For a team sitting at No. 5 in both the Coaches and AP Poll, the way Wisconsin is talked about (or not talked about) you would think their inclusion is a typo. Even teams sitting below the Badgers like Miami and Notre Dame have drawn praise for their rapid turnarounds.
Heading into Week 9, Wisconsin is ranked 24th in the country in total points per game with 36.6. This puts them third in total scoring in the Big Ten behind Penn State and Ohio State. The Badgers performance is not one sided as Wisconsin ranks fifth in college football in points allowed with 13.3 points.
How is Wisconsin having success? It’s no surprise the Badgers have a running back that is absolutely crushing it. Freshman Jonathan Taylor has already rushed for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns, which puts him third among running backs for total rushing yards. Taylor has rushed for 200 or more yards in three of his seven games this season. The Badgers are more than just their rushing attack.
Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown for 1,435 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. These are not record-breaking stats, but Hornibrook does just enough to make the passing offense a legit threat to go with their lethal rushing attack.
In SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ analytical rankings, the Badgers also perform well coming in at No. 7. So, if all the metrics are favorable for Wisconsin, why can’t Bucky get any love?
Wisconsin’s fatal flaw is its schedule which has prevented the Badgers from having a signature game to showcase their team. Wisconsin is 7-0, but their biggest wins are against Nebraska, Maryland and Purdue. To be clear, Wisconsin has not had a difficult schedule. What’s important to remember when assessing a team is just because a team has not had the opportunity to play an elite opponent, it does not take away from the quality of the team itself.
What you need to know is Wisconsin is not going anywhere. Here are the five remaining games for the Badgers: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota. Wisconsin will be favored in at least four of those games, and likely against Michigan with the way the Wolverines offense has looked.
More important than Wisconsin’s manageable schedule, the Badgers are in a weak Big Ten West division, and have a two-game lead on the field. It would take a meltdown of epic proportions for the Badgers not to play in the Big Ten championship game on December 2.
Wisconsin is going to stay in the College Football Playoff picture until the end of the regular season. Even if the Badgers stumble against Indiana or Michigan, Wisconsin would likely take on Penn State, Ohio State or Michigan State in the title game. A one-loss Wisconsin team that wins the Big Ten, what many consider the best conference in college football, has a very good chance to make the playoff.
There is still plenty of time for Wisconsin to prove or disprove they belong among the top teams in the country. For now, put some respect on Wisconsin’s name.