Should Michigan or Georgia be No. 1 in second-to-last College Football Playoff rankings?

Undefeated Wolverines facing Purdue in Big Ten title game

Cornelius Johnson #6 of the Michigan Wolverines dives for yards while chased by Tommy Eichenberg #35 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of a college football game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Aaron J. Thornton, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Who should be ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff committee’s final rankings before conference championship weekend: Michigan or Georgia?

As two of only three undefeated teams in the country, the Wolverines and Bulldogs improved to 12-0 with wins over rivals Ohio State and Georgia Tech, respectively. Michigan will play Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Georgia battles LSU for the SEC crown.

READ: Why Michigan is already in the College Football Playoff, no matter what happens in Big Ten title

The third unbeaten, TCU, has been ranked below the other two in each of the first four CFP polls and will likely be No. 3 when the new rankings are released Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, USC -- 11-1 and heading to the Pac-12 title game against Utah -- is expected to round out the top four.

But who will be No. 1?

The case for Michigan

Michigan’s claim to the top spot is simple: It has two of the most impressive victories in all of college football this season.

The first is fresh on everyone’s minds. FOX said a season-high 17 million people tuned in to watch the 45-23 drubbing the Wolverines put on No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus this weekend. The Buckeyes should only fall to No. 5 or No. 6 in Tuesday’s poll, so that will be the best win on any playoff hopeful’s resume.

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If the committee thought highly of Michigan before the game but wanted to see some validation because of the early schedule, that’s exactly what they got. The Wolverines played without their Heisman Trophy candidate, Blake Corum, and largely without their best defensive player, Mike Morris.

Michigan also has another top-10 win under its belt, as Penn State finished the season 10-2 and is likely to be ranked around No. 9 thanks to losses by Clemson and Oregon.

The Wolverines crushed the Nittany Lions at the Big House, rushing for 418 yards, holding Penn State to 10 first downs, and winning by 24.

Those two wins, based on the rankings, will be slightly better than Georgia’s top two wins, especially since the better one came on the road.

The middle of Michigan’s resume is a bit lacking, with wins over 8-4 Illinois and 7-5 Maryland at home, and a road victory against 7-5 Iowa.

The other seven games -- Colorado State, Hawaii, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Nebraska -- came against bad teams, but the Wolverines won by an average of 37 points.

For weeks, the committee punished Michigan for what was perceived as a “weak” schedule. But because of their dominance, the Wolverines held steady at No. 3.

Now that the best win of the season has been added to this resume, Michigan’s dominance should gain it more credibility in the eyes of the committee. Will that be enough to elevate the Wolverines to the top?

The case for Georgia

First and foremost, Georgia is the best team in the country, and that matters to the committee. It has nothing to do with winning the national championship last year -- the Bulldogs are undefeated in the sport’s best conference and ranked No. 1 in both FPI and SP+ (two of the best predictive ratings) by a fairly wide margin.

Michigan’s calling card is wins over Ohio State and Penn State, but the top of Georgia’s resume isn’t far behind. It beat Tennessee and Oregon by a combined 60 points, and those two teams are likely to be ranked around No. 8 and No. 12 in the new poll.

So if Michigan’s wins are over No. 5 and No. 9, while Georgia’s wins are over No. 8 and No. 12, the difference won’t be as great as many envision. The next tier of wins is what will likely keep the Bulldogs at the top.

Georgia’s 41-point dismantling of South Carolina on the road didn’t seem significant in mid-September, but now that the Gamecocks have beaten Tennessee and Clemson, they’re likely to be ranked in the top 25.

Georgia also has a win at Mississippi State, which could enter the rankings after beating Ole Miss and finishing 8-4.

Let’s remove the insignificant games from both resumes. For Michigan, that means Colorado State, Hawaii, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Nebraska. For Georgia, it’s Samford, Kent State, Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech.

That leaves Michigan with wins over two ranked teams -- Ohio State and Penn State -- and three decent teams -- Illinois, Maryland, and Iowa. Of those five wins, two of them came on the road.

Meanwhile, Georgia has four wins over likely ranked teams -- Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, and Mississippi State -- and two solid wins over Florida and Kentucky. Three of those wins were on the road and one was at a neutral site.

Overall, there’s very little to suggest that Georgia should be toppled from the No. 1 spot. The Bulldogs struggled with Missouri back in October and let both Kent State and Georgia Tech hang around a little longer than expected. But doesn’t blowing out Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee silence any doubts about their dominance?

Who should be No. 1?

Most people probably would agree that Georgia should remain the No. 1 team in the country. It’s been that way each of the past three weeks, and the Bulldogs haven’t done anything to warrant losing their spot.

If anything, the resume has gotten stronger thanks to South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Michigan is a very deserving No. 2 team and would rise with a win over Purdue if Georgia loses to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is finishing in the top four, and Michigan has already locked that up.


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.