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The chaos that would have to happen for Michigan to make the College Football Playoff

So you’re saying there’s a chance...

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

(Editor’s note: We know this isn’t going to happen. Thank you for coming to our Ted Talk.)

The Michigan Wolverines just trounced in-state rival Michigan State by a score of 44-10 and they have now won three games in a row, including wins against two of their biggest rivals in the Spartans and Notre Dame.

Michigan is playing their best football of the season at the right time. Now, with just two weeks remaining in the season and a huge matchup with Ohio State still on the way, the Wolverines have an extremely small chance with the narrowest path ever to make the College Football Playoff.

It includes Rutgers and Northwestern wins over top-ranked Big Ten opponents, the Pac-12 falling apart, two four-loss Power 5 conference champions, and several other ludicrous things that are highly unlikely to happen. So let’s take this with a grain of salt and have a little fun, alright?

First things first, Michigan has to win out and the Wolverines need the Big Ten Champion to have three losses. So, Michigan desperately need Penn State to win this week’s game against Ohio State so the Buckeyes have a loss coming into Ann Arbor.

Then, Michigan would need to handily defeat Indiana who has been a hassle to take down throughout the season by some quality teams in the Big Ten.

Obviously, Michigan and Ohio State face each other in the final week of the season, and the Wolverines would have to put together an impressive performance against their bitter rival like they did against Notre Dame and Michigan State.

With a win, Michigan would be sitting at 10-2 with the tiebreaker over Ohio State, but there is still the problem of Penn State impeding their path to the Big Ten Championship game.

Penn State would need to drop their game to Rutgers in the final week of the season for there to be a three-way tie at the top of the Big Ten East. Penn State would make the Big Ten Championship out of that group with wins over both Michigan and Ohio State.

Now is when things get a little more crazy. Michigan would need Minnesota to lose this week against 2-8 Northwestern (who hasn’t won a Big Ten game this season) and Wisconsin to fall flat when they host 4-6 Purdue.

Wisconsin then plays Minnesota in the final week of the season, and the Badgers would have to beat Minnesota. This would force, you guessed it, a three-way tie in the Big Ten West at 9-3 with Iowa thrown in with the two aforementioned teams.

The 9-3 Badgers would have the edge with wins over both Iowa and Minnesota, and would head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game against 10-2 Penn State. Michigan needs Wisconsin to win the Big Ten to drop Penn State out of the conversation with three losses, and the Badgers themselves would have three losses as the Big Ten Champion.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are still sitting at 10-2 with a win over Ohio State who would have the same record. Michigan and Wisconsin would likely be the favorites to make the CFP out of the Big Ten.

Big Ten Rankings based on record:

  1. 10-2 Michigan
  2. 10-2 Ohio State
  3. 10-3 Penn State (Big Ten runner-up)
  4. 10-3 Wisconsin (Big Ten champions)
  5. 9-3 Iowa
  6. 9-3 Minnesota

Now here is when things get really crazy. Michigan would have to be considered the best 2-loss team in the land to slide into the playoffs.

At the time this article is being written, the teams ahead of Michigan consists of No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, and No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Alabama, and No. 6 Oregon, and No. 7 Utah, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Penn State, No. 10 Oklahoma, Florida, Auburn, Baylor, and Wisconsin. Subtract all the Big Ten teams, and there are only ten teams ahead of Michigan.

LSU has to convincingly run the table and solidify that No. 1 spot. Clemson would need to do the same and keep the No. 2 positioning.

Let’s handle the SEC first. To get Georgia out of the way, they would need to drop one to Texas A&M and lose the SEC Championship game to LSU to have three losses and be out of the picture.

In the same thought process, Alabama would need to lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl with a second loss to their resume without Tua Tagovaiola and losing two of their final three games.

Auburn has three losses and is out, leaving Florida to earn their third loss to in-state rival Florida State at the end of the season.

SEC Rankings:

  1. 13-0 LSU (SEC champion)
  2. 10-2 Bama (without Tua)
  3. 10-3 Georgia (SEC runner-up)
  4. 9-3 Auburn
  5. 9-3 Florida

Moving on to the Pac-12, Utah needs to fall either at Arizona or against Colorado at home because USC has the tie-breaker over the Utes with a 30-23 win over them earlier this season.

Oregon has to fall once to either Arizona State or Oregon State, and then USC needs to win the PAC-12 Championship with 4 losses.

Here are the rankings for the PAC-12 based on record:

  1. 10-2 Utah
  2. 10-3 Oregon (PAC-12 runner-up)
  3. 9-4 USC (PAC-12 Champion)

The only remaining Power-5 conference threat is the Big-12 who has Baylor and Oklahoma in contention for the playoff. They each have one loss to this point as Baylor fell to Oklahoma on Saturday. This makes the Big-12 the most difficult for the Wolverines to get past.

Baylor needs to lose to both Texas and Kansas, and Oklahoma has to lose to TCU and beat Oklahoma State at the end of the season. Texas would have the tie-breaker over Baylor after their win, and would then have to go on and beat Oklahoma in the Big-12 Championship.

The Big-12 would be as follows:

  1. Oklahoma 10-3 (Big-12 runner-up)
  2. Baylor 9-3
  3. Texas 9-4 (Big-12 Championship)

Now it all depend on how much the College Football Playoff committee values Conference Championships.

LSU and Clemson are locks with conference championships and undefeated schedules.

The next two spots would be up for grabs with all the 10-loss Power-5 teams including Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Utah and Oregon. In this scenario, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Memphis, and Boise State will all threaten the CFP if they win out. But, one of Memphis and Cincinnati will fall out as one has to lose the conference championship game in the AAC.

Michigan would have a very compelling case to earn one of those spots after winning five straight with two wins against top-10 opponents despite not winning a conference championship. All of the rest of those teams will have collapsed towards the end of their respective seasons while the Wolverines just kept getting better. The ratings would also shoot through the roof with Michigan in the CFP.

If you add all of that up together, that is how Michigan WILL make the College Football Playoff this season!

It’s just that easy.