The Wisconsin Badgers (9-0) are undefeated, they have one of the best tailbacks in the country, and they’re allowing a Big Ten-best 13.3 points per game.
And yet, they are eighth in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. In fact, they’re slotted behind four one-loss teams and Miami (8-0), which jumped Wisconsin after beating Virginia Tech this past Saturday.
Why are the Badgers not getting more love? Is it simply their weak strength of schedule?
“Well, there’s a lot more football to be played, but yes, it is Wisconsin’s schedule,” College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Obviously they run that system so well, but they haven’t been able to show what they can do against the best teams in the country.”
Wisconsin had a week non-conference slate, beating Utah State, FAU and BYU by a combined 130-30. That’s an average margin of victory of 33.3 points per game.
In the Big Ten, however, the Badgers have played noticeably tighter games – their average margin of victory is 17.5 points – and they haven’t played Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, or Michigan.
“The great thing about our committee is it’s not just about winning,” Hancock said. “The committee digs deeper. It’s about who you play to build a record.”
Hancock did say, though, that the Badgers’ margin of victory – or lack thereof – is not holding them back.
“The committee is prohibited from using margin of victory,” Hancock said, “but on other hand they’re able to see who wins convincingly. Wisconsin’s done what they’ve been asked. They’ve won their games. They just haven’t been able to show it against (elite teams). . . . It’s a nice team. Well coached, really good athletes. Heck, I saw them play against Nebraska, and I thought that night I was seeing a really good football team. But there are some really good football teams ahead of them in the rankings this week.”
Georgia (9-0), meanwhile, is ranked No. 1 over Alabama (9-0) for one main reason: the Bulldogs beat Notre Dame, 20-19, in South Bend in Week 2. The Irish, who are averaging 324.8 rushing yards per game, were held to 55 yards on 37 carries (1.5 yards per carry) that night.
“That’s the best single victory of the season so far,” Hancock said. “Notre Dame is obviously No. 3 in our rankings, and Georgia shut down the Notre Dame rushing game like no one else has all season. We’ve all seen Alabama. They’re really good. Oh my goodness. Both sides of the ball, great defense, the quarterback is playing really good, and they’ve won convincingly. But they don’t have anything on the resume like that Georgia victory over Notre Dame.”
As for the number of teams still alive for the playoff, Hancock didn’t give a hard number, but he did remind listeners that Ohio State was ranked 14th at this point in 2014. The Buckeyes wound up in the playoff and won the national title.
For the record, Michigan State (7-2), Ohio State (7-2), and Penn State (7-2) are ranked 12th through 14th, respectively, this week. Could any of those teams get back into the playoff mix?
Maybe, maybe not.
“You got to do your thing,” Hancock said, “but you got to see what happens with the teams around you.
Hancock added that he thinks a two-loss team will eventually make the playoff.
“I think it’ll happen,” he said. “Will it happen this year? Nobody knows. But I think it’ll happen eventually.”