Wisconsin comes in at No. 21 in initial CFP rankings

The Wisconsin football team’s hope of making a run to the College Football Playoff likely ended on the turf at Soldier Field in a blowout loss to Notre Dame in late September. If that did not extinguish the possibility, another underwhelming effort the following week against Michigan certainly did.

Yet when the playoff selection committee revealed the first rankings of the season Tuesday, there the Badgers were at No. 21 — the second-highest ranked 3-loss team. Under no scenario will Wisconsin find itself among the top four at the end of the season, but the ranking is a recognition of what the team has accomplished since getting housed by the Wolverines.

The Badgers have won four straight games, including back-to-back wins over teams ranked in the AP Top 25, the latest being last week’s dominating 27-7 win over then-No. 9 Iowa. The winning streak has them sitting a game back of Minnesota in the Big Ten West and clearly in contention for a fourth division title in Paul Chryst’s seven years as coach.

Wisconsin’s ranking is also a boon for the likes of the Wolverines and Fighting Irish. At 7-1, Michigan comes in at No. 7 in the first rankings, while 7-1 Notre Dame is at No. 10. The only losses for the two teams are to opponents — Michigan State and Cincinnati — that are ranked ahead of them at this point. Those are good losses, but the committee also pointed to the wins over Wisconsin — the only top-25 victories for either team — as signature wins.

The Badgers could very well play a pivotal role down the stretch for those two teams, along with Ohio State or Michigan State. If Wisconsin wins out, including a victory over a Minnesota team ranked No. 20 in the initial poll, the team will likely face the Buckeyes or Spartans in the Big Ten title game. For a one-loss Ohio State team, a win over what would be a 9-3 Badgers squad could make all the difference in the committee’s mind when comparing teams on selection day.