Why one other team's ranking will be critical to Michigan in first College Football Playoff poll

Michigan controls its own destiny unless this team is ranked higher

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh leaves the field after a 42-21 win over Maryland on Oct. 6, 2018, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night, and Michigan is guaranteed to be ranked among the top teams in the country.

The Wolverines are currently ranked No. 5 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. If the CFP committee puts Michigan at No. 5 behind Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and LSU, it will control its own destiny because Alabama and LSU are matched up this weekend.

There's very little reason for the committee to drop Michigan below No. 5, but there's one team fans of the Maize and Blue need to keep an eye on Tuesday night.

That team is Oklahoma.

CFP contenders have been dropping like flies the last several weeks, but Oklahoma is still very much alive at 7-1.

Why Michigan should be ahead of Oklahoma

When comparing the resumes of Michigan and Oklahoma, there's really no argument for the Sooners.

Michigan has five wins against teams with winning records, four against Power Five opponents and five with at least five wins.

Oklahoma has two wins against teams with winning records, one against a Power Five team and one with more than four wins.

Michigan's only loss came to undefeated Notre Dame, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation. Oklahoma's loss came to a very good Texas team that has lost to Maryland and Oklahoma State, which are both unranked.

The Wolverines have also won seven straight games, while Oklahoma's loss came in the last month.

Why Oklahoma could be ranked ahead of Michigan

If Oklahoma lands ahead of Michigan in Tuesday's rankings, it will have more to do with Kyler Murray and the recent history of the Sooners than this year's body of work.

Murray is one of the best players in the country and a Heisman Trophy contender. Michigan doesn't have a player with as high a profile as Murray, which gives Oklahoma some credibility.

Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to pass against the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Bruins 49-21. (Photo by Brett…

The Sooners are also coming off a CFP appearance in which they nearly knocked off Georgia and appeared in the national championship. While that shouldn't have an impact on this season, the CFP committee includes a human element.

Why Tuesday matters

Michigan's ranking in relation to Oklahoma on Tuesday is critical because it sets a baseline for the rest of the season and shows how the committee views both teams and their conferences.

If Michigan's current body of work isn't enough to put it ahead of Oklahoma, the final month could be a problem. Oklahoma still gets to play at No. 12 West Virginia, at Texas Tech and against Oklahoma State.

Would Michigan be able to jump Oklahoma if the Sooners go undefeated through that stretch? Maybe, but it would be much easier if the Wolverines were on top from the start.

One wildcard factor working in Oklahoma's favor: it could have a chance to avenge its only loss.

In the Big 12, the top two teams play for the conference championship. There are no divisions. If Oklahoma and Texas win out, the Sooners could beat the Longhorns in the conference title game and finish 12-1 with a loss to a team it just beat.

If the committee likes Oklahoma more than Michigan on Tuesday night, why wouldn't it like a 12-1 Oklahoma team more in a month?

It would be a major surprise to see Oklahoma ranked ahead of Michigan in the first rankings, but it will be the most important takeaway for the Wolverines.

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