When the Wisconsin Badgers came in at No. 9 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2017 season, shock and outrage rang out through the Badgers fanbase. How could an undefeated team, one of just five left in the country, out of the Big Ten get that disrespected?
The committee pointed to Wisconsin’s lack of a quality win and a weak strength of schedule. Sitting with the 69th best schedule in the country certainly wasn’t helpful.
But, while the fanbase was in an uproar, those that play the games on Saturday’s in the fall likely don’t care about what the pundits and rankings in October have to say.
According to Badger Nation’s Ben Worgull, UW players have taken a very obvious stance that they don’t care about any of it.
“I won’t see it (the College Football Playoff rankings),” left tackle Michael Deiter said. “I’ll ignore it. And it’s not like it is a conscious thing to make sure I don’t see it. It’s just not something right now I’m worried about. We have Indiana this week. It’s a plain answer but it’s the way you stay successful.”
Fellow veteran, inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, had much the same stance.
“I think it’s something more for you guys,” Edwards said to the media on Monday. “Around here, we’re just focused on what’s going on next week.”
The problem with that is the Big Ten hasn’t exactly set the Badgers up for success in that regard either. Up next for the Badgers is a date with Indiana, who are struggling to get to bowl eligibility, and then dates with struggling programs like Iowa and Minnesota.
Even the game everyone had circled as massively important, Michigan, doesn’t have as much to it thanks to the Wolverines struggles in big games to date.
So, what exactly are the Badgers going to be able to do about how the committee views them?
The answer lies in the very attitude they are taking — focus on the week in front of them.
As the Badgers keep winning, the committee is going to have no choice but to respect them more and more. Get to Indianapolis and take on the champion of the East, win over a likely higher ranked Ohio State or Penn State and force the committee to respect you.
In the end, the Badgers can only control what is put in front of them on the schedule. Win out and there isn’t much else any team in the country can do to impress the College Football Playoff committee. If anything, the beef lies with the Big Ten schedulers who gave the Badgers crap out of the East division a year after making the Badgers run the gauntlet that was Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State.
Perhaps a little bit of balance in scheduling is in order?
Let’s also remember that since the inception of the College Football Playoff, just four teams who ranked in the initial top 4 of that season ended up in the College Football Playoff at the end of it all.
There’s still plenty of football to be played and the perceived disrespect of yesterday’s rankings will either be proven out to be true or not by the end. Luckily, the Badgers have a lot of say over how that ending is written.
13-0 and Big Ten champions certainly would be hard for the College Football Playoff committee to ignore. Let’s see if Wisconsin can complete that challenge, but until then expect the fans to embrace the disrespect on paper and for the players to continue to focus on the game in front of them.