Michigan football bye week: Teams to root for this weekend

Wolverines have bye week ahead of Michigan State game


ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It's been an exciting start to the college football season for Michigan fans, as Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines off to a 4-0 start and ranked in the top 10.

This week, the excitement will be put on hold as Michigan takes its only bye week of the season. But that doesn't mean there's nothing for fans to root for.

Sure, it's a little early to be scoreboard watching, but these early-season games can completely change the national landscape. If Penn State hadn't lost to Pittsburgh in Week 2 last season, the Nittany Lions would have been in the College Football Playoff. If N.C. State hadn't missed a chip shot field goal in Week 7, Clemson might not have gotten in at all.

READWhat does 4-0 start to season mean for Michigan?

Every single week matters in the current format, and there's a good chance something will happen this weekend that we look back on and think, "That changed the outlook on the College Football Playoff."

With that in mind, there are certain games that would increase Michigan's chances of getting into the College Football Playoff, whether that opportunity arises or not. Michigan isn't playing this weekend, but that doesn't mean it can't take a step forward.

Here are the teams Michigan fans should root for this weekend:

Washington State over Southern Cal

Game time: 10:30 p.m. Friday

Although the Trojans have been shaky at times this season, they're still ranked among the top five teams in the country.

USC has solid wins over Stanford, Texas and California already on its resume, so fellow playoff contenders would love to see the Trojans pick up an early-season loss. This might be USC's toughest test until the Pac-12 title game.

Wisconsin over Northwestern

Game time: Noon Saturday

It might be more fun to root for the upset here, but it's definitely better for Michigan if Wisconsin continues to rack up victories.

Michigan has a matchup with what could be an undefeated Badgers team in Madison the week before the Ohio State game, and the better Wisconsin looks, the more it can help the Wolverines.

For example, if Michigan slips up at Penn State, beating a top-five Wisconsin team on the road would put the Wolverines right back in the mix. If Michigan beats Penn State and loses to Wisconsin, it hurts less if the Badgers are highly ranked.

Florida over Vanderbilt

Game time: Noon Saturday

Michigan fans should get used to rooting for Florida all season. Michigan's best win came in the season opener against Florida, and like last season when the Penn State and Colorado wins just kept looking better and better, the Gators' success will benefit the Wolverines.

Florida already picked up a solid win against ranked rival Tennessee since losing to Michigan, and narrowly avoided an upset at Kentucky last week. Vanderbilt isn't a pushover, so Florida will need to play much better.

Indiana over Penn State

Game time: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

The reasoning for Michigan to root for a Wisconsin win doesn't apply in Penn State's case for two reasons.

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First, Michigan plays both Penn State and Indiana this year, so any strength of schedule hit Michigan would take from a Penn State loss, it would gain back with the Indiana win.

More importantly, Michigan needs to finish ahead of Penn State in the Big Ten East Division standings, and since the head-to-head matchup is in Happy Valley this year, the Wolverines will gladly accept any outside help they can get.

Tennessee over Georgia

Game time: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Every week Georgia plays, hopeful playoff teams root for an upset. The Bulldogs have already put together an extremely impressive resume, winning at Notre Dame and blowing out a Mississippi State team that pounded LSU.

READHow many teams have better playoff resumes than Michigan football right now?

Georgia would be hard pressed to beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, but if that's its only loss, there's no guarantee the SEC wouldn't sneak two teams into the playoff. If Tennessee can take care of Georgia, that would put an end to those talks, barring absolute mayhem.

Rutgers over Ohio State

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

It would be huge for Michigan if -- never mind. This would never happen.

Clemson over Virginia Tech

Game time: 8 p.m. Saturday

This might be a controversial choice, but in this instance, Michigan is basically hedging its bets.

The ACC is a strong conference this season, and it's extremely unlikely that it wouldn't send a team to the playoff. The only realistic scenario in which it could get two teams into the playoff would involve a non-Clemson conference champion and an at-large Clemson team or an undefeated ACC Coastal team that loses to Clemson in the conference title game.

Clemson's remaining seven games shouldn't be as difficult as this one, so it's reasonable to believe the Tigers will win out after this weekend. If that's the case, then a loss to Virginia Tech wouldn't keep them out of the playoff.

If Virginia Tech picks up a win over the defending national champions, it becomes a legitimate playoff contender. The Hokies also have a lot of winnable games left on the schedule, so it would be best not to add them to the mix.

Oregon State over Washington

Game time: 8 p.m. Saturday

Oregon State hasn't pulled a significant upset since 2014, so this game is almost in the Rutgers-Ohio State category.

Washington is duplicating last season's strategy, which got the Huskies into the playoff. They haven't played any real competition at all, so they'll just keep rolling over weaker competition and try not to slip up.

Texas Tech over Oklahoma State

Game time: 8 p.m. Saturday

Oklahoma State suffered an embarrassing home defeat against TCU last weekend, but that doesn't knock the Cowboys completely out of playoff contention. If they lose one more game, especially to a team that likely won't compete for a conference title, such as Texas Tech, it would put an end to their hopes.

Then, if Oklahoma State pulls off an upset against Oklahoma or West Virginia, it would be a huge blow to the Big 12, which already has a trump card on the Big Ten because of Oklahoma's win at Ohio State.