A funny thing happened in the Big Ten on Saturday night. No. 9 Wisconsin won on the road against Nebraska by 21 points and you barely even noticed unless you are a Wisconsin or Nebraska fan. It was understandable given how well Wisconsin has been playing and how poorly Nebraska has played, and it also went up against another primetime game in the Big Ten on ABC instead of on Big Ten Network.
That other game just so happened to pack a little more drama and create a bit more intrigue in the Big Ten East with Michigan State scoring a hard-fought upset in Michigan Stadium against No. 7 Michigan.
While much of the reaction to this particular game will likely focus on the continued downfall of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at a pivotal time for the football program in Lincoln, the time to shift gears and start analyzing Wisconsin as a Big Ten contender and possible College Football Playoff contender is no longer on the backburner.
On the same night Michigan took a stumble in Ann Arbor and hours after Oklahoma took a loss at home against Iowa State, the Badgers ran all over Nebraska on the road for what should be a pivotal game in the Big Ten West Division standings. Just look around at the rest of the Big Ten West after Saturday’s results:
- Northwestern lost at home to Penn State, a week after losing to the Badgers
- Iowa beat Illinois, but the Hawkeyes already have two losses in conference play
- Minnesota dropped to 0-2 in Big Ten play with a loss at Purdue
And now, Wisconsin has a head-to-head tiebreaker against Nebraska just in case that comes in play down the line. It shouldn’t, not with Wisconsin’s remaining schedule this season.
Here’s Wisconsin’s remaining schedule. Which game do you see Wisconsin losing? Michigan may still be tricky, but it’s at home. pic.twitter.com/uatoB53iyS
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) October 8, 2017
Wisconsin is now very much in play for a 12-0 regular season, which most certainly means they should be in the College Football Playoff conversation until proven otherwise. And the schedule is incredibly favorable to them the rest of the way. Purdue is the next opponent for the Badgers. Jeff Brohm is the easy pick for Big Ten Coach of the Year in my book, and the Boilermakers are playing better this season, but going to Madison and putting up a fight against a Wisconsin team that can run the ball down your throat is not a matchup that Purdue is ready to take on just yet.
Maryland continues to struggle on the road in Big Ten play with a depleted roster (they lost at Ohio State 62-14 on Saturday). Wisconsin should have fairly easy times on the road against Illinois and Indiana, and Rutgers putting up any fight on the road in Camp Randall Stadium would be a surprise. And then come Iowa and Michigan at home. We watched Iowa push Penn State to the limit, but the Hawkeyes will be coming off a game against Ohio State the previous week and don’t have the durability to push Wisconsin around. And Michigan’s defense may still be among the best in the Big Ten, but that offense is incredibly rough to watch.
Everything seems to favor Wisconsin the rest of the way to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game for a second straight season and fifth time in the seven-year history of the Big Ten Championship Game. We won’t focus on the what-if scenarios in a one-game, winner-take-all Big Ten Championship Game against Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, or Michigan at this point in time, but if the Badgers are 12-0, they will be very aware of what the stakes may hold. There would be much more on the line than just a Big Ten title.
Now is the time to start compiling your list of contenders and pretenders. If you choose to ignore Wisconsin based on their not having played a single ranked opponent this season, that is fair, but Wisconsin is still going out on the field and kicking butt week in and week out, and that commands our attention.
Wisconsin is getting close to going 12-0, so get ready for it.