Despite being undefeated, Wisconsin (9-0) hasn’t gotten a whole lot of respect this season.
The Badgers were ranked ninth in the College Football Playoff committee’s initial rankings last week – behind six one-loss teams, mind you – and they’re ranked eighth this week, mainly because Ohio State and Penn State both lost. Oh, and they were jumped by Miami (8-0), which went from No. 10 to No. 7
How bad is it? There is speculation that the Badgers, because of their strength of schedule, could win out and miss the playoff.
If that happens, former Wisconsin All-American and Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon won’t be happy.
“Oh, I’ll be ticked,” Gordon said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “I’ll be ticked. I already feel like people don’t give us our respect, and I feel like they haven’t been for years. To go undefeated, win a Big Ten championship (and not make the playoff) – that’s just embarrassing. Obviously we’ll go up against one of the teams that you had ranked ahead of us from the beginning: Penn State, Ohio State – whoever’s in there. I don’t even know (what’s) going on because they both just lost again, (so) it’s kind of crazy with that. If we beat one of those teams that they had ranked so high ahead of us and they still don’t give us respect, I’ll be ticked. Then I’ll be feeling like they just don’t like our logo or our colors or something.”
While the Badgers are fighting to earn respect, so are the Chargers (3-5). L.A. started 0-4, won three straight, and played the Patriots tough in Foxboro in Week 8 before ultimately losing, 21-13.
Gordon’s message to his teammates: finish.
“I’ve been saying it: we got to finish games,” Gordon said. “That’s obviously what it comes down to. Every game is tight in the NFL. There’s no blowouts. But you have to be able to finish. I think our games we lost this year was because we couldn’t pull it together at the end and finish. We were always in the game. We’re always going to be in the game. But we just have to be able to finish games. We make it tough on ourselves. Instead of just putting teams away, we make mistakes. It cost us a couple (games), but I feel like we’re a tough team. We’re going to put it together. We got the pieces. I’ve been saying it. People know it. We just got to show it.”
Gordon, 24, has been stellar this year. He’s rushed for 526 yards and four touchdowns and caught 30 balls for 235 yards and four scores. The third-year pro has come a long way since his rookie season when he failed to score a single touchdown in 14 games and was benched multiple times.
“That whole thing was a low point,” Gordon said. “I didn’t score. Zero touchdowns. Honestly, you couldn’t have a worse year as a back. It was pretty bad (season), one that you definitely want to forget forever.”
Last season, however, Gordon rushed for 997 yards, added 419 receiving yards and scored 12 touchdowns (10 rush, two receiving) in 13 games before suffering hip and knee injuries. He looked like one of the best backs in football before his injury, and that’s what he looks like now.
Gordon is similar to Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and other young players who struggled as rookies but eventually found their NFL footing. The Wisconsin native said the key to success is “just to keep pushing” and not let critics “break you.”
“You can either get burned on your back or you can do something about it,” Gordon said. “I’ve been through exactly what Goff’s been through – and he was drafted No. 1, so it was probably even tougher for him with people counting you out. But you put your head down and keep working. I’m assuming that’s what he did. With how he’s playing, I’m sure he just went out there and grinded every day.”