This weekend marks one of the most intriguing slates of conference championship games we have seen in the playoff era. In the College Football Playoff Committee’s most recent top-10, eight teams had one or zero losses, meaning there’s still plenty of teams that could make the final four.
Having the playoff race still so wide open this late in the year doesn’t happen often, so this weekend’s games could totally turn this season upside down.
Michigan and the Big Ten find themselves in a unique spot, as the Big Ten Championship seems to be the one Power Five championship drawing the least amount of buzz— mostly due to a bloated 22-point spread — while other games are projected to be closer.
Due to this unique spot, it’s easy for Michigan fans to look ahead to some potential playoff seeding scenarios that could play out, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume Michigan defeats Iowa on Saturday and will be in the playoff. Without further ado, let’s have a look at some scenarios:
Likely playoff pairings have been determined using ESPN’s Playoff Predictor.
Vegas Favorites All Win
Possible Playoff Pairings: Georgia (1) vs Oregon (4); Michigan (2) vs Florida State (3)
Florida State is likely the team Michigan (and every other team) would want to play against. After star quarterback Jordan Travis went down for the season with a leg injury, the Seminoles have lost a lot of firepower, as evidenced by their subpar showing against Florida last week. Florida State still has weapons in Keon Coleman and Trey Benson, but a Tate Rodemaker-led team would be facing an uphill battle against Michigan’s defense. Additionally, Michigan could have some success on the ground, as Florida State currently allows 140.2 rushing yards per game.
On the flip side, Oregon and Georgia match up pretty well. Since losing to Washington, Oregon has looked like one of the best teams in the country. Georgia has also been hot in the second half of the season. Either of these teams would be a big challenge for the Wolverines should they square up in the National Championship.
Alabama, Texas, Oregon, and Florida State win
Possible Playoff Pairings: Michigan (1) vs Texas (4); Florida State (2) vs Oregon (3)
This scenario could very well happen, and would likely cause plenty of debate centered around Alabama and Texas. Alabama would be the SEC champion, but Texas did beat the Tide and hold some leverage as a result.
A matchup with Texas would be intriguing, since both the Longhorns and Wolverines are excellent on both sides of the ball. Texas’s offensive skill group headlined by Xavier Worthy would be tough to defend, but I think Michigan would still get a slight edge. In a matchup between Florida State and Oregon, the Ducks have a clear advantage, and would once again be a formidable test for Michigan in a potential National Championship game.
Georgia, Texas, Oregon, and Louisville win
Possible Playoff Pairings: Georgia (1) vs Texas (4); Michigan (2) vs Oregon (3)
This is a pretty cut and dry scenario that wouldn’t spark too much debate regarding who should be in. This would also be a scenario that breeds two great semifinal matchups. However, this would be a tough draw for Michigan and is one of the hardest ways to win the title.
Oregon currently holds the nation’s top offense, according to SP+. The Ducks have Heisman contender Bo Nix at the helm, as well as receiver Troy Franklin and 1,000-yard rusher Bucky Irving at their disposal, and would likely push the Michigan defense. The Ducks also boast the nation’s No. 7 scoring defense (15.92 points per game) and are a team that’s hot at the right time.
In the other semifinal, Georgia would be the favorite, but it would likely be a tight, entertaining game. Georgia’s offense has really been clicking down the stretch, though, and would give the Longhorns defense fits, especially with the recent return of star tight end Brock Bowers.
Georgia, Texas, Washington, and Florida State win
Possible Playoff Pairings: Georgia (1) vs Florida State (4); Michigan (2) vs Washington (3)
Another tough draw for the Wolverines, but this one seems more manageable. The Pac-12 champion is likely in regardless, and Washington is the team Michigan fans should be more excited to face. The Huskies are undefeated and have navigated a gauntlet of a schedule. However, Washington has appeared to lose steam down the stretch and has looked vulnerable against lesser opponents like Arizona State, Stanford and Washington State.
Michael Penix Jr. and Rome Odunze are a tandem that could keep any defensive coordinator up at night. However, Washington’s one-dimensional offense leaves little margin for error, and the Husky defense has been far from stellar this year, ranking at No. 42 in the nation, per SP+.
A matchup with Georgia in the National Championship is likely for whoever wins in a battle of Michigan and Washington.
Alabama, Texas, Oregon, and Louisville win
Possible Playoff Pairings Michigan (1) vs Alabama (4); Oregon (2) vs Texas (3)
This one would also be a tough draw for Michigan despite the fact the Wolverines would be the No. 1 seed. Alabama has looked much better in the second half of the season, and quarterback Jalen Milroe is a big reason why. Milroe has looked like a much different player from what we saw in the season’s opening weeks, and his ability as a runner gives defenses another thing to think about.
While Alabama’s defense is solid — ranking No. 13 nationally on SP+ — this is not the Tide defense of old. If Michigan chooses to focus more on the run, Alabama could be susceptible, as it’s allowing just under 130 rushing yards per game.
A matchup between Oregon and Texas would certainly be intriguing as well, and points would likely come in bunches. Either would likely push Michigan as well, making for a tough potential National Championship.