The conventional wisdom is that if the top four teams win out, the final CFP ranking will be 1/Alabama, 2/Clemson, 3/ND, 4/Michigan. I will argue in this post that it is at least likely that Michigan will be ranked ahead of ND if each team wins out.
When teams are comparable, the CFP committee is supposed to consider four criteria:
- Conference championships won
- Strength of schedule
- Head-to-head result (if it occurred)
- Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
So let's go through these bullets, one by one.
Conference championships won: If each team wins out, the edge goes to Michigan.
Strength of schedule: Through 11 weeks, Michigan's SOS is ranked 32nd by Bill Connelly; Notre Dame's is ranked 59th. And that's before Michigan plays OSU and Northwestern for the second time. Edge: Michigan.
Head-to-head result: Notre Dame, albeit by one score in the first game of the season in a year in which everyone knows that Michigan has dramatically improved through the course of the season. Edge: Notre Dame.
Comparative outcomes of common opponents: This is the factor that people are underappreciating. Michigan beat Northwestern by one score early in the season; ND played a similarly close game (albeit with a slightly higher scoring margin) more recently. But Michigan gets to play Northwestern a second time. If that game's outcome is more lopsided, it could make a big statement with the committee regarding common opponents. Edge: Notre Dame for now, but possibly Michigan after the championship.
That's either 2-2 or 3-1 for Michigan, if Michigan wins out and beats Northwestern soundly in the B1G Championship.
This matters, of course, because the #4 seed is likely to play Alabama in the first round. Should be interesting either way...