Why Michigan isn't out of the College Football Playoff picture
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Yes. Michigan can still blow up the College Football Playoff and crash the party with two losses. I know what you’re thinking.
“No two-loss school will ever make a four-team playoff.”
“Surely you can find better one-loss teams in Power Five conferences that would crack the field.”
“If they put a two-loss team in the playoff, they may as well wipe away the regular season.”
I hear you loud and clear. Those arguments are all valid. To be perfectly honest, we would have to have some serious shakeup for Michigan to even crack the door of the top four.
But there’s still a chance.
Let’s play out the hypothetical scenarios. To make things less murky, let’s just assume Clemson and Alabama win out. Just for the sake of making things even simpler, give Notre Dame a spot after it runs the table and ends with a win at Stanford, which would take care of the Cardinal.
I’m not saying these teams will get in, but if we’re playing a hypothetical game, it’s just easier to pick the teams that are already in the field. So, in any order you want, here are your three established spots:
Michigan might not even hurdle past those three teams if they had two losses, so it’s just easier to include them in the field.
Ohio State is the one team from the current field that wouldn’t be on that list. The Buckeyes would still have to beat Michigan State — much to the delight of Jake Butt and his charging phone — and go into the regular-season finale in Ann Arbor unbeaten. Michigan would have to beat undefeated Ohio State and then hand Iowa its first loss in the B1G Championship.
Some style points wouldn’t hurt, either. Just ask the 2014 Ohio State team about that.
It’s obvious that the selection committee values Ohio State and Iowa highly right now, and back-to-back wins against them would weigh heavily in their favor heading into the final poll. Michigan would be sitting there with quality wins against the likes of possibly three top-25 teams. Northwestern winning out surely wouldn’t hurt. I don’t believe quality losses are more important than quality wins, but the committee wouldn’t frown on a road loss to top-15 Utah and a flukey loss to top-15 Michigan State.
But wait, there’s more.
Michigan, though it can still win the B1G Championship, needs plenty of outside help.
For starters, there can’t be any remaining Big 12 unbeatens. In fact, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all need at least one more loss. I still think Michigan could leapfrog Baylor or Oklahoma State and fend off TCU with one loss because of the conference title situation — or lack thereof — for the Big 12. That would eliminate one Power Five conference.
The Pac-12 is down to two playoff hopefuls. Stanford, as we already mentioned, would fall out of that conversation with the loss to Notre Dame. Then Michigan would possibly need to root for Stanford to turn around and hand Utah its second loss. Utah, even though it has the head-to-head advantage against Michigan, still could be hurdled if it suffers a second loss in one of its four potential remaining games.
As far as the SEC, I already have Alabama winning the conference. Beating Florida in the title game would take care of the Gators.
LSU, however, is the bigger question. If the Tigers ran the table against three unranked opponents — Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas A&M — they would have just one loss to Alabama, which the committee obviously views in high regard. This is where the eye test comes into play. If LSU were to win out but just get by, the Wolverines might have the edge. As we saw last year, not playing in that conference championship game can really haunt teams.
Strength of wins are everything down the stretch. Taking down two unbeatens and showing the world you belong in that conversation is the quickest way for Michigan to do the unthinkable.
And that’s exactly what it is. Unthinkable. Players aren’t going to think about it, Jim Harbaugh surely isn’t going to think about it and fans might not even want to think about it. There are still three weeks of the regular season left to play out, so if you want to put your head down and just focus on the task at hand, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But the next time someone tells you Michigan has no shot of cracking the field with two losses, you’ll have some ammo.
There is indeed a chance.