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Today is Monday, Nov. 14, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Sitting pretty in playoff picture
On one the craziest weekends that college football has seen in the last 30 years, the Wisconsin football team was void of drama, doing exactly what it was supposed to in a 48-3 whipping of Illinois.
And because of it, the No. 7 Badgers have, now more than ever, a realistic chance to end up in the College Football Playoff when everything is said and done.
This has the making To be a crazyyyy night in college football
— Sojourn Shelton II (@_SDS8) November 13, 2016
It was always going to be difficult to jump an unbeaten team like Clemson or Washington. There’s really no argument to make for a two-loss team like Wisconsin to get in ahead of either of those programs, even with a potential Big Ten title. But now that both lost, climbing over them and other one-loss teams should be much more palatable for the selection committee if Wisconsin makes it to Indianapolis and takes home its fourth conference title since 2010.
There are plenty of things to work out between now and then in the muddled mess that is the third year of the playoff system. If this past weekend taught us anything, it’s that there is probably more chaos to come. With that said, here is the ideal situation for Wisconsin to be among the four teams selected:
- Win the final two games — at Purdue and home to Minnesota — to finish the year 10-2 and earn a second Big Ten West title in three years.
- Have Michigan go 2-0, including taking down Ohio State on the final day of the regular season to claim the Big Ten East. That gives the Buckeyes two losses, essentially eliminating them from the playoff, and keeps two-loss Penn State from crashing the conference title game party.
- Coach Paul Chryst and his team avenge their earlier loss to Michigan and win at Lucas Oil Stadium, leaving them at 11-2 with wins over four teams that were in the top-10 of the AP Top 25 when they played.
If it plays out that way, it’s going to be very difficult for the selection committee to leave Wisconsin on the outside looking in. The Big Ten has been among the best conferences in the country this year, and the champion should be in the playoff.
However, if the ideal situation doesn’t play out, and Penn State ends up in the title game against Wisconsin with one-loss Ohio State sitting at home, it may be more challenging for the Badgers to move past the Buckeyes considering the overtime loss in Madison.
But again, conference championships should matter above all else in these matters. And if Wisconsin has that on its resume, it should be the first two-loss team in playoff history.
Lacking style points
Do style points matter when it comes to the College Football Playoff? Ask most fans, and they’d probably say yes. Ask certain coaches, like Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, and you’ll get a different answer.
“I don’t know, and I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure that out,” Chryst said. “If we can find a way to score one more point than our opponent each week, that’s big.”
And for Wisconsin, it is. Prior to this week, the Badgers had topped 30 points just once all year. The offense isn’t as explosive as Ohio State, Louisville or Alabama, and the margin for error is much slimmer as a result.
But really, what difference does it make if you beat Illinois 48-3 or 62-3? The people doing the judging on that playoff committee are watching the games. This isn’t the AP Top 25, where most voters are covering their own beat and barely get to see anyone else that particular week.
The committee is locked in a meeting room for three days watching and discussing games that involve contenders. If Wisconsin wins and controls its game, then that’s all that truly matters.
The only time style points have mattered in the two years of the playoff was the Big Ten title game in 2014, when the Buckeyes ripped Wisconsin 59-0 and ended up jumping into the fourth and final playoff spot in a bit of a surprise, especially to Big 12 members TCU and Baylor.
That was a statement where the score differential mattered. Would it be better for the Badgers to throw a 70 spot on Purdue Saturday or blow out Minnesota the next week? It wouldn’t hurt. But the only thing Wisconsin actually has to do to get into the playoff is win. It’s as simple as that.
Playing with depth
He’s the lone scholarship player that will redshirt for the Wisconsin basketball team this year. The news of Ford’s redshirting came before Wisconsin opened the season on Friday night, and it became obvious when Badgers coach Greg Gard used everyone else in a 79-47 rout of Central Arkansas.
There had been some talk in the offseason that several guys would sit this season simply because of the depth on the roster. But that’s not the case, and now there is speculation that Gard wants to go 10-deep every night and play no one more than 25 minutes per game.
Open the season with a win ✅
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 12, 2016
In theory, that makes sense. It keeps everyone fresh and playing at a higher level for a full game. But that’s just in theory. What happens when Wisconsin faces a really good team, like it will Tuesday against Creighton, or next week in the Maui Invitational?
Is Gard really going to limit his star players, like Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, to less than 25 minutes per game? Can he afford to do that? The guess here is no.
Andddd #swish ?
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 12, 2016
The perfect medium is right around 30 for Hayes and Koenig, not the 36 and 35 the duo averaged last year, respectively. That should be plenty, with guys like Khalil Iverson, Alex Illikainen and D’Mitrik Trice filling in the gaps off the bench, along with the rest of the supporting cast.
This team is as deep as any the Badgers have fielded in the last 20 years, and Gard will figure out the right way to distribute minutes as he sees how different combinations work early in the season.
In case you missed it last week, former Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker, who has been playing some really good basketball for the Houston Rockets, had a less than stellar moment against the New York Knicks.
Former teammate Frank Kaminsky took a good-natured shot at Dekker in an ad for the Big Ten Network.
— Frank Kaminsky III (@FSKPart3) November 10, 2016
But the ultimate hit came courtesy of Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy on Saturday night.
— Jack Cichy (@jackCICHY) November 13, 2016
Cichy may be done for the year with a torn pectoral, but his Twitter game is every bit as strong as his on the field game was when healthy.