The University of Wisconsin football team has finally jumped into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Badgers (12-0) moved up one spot to No. 4 when ESPN released the latest poll Tuesday night, marking their first-ever appearance in the top four of the CFP rankings.
UW will play just one more game — Saturday’s Big Ten Championship against Ohio State in Indianapolis — before the playoff field is set via Sunday’s final rankings.
“It’s amazing. All year long, we talked about Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule,” ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said on the network’s CFP rankings release show. "We talked about their schedule, not having played anyone. And when it’s all said and done, if you’re in Wisconsin right now, you have what you want. You beat Ohio State, you’re in the playoffs."
Clemson overtook the top spot in the poll after both No. 1 Alabama and second-ranked Miami lost over the weekend. Auburn soared from No. 6 to No. 2 after taking down the Crimson Tide, while Oklahoma moved up one spot to No. 3.
Auburn jumped UW with its big move, but both Alabama and Miami fell behind the Badgers.
UW, now the only undefeated Power Five Conference team remaining, opened at No. 9 when the first rankings were released Oct. 31. Their soft schedule held the Badgers back from a top-four ranking for some time, but they’ve played their best football the past three weeks and have finally done enough to be included in the top four.
“It’s kind of outside noise,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said of the talk surrounding the Badgers’ CFP ranking. "We put ourselves in a good position. We’ve done everything we’ve had to up to this point."
A long-shot scenario existed Tuesday in which Auburn would jump over the Badgers and the Crimson Tide would also remain ahead of UW. In that hypothetical, the Badgers would have remained fifth and still been in danger of missing the playoff field with a win Saturday.
According to CFP selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt, Alabama didn’t receive much, if any, consideration to stay ahead of UW.
“We did believe this week that we’ve got the top four teams identified,” Hocutt said on the show. "This week, there were a clear-cut top four teams in the country with the selection committee’s discussion."
Fifth-ranked Alabama will not play in the SEC Championship on Saturday, putting UW in no danger of missing the playoffs with a 13-0 record.
The Badgers can now focus solely on eighth-ranked Ohio State. After weeks filled with complicated scenarios and what-ifs, their playoff outlook couldn’t be more simple heading into the final week — win and they’re in.
“Our focus is just on this game,” UW tight end Troy Fumagalli said Monday. "I think the guys in that room, they understand that if we take care of this game, everything takes care of itself."
The final College Football Playoff rankings will be released Sunday at 11 a.m.