I know some of you were thinking that Saturday’s Ohio State game was fun and a delight and you like Penn State for pulling off the upset. While the Nittany Lions’ upset could retroactively become something more fun than, “this should have been us,” it makes the slim chance of a Wisconsin playoff run even slimmer. To put it simply, the Badgers needed an unscathed Ohio State to keep their reputation as the best two-loss team in the country impeccable.
While I’m more than willing to tell you the chances of a Badgers playoff berth are slim, and they could have them ended before November, hope is more fun than pragmatism. Let’s look and see what it would take to get from No. 11 to the top four by checking the schedules of the top 10.
Alabama: Obviously, the Crimson Tide are a massive favorite to go undefeated and win the whole thing. Alabama is so far ahead of Wisconsin in terms of regard that an upset would only leave the Badgers another roadblock to get to the top four. If you need to wish the world to be shocked, Nov. 5 involves a trip to Baton Rouge and a chance for beating LSU to gain more luster.
Michigan: The Badgers are going to need a potential Big Ten Championship Game to be stocked with as quality of a win as possible. The Wolverines need to beat Ohio State and be the proverbial dragon the Badgers have to slay to get Wisconsin a playoff berth.
Clemson: The Tigers are another team that can only help the Badgers by running the table. While their November schedule does have potential opportunities to live up to their namesake meme, this Saturday they take on the two-loss team breathing down the Badgers’ necks in No. 12 Florida State. It’s a must win for Wisconsin not to get vaulted again.
Washington: As schedules go, the Huskies have a couple of interesting traps laid for the end of the season. As the top four go, they are the least necessary to maintain their record and regard to keep Wisconsin’s hopes alive. The road trip to Utah is an interesting challenge. If the Huskies fall, they face two teams that seem to have righted the ship after slow starts. USC heads to Seattle on Nov. 12, and the North division of the Pac-12 seems like it’s going to be decided in Pullman with an Apple Cup battle with Washington State.
Louisville: The Cardinals are in a spot where they need Florida State to win out because that’s their most quality win. So if Clemson was able to make the Seminoles a three-loss team, then any sort of loss the Cardinals have will wreck their season. And while the rails have been jumped in Houston vis-a-vis the 2016 football season, there’s the Nov. 17 Thursday-night game for Louisville in Houston. If all the dominoes fall right for the Badgers up to this point, it’s an absolute must-lose.
Ohio State: While the Buckeyes were more like Suckeyes on Saturday, they’re still a very talented team. While a loss to Michigan would lead to a more quality opportunity, they absolutely positively have to beat Nebraska on Nov. 5 if the Badgers do their job. It’s the best chance for Nebraska to lose the rest of the way.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers need to lose twice. The Badgers can beat them once. Ohio State is definitely their easiest path to lose, but the Nov. 25 game in Iowa City is one that the Cornhuskers could definitely get tripped up with as well. You can easily wish for another house of horrors for Herbie Husker with impunity so long as their next loss is much closer.
Baylor: The good news is that Baylor takes on West Virginia to end the season. As they’re both ahead of Wisconsin, at worst, that’s an elimination game of a team ahead of the Badgers. But an interesting Big 12 playoff spoiler is Oklahoma. For the Bears, it’s a Nov. 12 game in Norman. As the next couple of weeks go, the Sooners might actually go into that game as a favorite.
Texas A&M: LSU has a real chance to be heroic for the Badgers. Yes, the Tigers will probably lose against Alabama. But if the Badgers can somehow stay in the race until Thanksgiving and the Aggies’ schedule doesn’t force the Badgers to vault them, Thanksgiving night brings a game between LSU and Texas A&M. It’s another chance for the Badgers to improve their station.
West Virginia: It’s an interesting schedule for the Mountaineers. They get Baylor and Oklahoma in Morgantown, but they do have a couple of trappy road games. This Saturday, they go into Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. It’s a game against an offense that can score and do it quickly, though their defense is questionable. Pass that, and Nov. 12 they go into Austin and face Texas. It’s a game against an offense that can score and do it quickly, though their defense is questionable.
So what’s the lesson here? The Badgers are likely hoping for a New Year’s Six bowl, but the pulse is more than faint for something more. There’s still a chance for a fun ride, but it might lead toward a bowl game against Lamar Jackson.