Northwestern won’t win the College Football Playoff National Championship this season, nor will Wisconsin. The Badgers, however, have a chance at the College Football Playoff. Northwestern doesn’t.
In clicking this article, you did so while iterating some version of those two statements of fact to yourself. While the inclusion of Northwestern and Wisconsin in national championship odds isn’t as headline-grabbing as the inclusion of Jimbo Fisher in last year’s odds to replace Willie Taggart as Florida State head coach or Georgia Southern in this year’s national championship odds, it’s still a down-ballot lottery-ticket wager.
Entering Week 11, the final week before the first College Football Playoff Rankings, Northwestern and Wisconsin are two of 22 undefeated teams in the FBS, though that list includes several teams who’ve played one game, among them Wisconsin. After walloping Illinois in the Week 8 season opener, a COVID outbreak canceled the Badgers’ next two games and left them teetering on the brink of Big Ten elimination as the conference requires a minimum of six games to appear in the Big Ten Championship.
Despite the cancellations and only five remaining regular-season games, Wisconsin is a real playoff contender and ranks 13th for national championship odds (+12500) per BetMGM. At +10000, Northwestern is among the four teams tied for 11th directly above the Badgers. Through three games, the Wildcats have already matched last year’s win total (3-9) and enter Saturday’s game against Purdue in sole possession of first place in the Big West. Ohio State (+225) and Indiana (+8000) are the only teams with better odds than Northwestern, who walloped an apparently good (?) Maryland team in the opener before squeaking past Iowa and a horrendous Nebraska team.
They’ll meet in Madison in Week 12.