ASU vs. Wisconsin: How this game affects the national rankings

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Would a win push the Sun Devils into the Top 20? How high can Wisconsin climb if the Badgers pull off a victory? Let's find out.

We're just three weeks into the college football season and we can already thank the USC Trojans and Oregon State Beavers for rendering the AP Preseason Poll useless.

Everyone knows about the Trojans' demise and the Beavers' flop has fallen under the radar. Let's not get caught up in the teams that fall. We know Saturday night's game is all about teams that have the opportunity to rise.

The Arizona State-Wisconsin matchup is attractive for many reasons. This game will finally force East Coast pollsters to brew a late-night pot of coffee and actually pay attention to teams playing out west.

Maybe enough important folks will watch this game that they'll realize that Arizona State and Arizona are two completely different schools?

The Badgers come in ranked No. 20 in the week three AP poll while the Sun Devils remain unranked. Arizona State received the most votes (64) of any team outside the top 25. How will this week's game shake up the polls? Let's take a look at the scenarios.

A Sun Devil Win

Arizona State guarantees itself a top 25 ranking with a 'W' on Saturday night. The only question is how high the Sun Devils will climb in their first appearance in the poll this year.

No. 24 Texas Christian is on its way out after a loss to Texas Tech and No. 23 Nebraska could be old news with a loss against No. 16 UCLA. No. 25 Ole Miss is battling Texas and even with the Longhorns' collapse against BYU, they still have the talent to pull off an "upset."

Because the Sun Devils are playing a ranked opponent, they wouldn't just slide right into the polls. A convincing win (14+ points) against a highly regarded Wisconsin team could push the Sun Devils as high as the 18th or 19th spot. A narrow victory would likely slot the Sun Devils around the 22nd or 23rd place in the polls.

The bottom line is that the Sun Devils will be ranked for the first time in the Todd Graham era with a victory.

A Badger Loss

Sitting at No. 20 puts the Badgers in a precarious position. Most teams that lose at No. 20 to an unranked team would fall out of the polls. If the Badgers keep it close, that may not happen.

The three teams between No. 23 and No. 25 are all facing stiff challenges and it's not like the Badgers would be losing to a bad opponent. The Sun Devils are thought of by 64 pollsters as a top 25 team already, so don't be surprised if the Badgers hang in around the 24th or 25th spot even with a loss.

A Badger Win

This is where things get interesting. The Badgers are playing on the road in a hostile environment. Bonus points for being two time zones away from Madison. A convincing Badgers' win might be enough to push them into the top 15, but it doesn't seem like enough teams ahead of them will lose.

The Badgers could easily jump No. 19 Washington and No. 18 Florida with a win, but unless No. 17 Northwestern is upset by Eastern Michigan, it's tough to see much movement. No. 16 UCLA losing to No. 23 Nebraska would help, but a big Huskers' win could catapult them over the Badgers. No. 15 Miami is idle and the pollsters don't forget victories over Florida easily.

A Sun Devil Loss

Here comes the most simple explanation. Arizona State will not be ranked if it loses to Wisconsin. Even an exceptionally close loss in a hard-fought game wouldn't do the trick. If Wisconsin was a top 15 opponent, it might help, but even that's a stretch.

This will be the Sun Devils' best chance to break into the polls for three weeks. If they can't beat Wisconsin, good luck against Stanford. Even with a win over USC, a 2-2 record doesn't look good to any voter. The Sun Devils will then have to wait until their showdown with Notre Dame in Dallas for another shot at a national ranking. And that's a long time to wait.

Rank Team Record Votes Previous
1 Alabama (57) 1-0 1,494 1
2 Oregon (1) 2-0 1,385 2
3 Clemson (1) 2-0 1,332 4
4 Ohio State (1) 2-0 1,327 3
5 Stanford 1-0 1,271 5
6 Texas A&M 2-0 1,133 7
7 Louisville 2-0 1,105 8
8 LSU 2-0 1,075 9
9 Georgia 1-1 1,036 11
10 Florida State 1-0 1,011 10
11 Michigan 2-0 872 17
12 Oklahoma State 2-0 834 13
13 South Carolina 1-1 829 6
14 Oklahoma 2-0 675 16
15 Miami (FL) 2-0 615 NR
16 UCLA 1-0 488 18
17 Northwestern 2-0 452 19
18 Florida 1-1 405 12
19 Washington 1-0 392 20
20 Wisconsin 2-0 378 21
21 Notre Dame 1-1 333 14
22 Baylor 2-0 295 23
23 Nebraska 2-0 277 22
24 TCU 1-1 170 24
25 Mississippi 2-0 78 NR
Others Receiving Votes: Arizona State 64, Michigan State 26, Texas 26, Fresno State 26, Northern Illinois 21, Virginia Tech 15, Brigham Young 14, Georgia Tech 10, Illinois 9, Arizona 9, Penn State 7, Bowling Green 7, Boise State 3, Tennessee 1
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