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updated: 11/5/2017 1:29 PM

Big Ten's playoff hopes appear to be riding on Wisconsin

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  • Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor reacts to fans as he runs off the field following an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.

    Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor reacts to fans as he runs off the field following an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs past Indiana defensive back Jonathan Crawford (9) for a 32-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.

    Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs past Indiana defensive back Jonathan Crawford (9) for a 32-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst encourages his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.

    Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst encourages his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) throws while being pressured by Indiana's Chris Covington (4) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.

    Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) throws while being pressured by Indiana's Chris Covington (4) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 45-17.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs out of the tackle of Indiana's Chase Dutra (30) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind.

    Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs out of the tackle of Indiana's Chase Dutra (30) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Nov. 4, 2017, in Bloomington, Ind.
    Associated Press

  • Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, walks on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.

    Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, walks on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.
    Associated Press

  • Ohio State wide receiver C.J. Saunders (80) is tackled by Iowa linebacker Bo Bower (41) after making a reception during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.

    Ohio State wide receiver C.J. Saunders (80) is tackled by Iowa linebacker Bo Bower (41) after making a reception during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.
    Associated Press

  • Iowa fans celebrate on the field after an NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.

    Iowa fans celebrate on the field after an NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.
    Associated Press

  • Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) walk out of Spartan Stadium after an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 27-24.

    Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) walk out of Spartan Stadium after an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 27-24.
    Associated Press

  • Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) kneels after the team lost to Michigan State 27-24 in the closing seconds of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich.

    Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) kneels after the team lost to Michigan State 27-24 in the closing seconds of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich.
    Associated Press

  • Michigan State place kicker Matt Coghlin (4) looks towards holder Brian Lewerke after kicking the game winning field goal with seconds remaining to defeat Penn State 27-24 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich.

    Michigan State place kicker Matt Coghlin (4) looks towards holder Brian Lewerke after kicking the game winning field goal with seconds remaining to defeat Penn State 27-24 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Big Ten suddenly has a whole lot more riding on No. 6 Wisconsin.

As skeptics claim the unbeaten Badgers padded their record with a weak schedule and the College Football Playoff selection committee appears to be equally unimpressed, Wisconsin finds itself on a mission.

The league's playoff spot may depend on it.

With two of the conference's top teams losing for a second time Saturday, Wisconsin - which dropped two spots in The Associated Press college football poll despite a win - becomes the Big Ten's best hope of making college football's Final Four.

"This whole week we wanted to send our message and say that we're a really good team and people should respect us," fullback Alec Ingold said after scoring three touchdowns in the Badgers' 45-17 win at Indiana . "At halftime, we were kind of looking around at each other like, 'This is our chance.' We didn't start fast but we felt like we could definitely finish the way we wanted."

The Badgers can clinch the Big Ten West and a trip to the conference title game with a victory against No. 25 Iowa in Madison, Wisconsin, next Saturday.

They left nothing to chance against the Hoosiers, rallying from a 10-0 first-half deficit with 24 consecutive points before sealing the win by scoring the last 21.

It was good enough to get a win on the road - something Ohio State and Penn State, the expected national contenders, failed to do.

When the Buckeyes went down 55-24 at Iowa and the Nittany Lions fell 27-24 at Michigan State, Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0, CFP No. 9) became the last Big Ten team with fewer than two losses. Committee members have never put a two-loss team in the playoff.

The bizarre twists have also made the East Division a jumbled mess.

No. 13 Michigan State and No. 11 Ohio State head into next weekend's showdown in Columbus tied for the division lead at 5-1.

No. 16 Penn State and No. 21 Michigan are one game behind at 4-2. All are 7-2. The Nittany Lions are reeling after back-to-back losses to the Buckeyes and Spartans while the Wolverines' losses came to their in-state rival and Penn State.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany declined an interview request to talk about the Big Ten's postseason prospects Saturday night.

The big question is whether Wisconsin belongs in the championship conversation after playing no ranked teams and facing only two teams that currently have winning records.

"We can't really control that," quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. "We just have to control what we've got to control. It's each game. It's this game, and we're doing a good job so far."

The Badgers' 10-game winning streak is tied with Georgia for the second longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their 12 consecutive conference wins are a school record. They are one of five unbeaten FBS teams.

The defense is No. 5 nationally in points allowed, yards allowed, yards rushing allowed and sacks. It's No. 1 in pass efficiency allowed and defensive red-zone TD percentage.

Wisconsin has the Big Ten's top runner, Jonathan Taylor, and a veteran quarterback who showed Indiana he can make enough big plays to keep defenses honest.

While next weekend's game against the Hawkeyes looks much more intriguing now, Wisconsin may only get one or two more chances to really impress the selection committee. They host Michigan on Nov. 18 and then would likely get a ranked opponent in the Dec. 2 league championship game in Indianapolis. In between, there's a trip to Minnesota.

The Big Ten's other problem may be filling all 11 bowl spots. Right now, seven teams are bowl eligible and five are sitting at 4-5 with three games left and Indiana (3-6, 0-6) needs to win its final three to reach the postseason.

That won't help Wisconsin make its case either.

Winning out would. But if the Badgers have even the slightest stumble, the Big Ten could be shut out of the playoff for the first time.

"Everything will work itself out," Wisconsin safety Joe Ferguson said. "You can talk about the rankings or whatever. But I liked what (Alabama coach) Nick Saban said, they don't matter till the end really. We've just got to do our thing, do what we can control and hopefully just keep winning."

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More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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