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An unbeaten Wisconsin could still miss CFP

Anthony Gimino

The Sports Xchange

Take a deep breath. Relax. The top four teams in the College Football Playoff stayed unchanged from the first week.

The bubbling drama is further down the list.

For as unlikely as it sounds that a 13-0 Big Ten champion could be left out of the four-team playoff, there is definitely a way in which a 13-0 Big Ten champion could be left out of the four-team playoff.

Wisconsin is sitting at No. 8, behind the three other unbeaten teams and four squads that have one loss. The Badgers (9-0, 6-0) have only one win against a team in the current CFP Top 25 — that being No. 25 Northwestern — and own a scant two victories over teams that have winning records (Northwestern and Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic).

So, sure, we get it. Full body of work and all that. Everybody ahead of Wisconsin has better victories, and the selection committee, now in its fourth year, has made it clear that who you beat is more important than who you have lost to — even if you haven’t lost at all.

Let’s play out the Wisconsin doomsday scenario:

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama are undefeated as they meet in the SEC title game and play a tight, competitive game. The loser stays in the top four. A one-loss Alabama team is still gold. A one-loss Georgia team, which won at No. 3 Notre Dame, has to stay ahead of the Irish in the rankings.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, wins its final three games, including at Miami this week and at Stanford to end the regular season. The Irish are in.

No. 4 Clemson wins out, beating Miami in the ACC championship game.

Does Wisconsin get stiff-armed?

Uh, yeah.

That’s a lot of “ifs” — and these scenarios almost never play out according to form — but based on the logic the committee has laid out in the first two weeks, it has backed itself into a corner when it comes to Wisconsin. What’s more, the Badgers also would have to climb over No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU — one of which will lose when they play each other this week, but that will only strengthen the resume of the winner.

Wisconsin can help itself ... somewhat. The Badgers host No. 20 Iowa this week. They host Michigan — which must be just outside the CFP Top 25 — the following week. They close at Minnesota and then get the Big Ten title game.

Those are three good wins available for the Badgers, three chances for them to change hearts and minds and show how good they are. Because they have a perception problem.

Beyond the strength-of-schedule issue, Wisconsin suffers from being just so Wisconsin. Run the ball, be strong on defense, pass the ball efficiently, grind out wins. The Badgers are, if anything, always underrated because of a lack of flash.

They might be better than you think, though. Scoff at an eight-point home win over Purdue, but the Badgers have controlled just about every minute of every game, which is really what it’s all about.

Could the committee really leave off a 13-0 Big Ten champion?

The current logic says yes, but the Badgers could make that a much harder and more controversial call by the time Dec. 3 rolls around.