The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2022 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY ANTHONY BROOME U -M appears to once again be on a collision course with the Ohio State Buckeyes, but there will be more on the line in their Nov. 26 match-up in Columbus than just bragging rights. This game will likely decide the Big Ten's champion and subsequent representative in the four-team College Football Playoff. Michigan ranked fifth in the initial CFP rankings released on Nov. 1, but chaos the following weekend – including losses from No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Clem- son and No. 6 Alabama — shook up the playoff picture. The CFP rankings released Nov. 8 featured Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU occupying the top four spots. Some are splitting hairs between the Wolverines and second-ranked OSU squad, but the two will meet on Thanks- giving weekend in Columbus to sort out who belongs where in the standings. FOX Sports analyst Joel Klatt has a strong opinion on it, though. He believes the Wolverines should be ranked ahead of the rival Buckeyes. "While Ohio State might have a higher ceiling, I think Michigan has the higher floor," Klatt said this week. "And what was laid bare for all of us to see over the last couple of weeks is the fact that Ohio State is not playing great football on their offensive line. When you get into a game like they had against Northwestern when you have to run the ball and they know you have to run the ball, can you still dominate? "And that's a one-win Northwestern team that they still should have domi- nated on the ground, and they didn't. So that's a concern moving forward. I don't have that concern with Michigan. The bottom line is this. Buckeye fans, you are crashing weather sites all over the inter- net, refreshing your weather site to see what the weather is going to be like on Nov. 26. Michigan fans don't have to do that. It's for that consistency that I moved the Wolverines up to No. 2." Klatt's points are all reasonable, but what matters most is the opinion of the College Football Playoff committee. Michigan's nonconference schedule is a sticking point, and the committee basi- cally all but said U-M needs to beat Ohio State to get into the playoff. "We put them up and we talked about each team individually," committee lead Boo Corrigan said after the Nov. 8 rank- ings were released. "We talk about them in groupings to make sure that we've got it in the right area or in the right spot as we go through this. The win over Rutgers this weekend and the second half in particu- lar and the way they've played, they've done a really good job of pulling away from teams. "As you look at Ohio State, ob- viously they both have wins over Penn State, but Ohio State has that win over Notre Dame. Both have top-10 scoring offenses, top- 10 scoring defenses, and we're go- ing to continue to evaluate it as we move forward. If anything, that nonconference schedule from Michigan has been a factor." U-M's path to the playoff feels fairly simple. Win out, including a win over OSU and in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the program will be a lock to get into the four-team field. Assuming Georgia takes care of business and enters the playoff as the No. 1 seed, it will likely play in the Peach Bowl semifinal in Atlanta on Dec. 31. That would send the Wolverines to the Fiesta Bowl semifinal in Glendale, Ariz. A competitive loss to Ohio State could complicate things for the Wolverines, who might need help from others to sneak back into the playoff field. Clemson and Alabama are all but eliminated, but TCU, Tennessee and USC are all lingering. Some even believe a two-loss LSU could sneak in if it wins out. Should U-M miss out on the CFP, it would be all but assured a spot in the Rose Bowl as the highest-ranked Big Ten team available if the Buckeyes wind up in the playoff. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) projects a likely loss to OSU, but a 65.7 percent chance of making the playoff. With all scenarios in play, U-M has to like its chances as long as it takes care of busi- ness on the field. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS U-M's Path To College Football Playoff Starting To Come Into Focus The No. 3-ranked Wolverines are headed toward a Nov. 26 show- down with No. 2 Ohio State that will have major postseason impli- cations for both teams. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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