Of all the teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, no team will be watched more closely, perhaps, that No. 8 Wisconsin (9-0). The Badgers are unbeaten but haven’t gotten much respect from the committee due to strength of schedule. Even No. 7 Miami (8-0) is slotted behind four one-loss teams, but Miami has a chance to play itself into the top four.
Wisconsin? Maybe not.
“You got to think that the winner of the Clemson/Miami game is secure if Miami keeps winning,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “So I think they should be okay. But I’ve heard people talk about Wisconsin controlling its own destiny, and I personally don’t see that based on what the committee has provided us so far. Everyone is just assuming, ‘Hey, they’re in the Big Ten, Power 5, they’re undefeated, no-brainer, they’re in.'”
Well, not quite.
“What if Alabama runs the table?” Herbstreit asked. “What if Notre Dame runs the table? What if Clemson runs the table? What if Oklahoma or TCU (runs the table)? All these teams are ahead of Wisconsin currently. If that ends up happening, Wisconsin, if they finish 13-0, could be left out of getting into the playoff. That’s the team I’m really curious to see what happens to them because I personally think they need some help to be able to get up to the top four.”
Still, Wisconsin is likely the Big Ten’s best chance at a playoff representative, as No. 13 Ohio State (7-2) and No. 14 Penn State (7-2) lost at No. 12 Michigan State (7-2) and No. 20 Iowa (6-3), respectively, last weekend. Even if the Buckeyes win out and claim a Big Ten championship, Herbstreit doesn’t see his alma mater making the playoff.
“Yeah, I think they would be (left out) – unless there’s just carnage up ahead of them where crazy things happen,” Herbstreit said. “I think if there’s a two-loss team that still has a chance, it has to be Auburn sitting at 10. They’re the highest-ranked of the two-loss teams. Everybody’s kind of assuming Georgia and Alabama are just going to win out and play unbeaten sitting there at 1 and 2 in Atlanta, and what if it’s a close game? Could they both end up getting in? And meanwhile, there’s Auburn sitting there as a top-10 team. They’re not 3-6. They’re sitting there at 7-2 and played Clemson early in the year very close in Death Valley. They’re probably kicking themselves about the way they lost to LSU.”
Auburn lost 14-6 at Clemson on Sept. 9 and squandered a 20-0 lead at LSU on Oct. 14, losing 27-23. Still, Auburn isn’t out of it. The Tigers host No. 1 Georgia (9-0) this Saturday and host No. 2 Alabama (9-0) in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.
“You guys know how tough it is to go to Jordan-Hare,” Herbstreit said. “So I would say if there’s a two-loss team that has a shot to navigate their way up if they keep winning, I think it would be Auburn of any potential two-loss team. Ohio State, the image of 55-24 would be sticking, I’m sure, in the committee’s mind. They didn’t just stumble at Iowa City. They got blown out and embarrassed. Those are the kind of things that stick on the minds of the committee based on what they’ve told us the three previous years.”