As we all know by now, this Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Michigan has more than just bragging rights on the line. The winner will take their talents to the Big Ten Championship game and likely the College Football Playoff.
So it’s not really interesting talking about what if Michigan wins. We know what will happen.
But if the Wolverines lose a close one in Columbus, then what?
Can Michigan still make the playoffs? If so, what else would need to happen?
Let’s break it down.
For this exercise we’re going to assume Ohio State, who would’ve beaten Michigan, and Georgia are both in. if Georgia loses the SEC Championship game to LSU they will get in over Michigan. History and common sense tell us that’s a fact.
One Loss Conference Champs
Currently, TCU sits behind Michigan fourth in the rankings with the same 11-0 record. The Horned Frogs have clinched a spot in the Big 12 title game. Before that championship game against an unknown opponent, TCU will play Iowa State this week. The Cyclones are 4-7 and having a down year.
If TCU loses this week they’re out no matter what. They could win their conference title game by a 100, and they won’t get back in the top four.
Now, if the Horned Frogs lose in the conference championship game, that’s where the debate gets interesting. Do you put them in over Michigan, who didn’t even make their conference championship? I don’t think the committee would. So if TCU loses at all, they’re out.
USC plays Notre Dame at home this week in their final regular season game. If they win that and the PAC 12 Championship, the committee would likely put them in over Michigan. I don’t see how you leave a conference championship team out over a team that didn’t’ win their conference and has the same amount of losses as USC. Not to mention the fact that Michigan has one of the worst strength of schedules in the country.
The same thing can be said for Clemson. If the Tigers win out and finish the year 12-1 and ACC champs, they would get in over the Wolverines.
Another factor to keep in mind is recency bias. Clemson lost in early November to a top-15 team in Notre Dame. USC lost in mid-October to another top-15 team, Utah. That will feel like ages ago compared to the last week of the season, which is when Michigan and Ohio State play.
Wolverine fans need to be rooting hard against those teams the next couple of weeks to help their cause.
What About a Two Loss Team?
The only two loss team that would likely get in over Michigan is LSU if they beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game.
Even with the extra loss over Michigan, the Tigers would have beaten the No. 1 ranked team and won the toughest conference in college football. You can’t overlook that.
As far as Alabama and Tennessee go, they’re out. If the committee chose them over Michigan with a close loss to OSU, we would need to launch an investigation.
The only other interesting team to ponder is Oregon. If the Ducks beat in-state rival Oregon State this week, make and win the PAC 12 title game, would they get in over Michigan?
Again, they would have one more loss, but they would be conference champs with some quality wins. I truly don’t know who would be more deserving if that scenario played out. The Ducks did get pounded by Georgia the first week of the season, 49-3, but that was a lifetime ago. Both teams have drastically changed and improved since then.
What to Root for
If you’re a Michigan fan, it’s very simple, beat OSU on Saturday. But in the event that doesn’t happen, here is what to wish for. TCU, LSU, USC and Clemson all lose. At least three of those four.
If that happens, Michigan should feel confident about making the playoffs whether they win or lose on Saturday.