By now, you know the news. In a must-win game, Wisconsin blew a 24-7 third-quarter lead en route to a 28-24 loss to LSU Saturday night in Houston.
The loss strikes an astronomical blow to the Badgers' College Football Playoff hopes. Although it'd be tough to imagine the Selection Committee allotting a top-four spot to a team which lost its only major challenge on the schedule, Wisconsin fans should keep an open mind. The sky's not falling. The season is not over. With a straightforward Big Ten schedule, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see the Badgers finish the regular season with an 11-1 record. And despite the loss, the Badgers did show that they can hang with some of the nation's best.
A Big Ten championship could possibly propel the Badgers into the Playoff, though one-loss Big Ten teams with cupcake schedules haven't fared well in past BCS standings.
In order to do so, Tanner McEvoy will need to step up (assuming Gary Andersen sticks with him as the starter). He completed just eight of 24 passes for 50 yards with two interceptions, overthrowing receivers far downfield several times. Some of that has to do with the Badgers' weak receiving corps, but McEvoy will need to improve. Melvin Gordon, on the other hand, had an impressive showing, with 140 yards and a touchdown, but the tailback saw just four second-half touches.
Surveying the powerhouses
More from Saturday
More from Saturday
While the Badgers are apt to slip in the AP Poll, they shouldn't fall too far.
South Carolina, which lost to a far-superior Texas A&M team on Thursday, is the only team ranked ahead of the Badgers that slipped up this week.
Some other powerhouses nearly fell, however. Florida State held off a surge by Oklahoma State in Saturday's Cowboys Classic in Dallas, holding on to win by six. Alabama looked shaky at times in its 33-23 win against West Virginia, and UCLA nearly blew an 18-point lead against Virginia, holding on to win 28-20.
Without many changes in the top 25, expect the Badgers to hold the 16th or 17th ranking in next week's AP Poll.
Around the Big Ten
Unsurprisingly, every other Big Ten team besides Northwestern won, but some of the conference's stronger teams looked anything but solid in their openers. Ohio State trailed at the half and for most of the third quarter against Navy in a game that featured some growing pains for the Buckeyes' freshman quarterback, J.T. Barrett. Iowa eked out a 31-23 win in which its defense gave up 405 yards to Northern Iowa.
Without any other shocking Big Ten results, the Badgers remain the favorites to win the Big Ten West, potentially landing themselves a spot in Indianapolis and (sort of) a shot at the Playoff.
The Badgers take on Western Illinois next Saturday at 11 a.m. CT (TV: BTN). If they take care of business against an inferior FCS opponent, expect the same points to hold true. If the Badgers happen to slip up, then fans have permission to go crazy. For now, everyone should stay calm.
Here are some games to watch on next week's slate:
Michigan State vs. Oregon (5:30 p.m. CT, TV: FOX): This is the big one. However this game turns out, it will affect the Badgers. Either way, another one of the Playoff favorites will tally a loss, and a Michigan State loss could shake up the Big Ten East standings, changing who the Badgers could potentially meet in Indianapolis should they take care of business in the West. Make sure to keep an eye on this one.
Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State (7 p.m. CT, TV: ESPN): Here's another game that could shake up the Big Ten East. After looking awfully unsteady against Navy, a loss to Virginia Tech certainly wouldn't move the earth. It could, however, potentially alter the Big Ten Title race if Ohio State suffers a loss.
All in all, Saturday's game was a difficult loss for the Badgers. Blowing a 17-point lead is certainly a tough blow to the squad, but a four-point loss against one of the SEC's better teams is nothing to go crazy about. The Badgers' season is far from over. Hope is not lost. Not yet.