ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan doesn’t have a game this weekend, but it could still move into the top 12 of the College Football Playoff rankings depending on results around the country.
The Wolverines go into their second bye week with a 7-2 record and ranked No. 14 in the initial CFP poll. There won’t be much chance for major movement up the rankings this week, but there are a handful of teams ahead of Michigan with tough matchups.
Here’s how Michigan could move into the top 12 of the CFP rankings:
TCU beats Baylor
The most obvious opportunity for Michigan to move up comes in Fort Worth, Texas, where a middling TCU team hosts undefeated Baylor.
It appears the CFP committee isn’t really buying into Baylor, as the Bears were mysteriously ranked behind the likes of Florida and Auburn despite having two fewer losses and more wins over ranked teams.
Any loss by Baylor would likely result in a significant drop in the poll, and Michigan sits just two spots behind.
TCU is just 4-4 this season with a decent win over Texas and mostly respectable losses. Only No. 25 SMU has gone into Fort Worth and knocked off the Horned Frogs this season, which is probably why Baylor sits as just a two-point favorite.
Iowa beats Wisconsin
This upset seems much less likely, but Iowa heads to Madison this weekend as a single-digit underdog against Wisconsin.
There are a lot of factors at play here when it comes to Michigan’s ranking. The most obvious is that Wisconsin drilled Michigan head-to-head a couple months ago. Another is that Michigan already beat Iowa in Ann Arbor.
Wisconsin’s head-to-head win against Michigan was enough to keep it ahead in the initial rankings, but a third loss in a row would almost certainly vault Michigan in front. On the other hand, Iowa likely wouldn’t leap Michigan since it also has two losses, lost the head-to-head matchup and would only have one win over a ranked team, while Michigan has two.
If Iowa beats Wisconsin, the three teams will be ranked in this order, relative to each other: Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin. That means the Wolverines would move up one spot.
Penn State beats Minnesota
If Michigan hopes to move up in the rankings this week, it can’t afford to get passed by teams below it. That’s exactly what will happen if Minnesota beats Penn State.
The Golden Gophers are the least respected undefeated team in the history of the CFP rankings. This is only the second time ever an unbeaten Power Five team has been ranked below a team with two losses -- and Minnesota is ranked behind six teams with two losses.
NOTE: The only other time an undefeated Power Five team was ranked behind a two-loss team was when 10-2 Auburn jumped to No. 2 in the nation ahead of No. 4 Wisconsin, which was 12-0. That Auburn team had wins over No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Georgia and No. 24 Mississippi State and losses to No. 1 Clemson and No. 17 LSU by a combined 12 points.
Minnesota’s ranking is deserved, though, as its two best wins are over 5-4 Illinois and 5-3 Georgia Southern.
A win over Penn State would validate the undefeated Gophers and likely boost them closer to the top 12 of the rankings, easily surpassing a Michigan team that lost to Penn State.
Texas beats Kansas State
Kansas State sits two spots behind Michigan in the current CFP rankings, and a win over Texas would give the Wildcats a compelling case to move up a few spots.
Kansas State has the best win -- a home victory over then-No. 5 Oklahoma. A second win over a solid team, especially on the road, would make the argument much more credible.
Both teams would be 7-2 with losses to teams ranked in the CFP poll. Michigan would still have an extra win over a top 25 team, but Kansas State would have a good win on the road to go with the Oklahoma win. It might not be enough to drop Michigan below Kansas State, but it would be a little too close for comfort.
Iowa State beats Oklahoma
Iowa State beating Oklahoma is way down on this list because it doesn’t seem very likely, especially in Norman. But it didn’t seem very likely two years ago, either, when the Cyclones were 28-point underdogs and knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma on the road.
This year, Iowa State is a 14.5-point underdog and Oklahoma has been stewing over its loss to Kansas State for two weeks.
A loss to Iowa State would drop Oklahoma down below the No. 15 range because the Sooners don’t have any ranked wins. In fact, Texas is the only team they’ve beaten that still has a winning record.
Vanderbilt beats Florida
By far the least likely of any result on this list, a Florida loss to Vanderbilt is the only other game that could help Michigan move up in the rankings this weekend.
Vanderbilt has been terrible this season, losing to the likes of UNLV, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
Florida only has one good win this season, but it’s played tight against No. 2 LSU and No. 6 Georgia, so the committee kept the Gators in the top 10. A loss to Vanderbilt would likely drop Florida out of the top 20, but again, that’s probably not going to happen.
You never know, though. Remember: Georgia lost to South Carolina and Wisconsin lost to Illinois. Crazy results happen.
To recap, Michigan has four opportunities to move up this weekend if Baylor, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Florida lose.
The other highly ranked teams in action this weekend -- Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State, Clemson and Georgia wouldn’t drop below Michigan even with a loss.
Minnesota and Kansas State are the only realistic options to jump Michigan this weekend from lower in the rankings.
I predict Baylor, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Florida all win this weekend while Kansas State and Minnesota both lose. That would leave Michigan right at No. 14 again when the rankings come out Tuesday.