Wisconsin Football’s stock is up in this week’s AP Top 25 rankings.
All College Football Playoff hopes may be gone, but Wisconsin still has plenty to play for this season. The Badgers desperately needed to get back on track and blow out a bad Illinois squad on Saturday after their ugly showing against Michigan.
It wasn’t exactly a masterful performance across the board, but Wisconsin overcame the wild weather conditions and took out Illinois in convincing fashion, with a final score of 49-20.
Thanks in part to losses by a few programs that had been ranked higher than the Badgers last week, the AP voters made the move the bring Wisconsin up three spots from No. 23 to No. 20 in this week’s rankings.
With the victory, Wisconsin still has a path to a Big Ten West title and a trip to Indianapolis for the conference championship, but it will by no means be an easy one. Division rival Iowa is looking dangerous right now, and the Badgers have some very tough contests coming up. It begins this week with a showdown with a solid Northwestern squad in Evanston, where Wisconsin always seems to struggle mightily. The Wildcats currently lead the Badgers by a half game in the West division.
Elsewhere in the AP rankings, Michigan moved up one spot from No. 6 to No. 5 after taking down Michigan State 21-7 in East Lansing. Jim Harbaugh has struggled against the Wolverines’ two biggest rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State, throughout his tenure, and he desperately needed this victory, otherwise, Michigan fans may have started calling for his head. The Wolverines, who have a bye this weekend, will now have two weeks to prepare for a showdown with Penn State in Ann Arbor, with that matchup against Ohio State looming the week after.
Ohio State unsurprisingly plummeted from No. 2 all the way down to No. 11 after a shocking 49-20 defeat at the hands of Purdue. The Buckeyes were uncharacteristically abysmal on the ground and rushed for just 76 total yards on 25 carries, which forced Dwayne Haskins to throw a whopping 73 passes. Ohio State did not even score a touchdown until the fourth quarter in what was one of the program’s ugliest performances in recent memory.
Don’t count the Buckeyes out of the Playoff picture yet, though. The loss to Purdue is reminiscent of Ohio State’s blowout defeat at Iowa last season, a setback that, while embarrassing, was not enough to keep the Buckeyes from ultimately earning a Playoff berth.
They will have a bye this week before facing a Nebraska team on November 3rd that is flying high after earning its first victory of the season against Minnesota.
Penn State moved up one spot to No. 17 after snapping a two-game losing streak with a tight 33-28 win over a pesky Indiana team. Credit the Nittany Lions for coming out on top of what looked like a potential trap game, but they now enter the toughest part of their schedule. It starts next week with a home game against red-hot Iowa, which will then be followed with matchups against Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Hawkeyes also climbed up one more spot this week, going from No. 19 to No. 18 after a 23-0 beatdown over Maryland. Iowa has really turned a corner in the three weeks since the loss to Wisconsin, winning its last three games in convincing fashion. The showdown with Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday will be one of the most anticipated games of the weekend, with massive implications for the seasons of both squads.
The Nittany Lions may be out of the Playoff picture with their two losses, but if the one-loss Hawkeyes can manage to come out with a win this weekend, they will have a legitimate shot to get there. Iowa will likely be favored in each of its last four games, though the matchup with Illinois is really the only one that could be considered a layup at this point.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com