Author: Quinn Lynch
It’s no secret that the Wisconsin Badgers football team is out of contention for the College Football Playoff. A two-loss team has never been to the playoff and this year likely won’t be the first occasion, what with all the talented teams fighting for the top four spots. While it’s disappointing that the Badgers were unable to live up to the preseason hype, there’s more to being a sports fan than what is in the win-loss columns. There’s still plenty to love about this team, plenty of stories to follow, and plenty of fun to be had in the back nine of the 2018 season.
Wisconsin still has to defend Paul Bunyan’s Axe
Wisconsin already won the Heartland Trophy in their 28-17 win against Iowa and the Freedom Trophy in a 41-24 victory over Nebraska. Of course, the most important trophy in Wisconsin football history is Paul Bunyan’s Axe, obtained in defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Wisconsin hasn’t lost to Minnesota since 2003, when Barry Alvarez was head coach. Overall, the Badgers are 60-59-8 against the Golden Gophers and have won the matchup by more than a possession in each of the last eight meetings.
Paul Chryst’s Badgers defeated P.J. Fleck’s Gophers last season in a 31-0 shutout. Jonathan Taylor rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown while the defense gave up only 133 total yards to Minnesota’s offense. This season, the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe comes back to Camp Randall. Regardless of time or place, the goal is the same: BEAT MINNESOTA.
Wisconsin still controls their destiny in the Big Ten West and can still compete for a Big Ten Championship
As of right now, the Badgers sit at second place in the Big Ten West – Northwestern leads the division, but they’ve played one more game than Wisconsin. The only real threat to the Badgers is Iowa. Yes, the Wildcats are in first place, but they have to play
Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Iowa back-to-back-to-back – if they come out of that with even one win, we can take them seriously. As for the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin currently has the head-to-head tiebreaker against them, all the Badgers need to do is keep pace. The Badgers will have an opportunity to get the head-to-head tiebreaker against Northwestern on October 27.
The point is: if Wisconsin wins out, they’re back in the Big Ten Championship representing the West for a third straight year. Therefore, while the Badgers can’t contend for a national championship, they can still chase a Big Ten title (and a Rose Bowl berth).
Jonathan Taylor is still in pursuit of a Heisman trophy
If you’ve watched Wisconsin football at all in the last season and a half, you don’t need me to tell you how special Jonathan Taylor has been. In case you haven’t, here’s a tidbit for you: In rushing yards (950 yards) and rushing yards per game (158.3 yards), Jonathan Taylor is second in the FBS to only Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who has 1,113 rushing yards in seven games (averaging 161.9 rushing yards per game).
As of right now, Jonathan Taylor is in the top-10 for the Heisman trophy voting projections as of the ESPN Experts’ Poll, for a reference. He has some stiff competition, including Darrell Henderson, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, and Clemson running back Travis Etienne. Last season, Taylor finished sixth in Heisman voting while receiving two first-place votes. It’ll be a long, uphill climb, and one Badgers fans should be excited to watch.
Wisconsin can play spoiler to the Big Ten East
Who doesn’t love watching the other members of the Big Ten be miserable? The best chance for a Big Ten team to make the College Football Playoff lies in the Big Ten East. No. 2 Ohio State is 7-0 with two top-15 wins against TCU and Penn State while No. 6 Michigan has a “good” loss to Notre Dame and a win over No. 15 Wisconsin. At the end of the day, Ohio State and Michigan will compete in the last weekend of the regular season to ultimately decide who will represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship. If Wisconsin wins out and represents the Big Ten West in the conference championship, they have a good chance to keep the other team out of the College Football Playoff. A loss in the conference championship to a two-loss team would be damning in the eyes of the committee, and righteous in the eyes of Wisconsin football fans.