How high could Michigan climb in rankings with win over Wisconsin?

Wolverines enter game at No. 12 in AP Poll

Michigan WR Ronnie Bell celebrates a touchdown catch with Nico Collins against Maryland on Oct. 6, 2018, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - It's been more than five weeks since Michigan football lined up against a team with a similar level of talent, but that streak will end this weekend when Wisconsin comes to town.

No. 15 Michigan lost its only game against a good team in the first half of the season, falling to Notre Dame in South Bend. Since then, the Wolverines have knocked off five teams with a combined record of 11-16.

Despite the level of competition, Michigan has risen to No. 12 in the rankings, and a win over a legitimate opponent would validate that ranking and possibly boost the Wolverines even higher.

Here's a look at how high Michigan could climb in the rankings this weekend with a win over Wisconsin.

Untouchable teams

Even with a win, there are five teams Michigan won't be able to leap over in the rankings this season.

Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame are the top five teams in the nation, and there's a wide gap between them and the rest of the top 25.

Since Michigan already has a loss, and these teams have a comfortable lead in terms of AP Poll points, they'll stay ahead of the Wolverines after Week 7.

That means the highest Michigan could climb this week would be to No. 6, but that would require absolute chaos around the country.

Long shots

Since the top five are untouchable and Michigan currently sits at No. 12, we'll focus on the six teams ranked between No. 6 and No. 11.

No. 6 West Virginia

West Virginia is on an island in the rankings. The Mountaineers are also undefeated, but they're considered a step below the top five teams because of a weaker first-half schedule.

Quarterback Will Grier is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, which helps West Virginia in terms of credibility with the voters. But a loss this weekend at Iowa State would likely drop the Mountaineers out of the top 10.

This is a long shot because Iowa State has already dropped games to Iowa and TCU -- two unranked teams. But the Cyclones have a history of pestering ranked teams at home, such as when they knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma in a shocker last season.

No. 8 Penn State

If this game was on the road, Penn State would be on upset alert. But as it stands, the Nittany Lions appear to have everything in their favor heading into a matchup with Michigan State.

The Spartans are dealing with injury concerns and uncertainty after a third straight loss to Northwestern. James Franklin also has revenge on his mind after MSU shocked Penn State last season.

All signs point to a Penn State victory, but in Mark Dantonio's tenure, that's when Michigan State has played its best football.

No. 9 Texas

Despite a loss to Maryland in the opener, Texas vaulted into the top 10 last weekend on the back of three solid victories and a five-game winning streak.

The kicker for Texas was a 48-45 win over Oklahoma -- the third win already for the Longhorns over ranked teams. Southern Cal and TCU have since dropped from the rankings, but that win over the Sooners is one of the best in the country.

Texas hosts Baylor this weekend, and the only hope for Michigan to jump the Longhorns is a massive letdown game. Baylor is a midlevel Big 12 team, but there's a wide gap between the Bears and the top of the conference.

Unless there's a hangover from last week's rivalry win, Texas should have no trouble at home against Baylor.

Potential upsets

No. 7 Washington

Whether or not Washington deserves its No. 7 ranking is up for debate, but this week will be a major test.

After moving up three spots in the rankings despite a seven-point win over 0-5 UCLA, Washington heads to Eugene for a battle with No. 17 Oregon. The ducks are just three weeks removed from a heartbreaking loss to Stanford, and they're hungry for a second chance to knock off one of the Pac-12's best.

This is Oregon's last chance to pick up a great win in the regular season, and Washington has looked shaky at times during Pac-12 play. The loser will be eliminated from College Football Playoff contention, so the atmosphere in Eugene should be electric.

No. 10 Central Florida

UCF is doing just fine without Scott Frost so far, winning its first five games to stretch the winning streak to 18.

The Knights haven't had a close game yet, but a road trip to Memphis might be their toughest test. UCF is the better team, but Memphis has had this game circled on the calendar, and it could be the only chance for UCF to lose before mid-November.

If Michigan keeps winning, it will eventually pass the Knights. Is this the week? UCF is 42 points ahead of Michigan in the AP Poll, but a win over Wisconsin on primetime television might be enough for some voters to change their minds.

No. 11 Oklahoma

It's a rough time for a bye week in Norman, as the Sooners have an extra week to think about their loss to Texas.

As the rankings stand, Oklahoma is just four points ahead of Michigan for the No. 11 spot, so there's a good chance the Wolverines would make up that deficit with a win over Wisconsin.

Rearview mirror

No. 13 LSU

Teams playing ranked matchups typically don't have to worry about getting passed from behind in the poll, but there's an exception this week.

Michigan is one spot ahead of LSU after the Tigers lost a tough game at now-No. 14 Florida. LSU already has wins over No. 16 Miami and No. 21 Auburn, so if it adds an upset of No. 2 Georgia to that list, it will deservedly skyrocket in the rankings once again.

No. 17 Oregon

It's extremely unlikely that Michigan would get jumped by Oregon if both teams win, but strange things can happen in the rankings.

Michigan's loss at No. 5 Notre Dame is more defensible than Oregon's home loss to now-unranked Stanford, and a win over Wisconsin would be just as impressive as a win over Washington.

Michigan shouldn't have to worry about the Ducks in this scenario.

Overview

It would take absolute mayhem, but the highest Michigan could climb this week is No. 6. At worst, the Wolverines would likely be No. 11 if they beat Wisconsin.

A loss to Wisconsin would make the rankings irrelevant, since Michigan would be eliminated from College Football Playoff contention.

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