Does Michigan football own best resume in Big Ten?
Michigan has 2 wins over currently ranked teams
From the opening kickoff against Hawaii to the final down against Penn State, Michigan football's Top 10 ranking had been discussed with one huge caveat: a weak early schedule.
In the nonconference season, the Wolverines played three teams that finished a combined 7-31 last year. Hawaii had already traveled about 20,000 miles by Week 1 and UCF hadn't beaten an FBS team since 2014. Even Michigan's sole Power 5 opponent, Colorado, finished with just one conference win.
But when the Big House scoreboards flashed quadruple zeroes Saturday night, signaling Michigan's 14-7 win over Wisconsin, the Wolverines' resume started to look a whole lot stronger.
Each of Michigan's first four opponents won on Saturday, bringing their combined record to 12-4 in games not against the Wolverines. Including the Badgers, Michigan's first five opponents are 16-4 in games that weren't against the Wolverines.
But how much weight do those wins hold?
Wisconsin is certainly a great win for Michigan, even though it was an ugly, low-scoring affair. The Badgers came into the Big House with one of the best resumes in the country, including a win over LSU and a road victory in East Lansing.
Wisconsin is still ranked No. 11 in the country, giving Michigan the second-highest ranked win in the nation (Clemson over now-No. 7 Louisville).
Michigan's resume has also been bolstered by the rise of Colorado, which once held a 14-point lead over the Wolverines before losing, 45-28. What once looked like a shaky performance now looks like an impressive blowout over a ranked team.
Since losing in Ann Arbor, Colorado has knocked off Oregon in Autzen Stadium and blown out Oregon State, 47-6. Oh yeah, and the Buffaloes did so without their best offensive player -- starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. Liufau roasted Michigan early on Sept. 17, but the Wolverines had battled back to tie the game by the time backup quarterback Steven Montez entered the game.
Montez didn't stand a chance against Michigan, missing on all seven of his pass attempts. But in two games since, Montez is 42-59 with 626 passing yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown against Oregon.
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Even UCF has picked up its game, winning twice on the road in blowout fashion and nearly upsetting undefeated Maryland at home since its trip to Ann Arbor. The Knights are no match for legitimate Power 5 schools, but they're much better than the 0-12 team that hardly belonged on the field a year ago.
Penn State is a mid-level Big Ten team at best, but it's hard not to be impressed with Michigan's complete dismantling of the Nittany Lions -- seven total touchdowns, 326 rushing yards and only 191 total yards allowed in the 49-10 win.
Few teams around the Big Ten have wins that rival Michigan's. Ohio State's undressing of Oklahoma on the road ranks among the most impressive, along with Nebraska's win over Oregon and Wisconsin's win over LSU. Michigan State was impressive against Notre Dame, but the Irish lost the following week to a bad Duke team and Michigan State is 0-2 since the meeting.
It's clear the top two resumes in the Big Ten belong to the two teams ranked in the nation's top five: Michigan and Ohio State.
But which is better?
Graph: Michigan vs. Ohio State opponents' winning percentage
The one glaring hole in Michigan's resume is that the Wolverines haven't played on the road. While Ohio State already went to Norman and bullied an Oklahoma team many predicted to win the Big 12, Michigan hasn't strayed outside the friendly confines of Ann Arbor.
Ohio State's first four opponents have a combined 8-6 record against the rest of the country -- much worse than the 16-4 mark that Michigan's opponents own. But those raw records don't tell the full story. Tulsa, much like UCF, has quietly put together a nice start to its season in the AAC, and Oklahoma is a two-loss team only because it played two games against top six teams in Ohio State and Houston.
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Both Michigan and Ohio State played cupcake opponents to start the season, but Bowling Green might be even worse than Hawaii. The Falcons lost at home to Eastern Michigan and have twice given up 77 points this season, including in an embarrassing 77-3 loss to Memphis.
When you break down both schedules, the resumes of Michigan and Ohio State look very similar. It comes down to whether having two wins over ranked teams at home is more impressive than one win over a ranked team on the road.
We'll likely never know which resume is actually stronger, unless Wisconsin, Colorado and Oklahoma agree to a friendly round robin tournament to settle the debate.
But one thing is clear: Michigan's schedule is nowhere near as weak as it looked in early September. And now, when the Wolverines run into some of the Big Ten's toughest challenges -- like games in East Lansing and Columbus -- they should be more prepared than anyone expected.
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