ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan Wolverines are Big Ten champions, and for the first time in program history, they will be in the College Football Playoff.
The only question remaining ahead of Sunday afternoon’s selection show: Where will Michigan end up, and who will be the opponent?
Time for a little reality check: It’s not really a question for anyone who has paid attention to college football over the past few decades. When the poll comes out, Alabama will be No. 1, Michigan will be No. 2 and Georgia will be No. 3. Does a possible Alabama-Georgia rematch affect these rankings? Officially: no. But in reality, we all know the answer.
So keep in mind that I don’t think there’s any chance the committee will rank Michigan No. 1. But I still think it’s important to make the case.
Let’s do a blind resume test:
- 12-1 record, conference champion
- 10 wins over Power Five teams, six wins over FBS teams with winning records
- Four road wins, over an 8-4 team, a 7-5 team, a 6-6 team and a 3-9 team
- Best wins: No. 7 and No. 13
- Only loss came against 10-2 team currently ranked No. 11
- 12-1 record, conference champion
- Nine wins over Power Five teams, six wins over FBS teams with winning records
- Three road wins, over a 7-5 team and two 6-6 teams
- Best wins: No. 1 and No. 8
- Only loss came to 8-4 team currently ranked No. 25
Obviously, Alabama is Team B, and there are two factors working in its favor. First, it has slightly better ranked wins. Second, all six of its wins over opponents with winning records came against Power Five teams, while two of Michigan’s came against Western Michigan and MAC champion Northern Illinois.
For Michigan: The road wins stand out. Going into Wisconsin or Penn State is slightly more impressive than winning at Florida, Mississippi State or Auburn this season.
Ranked wins: Alabama. Road win: Michigan. Overall, it’s probably close to a wash.
Michigan also has a more forgivable loss. The Wolverines and Crimson Tide both outplayed their opponents in their only losses of the season, but Michigan’s loss came to a team that’s ranked much higher and has half as many losses.
Alabama also benefited from three extra bye weeks -- against 3-9 Southern Miss, 2-10 New Mexico State and Mercer, an FCS team. They didn’t even have to roll out of bed to win those games. The Crimson Tide also played only four true road games, while Michigan played five.
Alabama’s win over Georgia is a major resume boost. In fact, it’s the best single victory for any team in the country this season. But the way Michigan finished the season should not be discounted.
Michigan played 10-1 Ohio State and 10-2 Iowa in back-to-back weeks to close out the season and won both games convincingly -- by a combined score of 84-30.
Just last week, Alabama found itself in quadruple overtime against an Auburn team that finished 6-6.
Michigan had a couple of close calls against Rutgers and Nebraska, but those were way back on Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, respectively. Meanwhile, Alabama beat a pair of 6-6 teams (LSU and Auburn) by a combined score of 44-36 in November.
When the teams woke up Saturday morning, Michigan (No. 2) was ranked ahead of Alabama (No. 3). That means the committee thought the Wolverines had the better resume before the Big Ten championship game. Since then, all Michigan has done is beat the No. 13 team in the country by 39 points and secure a conference title.
Michigan probably won’t be the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, but the Wolverines did everything they possibly could to make a case. Now it’s in the committee’s hands.