5 factors working heavily in Michigan's favor with first College Football Playoff rankings ahead

CFP committee to release year's first rankings Tuesday night

Shea Patterson reacts to a a Karan Higdon touchdown while playing Wisconsin on Oct. 13, 2018, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Nine weeks into the college football season, it's finally time to see some rankings that matter.

The College Football Playoff committee will release its first rankings Tuesday night, giving fans a glimpse of which teams have the upper hand heading into the final month of the season.

We think we know which teams and conferences have the inside track to the playoff, but the CFP rankings will erase any doubt.

Michigan is coming off a bye week and has been No. 5 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll for two weeks. If the Wolverines land in the top five of the CFP rankings, they control their own destiny to finish in the top four.

Here's a look at five factors working in Michigan's favor.

Wins over teams with winning records

The CFP committee doesn't disclose exactly how it gets to its rankings, but one of the phrases we've heard over the years is "wins over teams with winning records."

In essence, the committee is trying to reward teams that beat quality competition, even though all teams with winning records aren't created equal.

Here's a look at how many wins each AP Top 25 team has against opponents with a winning record:

6: LSU
5: Michigan
4: Clemson
3: Notre Dame, Georgia, Washington State, Kentucky, Iowa, Virginia
2: Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida, Penn State, Utah, Fresno State, Miss State, Syracuse, Boston College, Texas A&M
1: Ohio State, West Virginia, Texas, Houston
0: Central Florida, Utah State

Since there are only three undefeated teams in Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame, and LSU is the only team with more wins against opponents with a winning record, Michigan is an obvious choice for the No. 5 spot.

Road wins

Unlike in past years, Michigan has a pair of quality wins away from Ann Arbor.

It would be reasonable to say Northwestern and Michigan State are the two best teams Michigan has beaten, and both games were on the road.

Michigan's road wins match up well with some of the other one-loss teams in the Power Five. Oklahoma has won at Iowa State and at TCU, while Georgia has won at South Carolina and at Missouri.

None of those four teams have more than four wins, and both Northwestern and Michigan State are 5-3.

It's extremely difficult to win on the road in college football, and the committee has rewarded impressive road wins in the past.

Northwestern and Michigan State aren't currently ranked, but both are just outside the top 25. There's a chance those teams could land in the first CFP rankings, and that would really help Michigan.

Eye test

One of the main reasons college football switched from the BCS to a playoff system was to add a human element to the selection process.

As a result, the eye test has become an important part of the CFP rankings. When teams win in blowout fashion, as Ohio State against Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten title, it can be the difference between winning a championship and not even getting an opportunity.

On the other hand, struggling against lesser teams can also hurt a team's chances.

Chase Winovich and Bryan Mone celebrate a win over Michigan State at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 20, 2018, in East Lansing, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Since the opening loss to Notre Dame, the only eye test blemish for Michigan was a Northwestern game in which the Wolverines fell behind by 17 points and only won by a field goal.

At the time, Northwestern was 1-3 and it looked like an ugly win. But the Wildcats have won four straight games and lead the Big Ten West Division, so now that looks like a quality win.

Michigan's other six wins have all come by at least 14 points. The Wolverines have played four straight games against teams that are currently 5-3, and the last three wins came by 21, 25 and 14 points.

Michigan hasn't just been winning, it's been dominating.

Dominant defense

Most of the teams that play in the College Football Playoff are elite on at least one side of the ball, whether it's Alabama's incredible defense every season or the high-powered offenses of Oklahoma, Washington and Ohio State in past years.

Michigan doesn't only have the No. 1 total defense in college football, it's a defense with a reputation of being among the best every season. Don Brown has built perhaps the most consistent unit in the country outside Tuscaloosa.

The Wolverines are allowing 220 yards per game, and the second-best defense in the country, Miami, is allowing 261.5 yards per game. Michigan is sixth in the nation allowing 14.4 points per game, ninth with 97.13 rushing yards allowed per game and first in 122.9 passing yards allowed per game.

A defense that's as all-around dominant as this one gives Michigan credibility with the committee.

Current winning streak

Recency bias has always been a part of college football, and it will be reflected in Tuesday's rankings.

Teams that lose early in the season have a much easier time bouncing back from those losses than teams that lose in November. In that sense, Michigan's loss on Sept. 1 couldn't have come at a better time.

Jim Harbaugh has done an excellent job with the 2018 team, which has improved dramatically since the first game.

Although Michigan only lost 24-17 at Notre Dame, the game was much uglier than the final score.

Since then, the Wolverines have ripped off seven straight wins, six in dominant fashion. That loss was two months ago, and Michigan was a different team. The CFP committee will likely take that into consideration.

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