Michigan football still has best resume of any one-loss team in country

Wolverines one of six one-loss teams in Power Five conferences

Zach Gentry and the Michigan offense celebrate a touchdown against Penn State at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 3, 2018, in Ann Arbor. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The college football season is entering the home stretch, and with a few more contenders dropping out this weekend, the College Football Playoff picture is starting to clear up.

Barring a massive upset, Alabama and Clemson will be two of the playoff teams.

Alabama has been historically dominant through nine games, and there's no reason to believe the remaining teams on its schedule can pull off an upset, even Georgia.

Clemson has been dominant in a terrible ACC, and that's why the remaining three games against Boston College, Duke and South Carolina aren't particularly intimidating. Even the conference championship game will pit Clemson against a three- or four-loss team.

That leaves the rest of the country to battle for two spots, one of which will be occupied by Notre Dame unless the Fighting Irish stumble against Florida State, Syracuse and Southern Cal.

Outside those undefeated teams, there are six one-loss teams in Power Five conferences still vying for playoff spots.

Michigan was given the inside track in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, sitting at No. 5 and poised to move up after No. 3 LSU's loss to Alabama.

READIs this Michigan's most dominant streak since 1997 national championship season?

But even a third straight dominant win over a ranked opponent hasn't silenced the doubters that say Michigan isn't the best one-loss team.

The contenders are Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Ohio State and Washington State. These are all elite teams, but when dissecting the resumes, it becomes clear that Michigan has the best body of work at this point.

Best loss

One of the most important arguments for Michigan is the strength of its loss compared to the other one-loss teams.

Michigan lost a seven-point battle on the road against Notre Dame, which is now 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. It also helps the Wolverines that the loss happened in Week 1, so it's been more than two months since they lost a game.

Brandon Wimbush #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish carries the ball against Chase Winovich #15 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 1, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It's also abundantly clear to anyone watching Michigan that the team has made massive improvements since that loss. It was a bit of a unique situation with Shea Patterson starting his first game in a new system after transferring, and in the eight games since, he's taken Michigan's offense to a new level.

Georgia's only loss came to an LSU team that was previously ranked No. 3 in the CFP poll, but now the Tigers will likely drop closer to No. 10 after getting smashed 29-0 against Alabama. Georgia also got blown out by 20 points, and the game was only three weeks ago.

Oklahoma lost on a last-second field goal against Texas, but since that game, the Longhorns nearly lost to Baylor at home and dropped back-to-back games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. The Texas loss is certainly not as strong as the Notre Dame loss.

West Virginia, like Georgia, suffered a blowout loss to a ranked team. Iowa State beat West Virginia 30-14 three weeks ago, and the Cyclones are ranked in the CFP poll as a result. But a loss to a three-loss team by 16 points doesn't compare to a seven-point loss to an undefeated team.

Ohio State has the worst loss of any one-loss team, getting blown out 49-20 by Purdue three weeks ago. Purdue lost by 10 against Michigan State the following week and is just 5-4 on the season.

Washington State nearly survived against Southern Cal on Sept. 21, but that three-point loss is looking worse and worse as the Trojans are just 5-4 on the season.

Oklahoma, West Virginia and especially Georgia have respectable losses this season, but Michigan's loss to Notre Dame still looks the most forgivable.

Wins over teams with winning records

One of the most consistent points of reference for the CFP committee over the years has been wins over teams with winning records, and that was evident again in Tuesday's rankings.

Michigan currently has six wins over teams with winning records, tied for the most in the country. None of the other one-loss teams have that many.

Michigan has three wins over 6-3 teams among its six wins over teams with winning records. Those three teams have a chance to also be ranked in the committee's Top 25 this week.

Devin Bush and Lawrence Marshall carry the Paul Bunyan Trophy off the field after beating Michigan State at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 20, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Georgia has five wins over teams with winning records, including one over 7-2 Kentucky and one over 6-3 Florida.

Oklahoma and Washington State both have four wins over teams with winning records, with Oklahoma's best wins coming over 7-2 Army and 6-3 Texas and Washington State's best wins coming over a pair of 6-3 teams in Utah and Oregon.

West Virginia has three wins over teams with winning records, but Texas is the only team it has played with more than five wins.

Ohio State's only win over a team with a winning record came over Penn State.

Overall dominance

The CFP committee cares about the eye test and how dominant teams look every weekend. That's why Alabama was No. 1 in the country despite a somewhat weak schedule before playing LSU.

No one-loss team has been as dominant as Michigan, especially in games against winning teams.

The Wolverines knocked off then-No. 15 Wisconsin, then-No. 24 Michigan State and then-No. 14 Penn State by a total score of 101-27. Michigan outgained those three teams by 1,242 yards to 563 yards.

During its eight-game winning streak, Michigan has won seven games by at least 14 points and five games by at least 25 points.

Chase Winovich celebrates a sack during Michigan's game against Penn State at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 3, 2018, in Ann Arbor. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Georgia is the only team to come close to Michigan's dominance, routing then-No. 9 Florida and then-No. 9 Kentucky by a total score of 70-34 the last two weeks. All eight of Georgia's wins have come by at least 14 points.

Which team has been more dominant? Georgia hasn't had a close call like Michigan did against Northwestern, but it also hasn't been quite as dominant against teams with winning records.

Oklahoma needed overtime to beat Army, gave up 33 points to Baylor and nearly lost to Texas Tech last weekend. Three of its four wins over teams with winning records have come by 10 points or fewer.

West Virginia slipped by Texas with a gutsy two-point conversion call in the final 20 seconds. It also underwhelmed in back-to-back games against Texas Tech and Kansas earlier in the season, at least compared to the way Michigan and Georgia have dominated opponents.

Ohio State has been dominant at times, but beat Penn State by only one point and survived a test from 2-7 Nebraska, 36-31, at home.

Washington State has found ways to win games, but it certainly hasn't been dominant. Utah, Stanford and Cal all stayed within six points of the Cougars.

Ranking one-loss resumes

Michigan has the edge over the other one-loss teams in all three categories with the exception of Georgia, which has been as dominant in its wins.

But Michigan has the best loss and the most wins over teams with winning records. It's also been about as dominant as Georgia and more dominant that the other teams.

The one-loss teams should be ranked this way, in terms of overall resumes:

  1. Michigan
  2. Georgia
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Washington State
  5. West Virginia
  6. Ohio State

This will officially be settled Tuesday when the second College Football Playoff rankings are released.

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