The College Football Playoff selection committee just gave fans in Madison, Wis., another reason to jump around.
Wisconsin debuted at No. 8 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday night to a national television audience by ESPN. It’s the highest CFP slot yet for the Badgers, and the third-best among Big Ten schools after No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Ohio State.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 1, 2016
The Badgers (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) had moved to No. 8 in both the Associated Press and coaches polls after a 23-17 overtime victory over No. 9 Nebraska last Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
The win against Nebraska was Wisconsin’s third win over a top 10 team this season, the most during any single campaign in school history.
The Badgers’ ranking was almost certainly impacted by one of the most difficult schedules the program has ever faced, a slate that included five opponents ranked in the Associated Press top 10 at the time of their matchup.
Wisconsin beat three of them — No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Michigan State and No. 7 Nebraska. And two of those wins, even more impressively, came away from the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers topped the Tigers, 16-14, in the season opener for both at Lambeau Field back on Sept. 3. Wisconsin clubbed the Spartans in East Lansing, 30-6, on Sept. 24.
LSU (5-2) is currently 13th in the CFP rankings, which helps. Michigan State (2-6) has lost six in a row, which doesn’t.
The Badgers’ strength of schedule was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the start of the week by USA Today stat guru Jeff Sagarin, trailing only Mississippi (No. 1) and Stanford (No. 2).
While the Badgers would have to win out and hope for a lot of other folks ahead of them to slip down the leaderboard in order to crash the CFP semifinal bracket, it’s not out of the realm of possibility — albeit a very slim one. ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight pegged Wisconsin with an 11 percent shot of landing in college football’s final four, and with a 1 percent chance of winning it all:
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) November 1, 2016
The final and, most impactful College Football Playoff rankings, will be released Dec. 4, a day after the Big Ten Championship. The national semifinals are slated for Dec. 31 in Atlanta and Glendale, Ariz.; the CFP championship is Jan. 9 in Tampa.
The Badgers visit Northwestern (4-4, 3-2) Saturday in Evanston, Ill. Wisconsin hasn’t won at Ryan Field since 1999, dropping its last four visits by an average of five points. In other words, before we start talking about the horse, Bucky needs to take care of the dang cart first.