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Wisconsin focusing on Indiana, not College Football Playoff rankings

Don’t expect these Badgers to change their focus.

Wisconsin v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

MADISON — This season’s initial College Football Playoff rankings will be released to the world on Tuesday evening. All the commotion outside the walls of Camp Randall Stadium and the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers’ locker room will be where Paul Chryst’s team will find themselves.

Except for his players, it appears, at least from several that we spoke to on Monday and Tuesday morning.

“We come in every day, we talk about focusing on the week,” inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said on Monday. “I don’t think anyone around here gets lost in rankings besides maybe you guys [media]. We’re here to play football and win the next game.”

Edwards, who leads the team in interceptions (three) and is tied for second in tackles (40), admitted he did not even know the process of how the committee responsible for selecting the College Football Playoff participants announces them.

“No, I didn’t even know there was a show to be honest with you,” Edwards said. “I just kind of thought it was something that came out.”

Wisconsin (8–0, 5–0 Big Ten) is one of five FBS teams still undefeated this season, joining No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 9 Miami, and No. 15 Central Florida. However, the Badgers’ strength of schedule on paper has not impressed some media, and their recent 24–10 road win at Illinois did not help their perception either.

Though Wisconsin is the fourth-ranked team in the nation in both the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll, one-loss teams like No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 6 Clemson, No. 7 Penn State, and No. 8 Oklahoma are right behind. There’s a variety of pundits predicting those programs could leapfrog ahead of the Badgers.

Where Wisconsin finds itself on Tuesday night won’t be known to left tackle Michael Deiter, as the redshirt junior won’t watch the show.

“I will ignore it, and it’s not like it’s a conscience thing to make sure I don’t see it, it’s just not something that right now I’m worried about,” Deiter said. “We have Indiana this week. I know that’s a plain answer but I mean that’s the way that you stay successful.

Neither will redshirt senior defensive end Alec James.

“No, no, we’ll probably be in meetings or something, to be honest,” James said. “I’ll see it at some point, I’m sure. Everyone will talk about it.”

This is a team under Chryst made of players who pride themselves on doing their respective 1/11th on the field, taking the season one week at a time, and not overseeing their next opponent.

Those same talking points, not coachspeak but sincere, were echoed by the players to start the week.

Having Edwards, James, and Deiter reiterate similar messages isn’t surprising. On Tuesday, running back Garrett Groshek, fullback Alec Ingold and wide receiver A.J. Taylor all confirmed they would not watch the 6 p.m. CT unveiling as well.

“No, I got other stuff to do,” Groshek said. “I just play football. I don’t really care about the rankings. A lot of the guys on this team really don’t care. We just take care of ourselves and really focus on ourselves.”

A reporter asked Deiter if he believed his teammates feel the same as he does.

“Yeah I hope so. I do,” Deiter said. “I think that we have a group of guys that are not really going to get caught up in all the playoff noise, stuff like that, because it’s just not time yet. We have Indiana.”

The question then goes to when Wisconsin should. There will be five other Tuesdays the playoff rankings will be released after Halloween’s initial reveal.

The message again goes to taking care of business against not the media, the selection committee, and the outside noise, but against the Hoosiers on Saturday.

“I mean, the playoffs aren’t this weekend, so obviously it’d be nice to be up there, but at the same time, you’re not going to be in a playoff game this weekend,” James said. “That’s kind of far down the road and we got to handle our business this week against Indiana.”

Deiter, one of the team captains, did give an indication of when he thought it would be appropriate to watch those rankings.

“I think it would be after the Big Ten championship. I mean that’s the only time that would matter. Bowl game time, just that’s when it will truly matter.”