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College Football Expert: This Team Could Be Next To Make First College Football Playoff

A view of Wisconsin's Camp Randall from midfield.

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: A general view of Camp Randall Stadium as the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Oregon State Beavers at on September 10, 2011 in Madison Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Oregon State 35-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Through four years of the College Football Playoff, nine different programs have made the field. Alabama has made the four-team playoff in each of the four seasons that it has been in place. They're followed by Clemson, which has represented the ACC in the last three Playoffs, and Ohio State and Oklahoma, which have made two Playoff fields each.

After that, five programs have made one Playoff field each: Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State, Oregon, and Washington. Each of the four years of the College Football Playoff have featured at least one new team. While I could definitely see the 2018 Playoff consisting of four of those nine schools above, there's at least a good shot that a new school will break in once again.

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples was asked about which schools could be the next to break through. The fan submitting the question to Staples' mailbag column, asking if one of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Stanford, LSU, Texas, and UCLA could crash the party in the next five years.

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The team from that group that Staples seems to like the most for the next College Football Playoff debut: Wisconsin.

He even thinks the Badgers could make the Playoff field this year. From the column:

One of those might make the playoff this year, and it’s Wisconsin. This could be the best Badgers team of this recent run of success. All five starting offensive linemen return. Jonathan Taylor will be trying to top a true freshman season that featured 1,977 rushing yards (6.6 yards a carry!) and 13 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, this could be the most athletic group of receivers Wisconsin has had.

[...]

Wisconsin’s problem is that it isn’t as athletic across the board as Ohio State, Penn State and (maybe) Michigan. You saw the Buckeyes exploit that in last year’s Big Ten title game. But the Badgers usually compensate for this by being exactly where they’re supposed to be on nearly every defensive down. Against Ohio State last year, the Badgers couldn’t cover the occasional mental lapse with sheer physical superiority, but they still played well enough to be in a competitive game in the fourth quarter even though nearly every player on the opposing team was ranked higher as a recruit than his Wisconsin counterpart.

So if Wisconsin is even slightly more athletic this year, the Badgers absolutely are a playoff contender.

Wisconsin has been in position to make the field before. Last year, the Badgers finished sixth in the rankings, behind conference-mate Ohio State, which defeated it in the Big Ten title game.

With a Big Ten Championship, the Badgers would have been undefeated, and a cinch to make the playoff ahead of Alabama, which wound up jumping Wisconsin after the Big Ten title loss. Alabama rode the four-seed to a national championship, beating Clemson in the semifinal and Georgia for the national championship.

The Badgers return the core of a solid offense, and always fields a very good defense. As Staples notes, the Badgers may not have the same athleticism as some of the top teams, but they run their system about as well as anyone.

[Sports Illustrated]