Every possible playoff matchup, bowl game, opponent for Michigan football heading into champ week

Wolverines earn playoff spot with win over Iowa in Big Ten championship game

Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Michigan won 42-27. (AP Photo/Tony Ding) (Tony Ding, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The postseason scenarios facing Michigan football are straightforward: win the Big Ten championship game and get into the playoff. Lose, and settle for a New Year’s Six at-large bid.

READ: Trying to put into words what win over Ohio State means for Michigan football program, fans

Here’s a look at every combination of playoff matchup, bowl game and postseason opponent Michigan could receive following this weekend’s game against Iowa.

CFP semifinal: Cotton Bowl

The most likely destination for Michigan if it wins the Big Ten title is the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Right now, the Wolverines are ranked No. 2 behind Georgia in the CFP poll, meaning Georgia, as the No. 1 team, would be given the most advantageous geographical location in the semifinal round.

The Orange Bowl, in Miami, is closer to Athens, Georgia, than the Cotton Bowl (by about 200-300 miles). That means as long as Georgia beats Alabama this weekend, the Bulldogs are likely to play at the closer venue.

Michigan’s possible opponents: Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Alabama

If Michigan plays in the Cotton Bowl, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State are by far its most likely opponents. All three teams are playing for conference championships this weekend, and if they all win, they’ll be ranked second, third and fourth in the poll (this is assuming Alabama loses to Georgia and drops).

Notre Dame would need both a Cincinnati loss to No. 21 Houston and an Oklahoma State loss to No. 9 Baylor in order to move all the way up to No. 3. Even in that scenario, the Irish are no guarantee to rise that much without playing.

Georgia will probably be No. 2 or No. 3 if it loses to Alabama this weekend, and either way, if Michigan beats Iowa, the two would square off in one of the two semifinals (Tuscaloosa is a little closer to the Cotton Bowl than the Orange Bowl, so who knows which teams would go where?) Obviously, I’m assuming Alabama takes over the No. 1 spot with a win.

The only conceivable way Michigan could face Alabama is if Georgia and Michigan both win, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State both lose, and Alabama remains No. 3 despite its second loss. The only reason I view this as a realistic scenario: The committee might want to avoid dropping Alabama to No. 4 and setting up an immediate rematch with Georgia in the semifinal.

Most likely matchups if Michigan plays in Cotton Bowl:

  1. Cincinnati or Oklahoma State
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama

CFP semifinal: Orange Bowl

Other than the aforementioned scenario in which Alabama hypothetically takes over the No. 1 spot and gets put in the Cotton Bowl, there aren’t many situations that would land Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Even if Alabama beats Georgia and Michigan somehow ends up as the No. 1 seed, it’s a bit of a tossup which semifinal it would end up in. The distances from Ann Arbor to the two locations aren’t significantly different.

Michigan’s possible opponents: Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame

If that sliver of a chance that Michigan jumps to No. 1 and goes to the Orange Bowl becomes a reality, the possible opponents are the same. It’s almost a guarantee that one of Cincinnati, Oklahoma State or Notre Dame will occupy that No. 4 spot.

Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl

If Michigan loses to Iowa, it will fall out of the playoff conversation, Iowa will go to the Rose Bowl and the Wolverines will have to settle for an at-large New Year’s Six bid. That means they will end up in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

Michigan’s possible opponents: Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest

Cincinnati and Oklahoma State would join the New Year’s Six at-large pool if they lose this weekend. In this scenario, if Michigan has lost, a win would put either of those two teams in the top four no matter what happens with Georgia and Alabama.

Notre Dame is likely headed for one of these two bowls as it is, unless chaos ensues in the conference championship games this weekend. Pitting Michigan against Notre Dame -- two rivals who didn’t play each other this season -- would be a classic college football postseason move.

Ole Miss is currently sitting at No. 8 in the CFP poll, and if Georgia beats Alabama, the Crimson Tide will likely represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl, making Ole Miss an at-large team.

Since the Orange Bowl is a CFP semifinal this year, the winner of Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest will play in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl as the ACC champion.

Reasons for exemptions:

  • Michigan can’t play Alabama in these bowls because Alabama will either be in the playoff or in the Sugar Bowl as the replacement for SEC champion Georgia.
  • Michigan can’t play Baylor because if Baylor beats Oklahoma State, it will go to the Sugar bowl as the Big 12 champion. If Baylor loses to Oklahoma State, it will go to the Sugar Bowl as a Big 12 replacement for Oklahoma State, which would be in the playoff.
  • Michigan can’t play BYU because Iowa would take up a New Year’s Six spot (Rose Bowl) in this scenario, therefore bumping No. 12 BYU down another spot in the poll and pushing it out of consideration.
  • Obviously, Michigan isn’t going to play Ohio State or Michigan State. The Buckeyes would end up in either the Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl, with Michigan in the other. Michigan State would likely go to the Citrus Bowl.
  • If Oregon loses to Utah, it will likely miss out on a New Year’s Six bowl entirely.
  • Georgia isn’t falling out of the top four, no matter what.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.