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Will Wisconsin regret not keeping USF on its ’17 slate?

By Joey Knight
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst's undefeated team is only eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings. (AP photo)

Among the most debatable topics entering the season's final stretch is whether Wisconsin deserves a seat at the College Football Playoff, even if it wins out.

But here's something tantalizing to ponder: Perhaps no debate would exist had the Badgers kept USF on their 2017 schedule.

Though one of four undefeated Power Five programs entering Saturday's action, Wisconsin (9-0) is only eighth in the most recent CFP rankings. Its schedule strength is 68th in the Sagarin Ratings, and its home game today against Iowa will be only its second of the year against a current CFP top-25 program.

But had the Badgers defeated a seasoned, sleek AP top-25 program (USF) in Tampa, maybe questions about the Badgers' merit wouldn't linger.

And had the Bulls won, they'd likely by in the CFP top 25 today.

But as we've reported, Wisconsin requested to move its '17 return game against USF in Tampa to '19 (the teams played in Madison three seasons ago). As a result, the Badgers' non-conference slate consisted of BYU (3-8), FAU (6-3) and Utah State (5-5).

So did the schedule move backfire on the Badgers? Could it actually have hurt them more than the Bulls, who still control their New Year's Six destiny?

If Wisconsin wins out and misses the playoffs, it's a question that may (pardon the pun) badger its fans for years.