Path To The College Football Playoff: Michigan Wolverines
What does Michigan have to do to get to the College Football Playoff?
What’s Michigan’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
One late field goal by Iowa or one fourth down stop vs. Ohio State. If either one of those plays go the other way, Michigan is off to the Big Ten Championship last season, only a rematch against Wisconsin away from getting into the College Football Playoff.
And now it’s rebuilding time to start this thing over.
The Wolverines were built up over years and years to get to the national championship-level point of last year, but now just about everyone is gone from both sides the ball – with eight starters gone on offense and all 11 done on D along with Kenny Allen, who handled all of the kicking duties.
Will Michigan even be a player in the Big Ten East race, much less in the hunt for the conference championship? Is there a path for Michigan to get to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Motivation Time. It’s Us Against The World
Not a problem for Jim Harbaugh.
If “nooooobody” had it better than Michigan last year – as Harbaugh crowed – then this year, nooooobody will be picking the Wolverines.
Ohio State and Penn State will be almost universally picked as the 1-2 in some way in the East, and there’s a chance it could end up being picked fourth if some places see a bounceback season from Michigan State.
In a lot of ways, the pressure is off. The recruiting classes have been great. 2018 and beyond should be great. And this team should be great. Ohio State reloaded in a hurry last season, and now Michigan needs to do the same.
Step Two: Destroy Florida – again.
The Wolverines obliterated a punchless Florida team 41-7 in the 2016 Florida Citrus Bowl, marking the moment that kicked off a terrific season and showing just how far the program had come under Harbaugh. This time around it’s a statement game.
Beat the Gators in Jerry World in Arlington to open up the season, and do it emphatically, and that whole concern about having to replace a bajillion starters doesn’t matter.
Of course, Michigan can lose this game and get to the College Football Playoff by running the table. But for the young team, pulling this off on a national stage would do wonders.
Step Three: Rip Through The Next Five Games, Including …
Michigan State. Style points don’t count if the Wolverines beat Florida, but they will if they lose. With Cincinnati, Air Force and a trip to Purdue after the game with the Gators, it’s a relatively easy run before getting a week off to prepare for the home date with the Spartans. MSU will be coming off dates with Notre Dame and Iowa, while Michigan will be rested.
Beat the rival, take down Indiana on the road, and be 6-0 – or 5-1, at worst, with a loss to Florida. Get there, and then …
Step Four: Blast Penn State Again, And Then Don’t Slip
As good as Penn State was last year, it got its doors blown off in a 49-10 loss in Ann Arbor. This year, the Nittany Lions will be expected to do big things in the rematch at home, but will they be unbeaten with games at Iowa and Northwestern along with a home date against Pitt? If they are, then Michigan coming up with a win will take on look amazing.
After the date in Happy Valley comes a relatively easy run of Rutgers, Minnesota, and a trip to Maryland. Beat Florida, beat Penn State, and Michigan should be 10-0 before having to …
Step Five: Beat Wisconsin (Maybe) & Beat Ohio State (Absolutely)
If the Wolverines are unbeaten at this point, they can lose to Wisconsin on the road, and then the Ohio State game becomes more of a must than ever. Beat the Badgers, and then it might still be possible to get to the College Football Playoff no matter what happens against OSU in the showdown in Ann Arbor.
Beat the Buckeyes, and then it’s on to the Big Ten Championship. Lose, and at 11-1 the Wolverines might catch the same break OSU did last year. Finish 11-1 with that one loss coming in Madison, and it’s still on. Go 10-2, and forget it.
Got all that? To make it simple, go 11-1 at worst, take the Big Ten East, and then …
Step Six: Win The Big Ten Championship
12-1 with a Big Ten title loss make it a toss up for the CFP. 13-0 with a Big Ten title means a trip to the Rose Bowl – but not the Rose Bowl; it’s a College Football Playoff semifinal – no matter what. Being the No. 1 or 2 seed won’t make a difference, and even 12-1 with a Big Ten title should ensure a trip to Pasadena. Would 11-2 with a Big Ten title lead to a trip to the CFP?
Ask 2016 Penn State.
So … What Are The Chances Michigan Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
With – depending on the alignment you want to go by – as many as 21 starters gone, it’s asking for way too much for a rebound and a reboot to a national title level, even for a team loaded with young talent and future stars.
Don’t expect Michigan to be road kill in the rebuilding mode – it’ll probably be better than you think – but it’s going to be too tough to get through the slate with fewer than two losses.
Florida in Arlington, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Wisconsin, and Ohio State – can this Michigan team really be 4-1, at worst, not including dangerous games at Indiana and, maybe, at Maryland?
Don’t write off the Wolverines from being a major factor, but 2018 is when they should be deep in the CFP hunt again.