COLUMN: Undefeated Big Ten champion should not have to sweat out CFP spot

Wisconsin Badgers safety Joe Ferguson (8) celebrates his fumble recovery after official review during an NCAA college football game against Indiana on Nov. 4. (M.P. King/AP Photo)

Wisconsin Badgers safety Joe Ferguson (8) celebrates his fumble recovery after official review during an NCAA college football game against Indiana on Nov. 4. (M.P. King/AP Photo)

The college football season in coming down to the wire, and Wisconsin is getting nervous.

The highest-ranked and only remaining undefeated team in the Big Ten is currently ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff Rankings, which means that if the season ended today, they would be out of luck in their quest for a national championship.

The good news for both the Badgers and the rest of the conference is, the season will not end today.

The knock on Wisconsin has been their relatively weak strength of schedule, which is a somewhat fair point. The Badgers have had the good fortune (or bad fortune, depending on how the CFP plays out) of not having any the top three teams in the East Division, Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State, on their schedule.

And that will change when the Badgers, who have already clinched a spot, play in the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 2.

They will also get a boost this weekend if they survive an upset bid by Michigan, currently 24th in the CFP rankings.

But it really should not be in any doubt. There is no way that an undefeated Big Ten champion should have to sweat out a place in the top four in the country, for a couple of reasons.

First, just because the Big Ten is arguably the strongest football league, top to bottom, in the country. Three of the top ten teams in the CFP rankings are from the Big Ten. And a team should not be punished because of a league schedule over which they have no control.

Could Wisconsin have scheduled stronger non-conference opponents? Sure. But they’re sort of blameless here too. One of their non-conference games was at BYU, which is a woeful 3-8 at the moment, but is coming off two straight 9-win seasons. When the game was scheduled, BYU away was not exactly a cupcake.

Florida Atlantic won’t bring shivers to larger opponents, but they are 7-3 in the mid-major Conference USA, so that game wasn’t all that unreasonable either.

Second, all this speculation should be rendered a thing of the past with an 8-team national championship playoff which would include the champions of the Power Five conferences and three wild card teams.

Polls, rankings, opinions, statistics would be rendered meaningless with the 8-team playoff, and rightly so. Every team in the country would be able to eliminate all doubt by simply earning a spot in the playoff on the field.

Undefeated schools not a member of one of the Power Five conferences, which are the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, would have priority for one of the three wild card spots. They would also leave a space for the occasional massive upset in a conference championship game.

It would not be totally without controversy, but it would virtually eliminate the possibility of a deserving team not having a chance at a national championship. If you’re arguing about whether or not you’re the eighth- or ninth-best team in the country, you have no claim on the top spot in the land.

As Wisconsin is demonstrating right now, that is not the case for fourth and fifth.


Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or

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