1 of Michigan football’s ‘weak’ non-conference foes exposing that scheduling narrative as overblown

UConn’s resurgence exposes absurdity of outrage over Michigan’s schedule

Roman Wilson #14 of the Michigan Wolverines battles for yards after a first half catch next to Malcolm Bell #14 of the Connecticut Huskies at Michigan Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – One of the teams on Michigan football’s much-maligned non-conference schedule pulled off a major upset this weekend and continued to expose that narrative as overblown.

While the Wolverines were piling up wins in September and October, one of the most common talking points surrounding their season was the non-conference schedule. The first three weeks were a cakewalk, with Michigan beating Colorado State, Hawaii, and Connecticut by a combined score of 166-17.

But now, Jim Mora has led UConn to wins in five of its last six games to earn bowl eligibility.

READ: Michigan’s win over Nebraska might have been boring, but don’t take it for granted

The streak started with a win over Fresno State, a team that’s currently 6-4 and took 7-3 Oregon State down to the wire. Then, at the end of October, the Huskies beat Boston College, a member of the ACC, by double digits.

This weekend was the pinnacle of UConn’s season, though, as the Huskies upset 8-1 Liberty as a 13.5-point underdog. Liberty was ranked No. 19 in both the AP and Coaches polls heading into that game.

So why, you might ask, does this even matter? Because the College Football Playoff committee made it matter.

Two weeks ago, when the committee released the season’s first CFP rankings, Clemson was ranked No. 4 ahead of Michigan. At the time, that easily could have been justified based on Clemson’s superior wins, but committee Chair Boo Corrigan’s explanation painted a different picture.

“I think there’s a weaker non-conference schedule that was talked about before, and that was part of the determination,” Corrigan said about the undefeated Wolverines.

When asked specifically why Clemson was ranked ahead of Michigan, Corrigan said it was because Clemson had five wins against teams above .500, while Michigan only had two.

Fair enough, right? That makes sense. Except for one thing: He counted Furman, an FCS school that also lost to Samford, among those wins.

Come on. If we’re going to penalize teams for having a weak non-conference schedule, that’s fine. But you can’t also turn around and reward another team for playing an FCS school. That’s outrageous.

How much has LSU been criticized for scheduling FCS Southern, 2-8 New Mexico, and 5-5 UAB in the non-conference? Both LSU and Michigan have nine Power Five teams on the schedule and three “weak” non-conference opponents. Where’s the national ridicule?

Either use non-conference strength of schedule as a determining factor or don’t. The problem arises when the committee uses it to penalize some teams while ignoring it for others.

The early season obsession with Michigan’s non-conference schedule was, by the chair’s own admittance, enough to affect the committee’s opinion of the Wolverines -- to the point that they were dropped to No. 5. But now Corrigan, using his own words, should count UConn as a “win over an above-.500 team” in Michigan’s favor, right?

Suddenly, the Wolverines have four wins over FBS teams with winning records (UConn, Maryland, Iowa, and Penn State). That’s as many as fellow playoff contenders Ohio State and LSU, and more than USC and North Carolina.

What UConn has done since a 59-0 loss in Ann Arbor should have absolutely no bearing on the College Football Playoff picture. But the committee and many others around the sport opened this can of worms by focusing so intently on a non-conference schedule that, frankly, doesn’t even matter.

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Would the perception of Michigan really change if one of those first three games had been against Louisville? Or Texas Tech? Or some other middling Power Five team? We already know the Wolverines are better than that caliber of opponent -- they’ve proven it time and again. It doesn’t really matter how many more times they do it.

Beating UConn is not a good win. It shouldn’t be a feather in Michigan’s cap when it comes to the playoff discussion. But the Huskies’ recent winning streak should serve as a reminder that caring so much about non-conference schedules is really, really dumb.

Judge the Wolverines for being 10-0, for winning nine of those games by at least 13 points, for being the only team in the country that hasn’t been tied or trailing for a single second of any fourth quarter.

Don’t judge them based on their September punching bags being a little bit weaker than everyone else’s.

RECAP: Michigan’s win over Nebraska may have been boring, but don’t take it for granted

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.