Michigan football could end up with four wins over ranked teams after this weekend

Michigan has no wins over teams ranked in College Football Playoff poll

Jim Harbaugh looks on during Michigan football's spring game (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).
Jim Harbaugh looks on during Michigan football's spring game (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The season's first College Football Playoff rankings came out this week, and Michigan doesn't have any wins over teams ranked in the Top 25.

That could change this weekend. In fact, Michigan could finish the weekend with more wins over ranked opponents than any team in the country.

Michigan vs. Penn State

Michigan is facing its toughest challenge since Notre Dame as No. 14 Penn State comes to town, fresh off a top-20 win over Iowa.

The Nittany Lions, led by dynamic dual-threat quarterback Trace McSorley, are solidly in the College Football Playoff poll and wouldn't fall out of the rankings due to a loss on the road against the No. 5 team in the country.

So to get its first win over a ranked team, Michigan simply has to take care of business this weekend.

Here's where it gets a bit trickier.

Michigan already has five wins over teams with winning records, and four of those teams have an opportunity to enter the rankings with wins this weekend.


Northwestern vs. Notre Dame

Northwestern is the most obvious candidate. Since starting the season 1-3, the Wildcats have won four straight games, knocking off fellow conference contenders Michigan State and Wisconsin in the process.

The Wildcats are in first place in the Big Ten West Division and have a major opportunity this weekend against Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish are ranked No. 4 in the CFP poll, but this could be a tricky test in Evanston. Northwestern lost its first two home games to Duke and Akron, but since a bye week, it's played extremely well at Ryan Field.

Michigan fell behind 17-0 at Northwestern and needed a late score to escape with a win. Nebraska and Wisconsin both lost in Evanston.

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite, but if Northwestern could pull off an upset, it will certainly be included in next week's CFP rankings.

Michigan State vs. Maryland

It's been an extremely odd week for Maryland, which had head coach D.J. Durkin reinstated and subsequently fired over the course of 36 hours.


When the Terrapins take the field Saturday, they'll do under Matt Canada, who has led them to a 5-3 record so far this season.

But Michigan's best chance to pick up a ranked win will be on the other sideline. Michigan State is coming off another solid victory, stifling a Purdue offense that put up 49 points against Ohio State.

MSU's loss to Arizona State is a blemish, but the Northwestern and Michigan games are more justifiable. The Spartans have also quietly racked up a trio of nice wins: Purdue, No. 14 Penn State and 7-1 Utah State.

Michigan State is just outside the Top 25 in the AP and Coaches polls, so it's reasonable to believe it was also in consideration for the final spots of the CFP rankings.

A win over Maryland to improve to 6-3 would give MSU a great chance to enter the Top 25.

Wisconsin vs. Rutgers

This is a long shot, but if chaos strikes again this weekend, Wisconsin could back into the Top 25 with a win over hapless Rutgers.


The Badgers don't have a very strong resume, although they did win by 11 points at No. 16 Iowa. If they want to sneak into the CFP poll next week at 6-3, some of the teams near the bottom of the rankings need to lose.

No. 15 Utah, No. 17 Texas, No. 19 Syracuse, No. 21 N.C. State, No. 22 Boston College and No. 25 Virginia are all favored by fewer than eight points this weekend. No. 16 Iowa and No. 20 Texas A&M are underdogs this weekend.

That's eight teams that could possibly fall out of the CFP rankings this weekend, and if Wisconsin is sitting there at 6-3, it could back in the Top 25.

What to expect

If Michigan wins this weekend, it will only be guaranteed one win over a ranked team, however, Michigan State has a good chance to become a second.

Northwestern just needs to win to get into the rankings, but that seems unlikely, even though the game is in Evanston.

Wisconsin is by far the least likely team to be ranked after this weekend, especially since it doesn't have an impact game to help its case. But the last few weeks have been filled with upsets, and there's no reason why that can't happen again.



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