With only three weeks to go in the 2021 college football regular season, teams around the country have a mostly clear idea of where they stack up. However, that wasn't the case for every program just a few Saturdays ago.
Plenty of schools have turned their seasons around over the last few weeks, but one in particular stood out to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit: Wisconsin.
The Badgers (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) started out 1-3 after opening the year in the AP Top 25. Early losses to Penn State and Michigan set Paul Chryst's program back in conference play and made the road ahead that much more difficult.
But Wisconsin turned things around quickly and hasn't lost since Oct. 2. The Badgers have rattled off five straight wins, including four in conference by a margin of 110 points. They've since vaulted into a four-way tie for the lead in the Big Ten West.
Herbstreit has been extremely impressed by the Badgers in all facets of the game for the past few weeks. He praised the team's defense, and resiliency after being "left for dead", on the latest episode of ESPN's College Football Podcast.
Here's Herbstreit's full comments on Wisconsin, per 247Sports.
"Wisconsin was left for dead ... They didn't have an identity. Their best identity on offense was to maybe punt on first down after the first four weeks. They were turning the ball over. They didn't have a quarterback that was playing with any confidence, and to the credit of their coach, because think about today's day and age, says a lot about the character on that football team to be 1-3 — Wisconsin has top-10 aspirations. You go to practice you're 1-3 fresh off back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Michigan, your season's gone for all intents and purposes as far as your goals.
"And they start chipping away. And you figure out you know what we're gonna do? We're done throwing the ball and turning it over. We're gonna rely on Jimmy Leonhard and one of the best defenses in the country. We're gonna run it every play, and we're not going to turn it over, and let's punt and let's just be smart. And they've grown obviously. They're throwing it a little bit, but it's still defense, special teams, field position, run the ball, don't turn it over. And they have won five straight games by doing that. And looked good doing it.
"Now all of a sudden you take that 1-3 team, now you have a confident team that has Northwestern, they have Nebraska, both at home, they go to Minnesota very strong chance they finish this thing out by winning eight straight going into Indianapolis and playing in the Big Ten championship. It's just a credit to that program, to Paul Chryst, to the players, the type of kids he recruits for them not to throw in their hat, and give up on the season and just kind of keep pounding that rock. And it's gonna pay off for 'em because, like you said, they've got that identity. Gonna be tough to beat for any of these remaining games they have left on their schedule."
Wisconsin has three games left and has a strong chance to win all three. The Badgers will take on Northwestern at home this Saturday, Nebraska at home on Nov. 20 and Minnesota on the road on Nov. 27.
If Chryst can take care of business over the next three weeks, Wisconsin will have a good chance to compete for a Big Ten title in December.