Crazy Confusing Michigan Postseason Guide Comment Count

Seth December 1st, 2016 at 10:04 AM


So the Playoff Committee put Michigan 5th, where the top four get a chance at a national championship and the top(-ish) 12 play in more prestigious bowls in and around New Year’s. Getting into the playoffs requires some help and sympathy. It’s good that two teams above us have a chance to lose, potentially dropping them back. It’s good that we beat teams 6, 7, and 8. It’s bad that two of those could be conference champions, including our own conference.

So where are we going? Probably the Orange, but if you’d like more detail here’s everything I could divine about Michigan’s potential destinations.


What are the Rules?

  1. The Playoff Committee will decide on 4 teams to compete in the playoff. This year’s playoff games are the Fiesta and Peach Bowls.
  2. New Years Six obligations are filled in. Unless they’re in the above the B1G and Pac12 Championship Game winners play in the Rose Bowl, the SEC and Big XII winners play in the Sugar, the ACC winner plays in the Orange, and one “Group of Five” (Western Michigan most likely) team gets a spot somewhere between the Rose, Orange, Cotton and Sugar Bowls.
  3. [UPDATED, h/t user Alton] Bowl contracts are filled in, specifically the Rose Bowl gets a Big Ten and Pac Ten team, and the Sugar Bowl gets an SEC and Big XII team, assigned by the committee.
  4. At-large teams are filled in, with contracts, rematches, distance, and “most compelling matchups” in mind. For example the Orange Bowl gets first crack at a Big Ten or SEC #2. Unofficially, conference affiliations matter somewhat, e.g. the Rose Bowl would take a Pac#2/B1G#2 matchup and FSU or Louisville would be projected to the Orange.
  5. Old bowl process takes hold once the New Year’s Six are figured out.


Where’s Michigan in the Playoff Race?

Behind: Alabama regardless, Ohio State, Washington if they win, Clemson if they win.

Worried about getting passed by: Wisconsin or Penn State if they win, Colorado if they win.

Probably not getting passed by: Oklahoma or Oklahoma State as Big XII champ. Florida as SEC Champ. VT as ACC Champ. Washington or Clemson if they lose. Loser of the Big Ten Championship Game. USC, FSU, Louisville, Auburn, Western Michigan, Navy.

CFP-LogoThey’re saying there’s a chance:

With Michigan the 5th team right now however this seems incorrect, particularly in light of Kirby Hocutt saying the committee needed two hours to decide to put Washington over Michigan for the 4th spot. The actual distinction matters little since a conference championship win for Washington would overcome whatever slim margin Michigan is ahead by at the moment.

That appears to put Michigan’s chances entirely dependent on one or two schools above them losing a conference championship game, then riding a head-to-head victory over a conference champ into the top four.

Even a loss to Florida probably doesn’t drop Alabama out of the Top 4, and Ohio State is obviously in before we are. The best, but hardly only shot of Michigan moving up is Colorado beating Washington (a 45% shot according to Bill C.) and Michigan (over the B1G CG winner) taking the Pac 12’s spot. If Virginia Tech upsets Clemson (20%), this also opens the door for Michigan. If both happen, Michigan still needs a head-to-head win to matter more than a B1G or P12 championship.

How the committee rates winning your conference championship game versus head-to-head is a mystery. They said they don’t consider margin of victory, so blowing out Penn State is probably seen the same as a one-score victory over Wisconsin, let alone two last-play losses on the road.

My guess is they’ll let the de jure Big Ten Champion jump definitely-not-Big Ten Champion Michigan, but not Ohio State. Michigan could end up above Colorado if both Washington and Clemson lose, but that’s a scenario with three Big Ten teams in the playoffs. That may be correct, but the committee created to avoid another LSU-Alabama rematch that everybody hates would probably take the B1G and Pac champs and leave Michigan out.

Likelihood of it: 10 percent.

[After THE JUMP: some NY6 destinations and worst case scenario]


Can Michigan Get to the Rose Bowl?

This one is tricky but doable. Because the Rose Bowl is obligated to take the B1G CG winner if they’re not in the four, Michigan’s path to Pasadena requires the B1G CG winner to make the playoffs. I’m not worried about the B1G CG loser since 2-loss Michigan > 3-loss team they already beat.

Getting one of them into the playoffs is the hard part. Leaping us is likely but I don’t think Penn State or Wisconsin are strong enough to pass any of the Top 4 without help (if they scoot PSU ahead of OSU that just puts the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl) so again we’re rooting for Colorado to beat Washington or Clemson to lose to Virginia Tech.

A VT upset over Clemson would open a spot in the Top 4 for the B1G Champion without affecting the Pac 12—if Colorado wins too and takes Washington’s spot in the playoff, that would leave both Rose Bowl seats open and Michigan likely to grab one.

Colorado beating Washington could create its own problems. One: Colorado could swap spots with Washington, leaving the B1G champ in the Rose Bowl. Two: since one of the committee’s stated goals is to avoid regular season rematches, Colorado winning an auto-bid to the Rose Bowl could push Michigan out of it, though in that case it’ll likely be into the playoffs.

There’s another outside scenario where Washington wins but gets passed by the B1G CG winner. That would almost certainly put Michigan and Washington in the Rose Bowl, with a CFP field of OSU-Clemson-Bama-B1G Champ. But I doubt the 1-loss Huskies would drop behind a 2-loss Big Ten champ when 1-loss Ohio State is in the playoffs. And Ohio State getting left behind doesn’t help us.

Likelihood of Rose Bowl: 20 percent.


So Michigan is Going to the Orange Bowl?


Here’s the most likely landing spot. If the Rose Bowl can’t (B1GCG winner doesn’t make the playoffs) or won’t (they pass us up, or Ohio State gets bumped from the playoff by the B1G and Pac Champs) take Michigan, the committee will then place the remaining conference champs in New Year’s Six slots, and fill in the last spots in the New Year’s Six behind them. The Orange Bowl, which also needs to fill a small number of Big Ten appearances, would be the more likely destination for Michigan in most scenarios. That Orange Bowl contract with the Big Ten supersedes the Cotton Bowl

Likelihood of Orange Bowl: 70 percent.

Could It Be the Cotton?

Doubtful given the above. This scenario involves Ohio State and the Big Ten champ getting locked out of the Playoff 4, putting Ohio State in the Orange.


No, We’re Not Going to the Outback


The Outback is in technically in play, but it’s highly unlikely. It happens if conference championships suddenly become THE thing for the playoff selection committee, and some conference champions would have to pass Michigan to shove the Wolverines out of the 12 spots for New Year’s Six or Playoff bids.

There’s a slim chance it happens. Figure Bama and OSU are ahead of Michigan no matter what. WMU or Navy (as the group of five participant), and the winners of all the conference championship games get auto-bids. So there’s at least 7/12, possibly 8/12 (if Florida beats Bama) slots already taken in the NY6.

[UPDATED] Then the Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowls need to take ACC, SEC, B12, B1G, and Pac teams. This is where trouble happens. If Florida loses to Alabama the Sugar has to take an SEC team, so we’re back to 8/12. The Rose Bowl would also need to take a Pac Ten team if Washington or Colorado is in the playoffs. Figure that draws in either Washington (if they lose the Pac CG) or 3-loss USC. 9/12. And another ACC team to the Orange Bowl.

You still have to find two teams among the following who’d be ranked ahead of Michigan to fill an at-large position:

  • 2-loss Clemson after loss in ACC CG
  • 3-loss Colorado after losing the Pac 12 CG
  • 2-loss Navy or WMU as a 2nd group of five bid
  • 3-loss Wisconsin or Penn State after loss in B1G CG
  • 3-loss Oklahoma or Oklahoma State after loss in B12 CG
  • 3-loss FSU, Louisville, Auburn, and Stanford

The disaster scenario is one where the committee decides conference championships are the THING:

  • Oklahoma State destroys Oklahoma 100-0, so impressing the committee (and so undermining Ohio State’s win over the Sooners) that Okie State joins Bama, Clemson, and Washington in the playoff four. (8 spots left)
  • Navy earns the Group of Five bid over Western Michigan (7 spots left).
  • The Big Ten champ goes to the Rose Bowl. (6 spots left)
  • Ohio State gets pushed down to the Orange Bowl. (5 spots left)
  • FSU, Auburn, West Virginia and USC draw into NY6 bowls to fill in for conference champs in those bowls. (1 spot left)
  • Committee decides undefeated Western Michigan should pass Michigan for the last at-large spot.

It would be extraordinarily cruel to have all of these teams pass Michigan. On the off chance that something like that happened, Michigan wouldn’t go to the Citrus because we just went, meaning the Outback Bowl would be it.



December 1st, 2016 at 10:11 AM ^

Idk how everyone is so down on our chances of playoffs. The committee literally told you that they essentially see UW equal to UM. If they lose, we're in; no possible way that they take Colorado/psu, when we beat both of them and have the most top 10 wins. Also, the "eye test" favors us greatly. Also the SoS favors us.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


December 1st, 2016 at 12:13 PM ^

Yes, if Colorado winning didn't impact us in any way I'd think they have a pretty good shot... I know I'll be rooting for them (like I was sparty last weekend - eww!)

But the very fact they could help us means they're gonna lose a heart breaker, probably much like our game last weekend!

Sad Face :-(.....


December 1st, 2016 at 10:30 AM ^

I'm worried about Wisconsin... the most likely scenario to me is Colorado beating Washington, which opens up a spot. But if Wisconsin wins the B1G I think it's possible that they jump us. B1G champs with an extra win vs. the #7 team, and a close (although it shouldn't have been that close) road loss to us.


December 1st, 2016 at 10:37 AM ^

I really don't see the argument for Wisconsin jumping us even if they win on Saturday.  Assuming that they do, their best win of the season will be that win over a three-loss PSU team.  Wisconsin hasn't beaten anyone, and is getting WAY too much credit for good-looking losses to Michigan and OSU.  Their resume doesn't compare to ours, they lost to us head-to-head, and the only reason they'll have won the conference championship is because they had the luxury of playing in the easier division. 


December 1st, 2016 at 10:47 AM ^

bigger question to me is why, exactly, the CFP committee would not have just ranked both Wisconsin and Penn State ahead of us if the winner was going to jump us anyway.  All three teams have 2 losses, comparable-ish SOS, and some solid wins.  Additionally, Michigan has lost its games more recently than the other two.  They could have completely justified putting both teams ahead of Michigan already just based on making the BIG championship game.  If you think about, why would a win in the BIG championship game against a team that Michigan already beat and who is ranked lower than Michigan do anything to boost said winner over Michigan.

Unless the playoff committee's sole intention was to completely screw with our heads for a week before doing something completely irrational and contrary to their own stated metrics, I don't understand why they would have given either Wisconsin or Penn State the additional obstacle of clearing Michigan when it obvious that one or the other is in fact going to win the BIG championship.  Why would they make their job and explanation that much harder just to mess with Michigan fans?


December 1st, 2016 at 10:56 AM ^

This is the correct take I think. The committee already signaled to us that they value Michigan over the B1G champ. While this could definitely change or ultimately not matter, I think that's what they are telling us.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:06 AM ^

Wisconsin(more likely) or Penn State(not likely) go to Indi and put a serious beat down on other and looked the part, than they would justifiably jump us.  But I do think the committee was establishing that they are not going to be in by virtue of just winning the game.  Michigan State and Iowa played in the BIG championship game last year and MSU proved by the end of that game that they sucked slightly less than Iowa and the committee bit.  They predictably got destroyed in a game the committee does not want to be repeated.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:03 AM ^

we're so close to Washington. What would have been their need to stress this? Afraid of Michigan fans griping? Jim H. griping? The non Michigan football world seems to enjoy that more than anything.

Would they be afraid of Jim Delaney getting angry for putting us in 5th? No, there is no reason at all for them to say that in the interview UNLESS.. they were telegraphing so that if we DO get in there, people won't be so outraged, irate, shocked, or angry about Washington/Pac 12 getting hosed. Doubt they would do that and then..jump Wisconsin above us.


December 1st, 2016 at 3:58 PM ^

Taken in total (saying we are razor thin margin behind #4; and also that there isn't much gap between us & Wisconsin/PSU), what they're doing is just giving themselves utlimate flexibility for next weekend.  The rankings this week essentially allowed them to stop painting themselves in a corner.  

Don't get me wrong--they already are in a position where they'll have to outrage one fan base or another.  But the way I see this is they are declaring their flexiblity ahead of time.  To the previous poster's point--IF they decide to disregard the BTCG winner in favor of HTH, they've already somewhat ripped that bandaid off.  If, on the other hand, Washington takes care of business and/or PSU/Wisconsin turn in a particularly impressive win, they are still giving themselves wiggle room to let PSU or Wisconsin (or maybe even Colorado) jump us.

Yes, it attracts more eyeballs to the games this weekend, but I see this as the committee trying to give themselves some breathing room for Sunday.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:04 AM ^

By telling us "there's a chance" they are guaranteeing more eyeballs on TV sets. Every M fan glued to the BIG, Pac12 and ACC Championship games right to the very end. Plus PSU and WI fans closely watching the Pac12 game Friday night.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:25 AM ^

Nor do I put it past them to want Michigan more for better ratings against Alabama and epic ratings were we to get a rematch with OSU.


Everything hinges on Wash or Clemson losing so I'm not getting my hopes too up. Washington seems to be able to pull out the tough wins this season. Both those teams win and it's off to the Orange bowl. Buckeyes cheated again, what can we do?


December 1st, 2016 at 2:12 PM ^

Yeah, it cuts both ways.  If they are that interested in ratings, then what could be more compelling than Saban vs. Harbaugh on New Year's Eve . . . a timeslot that will be a ratings disaster otherwise?

If they are playing ratings games, we're already in.  They'll just make up some bullshit after the fact to justify their decision.


Swayze Howell Sheen

December 1st, 2016 at 1:06 PM ^

I cannot imagine the committee is like "well, let's put Michigan up higher to boost some Pac-12 ratings". That would be a really dumb thing to say in a meeting about which teams are best.

They put Mich #4 because Mich is clearly better than Wisc/PSU.

However, they still might move others up because they might say "we value championships" + other factors more than simply who is "best" by the eye test.



December 1st, 2016 at 1:17 PM ^

It's difficult to tell how exactly the Committee is thinking, obviously, but they could still pretty much do anything they want and be able to justify it in some way. It would really piss me off if they jumped PSU or Wisky over Michigan after the CG. That just doesn't make sense unless they really want these rankings to represent how things stack up at the exact time of the rankings and put no thought into things that will happen. Maybe they just didn't feel like getting too deep into the MIchigan vs. PSU/Wisky Big Ten Champ debate unless Clemson or Washington lose. It's all really confusing and I can't wait until this weekend is over and they just pick the damn teams. 


December 1st, 2016 at 2:13 PM ^

they did when they specified that Washington and Michigan, specifically, was a two hour, razor thin, determination.  He did not have to say that, and he went out of his way to say it.  He wasn't asked about those two teams and how they stacked up against each other.  As a matter of fact, he made the statement when being asked to discuss how Penn State stacks up with the Top 4.  That is what really got my attention.  Davis wasn't even asking him about Michigan.

I have a theory, and it is about Harbaugh/Saban and ratings.  This is another New Years Eve year.  The Peach Bowl is going to be the first game, around 4:00 EST. (No way are they going to kick the Fiesta Bowl at 1:00 PM local time).  That is a tough sell when most people have multiple options for entertainment and will be deciding, almost exactly at kick off, what their plan is going to be.  Alabama v. Wisconson/PSU would tank.  Alabama v. Michigan would clean up.  If Washington and Clemson win, their hands are tied, it is what it is.  But I do think they will make every effort to grab Michigan if it can be justified, and it certainly can be provided either of those teams lose.


December 1st, 2016 at 2:15 PM ^

I suppose he couldn't flat out say "Penn State is out no matter what."

But they are, and so is everyone below them. I don't know what else to make of his response.


December 1st, 2016 at 2:39 PM ^

I agree with you, I just don't have a lot of faith in the committee for some reason. I can just imagine them screwing Michigan somehow. I do think that ratings definitely play into it, but that's not something you'll ever hear the committee actually say. Harbaugh and Saban would provide a lot of game hype, and a potential OSU rematch? That's what people want to see. 


December 2nd, 2016 at 5:32 AM ^

They want Michigan. They have determined Michigan is one of the top 4 teams already. Now they are working to justify putting Michigan ahead of conference champions. I think even if Washington wins they are in danger of being left out in favor of Michigan. Most likely not if they thump Colorado but if its tight or flukey Michigan is in.


December 1st, 2016 at 10:51 AM ^

I agree with most of that.  


However, I think we are all forgetting about the Iowa loss. We can't really talk shit about the West given we lost to Iowa (who Wisconsin beat handily, also on the road in Iowa City, only 2 weeks before our game). 


Yes, Wisconsin's wins have been nothing compared to ours, but they also haven't looked as bad in a game as we have (at Iowa). 



I think it was a bad sign for us that Iowa was not ranked last week; I was expecting them around #24 or #25, as they are 8-4 with a win over Michigan and a blowout win over Nebraska, plus 2 of their four losses are to Top Ten teams. The fact that we lost to an unranked team can hurt us.


Wisconsin, Colorado and even Penn State can all say they didn't lose to an unranked team (Pitt is now ranked). 


December 1st, 2016 at 10:56 AM ^

but if you take it that far, Iowa just humiliated Nebraska who fought tooth and nail with Wisconsin at Camp Randall.  The loss being to Iowa is not that signficant, they are ranked-ish.  It is more significant that our two losses came by a total of 4 points in two road games with an injured quarterback (who would presumably be back close to healthy five weeks from now).


December 1st, 2016 at 12:03 PM ^ for Wisconsin too. They haven't lost to anyone outside the top-5, and inside the top 5 they lost in OT and by 7.

Everybody below them, or maybe below Colorado, has had a game that said "nope, not them." Wisconsin hasn't demonstrated inferiority yet.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:38 AM ^

What is your take on beating someone "handily"??? Because a 17-9 victory is nothing close to handily in most books.


EDIT: As far as Iowa getting ranked they were most likely in the CFP top 30. Because they did just get ranked this past week by the Coaches and the Associated Press. My guess is they probably just missed being ranked by the committee. Their 1 point loss to NDST is probably what is holding them back from being ranked, because in the last 3 weeks they beat 2 ranked teams.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:42 AM ^

Yeah, Iowa on the road at night is a very difficult game, especially for us.  We lost on a last second fg and everything had to go right for them to beat us.  Same with the OSU loss.  The Wisconsin win against Iowa was nowhere near "handily".  Our 14-7 win was much more impressive considering Wisconsin had 159 total yrds.    I really think the comittee is using logic and the eye test to realize that we are better than all these teams, and the only reason Washington is a razor's edge higher in the polls is because of record.


December 1st, 2016 at 10:53 AM ^

I agree about Wisconsin, but Penn St is a 2 loss team currently (would be 3 after Wiscy beats them) but are still ranked #7. Rankings matter when looking at wins, not how many losses the other team has.

Wisconsin's only other top 25 win is against # 21 LSU. Even though Wiscy would be B10 champs, they have 1 top 10 win (B10 champ game), & 1 top 25 win. Michigan would have 3 top ten wins (assuming penn state doesn't drop out of top 10 with a loss) plus the H2H against Wiscy.

If Penn State wins the B10 it will be harder for the committee to leave them out and put us in. Penn state would have 2 top 10 wins (Ohio and B10 champ game) and be B10 champs. We would still have 1 more top 10 win (assuming Wiscy doesn't drop out of top 10 with a loss) and the H2H.

At any rate, I'm rooting for Wisconsin, Colorado, and VT this weekend!


December 1st, 2016 at 10:57 AM ^

Disagree strongly that PSU is harder to leave out than Wisconsin. You should be rooting for the Nittany Lions. 


Not only is Penn State currently ranked lower than Wisconsin so the perceived gap between them and us in the eyes of the committee is bigger, we also absolutely destroyed them (49-10) and their other loss (at Pitt) is much, much worse than Wisconsin's other loss (overtime to Ohio State). 


Wisconsin could point to the fact that we only beat them by one score, with home field advantage, and say that given the close head to head conference championship should outweigh it. 

Naked Bootlegger

December 1st, 2016 at 12:15 PM ^

Barry has a statue.  He'll show everyone in the CFP selection war room that he has a statue - it's probably his smartphone background image.   And then he'll ever so subtly suggest a living legend such as himself REALLY wants Wisconsin in the CFP.   Statues never lose.


December 1st, 2016 at 11:02 AM ^

Whether Michigan gets in or not is not determined by Mike Valenti hanging up on callers who disagree with him.  The playoff committee basically said they're looking for an excuse to put Michigan in.  It is very clear based on their comments that Michigan is the first team in if Clemson or Washington lose.