Mondays with Rasty: Playoff scenarios practically limitless

The Badgers lost a heartbreaker in Indianapolis, but will still play in a New Year's Six Bowl. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

For a second straight week, I’ll take most of this time to discuss the bigger picture of Wisconsin’s season rather than focus heavily on the most recent game.

The Badgers’ 49-20 victory was exactly what you’d hope to see out of a team that’s fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff against a significantly inferior opponent. Wisconsin dominated after a slow start, led by another tremendous performance from its defense. The Badgers picked off Purdue quarterback David Blough three times on the afternoon, including a pick-six courtesy of T.J. Watt.

Meanwhile, the offense was once again serviceable without being phenomenal. Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston combined to go 12-of-15 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. In the backfield, Corey Clement ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries while Bradrick Shaw added 68 yards and two touchdowns on only two rushes. Purdue is obviously not a good team and the UW defense gave the offense great field position all game long, so anything less would’ve been disappointing.

A 29-point victory over the Boilermakers is about as surprising as finding out that Purdue Pete is a serial killer. Once again, the real interest is the bigger picture.

Houston’s blowout victory over Louisville all but eliminated Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals from Playoff contention. From a Wisconsin perspective, that means one less bubble team in the discussion should the Badgers beat Minnesota and win the Big Ten Championship Game. However, in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t that big of a deal, as Louisville needed some help if it was going to be included in the playoff anyway. Regardless of the Cardinals’ loss, the CFP committee’s nightmare scenario remains in play.

At this point, Alabama is essentially a lock to make the final four barring losses to Auburn and Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Clemson is in good shape and will be a lock if it beats South Carolina and wins the ACC Championship Game. Where things get interesting is the fight for the last two spots.

Washington’s résumé isn’t perfect right now, but the Huskies get a tough test against Washington State this Friday and would then face either Colorado or USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It won’t be a lock regardless of what happens, but a 13-1 Washington team would probably make it. But one scenario where things get fuzzy for them and the committee is if Ohio State beats Michigan to finish the regular season at 11-1 and Wisconsin or Penn State then wins the Big Ten Championship Game to finish at 11-2.

The scenario is then Washington, Ohio State and an 11-2 Big Ten champion all competing for two spots. Personally, I think the Huskies would be in the Playoff under these circumstances, which would mean the final spot comes down to two Big Ten teams.

On one hand, Ohio State would have a résumé essentially unparalleled (outside of Alabama) in the country with wins over Oklahoma and Michigan. However, the Buckeyes still wouldn’t have won their division due to a loss, fluky or not, to Penn State. That head-to-head win would probably make it tough for the committee to put Ohio State in over the Nittany Lions. The same could obviously not be said for Wisconsin.

The Badgers may have a better overall résumé than Penn State, but their overtime loss to the Buckeyes makes things interesting. Ohio State wouldn’t have a conference title, but the Buckeyes look like a better team than Wisconsin and would, in some respects, be punished for playing in a tougher division if they are left out.

On the other hand, is the committee willing to leave out the Badgers if they’re sitting at 11-2 and had just won arguably the best conference in college football this season? Personally, I’d probably lean toward giving the spot to Ohio State. It’s an extremely tough choice for the committee, but one that they could very well face in the coming weeks.

If this scenario plays out, the only thing that we can say definitively is that one fan base is going to be righteously pissed off.

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