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Michigan stands at No. 1 in ESPN’s SP+ rankings ahead of College Football Playoff

Here’s where the Wolverines and the rest of the playoff field stand.

2023 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

After 13 games and some hearty debate, the College Football Playoff field is finally set. After defeating Iowa in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Michigan went to the No. 1 spot in the final playoff rankings, and the Wolverines also held onto their spot as the No. 1 team in ESPN and Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings.

For those of you who are new to SP+, Connelly describes it as, “a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency.” The measure can be used as an alternative form of ranking college football teams by projecting how many points a give team would beat (or lose to) the “average” college football team by.

In Michigan’s case, it holds a rating of 32.1 following Saturday’s win, meaning Michigan should defeat the “average” college football team by 32.1 points. Additionally, Michigan’s rating is a one-point improvement from its mark of 31.1 last week.

In terms of SP+, Michigan stands well ahead of the rest of the teams in the College Football Playoff. On Sunday afternoon, it was announced the other participants are Washington (No. 2 seed), Texas (No. 3 seed) and Alabama (No. 4 seed), which stand at No. 11, No. 6, and No. 7, respectively, in the SP+ rankings.

In about four weeks, Michigan will take the field in the Rose Bowl to play its semifinal against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Despite an early season loss, the Tide have hovered in the top-10 of SP+. In the second half of the season, Alabama has looked like one of the nation’s best teams and demonstrated that with a statement win over Georgia in the SEC title game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Alabama and Michigan are nearly identical according to SP+, as Michigan’s rating of 37.6 is No. 10 nationally, while Alabama’s rating of 37.1 is No. 11. On defense, Michigan’s rating of 7.4 is No. 1, while Alabama’s rating of 15.4 is No. 9.

Overall, Alabama’s SP+ rating of 23.7 falls 8.4 points behind Michigan’s rating of 32.1, suggesting Michigan should win this matchup by at least a touchdown. Despite the clear advantage on paper, though, the Rose Bowl will be highly anticipated and is sure to be an entertaining game.

As for the playoff’s other semifinal matchup, SP+ predicts Texas should advance to the National Championship with a six-point win over Washington in the Sugar Bowl.