct. 24, Wisconsin could potentially move up a few spots but probably not fall very far unless some surprise undefeated non-Power Five team jumps into the rankings.
Without Big Ten teams playing any games for three weeks — until Oct. 24 — the rankings will change dramatically around these teams from the Big Ten, who will benefit from ranked teams beating other ranked teams.