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Michigan returns to top spot of ESPN’s SP+ rankings after National Championship

The Wolverines reclaimed their spot with a dominant outing on Monday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship - Michigan vs Washington Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Following Monday’s National Championship game, ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his final edition of his SP+ rankings and, unsurprisingly, Michigan reclaimed its spot at the top. The Wolverines had held onto the No. 1 ranking for every week since Week 4, until they were bumped to No. 2 in favor of Georgia after the Rose Bowl.

For those of you who haven’t followed along this season or might be new to SP+ altogether, Connelly describes it as, “a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency.” The metric incorporates a team’s efficiencies on offense, defense, and special teams to generate one number that can be used as an alternative form of ranking college football teams.

The metric reflects how many points a given team would beat (or lose to) the “average” college football team by. In Michigan’s case, it holds a rating of 31.3 after its win over Washington, meaning the Wolverines should beat the “average” college football team by 31.1 points.

After falling to the Wolverines by a final score of 34-13 on Monday night, Washington checked in at No. 13 in the rankings with a rating of 16.4. Meanwhile Georgia returned to the No. 2 spot, narrowly behind Michigan at 31.2.

Additionally, Connelly included some interesting nuggets along with his rankings about how Michigan’s 2023 team stacks up historically. By SP+, Michigan’s 2023 squad ranks as the third-best team of the 2020’s, behind 2020 Alabama and 2022 Georgia, both of which won National Championships.

Connelly also took a look at how Michigan’s 2023 squad stacked up in program history. This year’s team comes in as the second-best of all time according to SP+, trailing behind only the 1902 team, which won a National Championship as one of Fielding H. Yost’s “Point-a-minute” teams.

The Wolverine defense was also tracked as an individual unit and compared to other historic college football defenses. This was undoubtedly the best defense of the Harbaugh era (which is certainly saying something), but it also ranks No. 2 all-time, behind only 2011 Alabama.

Any way you slice it, this was an extremely impressive Michigan team. The Wolverines showed it on the field all season long and wrapped it up Monday night, and the analytics are in full agreement with their dominance across college football.